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Germany: Nightmare Scenario

by DoDo Mon Sep 19th, 2005 at 01:16:39 PM EST

Some thoughts on the German elections below. As a resident doomsayer at Eurotrib, I'll draw up a nightmare scenario of the worst outcome at the end... one I think not at all unlikely.

But before:
left parties squabbled yet gained,
big loss for CDU and Bavarian CSU,
Update [2005-9-20 3:57:24 by DoDo]:FDP leader a loser direct candidate,
far-right march stopped & turned back,
Grand Coalition scenario.

The Left

I think we have another shining proof that leftist parties can gain votes by campaigning for leftist issues. After the SPD lost the state of North Rhine-Westphalia four months ago and went for early elections on the federal level, it fell to 26% in the polls - since then, being forced to campaign on the left by the new hard-left competition, it gained 8%, even tough the Greens ended up with the same and the hard left also increased, almost doubling its votes from poll numbers back then!

A problem of all three leftist parties is having a leader with a giant ego (Schröder for the SPD, Lafontaine for the PDS, and even Fischer for the Greens). Over-identification of the party with that person could prove fatal for each of them, especially the Left Party.

The Centre-Right

While the FDP outdid poll predictions by some 3%, the CDU was short of expectations by a spectacular 7%. For the first part, the explanation is supplied by opinion polls' question about coalition preference: in the last few weeks, the popularity of a CDU/CSU+SPD `Grand Coalition' fell dramatically, while that of a right-wing coalition rose - hence, a lot of CDU voters expressed their desire by voting for FDP. As for the other half of the loss, I'm not sure. The CDU's numbers fell before due to their own goal of being too open about neoliberal economic plans (naming flat-tax proponent Paul Kirchhof as economy minister candidate). However, its Bavarian sister party CSU lost even stronger (almost 10% over 2002 numbers, twice as much as FDP gained there), for no apparent reason.

Update [2005-9-20 3:57:24 by DoDo]: BTW, one bit of Schadenfreude I forgot: Guido Westerwelle, the current leader of the FDP who shares much of the blame for turning the FDP an unserious neoliberal party, got only 8.7% in Bonn - 5.5% less than in 2002, and 5% less than list votes for his party in Bonn!...

The Far Right

Their non-story is a big story. Although they polled higher than in 2002, consider what happened in the meantime. Until lately, the far-right in Germany couldn't achieve much because of strong voter traditions and because they were splintered (too many would-be-Führers). But no such traditions exist in East Germany - and one (DVU) in two states, another (NPD) in one state passed the 5% limit over the last few years. The second was most shocking, with NPD getting 13% in Saxony - and even more shocking was that NPD and DVU managed to forge a union for federal elections. That they failed to capitalise is largely a success of the Left Party, which drew away disaffected voters from the rat catchers - now even in Saxony, NPD polled just 4.9%.

By the way, the local creationists, PBC (Party of the Bible-faithful Christians) polled at 0.23%. That's not that much percentage-wise, but in absolute numbers, having over a hundred thousand complete nutters (and growing) is not a comfortable feeling.

Grand Coalition Scenario

The most likely outcome of the elections is a CDU/CSU+SPD government, with either CDU leader Merkel or current incumbent Schröder as chancellor. This will prevent some of the worse the Right had in mind, but also significant reforms. Except for more stealth neoliberal reforms. Also, in the energy question, this will be a union of the coal and nuclear lobbies, further picking away at the only successes of the Schröder government (ones all of Europe should copy), which were thanks to policies pursued by the Greens. The big question is, who would profit until the next elections? It is reasonable to hope that the Left Party and the Greens will, as for the big parties, it depends on who gets the blame for failure/the credit for lack of disaster.

Repeated Elections Scenario

Which can be the Nightmare Scenario - here is why.

As things stand, both Merkel and Schröder want to become chancellor. But presently, it is possible that neither will have the backing of the majority of parliament or a government. In that case, the parliament has to be dissolved - then its elections again.

Now, most people observing Germany assume that Bavarian PM and CSU head Edmund Stoiber (who was the Right's candidate for chancellor in 2002) is the most dangerous right-populist in Germany. I disagree: Stoiber is in truth a boring technocrat, who only tries to compensate his distance from the people with boorish attempts at talking folksy. The real menance is called Roland Koch, and currently heads Hessen state.

Power-hungry, ruthless and reckless, he won in his state with a virulently xenophobic campaign, has a very macho aggressive style, wants radical social cuts and police state measures bordering on far-right demands, survived lying openly about his knowledge of the local CDU's party finance scandal, some corruption scandals, and staging a theatre of fake outrage in the German parliament's second chamber. He also has a history of bucking the party line when talking to the press and shaping policy on his own. Furthermore, unlike Merkel, he has the backing of the US neocons (for example, just after the initial Iraq war, Bush wouldn't meet Merkel just send Powell, but received Koch for an unscheduled meeting).

