Editor’s Note: This article was written by former ADV author Sofia Sousa.
Chaos, sacrifice and instability. These may be words that best qualify the experience that most Portuguese people have been living throughout the last years. As a first experience as blogger, I consider it relevant to write about the situation we are facing in my country. While people feel they are paying over the odds in order for the country to pay its external debt, our Government shows us weak leadership and lack of ability to respond to the new reality of political crisis.
Meanwhile, we see qualified people facing unfair consequences of one of the deepest unemployment situations the country has ever experienced. Having achieved one of the highest unemployment rates inside the European Union, we see an average of 32 firing processes per day in Portugal, representing a significant rise when comparing to the situation in 2012. It is expected that an unemployment rate of 12,3% arrives at the Euro Zone in 2014, with Portugal achieving 18,6%, of which 40% correspond to our youngest people. Knowing that such a large portion of qualified people are not able to find a job may make us think that a lack of rationality is taking place in our society – this does not make sense and cannot be tolerated. It seems that a weak governance and leadership has been in the origin of the political situation in Portugal and there is more onus than ever on the younger people, the leaders of tomorrow’s society, to tackle this problem. Some well-known authors of our age could perhaps relate the lack of solutions to this political crisis to a lack of voluntary duty. I always like to mention Friedrich Hayek’s rationale when it comes to this issue. Going back to his conception of liberal societies, he believed in a spontaneous emergence of order out of chaos – in fact, he called it a spontaneous order. If we think of a society where individuals spontaneously act according to what they know to be right, without worrying about the existence of previously established rules, one might believe that the existence of Adam Smith’s “invisible hand” would lead to a self-regulating behavior of the marketplace. A country where rules emerge out of human action would actually lead to a situation in which planning would not need to be designed. But would this sense of voluntary duty and conscious planning be enough to establish a certain degree of order in societies facing a chaotic political crisis such as the one in Portugal?
Hayek related the origin of depressions and monetary destabilizations to the natural need of governmental planning, which in his opinion led to a non-spontaneous disorder, thus qualifying economic control as ”not merely control of a sector of human life which can be separated from the rest”, but also as “the control of the means for all our ends.” Looking at the issue of conscious planning and voluntary duty, it would be in fact preferable if citizens could think and behave that way. However, and contrary to Hayek’s principles, it seems hard for us to avoid a clear separation between what we consider to be “planned” (implying rules and a purpose) and “unplanned” (relating to chaos, randomness and disorder). In a country where leadership has been failing to tackle a significant amount of economic, financial and social problems, the role of initiative and entrepreneurship seems to gain importance and needs to take place urgently. Looking into Portuguese leaders such as António Horta Osório, who has just been recognized as the best banker worldwide, it becomes clear that our country has the human capital needed to restore the health of the Portuguese economy. It is truly shameful when one realizes that people with the same level of education as Horta Osório are not able to use their knowledge and leadership skills simply because they do not have an opportunity of employment. Unfortunately this is the new reality for some of our citizens. Although I believe that a spontaneous order cannot be realistically applied these days, I do believe in the need of emergence of spontaneous leaders – people of my generation. There are many ways of doing this, especially in a world where technology makes it easy for everyone to be connected globally and to have access to information. When there is no freedom and opportunity for our generation to fulfill its own potential, the role of responsibility becomes greater, and it is truly “the key-note of the future”, as the former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher once said. Engaging in activities of social institutions, universities, or even in our neighborhood could be a a first step to gain an opportunity of showing our potential, and as it is so easy to do this, people of my generation should not stand still and quiet while looking for a job or imagining their future – they should do something about it.
Fortunately the new reality in Portugal has been more and more focused on entrepreneurial attitudes. We already see our youngest people excited about entrepreneurship, while participating in university contests and launching their own businesses. Mindful of this new trend, it is a relief to know that some of us are taking individual responsibility and are willing to make our country more and more self-reliant. However, the percentage of unemployed qualified citizens has been increasing and such discontentment may bring about revolutions and political change, especially due to a general feeling that unemployment is truly unfair for those who are willing to work hard. As Mrs Thatcher would say, the reason for a revolution could lie in the sense that “we have got to get back to giving as well as getting”. After all, a student that invests most of his/her time in the university is working for the purpose of earning money and building a career in the future.
In a society that is not giving my generation the freedom and opportunity to follow our dreams, could the principle of liberty be questioned in the next years, and lead to anti liberal ideals? Looking back to the 19th century, we have seen reactionary and revolutionary ideas coming from different political parties that finally converged in a situation where the ideal of liberty was almost hated in the 20th century, thus creating conditions for leading totalitarian regimes in Europe. It took Europe a long time to recover from the consequences created by these regimes. The notion that they have not worked in the past should reinforce the idea that it is crucial for our generation to preserve the values of democracy through proactive behavior and responsive sense of work.