Framing Conversation: Political, Economic and Social Inequality: New Ethics in a New World
Note: The following does not contain direct quotations and is meant to capture the key ideas, tensions, and questions arising in the panel, to encourage and drive further conversation and the finding of solutions.
Moderator Oksana Kulakovska led a conversation to initiate the 2021 Integral Human Development Conference with a group of thoughtful Ukrainian leaders in politics, business, and the academy. The mission: What are major areas of tensions we need to explore and resolve as we seek to build better societies. Kulakovska, director of the Analytical Center at the Ukrainian Catholic University, described the conversation as a map to pass to participants at all the panels during the conference.
Conclusions, Tensions, and Questions: A prevailing theme among all panelists was the problem of inequality, which one panelist said is like air pollution. An audience member asked whether the panelists thought socialism was the solution, perhaps the strongest point of contention during the panel. Ongoing questions: How bad is inequality, what is it, what are the different kinds of inequality, and how can they be remedied or turned into something good?
The notions of globalism, nationalism, and localism also appeared throughout the discussions. Ongoing questions: How do we define the terms, how do different levels of society interact, and at what level should we direct resources to building stronger institutions and socities?
Key ideas from each participant, summarized and paraphrased (these are not direct quotes):
Ivanna Klympush-Tsyntsadze, Member of Parliament, Ukraine; Chairwoman of the Committee on Ukraine’s Integration into the European Union, Member of the Supervisory Board of Analytical Center of UCU:
Summary: Social networks full of emotions are guiding decisions on the state level. Globalism is being ruined by nationalism. Books are disintegrating into tweets. Pandemic accelerated these trends already underway. The pandemic didn’t change human nature but rather accelerated trends already underway. This moment is a litmus test for the strength of our societies; we have seen, such as the highest level in the United States, collapse of competent governance. How can we avoid fragmentation and remedy institutional inequality—and inequality between nations? How can we build better global institutions?
Andy Hunder, President of the American Chamber of Commerce in Ukraine, Senator of UCU:
Summary: Recalling the ideas of Rousseau, Montesquieu, etc. Hunder said we need to decide whether we should focus on “inequality” or more specifically on poverty. Extreme inequality undermines society. The wealth of tech companies is growing during the pandemic: What does this mean? What is good and what is bad about this, or how can me maximize this situation to benefit all? Oligarchy—control of the economy by a few—undermines society and harms the flow of information and enterprise. Some people working from home have a better work-life balance and have saved money; whereas those in the service industries have suffered. Who has been hurt the most by the pandemic, and who has benefited?
Volodymyr Lavrenchuk, Chairman of the Board of Raiffeisen Bank Aval
(2005-2019), Senator of UCU
Summary: Having worked for and having led a major bank that increased profits by centralizing functions, closing down the local, and cutting jobs, Lavrenchuk says he realizes now we must cultivate the local—small companies, community life, individuals, especially those in rural areas. Is universal basic income a good idea? It has a danger: People don’t just need money, but function. It is important for transition countries at this stage to take a look at micro and small businesses. We need to incorporate ethics—questions of the humane and the cultural—into business and governance.
Nataliya Popovych, Founder of One Philosophy Group, Senator of Ukrainian Catholic University
Summary: Having lived and worked in the United States, and now Denmark, Popovych points to the successes of the Scandinavian model. Denmark is capitalist—it is easy to hire and fire employees—but with a strong safety net and narrow income disparity. Ukrainians need better to understand the protestant or capitalist ethic and the spirit of competition. And: How do we build institutions that people trust? Communication (as in public relations) is not enough; what matters, as the pandemic shows, is who produces beneficial solutions. People seem to be trusting business more than government in many places, such as Ukraine and USA. In these days of reflection on the Revolution of Dignity in Ukraine, we need to ask: Have we become more ethical , more competent, do we pay more taxes, have we really become more resilient?
Summarized by Joe Lindsley