This guy is a loose cannon, but not a lone gun. He is not the most popular (that's presently Christian Wulff, head of Lower Saxony state), but the strongest member of the so-called Andenpakt, a power alliance forged by Pinochet-admiring CDU then-yuppies on an airplane to Chile three decades ago... This group tried to undercut Merkel several times, it was their success that Stoiber was named chancellor candidate in her stead for 2002, and they tried a coup two years ago (that one backfired).

Last night, Koch appeared all too bent on showing himself before the media. He must be thinking that if no government can be formed, Merkel will get the blame within the CDU - and Koch will be the new candidate. Then Germany (and the rest of Europe) should beware - we would see the nastiest campaign ever, most probably fanning the flames of xenophobia with the issue of Turkey's EU accession as excuse. If Koch will be the candidate, all Left parties should give their last to defeat the "we need a stable government, whatever its colour" meme, and prevent a right-wing majority.

I absolutely agree - Roland Koch definitely is a major league a-hole, and him even becoming candidate, let alone chancellor, definitely is the worst case scenario!

If you can't convince them, confuse them. (Harry S. Truman)
by brainwave on Mon Sep 19th, 2005 at 01:41:45 PM EST
Couldn't agree with you more on Koch. An absolute nightmare.  I dislike him so much that I'd even support a Red-Red-Green coalition over a Kanzler Koch.

You're also right about the Linke's ability to keep voters from the extreme right. However, I would venture to say that a part of that is because one of their two top leaders, Oskar Lafontaine, happens to be at least as xenophobic and thinly-veiled racist as Koch.

by MarekNYC on Mon Sep 19th, 2005 at 02:34:46 PM EST
Care to explain to those who don't follow German politics closely what Lafontaine is about?  I remember him as an SPD chancellor candidate (and Schroeder rival) but admit I don't know much about him.
by GreenSooner (greensooner@NOSPAMintergate.com) on Mon Sep 19th, 2005 at 03:45:35 PM EST
[ Parent ]
You should probably get someone who isn't as hostile as me.  But I'll try to give a brief explanation: He is against the liberal reforms of the Schroeder government - i.e. liberalizing labour laws and increasing pressure on the unemployed to find jobs. He is for raising taxes on the rich. I disagree on the first, agree on the second.

Wrt to xenophobia - well that's not part of the official program as far as I know. However, Lafontaine has called for stripping citizenship of non-whites who are insufficiently assimilated. He has railed against 'immigrants' taking jobs from good Germans (as a result of the old, now reformed citizenship laws many 'foreigners' are people born and raised in the country, net immigration of Turks and Turkish Kurds has been negligible for a good decade now). He has called the immigration of the Turks a conspiracy of the capitalist elites against average Germans. He has pointed to the courting of minority voters and the ongoing shift to a non- white majority in America as exemplifying the dangers of immigration.

by MarekNYC on Mon Sep 19th, 2005 at 04:13:32 PM EST
[ Parent ]

I'd probably agree with LaFontaine on both the substantive disagreements with Schroeder that you mention, but that immigration stuff is pretty scary!

by GreenSooner (greensooner@NOSPAMintergate.com) on Mon Sep 19th, 2005 at 04:22:09 PM EST
[ Parent ]
He has pointed to the courting of minority voters and the ongoing shift to a non- white majority in America as exemplifying the dangers of immigration.

ooohh, do you have a link for that? When was that? Did Germans even realize that?
by mimi on Mon Sep 19th, 2005 at 04:22:14 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Oskar Haider
(Die Zeit article on Oskar's, um, interesting, views on immigration and race.)
by MarekNYC on Mon Sep 19th, 2005 at 04:37:03 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Bleargh.  I already didn't care for him, but the anti-immigrant stuff just seals it.

As an American living in Germany, I don't enjoy seeing politicians rise to power on anti-immigrant platforms, even if the immigrants they're talking about are a few shades darker than me.  Who's next to be slammed when treating Turks badly doesn't solve the problem?

by Texmandie on Mon Sep 19th, 2005 at 04:56:41 PM EST
[ Parent ]
You're also right about the Linke's ability to keep voters from the extreme right. However, I would venture to say that a part of that is because one of their two top leaders, Oskar Lafontaine, happens to be at least as xenophobic and thinly-veiled racist as Koch.

