Position on property and freedom: Analysis of the German party programs. Part I. Introduction and CDU/CSU

_ Prof. Dr. Gerd Habermann, executive director, Friedrich A. von Hayek Society, honorary professor, University of Potsdam. 31. August 2021.*

Which of the large German parties have a more liberal and which a predominantly collectivist program?

Electoral programs are rarely read by voters. In the election campaign, it is more personalities and dramatized individual questions that decide. Nevertheless, they are valuable as testimony to what kind of spirit child each party is. Many individual points can later lead to legislative initiatives. In terms of writing, they are seldom distinguished by their sublime momentum, gorgeous prose, and successful pictures. They are hardly enjoyable to read. Worn out formulas, terrible platitudes are boring, apart from the contradiction of many points and exaggerated technical detailing. For a liberal order theorist, they are anathema.

And then there’s the scope! Programs of more than two hundred pages are no longer uncommon. They show, on the one hand, the growing financial resources of our parties, some of which are financed by the state, and, on the other hand, the scope of the regulatory requirements. A nanny state barely knows the limits of its willingness to intervene, whereas a classically liberal state can be content with a few principles because everything else is organized by itself in the market, civil society, conventions and customs.

Freedom or collectivism?

One can differentiate the parties according to a more liberal or a predominantly collectivist program, whereby overlaps are frequent. State interventionism plays a major role in all parties. The collectivist parties place the main emphasis on absolute equality, while other parties place greater emphasis on individual freedom. One could thus differentiate the parties according to the scheme of individualism-collectivism. The term “middle”, on the other hand, is indeterminate, as it does not refer to certain fixed values, but varies depending on the development of the party spectrum, sometimes more collectivist, sometimes more liberal: parties without a compass other than that of opportunism.

As far as the so-called “left” parties are concerned, it is striking that the traditional expression “socialism” or “democratic socialism” for their egalitarian ideals is avoided, even by the German party that calls itself “DIE LINKE”. In terms of the matter, however, the socialist idea dominates at least in the three “red” programs: GRÜNE, LINKE and SPD, although there are undoubtedly gradations here. THE LEEFT remains the most hostile to property – even the so-called climate crisis is attributed to the “rich”. Tax policy is the most important means of property socialization for all three “left” parties. Indeed: “The power to tax is the power to destroy”. In addition, they have an unbroken belief in the state economy: Liberal tax reforms, privatization, and deregulation do not occur. For example, public transport is preferred in the transport sector (state railways and local public transport), while there is polemic against motorized individual transport, and even more so against air traffic, and the bicycle is glorified, especially among the GREENS. One reads little about the need for greater personal provision instead of state external provision – on the contrary: it is about the generalization of the state compulsory provision (“citizen insurance” in the health care system, all self-employed in the state pension insurance, comprehensive “labour insurance” (GREENS)).  Families are subject to increasing expropriation – disguised as “support” – be it through state funding, be it through state assumption of care functions (day care centres, all-day schools, etc.), even with predominantly so-called “right-wing” programs.

Also noteworthy is the dissolution of Germany’s conventional energy industry under the sign of a so-called climate crisis (nuclear industry, coal industry, oil and gas industry) in the certainly utopian hope for everlasting sunshine and ever blowing wind – the greatest possible gamble for an industrialized country. Radical egalitarianism in the private sector (gender ideology, discriminatory anti-discrimination, racist anti-racism), which has a socially dissolving effect, has not yet been mentioned. All three “left” parties are centralized – believe in a superstate EU, the best would be (GREENS / THE LEFT) a world welfare state. German self-interests do not play a role, they only interfere, e.g. in monetary and debt policy. A European debt union is not feared but wanted. The desire for monetary stability is apparently out of date, otherwise money is apparently unlimited. The climate utopism with the control illusion of such a complex system as the climate to a maximum permissible warming of 1.5 degrees of a fictitious world average temperature characterizes almost all parties, but especially the GREENS again.

