Democracy in the time of postfacts

Some time ago, an op-ed in a German newspaper (Die Zeit, I believe) decried the use of the term „postfact“ and suggested we should call the bullshit uttered by the Trump administration, the Brexit campaign and others as just what it is: lies. Well, certainly, postfacts are lies, but there is a subtle distinction. Post-facts create their own, subjective version of reality – or “truth” – whereas lies contradict the objective truth. This distinction lays bare a fundamental problem of our democratic way to organise government. It does not really matter, whether Donald Trump or Nigel Farage actually believe the nonsense they utter, but it matters that their voters believe it, because it fits their view on the world.

Continue reading Democracy in the time of postfacts

Some thoughts around Brexit

On Friday morning I was shocked, probably just like everybody else. In the course of the day, that shock became anger. As such, I refrained from writing about Britain’s imminent quitting the European Union, fearing that it would only be a rant. Over the weekend, I have spoken with people about it, heard different opinions, read analyses, laughed about jokes and sorted my thoughts. This post might still be somewhat rant-ish, but very much less than if I had written it on Friday or Saturday (luckily I was busy otherwise). I will not deal with Brexit as such, there are already enough analyses about this disaster, but I will focus more on related thoughts about society, democracy and politics.
Continue reading Some thoughts around Brexit

Enforcing Rules Is Important

A while ago on a German train station, I saw a conductor telling a group of people that smoking is prohibited in this station. He was laughed at and ignored. Later on a passenger next to me on the train told the conductor, how glad he was that he stood up to the smoking people and reminded them of the rules. The conductor replied that it is sadly not in his power to enforce the smoking ban in German stations – and not his job for that matter. This would be the job of DB Security, a subsidiary of Deutsche Bahn, who (together with the German Federal Police) is responsible for the security of German train stations and have the means to enforce the rules. The passenger complained that all the security personnel  making their rounds do rarely remind  people of the smoking ban and even more rarely enforce it. An observation I can confirm. The conductor shrugged “A lot is changing” to which the passenger replied “Unfortunately”.

We could now dismiss this little story as an unimportant chat of people unhappy about change, but I think there is more to it. It is not a story about change but about rules and how unenforced rules makes people unhappy.

Continue reading Enforcing Rules Is Important

Schengen has some inconvenient consequences

While Europe’s ongoing economic crisis has revealed fundamental construction errors of the economic and monetary union, the migrant crisis reveals similar faults with Europe’s borders-be-gone Schengen scheme. If the Schengen accords are to survive – and by all means they should – we have to come to terms with the consequences of near-abolishing all internal borders, even if they are hard to accept for politicians and voters. Until now, these consequences were either unknown or ignored, a laziness we can no longer afford. Schengen is an integral, visible and practical part of the peaceful European unification and has to be preserved for practical, political and economic reasons. The pursuit of ever-closer union entails costs, some of them political, such are Schengen’s costs. But as the personal and economic benefits of the accords greatly outweigh the costs, European politics and voters must accept a certain sovereignty loss. Although Schengen is over twenty years old, its completion was not pressing until last year’s onset of the migrant crisis – or it was not seen as pressing. However, it is pressing now. Continue reading Schengen has some inconvenient consequences

Was will Alexis Tsipras?

Vorgestern habe ich noch dargelegt, warum ich das Werben für ein Nein im Referendum am Sonntag für eine Legitimation hielte, dass Herr Tsipras nur noch einen Schuldenschnitt von den Geldgebern erreichen will, nicht aber ein weiteres Hilfspaket.

Heute dagegen kommt Griechenlands Antrag auf ein waschechtes ESM-Programm, was unvorteilhafter für Griechenland ist, als es das vor einer Woche ausgelaufene EFSF-Programm war. Es bleibt also die Frage, was Herr Tsipras mit dem Referendum erreichen wollte. Offensichtlich wollte er kein Mandat der Griechen dafür, weitere Hilfsprogramme abzulehnen. Was also will er und wie ist sein Handeln zu interpretieren? Continue reading Was will Alexis Tsipras?

Europe needs enforcable rules, no fiscal centralisation

The Economist still advocates a form of debt mutualisation in Europe, that is Eurobonds of one sort or another. While I usually agree with the Economist on most topics, I am really baffled by how stubborn the Economist is in advocating these ideas, rubbish as they are. Continue reading Europe needs enforcable rules, no fiscal centralisation

Derselbe Fehler

Mit der Wahl von Frauke Petry zur Chefin wandelt sich die AfD zur offen rechts-konservativen bis rechts-radikalen Partei, setzt sich über ihren Gründungsmythos hinweg und begeht damit denselben Fehler, den auch die Piraten vor etwa zwei Jahren gemacht haben. Von den Piraten, die sich selbst zur linken Splitterpartei degradiert haben, hört man heute nichts mehr. In der Sonntagsfrage werden sie überhaupt nur noch von zwei Instituten bei ca 1% geführt. Dasselbe Schicksal wird nun auch voraussichtlich der AfD drohen. Continue reading Derselbe Fehler