Well, I view Lafontaine more as a catalyst for the WASG-PDS allienace than a leader (hence the paragraph in the original post's "The Left" section I'll soon add), and here is certainly a strong antifa (pdf!) tradition in the PDS, the WASG side had Turkish candidates that entered the Bundestag (3 of 54: a higher ratio than any other party), and the Left Party does support Turkey's EU membership. (BTW, Saturday promised us a diary on the Left Party and neonazis, I originally wanted to wait for that until commenting myself.)

On the other hand, while I consider the 'Fremdarbeiter' issue a fake scandal (and in the quotes I read it more seemed he blames capitalists and views immigrants as victims too), a number of the quotes or paraphrases I saw from his book are indeed borderline racist and Koch-like or worse (except for calling for a German-French union). These lines are in stark contrast with what Lafontaine advocated a few years ago, that is a departure from the old sense of "German-ness", for which he was for some time the Antichrist of the German far right. Then again, the Zeit article (which I read earlier) seems a hatchet job, I wonder if the context in the book worsens or mitigates these words.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Tue Sep 20th, 2005 at 03:49:29 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Correction: one of the Turkish candidates who made it on the list was actually put up by the PDS side (someone who left the SPD, and was criticised from the WASG side as too beholden to the Turkish state, a criticism he and PDS refused).

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Tue Sep 20th, 2005 at 04:46:01 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I disagree with you on the 'fremdarbeiter' controversy. First of all, Lafontaine is an intelligent and experienced politician, I don't see his use of the term 'Fremdarbeiter' as a mistake. He also uses highly unfortunate terms in his book (complaining about 'chosen people'). Germany has its past, its politicians should, and generally do understand that certain terms have been tainted beyond redemption.

Furthermore, the way I saw it, while he was blaming the 'capitalists', his view is that while it is understandable that 'foreigners' from poor countries should choose to work in Germany, they should not be allowed to.  Then there was the utterly bizarre argument a couple weeks later that the Nazis weren't actually xenophobic?!

If there were only that one time, I might be willing to give Lafontaine the benefit of the doubt, but if you take everything together it seems absolutely certain to me that Lafontaine is now a full blown racist and every single one of his utterances from now on has to be judged in that context.

And yes, the Die Zeit article is a hatchet job. But I read a lot on the subject at the time and it doesn't seem that unfair. THere is a certain element of double standards - Koch doesn't get quite the same level of hostility. But what does Lafontaine expect - right wing journalists certainly aren't going to soft pedal anything he says, and left wing ones will jump on this sort of stuff regardless of who says it.  Anyways, I want anybody who uses this sort of rhetoric to get raked over the coals; pour encourager les autres if you will...

PS I agree with what you said in other comments that the Linke is a hard left, not an extreme left one in terms of its policies - these are not the French Trotskyists. The reason that I believe they shouldn't be salonfaehig is because of their SED past and Lafontaine's racism. If a party without those two ugly facets but with the same program existed, I'd have no problem with them being in government.

by MarekNYC on Tue Sep 20th, 2005 at 02:47:43 PM EST
[ Parent ]
He also uses highly unfortunate terms in his book (complaining about 'chosen people').

If I am not mistaken, that was a criticism of the USA, a criticism that I view as not just on-point, but historically connected to the other meaning (i.e. the myth of the USA as a New Israel, God's Own Country, Manifest Destiny, City On A Shining Hill, originating with the Pilgrims etc. and kept alive ever since).

his view is that while it is understandable that 'foreigners' from poor countries should choose to work in Germany, they should not be allowed to.

That, however, was indeed how I read him too, and I strongly disagree on this (I think immigrants don't really change joblessness either way, as they represent both new workers and new consumers: merely increasing the economy - but won't reduce pensions problems either). The only angle of economic migration/guest workers I think is left-relevant is a potential hollowing-out of workers' rights and pay reductions, both of which can be addressed by laws extending to these migrants rather than limiting immigration. However, this disagreement doesn't make this particular speech nicht salonfähig to me (I think this is just as wrong as arguing that immigrants or more children would reduce pensions fund deficits). I also note that Lafontaine advocated raising foreign aid in connection with restrictive immigration policy - that's decidedly more progressive than what all mainstream parties except Greens (and Prodi!) do across Europe now, which is restrictive immigration policy alone. (It's a bit hypocritical from the SPD to criticise Lafontaine as extremist after having enforced a 7-year limit on free movement between new and old EU members and Schily supporting Italy's policies.)

Then there was the utterly bizarre argument a couple weeks later that the Nazis weren't actually xenophobic?!

Now that is truly out of context! He said they were racist not xenophobic, bringing in foreigners for slave labour, and insinuated that this is repeated now in a different form, which indeed is evidence that he views economic migrants as victims of evil capitalists. On the other hand, I mostly disagree with this too - economic migrants may be exploited, but often escape worse at home, so it's an abuse they accept on their own rational decision rather than being fooled.

