Will move movers guns

Whoever moves first is left behind: the political consequences of the first mover disadvantage are evident in the USA

It's counted down, democracy in the United States, one of the most important democracies in the world. And it is still not foreseeable whether the new president will succeed in setting the course.

In addition to the film recordings, there are also some sound recordings of the storming of the Capitol in Washington, which document what exactly the Trumpists did after they had routed the security guards and MPs. Obviously, in the holy halls, they did not quite know what to do next. Journalists present report that at some point a kind of perplexity, almost something like boredom, set in. At some point you can only hear some Trumpists shouting with all their bodies: “Freedom! Freedom! "

When asked how it got this far - in what is probably not the oldest, but perhaps the most important democracy in the world - there are many answers to this question. Is it demographic change that is making white men feel like they are on the decline? Is it the enormous wealth inequality, the split between somewheres and anywheres, between losers and winners from globalization? Or does the conceptless, almost animalistic cry for freedom in the Capitol express the harmfulness of a perverted, subversive liberalism? Freedom as the freedom to bear arms and storm a parliament.

Anticipating the unimaginable

Perhaps a disciplinary cross-fade will help to add a new aspect to this broad discussion. In the economy, the first mover disadvantage is a standing speech. What is meant by this is that those companies that open up a new market and develop new products or services very often find themselves on the defensive in relation to those competitors who do not have to pay the hardship of the avant-garde.

Those who come up with a good idea for the second time are often more successful than those who actually break the ground. You can make faster progress on paths that have already been trodden; you can learn from the mistakes of first movers without having to make them yourself. In France there was once a service called Minitel, a kind of precursor to the Internet. Then came the modern internet. And so it is all the time: the archives of economic history are full of failed first movers.

One of the important points on the long list of first mover disadvantages is inertia, the danger of not only technological, but above all intellectual inertia. Anyone who invented a new technology first runs the risk of taking their own avant-garde position as normal. It is inconceivable in Germany that Daimler could ever go under. But that is precisely what is dangerous. The end of the internal combustion engine has long since cast its shadow.

The myth hinders innovation

If we now consider democracy as a social innovation, we see the USA in the trap of a first mover: The production of collectively binding decisions through regulated procedures, the setting of constitutionally protected rights of protection and participation, the idea of ​​checks and balances - all of that was a successful social innovation. America and democracy - they have often, perhaps all too often, been mentioned in the same breath. However, the myth of the “Founding Fathers”, independence and the founding history of the USA has gradually turned from a motivational aid to a brake on innovation.

After the storming of the Capitol, it was heard in the USA that these events were “unimaginable”, “un-American”. But it is precisely this lack of imagination, yes, of imagination, that is part of the first mover disadvantage: Everything that looks like a "banana republic" is considered strange, while the USA is becoming the exception, the promised city on the mountain, the dated World spirit transfigured to selected avant-garde mankind.

Away from reality

Perhaps the animal roar of the Trumpists can also be understood as a reaction to a narcissistic insult: The first mover realizes that he is being overtaken. The self-image of grandiosity and reality no longer fit together. There is a temptation to opt for fantasy and say goodbye to reality. Are we not that great at all? That can only be fake news!

The list of necessary reforms that the new president must tackle is gigantic. In terms of democracy policy, the decisive factor is whether fundamental measures to save democracy can be implemented: reform of election campaign financing, prevention of constituencies from being cut, the establishment of an electoral system that nips all absurd falsification allegations in the bud, and the abolition of the Electoral College.

At the moment there is nothing to suggest that Biden will bring these reforms through in a deeply divided country. To do this, American self-perception would have to free itself from the myth that its own democratic system is a gift to humanity that has already been developed.

Felix Heidenreich teaches political science at the University of Stuttgart. In 2020, J. B. Metzler will publish his book “Politische Metaphorologie. Hans Blumenberg today »published.