Currently, there is great unease about our democracy. Something is not as it should be. What is it? Let me cite four different opinions on the subject. In order to have a really balanced set of opinions, I chose two commentators and two politicians (both of whom, naturally, have to be ex- or almost ex-politicians in order to be able to speak freely).
Hans-Ulrich Jörges (Stern, July, 23rd, 2009):
He underlines his opinion with a citation by the president of our Constitutional Court, Hans-Jürgen Papier: “If the political and financial decisions are not made in parliament and in the course of a parliamentary process, then the people living in a nation are no longer represented and the voters are degraded.” Jörges concludes: Germany has a democracy deficit. It is only a democracy peopled by spectators. The people are incapacitated and it is time for a profound democratic reform.
Roland Dürre (IF Blog, June 23rd, 2009):
We have already been told by Karl Jaspers that there is a danger of Germany becoming an oligarchy of parties. There is a whip system that forces the delegates to vote according to their party’s wishes, instead of listening to the voice of the people who would be absolutely capable of accepting harsh measures where necessary, instead of just populist promises.
Burkhard Hirsch, formerly Vice President of Parliament (Zeit, July, 23rd, 2009):
Parliament should at long last have the courage to delegate to “Europe” only those rights that actually go to the parliament, rather than some Barrosos, Solanas or other commissioners we neither know nor elected.
Peter Struck, soon-to-be ex-chief of the SPD Representatives in Parliament (Zeit, July, 23rd, 2009):
A radical tax reform is hardly possible. The lobbies fighting against it are too strong and too powerful. Besides, there is always a party supporting the lobbyists. In order to initiate a fairer tax system you would have to massively reduce subsidies, which cannot be done, because too many profit from them.
The first three authors put the blame for the democratic deficits on the parliamentary “loss of power” (it can be indirectly concluded from Dürre) or the lack of direct democracy (however that may look), Struck blames the lobbies.
What do we learn from this? The more remote political power is for the commentators, the more they see salvation in Parliament. That is perfectly understandable, since that is the definition of power in a representative democracy.
Struck, being the only still-powerfully-active politician, has another view of the situation: his enemy are the lobbies. He has no problem at all with any kind of parliamentary loss of power. After all, if Jaspers/Dürre are correct, he is one of our basic agents of “reduction of parliamentary power” (being the chief of party representatives in Parliament, he is the very person to enforce the whip system).
So much on four opinions about feeling uneasy with our democracy. They do not at all represent the majority; they have been selected very subjectively by yours truly. But still they have a basic common denominator. Do we really have a deficit of democratic processes, because Parliament is becoming either more or less powerful? Or because the lobbies do some governing? (Aren’t we all in some kind of lobby? Soon, I myself, for example, will belong to the lobby of the elderly.) Do the European Commissioners make fundamentally wrong decisions, just because they have no legitimate mandate given to them directly by the European Parliament? Are they too far removed from our daily problems here in Germany? Isn’t some distance a better idea for sensible decisions than being crowded in on a daily basis? Times are gone when parliaments, politicians or lobbyists made decisions. We are the ones who make all the decisions.
Democracy was substituted by demoscopy. According to the definition “what is it the people want?”, we have the most perfect of all possible democracies today. Demoscopy is Democracy, what else would it be? Demoscopy projects what people think and politicians anxiously adhere to it. Well, to some extent they even pre-adhere to the expected public wishes. Take for example Opel, where politicians thought the people want to save all these jobs. Today, since it is now clear that is not what people want, how eager would they be to get rid of Opel? Or do you think the new study giving Opel no chance under its own name would have had even the slightest chance of leaking through from the government?
The people decide through polls what is to be done and what not. Thus, it is no use at all to put all the blame on the politicians. Politics are just as intelligent or stupid as the people. And democracy/demoscopy is the reflexive mechanism.
During the last few years, there was only one political decision that the people did not want, and that was the Agenda 2010. We all know what happened to the politicians who were responsible for it.
Is democracy at the end of its tethers when is has reached its “purest” form? At least, we start intellectually thinking about alternatives. For instance, our Minister of Economic Affairs zu Guttenberg is currently reading “Politeia” by Plato (in the original Greek version!). That is by no means “politically correct”. Just remember what the philosopher Karl Popper criticized about the Platonian theory of the “inborn trichotomy” in an ideal state, where we have the teaching, the soldiering and the nurturing class.
Popper calls the Platonian concept eugenics.
(Translated by EG)