And yes, the Die Zeit article is a hatchet job...  But what does Lafontaine expect - right wing journalists certainly aren't going to soft pedal anything he says, and left wing ones will jump on this sort of stuff regardless of who says it.  Anyways, I want anybody who uses this sort of rhetoric to get raked over the coals; pour encourager les autres if you will...

Well, I'm no Lafontaine, so I'd like something more objective than a hatchet job to form my opinion of him :-) But, as for what Lafontaine should expect (based on what he writes in his book, or even if he just talked loosely), I agree with you 100%: he deserves to be raked, just like Mölleman deserved it even if Sharon is a war criminal.

If a party without those two ugly facets but with the same program existed, I'd have no problem with them being in government.

Let's end this with a hope that a generation change will take care of both your problems (which to emphasize, even if with a different weight, are my problems too). Altough the Left Party having the highest voter share in the pre-pensioneer generation was thematised, their 8% share (just 0.7% below the overall) among first-time voters shows re-supply isn't truly critical. (I think we should continue this debate when Saturday posts his thread.)

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Wed Sep 21st, 2005 at 05:19:28 AM EST
[ Parent ]
<guilty conscience mode>

The diary about the Left Party and the Right is in the making. But it takes some time because I have to draw a bow from some 6-7 years ago until today; otherwise, the whole issue can not be properly displayed. Currently searching for some 5-6 years old press articles which are very important in order to understand the whole Left-Right thing that is going on today.

Expect it before weekend.

(BTW, I regard the "Fremdarbeiter" issue as a fake scandal, too)

by Saturday (geckes(at)gmx.net) on Wed Sep 21st, 2005 at 03:23:44 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Thanks for the round-up. Helped a lot. Can you answer me a question? Egon Bahr (SPD Veteran, 82 years old, experienced in governing under a grand coalition SPD/CDU from 1966 - 1969) warns in an online interview about a SPD/CDU coalition.

On the other hand polls show that the majority of Germans right now seem to prefer a grand coalition. The grand coaltion between SPD/CDU is seen as the the coalition of losers and Bahr warns that it would make any bring ANY reform policies to an end, both parties deadlocked with each other.

In addition he warns that if a grand coalition that can't achieve any reform policies whatsoever it leads to an increase int the radicalisation on the left and the right. If the far-right has lost in numbers, it seems to be because the far-left has absorbed them. You mention this as if it were a great relief, but basically it just shows that far right and far left any time can sit in the same boat and one can't just be relieved about it, because it's a transfer from the far right to the far left.

How does it work to govern with a Red/Green minority under Schroeder? Egon Bahr says majorities would have to be build on a case by case basis, so these then would lead  most likely to more hot policy debates in the Bundestags, which wouldn't hurt, IMO.

by mimi on Mon Sep 19th, 2005 at 03:34:05 PM EST
sorry for missing or too many words.
by mimi on Mon Sep 19th, 2005 at 03:35:46 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I generally oppose big party coalitions for all the same reasons Bahr mentions. But right now, grid lock can't be an argument - we've had so much grid lock over the last more than ten years, first an SPD majority in the Bundesrat blocking Kohl's attempts at reform, then a CDU/CSU majority in the Bundesrat blocking Schroeder's reforms. Put the two big parties in government together and at least they no longer have an excuse for blocking each other.

Driving voters to the margins is also not really a convincing argument in the current situation, IMO. A grand coalition means Greens and FDP both in the opposition, so they'd absorb a huge chunk out of those protest voters. The Linke would definitely benefit as well though. But, to be frank, that doesn't bother me too much. I don't consider the Linke an extremist party - I consider it an establishment party with an extremely populist attitude.

I would prefer a traffic-lights coalition over a grand coalition, because I consider it more democratic, and, frankly, because it would keep the Greens in power - and I happen to think they're good for the country. But, as I've been saying over and over again, traffic lights and Jamaica are implausible options - I don't see the two small parties agree to either deal.

As for a red-green minority government with the backing of the Linke - no way in hell. Both SPD and CDU/CSU have created the expectation that dealing with the PDS and now the Linke on the federal level is taboo. Of course this is ridiculously hypocritical, since the SPD is actually allied with the Linke in Berlin and Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, and if I not mistaken there is at least some amount of cooperation between Linke and CDU on the local level. Nevertheless, b/c of those artificial expectations, breaking the taboo of making a deal with the Linke on the federal level would bear a hefty price.

Besides, such a configuration makes no sense for either Linke or SPD. After all they split up over Schroeder's neoliberal reforms, and it was the Linke's opposition to those reforms that garnered them the success they had in yesterday's elections. How could they possibly now turn around and reelect Schroeder and then help him carry on with precisely those reforms they've vowed to stop and reverse? It makes no sense whatsoever.

