“We have to make sacrifices to save ourselves”

The world is heading for a climate catastrophe, says Muhammad Yunus in an interview with the FAZ – and calls for a waiver and clear rules for artificial intelligence.

Muhammad Yunus at the DLD tech conference in Munich.

Mr. Yunus, you received the Nobel Peace Prize in 2006 for your microfinance concept. Where does the world stand today in the fight against poverty?

The world’s wealth is concentrated in fewer and fewer people. And this wealth is growing very quickly, for example due to new technologies. The consequence will be: people will take to the streets and turn against every law, against every government. They will be angry and will not be able to describe their anger precisely. Society will fall apart.

Tens of millions of people around the world have been lifted out of poverty in the past few decades.

Yes, that’s true – and to a huge extent. People are rising out of poverty faster than ever before. But while the poor move up an inch, the rich move forward kilometers. The distance is getting bigger and bigger. We are already observing massive refugee movements. That will increase. And the wealthy nations will try to protect themselves. They will build walls, as the American President Donald Trump intends to do on the border with Mexico, or isolate themselves from other countries, as the example of Brexit shows.

What do you propose to take away even more money from the rich?

No, and by the way, they are not blood-sucking capitalists or bad people. We all know many of them from public life and there are fantastic personalities among them who cannot be hated at all. The system made them rich. Taxing the rich more heavily would mean asking someone else to change the system. People have to do that themselves.

You are proposing a new economic system, would you call it democratic socialism or social capitalism?

You can choose that yourself. All I am saying is that our current economic system is wrongly designed. I am not saying that it has to be abolished, but that it should be expanded.

What?

To options for the people. Capitalism prides itself on giving people choices. But when it comes to career, there is no choice. The system has taught people to make an effort in school, to write applications, to find a good job, to earn a good salary – as if the job decided their fate. I think people are not born to work for someone else. That takes away creativity and freedom.

Rather?

Man is born as an entrepreneur. You should give him the choice: Do you want to be an entrepreneur or work for a company. It should also be a real option to start a “social business”. Both – more entrepreneurs in general and more “social business” – would distribute wealth evenly among the world’s population.

But people can start businesses with a social purpose. And they do that too.

But success is still measured far too strongly by how much money you make. However, whether someone is considered successful should depend more on what he or she contributes to society. And whether this post touches other people’s lives.

Their contribution to society – the idea of ​​microloans to fight poverty – has come under heavy criticism in recent years, for example because they can lead borrowers into a debt spiral.

Microcredit has thrilled the world from the start because it can dramatically change families’ lives for the better. But there are also people who see it as an opportunity to make a profit. We invented microcredit to fight financial sharks. They should be a zero sum business for the lender, a social endeavor. But the whole idea was taken ad absurdum.

Last year’s Nobel laureates in economics, Michael Kremer, Abhijit Banerjee and Esther Duflo, also consider the effect of microcredit to be overrated.

The winners did not differentiate between the different forms of microfinance – between sincere lenders and all those cases in which the system is abused.

For a while now, you have not only been interested in fighting poverty, but have also campaigned against climate change.