Tag Archives: lobbyism

Germany after the 2013 election, a prognosis

In September 2013, chancellor Angela Merkel and with her the ‘conservative’ CDU-party will win the German parliamentary election and continue the existing coalition with the self-proclaimed ‘liberal’ FDP party. If votes are particularly hung, Merkel will enter into a great coalition with the ‘labour’-SPD and their ill-fated Mr Steinbr├╝ck. Whatever happens, it will not make any difference at all. The big German parties, in this media controlled reality the only ones with any chance in politics, are in their basic ideas and ideals very similar, with differences more of a cosmetic kind, much the same as it is in the United States.

After the election, many changes that in their essence have been prepared for many years will more clearly materialise. As a consequence, some other things will dematerialise. For one, the value of the Euro in relation to other European currencies will, under the weight of immense debts, slowly start to slide, while in addition the general income of the people, under growing pressure from cheap former-eastern-block workers, will fall further. Thus, people will be even poorer when it comes to their actual purchasing power, especially anywhere outside the Euro-zone. To compensate this, the quality of products and services will have to and will fall.

Secondly, privatisation and euphemistically named public-private-partnerships will increase significantly. This will be particularly true in those sectors which so far have mostly retained state backing: Motorways and other major roads, bridges and tunnels, trains and tracks, hospitals and schools, prisons and security not essential to core state facilities, public parks and woods. The money for this will still be collected by the state, but it will be handed on to companies that promise to do the same work for less money while still retaining a profit and having to borrow at higher interest rates. Interesting concept, and one I have never understood.

While it is fair to say that the general German citizen, politician and non-politician alike, is brainwashed by media and sheepishly does what told, the amount of state and lobbyist propaganda will have to increase. When it comes to their gut, even conformed people are not stupid. I am not talking about Big Brother shouting down from the walls. That would be communism, which we luckily do not have in Germany. Here, we have capitalism, which is great, but unfortunately we have an increasingly unbalanced capitalism, which is not so great, and its extreme form really seems not very different from communism, at least when it comes to the view of the individual as little more than a cog-wheel in the system.

To keep the peace, people will more than ever have to be fed cheap bread and games via television and internet, and will have to be convinced that there is no alternative to what is happening. We know this concept well, as we have been witnessing it for the last twenty years. If none the less unrest starts to grow, as can be seen in many parts of Southern Europe, there is also a danger of a stricter, more dictatorial regime that is already on the horizon. It will however not be obviously suppressive for many years to come. The foundation on a European level has never the less been laid with the treaty of Lisbon, signed by politicians who had not read it. On the whole, dedemocratization will continue as more and more responsibilities are transferred to not directly elected ex-bankers in high-up European political structures.

Returning to Mrs Merkel, the paradox thing is that many Germans, always prone to be discontent, are growing even more discontent with many things, with a less relaxed quality of life and the intensification of work-life, with less and less buying power earned, with unaffordable housing property, with the uncontrolled influx of immigrants from anywhere East or Southeast in a continuously expanding European union, with constant lorry congestion on all major roads, with the general feeling that the political class is totally detached from the people and mostly following the lobbyists. And, while these sentiments are pretty obvious if you do not listen to the media, but instead to what the people are saying, the Germans apparently still like their chancellor Mrs Merkel. Who actually is in charge of most of this, believe it or not.

But that is the magic of propaganda. People have been taught not to make the connection between their reigning politicians and what is happening to themselves. Instead, they have come to believe as told, that it is the markets, the ‘financial crisis’, globalisation, the others, the unemployed, the nameless super-rich in other countries. But not here. Not them. Not those they have voted for in this best of democracies. In fact, when the average German really feels listened to, he or she has learned that this is populism, and thus merely a manipulative tool employed by vain politicians.

Angela Merkel is perceived as not being vain or materialist. That in fact may be true. But it misses the crucial point. Angela Merkel’s primary interest is the conservation of her own power. To that, most political analysts across the spectrum would agree. The problem is, a character driven by self-preservation is not particularly philanthropic. Politicians in general probably are not philanthropic, but it still helps those reigned if that trait is not too far down on the agenda of those reigning. But all this is too abstract for most, and they generally believe the political spin spread by private media about mother ‘Mutti’ Merkel, that modest, intelligent physicist with a clerical background. It works.

By the way, about three years after the 2013 election, private media will start to softly wave goodbye to Mrs Merkel, and public media will hop onto the bandwagon. Then, party colleague Ursula von der Leyen, whose name stems from her husband’s Dutch ‘van’ but has been converted into a more elitist ‘von’, something of the shiny and authoritarian kind that the Germans love, will take over from Angela Merkel. Mrs von der Leyen already has the backing of one of the most influential women in German politics, Liz Mohn, family head of one the world’s biggest media houses, Bertelsmann. That should help. It worked before, with Mrs Merkel.

Left and right the same can also be a feature, though usually only outside politics.

Left and right the same can also be a feature, though usually only outside politics.

Is Germany a corrupt country?

Wikipedia defines corruption as ‘spiritual or moral impurity or deviation from an ideal’. It continues, stating ‘political corruption occurs, when an office-holder or other governmental employee acts in an official capacity for his or her own personal gain’.

It is difficult, that one. Fact is, in Germany, people in politics are constantly changing into the private sector and people working in the private sector are constantly, at least for a time, changing into politics or a closely connected part of the public sector. They call it the revolving door, and though I assume that most of the change occurs for the enhancement of personal gain in the form of money or influence, that is only part of the problem.

In Germany, since at least the late 1990s, privately financed lobbyists from the media, from insurance companies and banks, from the car industry, the chemical industry and the weapons industry have been openly assisting ministries in drafting new laws. These laws are subsequently usually slanting towards the advantage of the private sector. If you ask me, that really is a problem. After all, democracy should primarily be about representing the interests of the voter, and not of those people who scratch your back. From all I can gather, things are even worse on a European level, because there is even less accountability towards the citizen there.

Adding to that, Germany is one of the few countries in the world in which parliamentarians may, without fearing punishment, receive money from pretty much anyone, as long as it is not directly connected to casting a vote. There was a mostly unanimous opinion among politicians against changing those rules, and it was argued that it would otherwise unnecessarily stifle politicians in their decision making.

The situation elsewhere is comparable. For all I know, many former employees of one of the world’s biggest investment banks are active in high-up US-politics. And coming to that, they are pretty active in the rest of the world, too. It is much the same in Britain, where Westminster and the City seem uncomfortably close. The argument for the revolving door will always be a similar one. These people are experts at what they do. Which undoubtedly is true. The question is, what exactly do they do, and in whose interest?

So can all this be called corruption, or at least corruptibility? When there is such great closeness between politicians, industrialists, journalists, consultants and lobbyists, with many openly displaying glowing friendships in the media, never mind covertly on the golf course, what in all honesty should you call it?

There is no easy answer. Friendships, relations and networks are a part of life, and more so in politics, I would guess. And even if this would amount to corruption, were it alright to call it so and thus the enabling system with it? According to paragraph 90a of the German ‘Strafgesetzbuch’, anyone who ‘abuses or maliciously defames Germany or its constitutional system is punishable by up to three years in prison’. While I am not doing anything of the kind, it does make me think about free speech. It shows that freedom is always a relative thing, which I guess must be in the nature of the matter.

Which brings me back to corruption. Germany has a great constitution, written by insightful people after a devastating war. The question is, is that constitution being respected today?

Light and shadow make up the world, and the world of politics, too

Light and shadow make up the world, and the world of politics, too