If you can't convince them, confuse them. (Harry S. Truman)

by brainwave on Mon Sep 19th, 2005 at 04:29:41 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Thank you. Great comment. It helps a lot. Can you explain to me what hides behind the tag neo-liberal? Are those programs right from the center, centrist or even right from the conservatives? Are they fake liberal programs, if yes, what kind of programs did the Linke want and which programs of the SPD were considered neo-liberal, what made them so unacceptable and what exactly were they intended to accomplish?  
by mimi on Mon Sep 19th, 2005 at 08:35:01 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Mostly, deregulation of the labor market coupled with hefty benefits cuts to unemployment and health insurance and tax cuts for the rich. Here and here are useful Wikipedia articles (in English) that have the basic facts. The idea behind it all is to reduce the cost of labor, thereby making the German labor market more competitive in a global economy and thus creating more employment.

Now, please understand that I'm not saying these reforms are without merit. What I and many others found appalling was how Schroeder's government in the face of crisis turned around and did exactly what it had blasted their conservative predecessors for trying to do, without any attempt at damping the economic and psychological blow to the poor and unemployed and without any attempt at finding a "third way" between Keynsian (read, more or less, traditional social-democratic, comparable to the New Deal under FDR) and neoliberal policies.

If you can't convince them, confuse them. (Harry S. Truman)

by brainwave on Mon Sep 19th, 2005 at 09:59:20 PM EST
[ Parent ]
How is it that the media in the UK, including the BBC, and even the Guardian, are allowed to parrot this line that Germany needs all these reforms and that it has become the new "Sick Man of Europe"?  It seems to me to be utter nonsense.

If I can quote from a friend who lives in Germany...

"The truth is, ever since reunification, German industrialists have whinged incessantly about how inflexible, pampered and downright lazy German workers are, particularly those in the east. They have urged them to do their patriotic duty and to be flexible, to lower their expectations and to damned well be grateful if someone deigns to give them a job in spite of all their obvious shortcomings.

In return, they have refused to invest in Germany, have shifted their production elsewhere, have whinged and bitched and extracted concession after concession, and then whinged and bitched that it still hasn't been enough.

Here's an example: every year we get the same story about farmers in Brandenburg being unable to find German workers to harvest asparagus, so they have to get people in from Poland, who are glad to do it. What they don't mention is that they pay about 3 Euros an hour. In Poland, the cost of living is a fraction of what it is in Germany, so you can't blame Polish workers for doing it. Equally, you can't blame Germans for not doing it. Nevertheless, every spring you hear the same story about what lazy bastards the Germans are.

All this "sick man of Europe" stuff is a con. Germany still exports more than any other country in Europe. The problem is that it is (or, increasingly, was) based on a system of "capitalism with a human face", for want of a better expression. And the bookies, con-men and bullshitters who run the Anglo-Saxon economies, as well as their would-be equivalents here, can't be having that.

Musings on life in Romania and beyond

by adhoc on Tue Sep 20th, 2005 at 04:20:59 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Mimi, having read the discussion in the election thread where a US libertarian cruised up, here's my new attempt at explaining it.

Libertarianism, in its purest theoretical form, takes the idea of liberalism to its individualist extreme, making the abolition of all authority (especially state authority) the ideal. But in practice, most libertarians will focus on economic 'rights' (mostly ownership rights), and in my experience most would favor a quite militant rump State: one focusing on police (mostly against immigrants...) and wars. (But anti-war libertarians are very strongy against that too.)

Neoliberalism, which started with just the one Milton Friedman our libertarian troll keeps giving links on, doesn't differ that much in its desired utopistic end state from the libertarian 'practical' state - but the difference is in the way to achieve it. Neoliberalism thinks economic 'freedoms' should come first - and to achieve that, the (dictatoral) powers of the State can be used. (Friedman and cohorts of the Chicago school took this quite literally: they were flown in to act as economic advisors for military dictator Augusto Pinochet in Chile, shortly after the CIA-sponsored coup.)

Again in practice, neoliberalism boils down to much less, especially freedom-wise: the economic 'freedoms' created are the freedoms of entrepreneurs and investors, while the freedoms of others are curtained. The neoliberal policies are to constrain workers' rights, lower taxes for economic activity, privatise state holdings and services, and to seek to find a market-based solution to every problem (with emphasis on stock markets).

Now, whether this is right-from-the-centre or centrist etc., depends on the actual makeup of the political landscape in a country. In the USA, given that the DLC subscribes to it while both the neocons and part of the paleocons in the Republican Party are more extreme, this may actually be left-of-centre... in Germany, all parties except the Left Party adopted elements of it to varying degrees since 1998, so it may count as right-of-centre to centre. In South America, it increasingly looks like turning into a centre-right to far-right position. I'd hope it will turn that in Europe too (and lost hope that it could in the USA anytime soon).

