_ Prof. Dr. Gerd Habermann, executive director, Friedrich A. von Hayek Society, honorary professor, University of Potsdam. 2 September 2021.*
There was never more to do. Free Democrats’ election manifesto. (90 pages).
In contrast to the three “left” programs, there are a number of liberal elements in the election manifesto of the FDP. They don’t want a “system change” like other parties, just a “restart” of the market economy and an “energy turnaround”. The program is property-friendly, but does not offer any counter-object to collectivism in the social and socio-political part, but at most – and inconsistently – a defence of the status quo, structural conservatism in this respect. It is also a party of European centralism, of a European federal state, and tends to be on the left when it comes to social policy, even if “gendering” is limited. But the FDP joins the strange LGBTQI propaganda. The position of the “middle”, which it claims for itself (“through the middle to the front”), is meaningless, because the term “middle” can, as already mentioned, be changed in terms of content at will without any concrete value reference and thus without substance. In social politics, it is often left-wing interventionist. Hardly believable for a “liberal” party: “Culture as a national goal” – whatever that may mean. But it does not demonize the climate issue and has moderate positions in terms of environmental policy, which is a plus.
Market economy, property, entrepreneurship
Like the CDU, the FDP is demanding an “unleashing pact” (Germ. “Entfesselungspakt“) for the German economy. That is very promising. The corporate tax burden is to be reduced to 25 percent (OECD average). The tax position of the municipalities is to be strengthened, among other things, through their own right to assess corporation tax and income tax. A liberal likes to read that. Also, the section on improved depreciation terms. In income tax, top taxation only applies to top earners (but also from an annual income of 90,000 euros). For a long time the FDP has been fighting for the abolition of the so-called middle class belly in the tax curve and a prevention of automatic tax increases through inflation. So far, a simplification of the tax return and an abolition of trivial and steering taxes have been demanded without consequences. It turns against more and more emergency aid and rescue packages. It, too, calls for more predominantly private future investments (25 percent of GDP).
Social spending is to be limited to a still considerable 50 percent of the federal budget. They even talk about a debt brake for social security. But also, public start-up grants in all situations! Fortunately, the idea of privatization also finds a place in this program: the state holdings in Post and Telecom and also to the banks are to be sold, and rail transport is to be privatized.
On the other hand, it calls for regulations for the large international digital companies in the interests of competition. The party advocates international free trade (reform of the WTO) and a large transatlantic economic area. Unfortunately, there are reservations against free international tax competition (“unfair tax dumping”). It is also a supporter of a European federal state with a real constitution, a real parliament, a European army and a partially harmonized tax constitution. It is also in favour of a banking union with a European deposit protection fund (but only after balance sheet risks have been reduced). Instead of the ESM, there should be a European Monetary Fund (EMF), while at the same time it is against a debt union. It also promotes an energy policy with market-economy elements, including a “European Hydrogen Union” and on the housing market it keeps the market economy line (against rent cap).
The FDP defends cash and is not averse to alternative cryptocurrencies.
Energy industry and digitization
“Technology openness in vehicle construction” is certainly gratifying, on the other hand again the usual support socialism, even for things and innovations that supposedly belong to the future (which represents a “presumption of knowledge”). There is also no lack of ridiculous small demands in the program, e.g. increasing the maximum speed of mopeds (from 45 to 55 km). How does something like this get into an election manifesto?
The technocratic trait of the program is also evident in the evocation of digitization. This is an achievement of the markets – now there should be a “Ministry for Digital Transformation”, so more bureaucracy. Also, gigabit vouchers for small and medium-sized businesses. Specifically, technological subtleties such as “specification of security-by-design”, “AI road map” and “regulatory sandboxes” – jargon that does not fit an election program.
The position of the FDP on the outdated public broadcasting system is weak: it calls for an order and structural reform without further specification. Positive: the demand for the state bank stake to be sold. It also defends cash and opposes the Network Enforcement Act.
More on social policy: ambivalent
Flexible working hours – of course, but why these wide-ranging regulations on working hours at all? “Legal entitlement to discussion in business decisions” – so again more state in the company. More women in management positions, but fortunately without rigid quotas. The “pay gap” should be problematized (but does it even exist?), “Diversity Management in the world of work” an ingratiation to the green-red left-wing narrative. Disabled on the first job market (“inclusion”)! And even: compulsory old-age provision for the self-employed (as with the health insurance) – but still with alternatives in the WIE. Everyone welcomes a more flexible retirement age, but the demand for a basic pension that is higher than the basic security is questionable. In the health care system, the freedom of therapy and the (relative) freedom of the medical professional is laudably defended. The demand for more options to switch between basic and private insurance is very positive. The egalitarian program for “complete and comprehensive accessibility in public space” may be quite utopian and in any case associated with a lot of costs.
In this party, too, there is an empty family term (wherever “permanent responsibility for one another is assumed”). Family policy now with “child chances benefit” and “parents money plus”. Amazingly, however, this party is sticking to the splitting process. It wants the recognition of multiple parents (up to four) and an adoption right “for everyone”. A liberal family policy looks different, e.g., more net for real families.
The FDP joins the LGBTQI propaganda, adopts the emptied concept of racism, and even advocates a national action plan against “LGBTQI hostility”. It sees extremism only on the right, not on the left.
Various other topics
In terms of migration, the party lauds the Canadian model; it considers Germany a “classic country of immigration”, which is greatly exaggerated, since Germany is actually more of a classic country of emigration. Controlled immigration is also necessary to make the pension system fit for grandchildren. It is in favour of a Europe-wide distribution of refugees, which, as is well known, cannot be enforced in other European nations. In terms of constitutional policy, it is in favour of limiting the term of office of the federal chancellor to 10 years and reducing the right to vote to 16 years. The emphasis on the principle of connectivity in the financial constitution is good: Whoever orders, pays, for example in relation to the federative republic to the states or the states to the municipalities.
*Translated from the original German publication on Achgut.com.