In the three liberal, so-called “right-wing” parties (CDU, FDP and AfD) – liberal at least in parts of their programs – there is no consistent counter-image, but elements of a different orderly thinking, especially in tax policy or in questions of the privatization of state economy (especially with the FDP, which is, however, euro-centralized). In terms of social policy, none of these parties have a thoroughly liberal concept of order, at best a defence of the status quo. The AfD is the only party to show stronger patriotic accents, which should not be confused with “right-wing extremism”. It rejects the euro-centralist model in favour of a confederation of states – and in the worst case even considers a “DEXIT”. Like the FDP, it is property friendly. In terms of social policy, the FDP tends to be more left-wing interventionist. The technocratic glorification of the digital in all parties is striking. As if this is not a wonderful creation of capitalism, companies and markets, but first and foremost the state has to act here. It is naively ignored that digitization is not an end in itself and that replacing personal services with anonymous automatisms or robots is not always progress.

The overall tendency of almost all parties is the move towards the welfare and nanny state, which is gradually destroying itself.

CDU / CSU

The program for stability and renewal. Together for a modern Germany. (139 pages)

Overall impression

Like no other party, the CDU / CSU represents the continuity of welfare state thinking in Germany – the slow and continued expansion of the Bismarck model. Although there is no mention of the “social market economy” in any program, the substance of the market economy, property, self-reliant entrepreneurship is getting thinner and thinner. In the present electoral program everything should now be “new”: “New prosperity – with sustainable growth for a climate-neutral industrial country” (the egg-laying woolly milk pig), continued “New fairness” (!), “New intergenerational justice”, “New courage”, “New promise of advancement” , “New attention” and even “New world politics” with a strong Germany (“New foreign policy strength”) in a strong Europe “on par with China”, whereby the chronically misused term Europe only stands for the European Union.

A “powerful new start”, a “decade of modernization” is announced – as if this party had not had a long reign of 16 years. The positive thing about this program is that it is only moderately affected by the climate hysteria and that exotic topics such as the LGBTQI agenda are not addressed. On the other hand, the migration problem is not raised in principle, except that one speaks out against “immigration into the social systems” (but this is exactly what happens every day in Germany). Economic, and especially tax, policy is comparatively business friendly. The drama of the monetary and financial situation is of course only marginal. One leaves it to incantations. The corona policy, which is questionable in its measures and its consequences, also remains without critical comment.[1]

European Union equals “Europe”

The CDU is sticking to its course of accelerating the centralization of the EU. In the future, there should be majority decisions on all important issues. Not only a “banking union” is desirable, also a “health union”, a “digital union”, a “security union” and even a “European industrial policy”. At the same time, one speaks of subsidiarity. Nevertheless, surprisingly, the obvious goal of a federal state EU – in contrast to the FDP – is not explicitly mentioned. No critical word on the monetary and even financial policy of the ECB, which has gotten out of hand in breach of the treaty, just a vein invocation of stability policy: “Monetary and financial policy must remain separate” – certainly, but if they are not in reality? The absolute break in the system with the 750-billion-euro aid program at European level (NGEU) is to remain a “one-off” – like the earlier non-contractual support programs (ESM, etc.) too. In fact, we already have a “debt union”. The CDU is in favour of an apparently utopian European asylum policy with the distribution of migrants across the member states.

Economy and finance. On a large scale, “Keep it up!”

It is gratifying, even if there is hardly any objective justification in the other parts of the CDU/CSU program, that tax increases are excluded, that substance taxation is not considered ‘. The pleasant formula: “Achievement must be worthwhile again”, while it is less and less worthwhile, we find here again. A “comprehensive unleashing package” is to be launched. “Relieve instead of burden”. So – after 30 years! – finally away with the solidarity surcharge for everyone, but only “gradually”. Tax burden for retained profits “in perspective” at 25%. Reintroduction of the declining balance depreciation for movable assets. Once again: the abolition of cold progression. “Unleashing” looks different. After all: no introduction of new taxes on assets such as wealth tax and no increase in inheritance tax. Mentioned only in passing, but – taken seriously – of great significance: the abolition of “mixed financing” (federal government / states / municipalities). Here, too, the long-running favorite: “Remove superfluous bureaucracy”. This party opposes international tax competition and is apparently in favour of a worldwide tax cartel.

Regarding agriculture: “Market prices must be fair and enable producers to have an adequate income” – think of this point of view as generalized and the market economy in Germany is over. Shipping is to be “made future-proof”. Is that really a state task?

They are committed to the “European Green Deal”. Would like to use emissions trading to achieve this goal – a market-based instrument, after all. A “CO2 border adjustment” should take place – probably very difficult and in any case enormously bureaucratic. After all, no commitment to exclusively electric drives for automobiles and against diesel driving bans, insofar the program is car-friendly. But a “national bicycle traffic plan” is also being considered. There should be a “solar pact” (expansion of solar energy).