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Tue Sep 20th, 2005 at 04:29:45 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Your comments contain erroneous statements:

1.   theoretical form

(a) The libertarian party is a down-to-earth political party, rathrer than an academic institution engaged in abstract ideas.  Further, it has practical solutions, not theorical essays.

(b) the abolition of all authority (especially state authority) the ideal.
Nobody calls for "abolition" of the state.  In fact, the state is vital, important and must play its role.  However, the state is small and infringes as little as possible to an individual's rights and freedoms.

2.   Neoliberalism, which started with just the one Milton Friedman

(a) If you mean "neoliberalims" as libertarian economic theory, then you are mistaken.  Libertarian economic theory started with and/or include Adam Smith, David Ricardo, Ludwid von Mises (Austria), F. Hayek (Austria), Bastiat (French), etc.
(b) Milton Friedman's name is prominent, in part, because (i) he is a Nobel-Prize winner, (ii) he was Ronald Reagan's economic adviser.

  1.  When one has no argument, one always makes ad hominim attacks. (smile)

  2.   Friedman and cohorts of the Chicago school took this quite literally: they were flown in to act as economic advisors for military dictator Augusto Pinochet in Chile
(a) Friedman did not advise Augusto Pinochet. I doubt he ever met Pinochet.  
(b) Gen. Pinochet chose to fimplement [part of] the libertarian economic plan, and the Chicago School economists advised him.  The tragedy is that Herr Schroeder or Frau Merkel won't ask for their advise. So, God bless them.  They can solve their economic problems with more and more socialist solutions.
Somehow, 12% unemployment hasn't been going down. And Germany's growth rate is unnoticeable. But then, the politicians and bureaucrats know better, don't they? :-)

(c) In 10 years, starting from 1973, Chile  abolished the minimum wage, privatized the pension system, state industries, and banks, and abolished tax on wealth and profits.  As a result, you had a very large middle class, compared to other Latin American nations.  As a result, when people get economic rights, they also demand political rights, which they eventually got. However, Pinochet did not fully implement the libertarian plan.  

(In fact, John F. Kennedy (Dem), and Ronald Reagan (Rep) both cut income taxes, as a way to stimulate the economy, create more jobs, raise the standard of living.  I doubt Kennedy was right-wing.)

(d) Chileans have a choice to invest in their pension plans, and their pension plans are 141 times sounder that the German pension system (or 23 times more than American system). Instead of government run investment system (Social Security gives you 1-2% return - hahaha -funny and sad), they use a private-investment run system (so much better).

(e) Chile has free trade with a few countries, esp. with the USA.  That rises the standard of living of the Chileans, esp. the poor.  Chile is in top 10-20 economically developed and/or economically competitive and/or economically free nations.

(f) Chile is # 11 in the economic Freedom Index.  Germany is # 18.  France is # 44

(g) You somehow blamed Gen. Pinochet. China also follows some libertarian principles.  Should we blame China or the Communist authoritarian bloody regime for doing that?

5.  Again, you try to divide political spectrum into a 2-dimension - Left and right.
(a) There are no libertarian parties in Europe, so your analysis is not sound.
(b)  The libertarian party calls for legalization of
(i)  drugs
(ii) prostitution
(iii) homosexual marriage (overall, because there is a dispute about that in the party though and its also an obscure issue, when the state's rights are diminished)
(iv) open borders and more immigraton (yet you talk about xenophobia)

--- The rationale is that the state should not be involved in such matters, but rather the adult and consenting individuals should make these decisions.

None of these positions are right or far right or extreme right or right of the center or right-of-Venus or right-of-Mars.
(c) There is one libertarian in the US Cogress, Ron Paul, who is also a Republican
(d) There is a Libertarian Caucus in the Rep. Party and the Dem. Party.


You think the best way to provide jobs, to increase the standard of living, to stimulate the economy is through the state and the bureaucrats.  *There are millions of people who think like you).  I think, the free market and the individuals are better at it.  That's it.

by ilg37c on Tue Sep 20th, 2005 at 08:57:10 PM EST
[ Parent ]
None of these positions are right or far right or extreme right or right of the center or right-of-Venus or right-of-Mars.

but these positions allow extreme righteous and racist policies to flourish.
by mimi on Tue Sep 20th, 2005 at 09:58:09 PM EST
[ Parent ]
1. (a) Earlier, you mentioned that you were confused.  I agreed with you and pointed out that the confusion is caused by oversimplistic, inaccurate and incomplete division of the political spectrum into the Left and The Right.  A more accurate division is - (a) Libertarian, Liberal, Conservative, Authoritarian, Centrist.

(b) The prior post erroneoulsy argued that the "Libertarians are right or right-of-the-center or far-right" or whatever the label you want to use.  
I pointed out that the Libertarians and the liberals or the Left share the following positions - legalization of drugs, prostitution, homosexual marriage, or open borders and more immigraton. These are not right wing positions by any stretch of imagination.  

2. I apologize, but I didn't follow your point.  

(a) How does advocating the legalization of drugs, prostitution, homosexual marriage, or open borders and more immigraton "allow extreme righteous and racist policies to flourish?"  Can you give several specific examples?

(b)  The same reasoning will say that "The Left allows extreme righteous and racist policies to flourish."

by ilg37c on Wed Sep 21st, 2005 at 02:34:44 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Sorry you won't wind me up.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Wed Sep 21st, 2005 at 04:29:34 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Thank you, DoDo, you guys really rock. Wonderful. I feel so much better not being alone thinking that we had a libertarian troll here. My first experience in the blog world was to be thrown in pot of aggressive, libertarian hate-speakers. I really suffered under those guys and unfortunately it made me never leave the blogs, because I was so caught up with my feelings of rage about them. I feel much better now reading Dailykos and now eurotrib and the trailblazers etc. I feel really at home and more at peace. I learn a lot. Thank you so much.
by mimi on Tue Sep 20th, 2005 at 09:53:27 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Yeah right. I knew he's a troll even before going public about libertarianism. This guy keeps posting links to various US right-wing sites, and post 'arguments' about which he obviously fails to realise how ridiculous they look to a European eye.

For example, in a thread on education in a global comparison, he posted the usual crap about bad public schools in the USA: a US leftie would have to point out that public schools weren't always as run-down as now and that the present situation is a result of underfunding and the creationists' march through schoolboards, but for a European in countries with working and strong public school systems and Scandinavian countries as the example to follow it's just so absurd it's not even worth to ridicule.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Wed Sep 21st, 2005 at 04:28:59 AM EST
[ Parent ]
DoDo I find your comment so enlightening that I would like to get your opinion. How many Germans, who know the US political spectrum of parties well, are aware of how exactly the FDP's liberal and/or neo-liberal ideas compare to American Libertarianism?
by mimi on Tue Sep 20th, 2005 at 10:32:29 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Uh, I'm not sure I can answer that :-)

Depends on what "know the US political spectrum of parties well" means, I guess. Those who know it really well are obviously well aware.

I myself know American Libertarianism, like you, only from debates with US libertarians on the web. They were present on an international Usenet newsgroup I frequented then, but for some strange reason, "outed" themselves only with Bush's election in 2000. (The result was a permanent war in a previously harmonic forum.) I met several of this type on other forums since (be them the Guardian's forums or other blogs).

However, in the run-up to the Iraq war, I discovered the www.antiwar.com site, run by anti-war libertarians - who I must admit impressed me, even as our economic views differed. Via reading an anti-war libertarian blog, later I even discovered the Mutualist school of libertarians, who put emphasis on their rejection of corporatism too - some agreement with leftists on economic matters, from a quite different ideological basis!

But I suspect most Europeans haven't even heard of American Libertarianism, not to speak of confronting its representatives.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Wed Sep 21st, 2005 at 04:20:33 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Thanks, I expressed myself inaccurately. I wondered how many Germans, who consider themselves FDP voters or actively working for the FDP are aware about US Libertarianism, in your opinion? Do they believe that US Libertarians are their "US soul mates"? I talked only to two actively supporting FDP people in the US and they seem to think that the FDP and Libertarians in the US are pretty much each other's equivalent. They didn't seem to be aware of (more or less hidden) right-wing tendencies among US Libertarians.
by mimi on Wed Sep 21st, 2005 at 10:23:32 PM EST
[ Parent ]
First: that majority favoring a Grand Coalitiojn is just a relative majority of 33%, while for example 27% would favor the Jamaica version.

Second: I don't consider the Left Party far left, just hard left - in my book, far left would be fighting in the streets and calling for attacks on rich men, or for violent takeover of private property. (Lafontaine is another issue, but see my reply to Marek.)

Brainwave answered Bahr for the most part better than I could (and I enthusiastically agree with him on the Greens), I add one thing I was earlier reminded of by Saturday: a Red/Green minority government would still be blocked by a CDU/CSU-majority Bundesrat (second chamber of parliament, a check on the Bundestag like the US senate, but members are the delegates of the state governments). (Also, the President - a mostly ceremonial position in Germany, except in this point - could decide for new elections on his own, and deny this possibility altogether.)