The usual cult of digital technology – a barely recognized achievement of the markets, not of the state – can also be found with the CDU. “Digital education” is praised. A “national educational platform” is to be set up and Germany is also to be a “stronghold for artificial intelligence and blockchain”. There is to be a mission “quantum computers Made in Germany” and “voluntary digital ambassadors” are to spread the happy digital message in the depths of society. Not a critical word on the limits of digitization, for example in the desirable personally provided services – and above all on the intrinsic strength of the market economy development.

Social politics: little freedom

The compulsory pension insurance should now also include the previously freelance self-employed – the last step towards national or citizen insurance. A gentle eye for private provision is not lacking. Statutory health insurance adheres to the dual system. The CDU is also sticking to the splitting of spouses. In view of the demographic problems, there should be a “generational pension” in the future. A “new generation fairness in finance and taxes is needed” – what should it look like? While the state compulsory provision knows hardly any borders, the “wealth creation for everyone” should also be promoted. There should be a “sovereignty offensive” in drug production – that is, national autarky policy in this respect. In family policy the well-known variety of subsidies according to the watering can principle. “Single parents” should also be given greater support – right up to the realization of “their dream home”. Regarding the labour market: no strategic vision, such as a liberalization of labour law, essentially structurally conservative positions and emphasis on “social partnership”, i.e. the large social cartel of trade unions and employers’ associations.

A nanny state without borders

You can’t believe your eyes: this party wants to develop a “strategy against loneliness”. In addition, there is also “outreach neighbourhood help and social work”, which is supposed to track down shameful poverty and loneliness. The CDU wants to “get people excited about rural life”. Villages and cities should be “vitalized”! A “future pact for inner cities” is under discussion. Yes, the CDU wants to promote “home agencies” across the board. It also wants to invent a strategy against food waste. And it demands “public subsidies for multi-risk insurance”.

The animal-friendliness is shown in a plea for phasing out the killing of male chicks and for a “Animal Welfare Promotion Act”. “All areas of society must make a contribution to insect protection”. Prostitution of pregnant women must be banned. Regarding religion: “Understanding religion as a valuable part of our society” – very connected! For a school-based “value science” – is that value-neutral? The state is even supposed to offer “help with company handovers”. And with everything: an uncritical commitment to a “strong, independent, public broadcasting system”.

The hastily cobbled together program ends with a bold commitment to “committed sports sponsorship”.

A special election program of the CSU: Good for Bavaria. Good for Germany. (16 pages)

The inadequacy of the joint CDU / CSU election program was probably noticed in Bavaria, and so the CSU launched a special program at the end of July 2021. It is pleasantly short and comparatively more precise and fresher. They say no to the debt and tax state and want “new growth” instead. Under competitive pressure with the Greens, the Bavarian climate protection program is somewhat more detailed, but remains utopian. Bavaria would like to be the first federal state to be “climate neutral” (by 2040), but this “decarbonization” should not lead to deindustrialization. The higher corporate and private climate protection expenditures are to be offset by subsidies (“climate bonus”, climate depreciation). There should be a “timber construction offensive” and a “forest bonus”, as well as a “pact” to avoid plastic. Public transport is also to be expanded.

In family policy, more of the same: more subsidies (expansion of parental allowance; accelerated expansion of day-care, mothers’ pensions for all mothers). All kinds of sweets for the economy, especially handicrafts and gastronomy, are not missing. This also includes an extended tax loss carry-back. For every child up to the age of 18, the state should set up a pension fund financed by it with a “return-oriented approach”. And otherwise? “Hate speech prosecutors for all of Germany”, higher penalties for grandchildren fraudsters, the fight against anti-Semitism as a state goal in the Basic Law (and in the Bavarian Constitution), a “tradition guarantee” and the fight against the criminalization of shooters by “left parties”. None of this sounds particularly liberal. But Bavaria has the impressive ambition to launch a self-made rocket into space.

Notes

[1] For the changes of this party under the Merkel government I recommend the following book: Philip Plickert (ed.): Philip Plickert (Hrsg.): Merkel – Die kritische Bilanz von 16 Jahren Kanzlerschaft, FinanzBuch Verlag, München, 2021.

*Translated from the original German publication on Achgut.com.

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