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Tue Sep 20th, 2005 at 04:42:07 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Damn, I like the German electoral system, but can you even think trying to explain, why a victory for the CDU in Dresden in Octobler could cost the CDU a mandate? That's really so upside down.

This article says it all. Very weird.

by mimi on Mon Sep 19th, 2005 at 03:58:31 PM EST
Can you please summarize it in 'merican?  :-)
by asdf on Mon Sep 19th, 2005 at 09:44:18 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I'll try to do better: add my own explanations.

The basic issue is that of the overhang mandates - the small non-proportional skew in the German mixed election system. To explain, first let's see the German election system in an imaginary country with minimum 100 parliamentary seats.

There are half as many directly elected candidates as minimum seats: i.e., in this case, 50. But, normally, a party gets as many seats as his share in the list vote.

For example, if a party got 40% of the list vote and its candidates were victorious in 15 districts, they'll get 40 seats: they can add 25 people from the party list to the 15 who were directly elected.

However, it may happen that a party wins a much higher share of direct mandates than list votes. Say, 40% of list votes, but 45 direct mandates. 45 - that's 5 more than the allotted 40! In the German system, no seats will be taken away from this party or from the others, instead, the parliament increases by the difference - in this example, to 105 seats. Those 5 are the overhang mandates.

But what complicates the picture is that list vote shares and thus overhang mandates are counted separately for each state. However, a system is needed to balance the fractionals. To illustrate the problem, if a state would have 10 seats for list votes and one party gets 44% another 56%, distributing those 4:6 shifts the real wheights - and if there is a tendency, these shifts add up and marr the result. So instead, there is a complex system of shifting one or two seat allocations between the states. Say, if we move one away from the above state to another, 4:5 will be much closer to the real result in that state.

And what can happen in Dresden is this: if the CDU gets more than 41,000 list votes (in 2002 they got 50,000), that not only means one less CDU overhang mandate in Saxony (2 instead of 3 now predicted), but one more list seat for Saxony and one less for North Rhine-Westphalia state. Since the list seat lost in NRW would be the CDU's (its currently 47 seats there represents an up-rounding), and the one gained in Saxony would mean no change for any party, the end result is -1 for the CDU.

To summarize, a higher CDU vote would lead to a different balancing of fractionals between the states, which would lead to the loss of one overhang mandate in Saxony.

Now, as the article writes, there are two more (but not really realistic) scenarios that would shift votes. First, and this could happen in combination with the above, if the SPD doubles its list votes from 2002 (to around 45%), it would gain one list mandate from the Greens. And if, against expectations, the SPD wins the direct mandate in Dresden instead of the CDU (which reduces the CDU's projected overhang) and achieves some 90% of list votes, it could level with the CDU.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Tue Sep 20th, 2005 at 05:46:41 AM EST
[ Parent ]
My head is spinning!
by asdf on Tue Sep 20th, 2005 at 10:23:31 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Listen, I think the German voting system is so complex, I would never be able to explain it to an average American. But DoDo made a great effort. I guess one would have to explain the two different votes we have and how they are called etc. I think I have understood it, but this situation is so rare and unlikely to happen again in the next couple of decades.  The article also said, that the election mathematicians don't even try to really explain it in the media, because they don't want "to give people ideas" about tactical voting.
by mimi on Tue Sep 20th, 2005 at 10:09:30 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I suspect asdf understood but was snarky :-)

But to give a really really short summary, here it is: the German election system is almost proportional, with a very little first-past-the-post skew, and more votes for the CDU would reduce that skew.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Wed Sep 21st, 2005 at 04:06:39 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I just was saying it, because I never got someone explain the Ueberhangsmandate that well as in another thread somewhere here. I think it's the first time I really understood them. Of course I should not conclude from my own difficulties about other's, mea culpa, sorry.  :-)
by mimi on Wed Sep 21st, 2005 at 10:15:02 PM EST
[ Parent ]
thanks for this DoDo, I tried as well, but got firmly stuck with the fractionals....

and just to make it clear, thats 90% of eligible voters have to vote for the SPD not 90% of those that go to the polls. The need just about 189,000 more votes to achieve this. and Dresedn 1 has about 210.000 eligible voters.

by PeWi on Tue Sep 20th, 2005 at 10:38:20 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I think he would convince many CDU/CSU voters to vote elsewhere or just not show up.  A good friend of mine who is about to hit the job market was underwhelmed by the red-green's performance in that area, so was going to vote CSU, so long as Merkel, and not Stoiber, was the Kanzlerkandidat(in).  Koch is even more revolting than Stoiber, so my friend would either set aside hurt feelings and vote Green (like he did last time) or not vote at all (which he said he'd do if Stoiber were the CDU/CSU candidate)
by Texmandie on Mon Sep 19th, 2005 at 04:53:14 PM EST

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