German publisher advocates “less democracy

20 September 2011 — German Foreign Policy

(Own report) – A recently published book, by one of the most influential German newspaper publishers, is pleading for a transition toward “less democracy.” The “voice of the people” and the “emancipatory Zeitgeist, putting everything into question,” has a too “paralyzing influence” on current governance, writes the publishing house in its blurb for the book. The author therefore demands to “correct the system” for “more efficient policy making.” These “corrections” must include the dismantlement of democratic participation. The book, recently published under the title “Dare Less Democracy” is being heavily promoted by public broadcasting stations, for example the Westdeutsche Rundfunk (WDR), with close affiliation to the Social Democrats. Since some time, influential circles of the German elite have been demanding dismantlement of democracy in Germany. The recently published book will bring this debate into a broader public.

The book “Dare Less Democracy” was published in August by the publishing house of the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, one of the most influential German dailies. The author Laszlo Trankovits is the bureau chief and correspondent of the Deutsche Presse Agentur (dpa) in South Africa. He had previously worked for dpa in Washington – as its “White House correspondent,” explains the publisher.[1] The title of the book is hinting at social modernization that was introduced in the 1960s and often described with the demand to “Dare More Democracy.” This was the formulation used by Chancellor Willy Brandt (SPD) in his government declaration speech in October 1969.

Functioning Leadership

Laszlo Trankovits opposes continuing this development. He claims that the politicians and the economy are presently faced with enormous problems that would only worsen with demands for popular participation, such as “Stuttgart 21.” Frequent elections only increase pressure on politicians, who, out of fear of losing elections, avoid necessary and painful social cuts. Revelations on the internet, such as those by WikiLeaks, are exacerbating the policy making problems to the extreme. “The functioning and efficiency of a society, state and economy” are threatened, if “everyone can have their say and participate in everything.”[2] It is therefore necessary to “debate how the systems of leadership, planning and shaping the future can continue to function.” But this will lead to conflict with “political correctness,” which “usually” proscribes “all demands (…) for a moderate limitation of participation and transparency.”

Fewer Elections, More Concentration of Power

Trankovits however, is publicly calling for means of reducing democratic participation in Germany. He demands: “Fewer elections, longer legislative periods” and for the government “more centralization, more concentration of power, more control.” In reference to the Federal Constitutional Court being repeatedly summoned on the constitutionality of new laws, Trankovits writes: “The increasing involvement of the Constitutional Court is heading in the wrong direction.”[3] Rather than democratic participation, “Governance” needs “competence, decisiveness and leadership.” It should never be suggested that a “democratic society can do away with inequality and establish social justice.” Trankovits, a member of the elitist Rotary-Club, demands that the elite clearly “commits itself to capitalism and profit,” and that “intelligent forms of public relations” be used to communicate policy measures to the population. However, the demand for more “transparency” is “counterproductive and paralyzing” for any “governance efficiency” and must be rejected, declares Trankovits.

Feelings of Superiority of Democrats

The call to dismantle democratic participation must obviously be seen in light of the West’s loss of global influence to China’s advantage. Trankovits explains [4] that “German top managers (…) often are ravished, when they speak of China’s huge development leaps.” In “western democracies” we are accustomed to “years, if not decades of debate on the construction of a new power plant, airport or railway station.” China’s economic success causes “doubts about democracy’s superiority” and the “traditional feelings of superiority held by democrats” is dwindling. This will induce efforts to reshape western societies, so that they can again take the leadership in global competition.

A Bit of Dictatorship

All this corresponds to assessments expressed in a review published in the periodical “Internationale Politik” last year.[5] The review also explained that China’s economic boom “has reignited the competition of systems.” Particularly “managers and industrialists” are hoping that the dismantlement of democratic participation will enhance “their opportunities.” In their discussions, the elites are particularly bemoaning the inertia of democratic procedures and “the lack of a selection of political personnel.” This induces a wish for “conceptualization of pertinent, depoliticized, bureaucratic procedure” and for “a bit of dictatorship.” In fact, circles of the Berlin’s establishment are already discussing dictatorial methods. The key Nazi jurist, Carl Schmitt, differentiated between provisional and sovereign dictatorships. “If there is various talk of dictatorial powers and measures today, it is usually [!] in the sense of what Schmitt referred to as a provisional dictatorship,” the review explains, while also recognizing certain problems in its implementation. ( reported.[6]) “But no constitutional institution is prepared to take the risk of installing a provisional dictator.”

Initial State Support

Trankovits’ recent book, presented by the publishing house of the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, pursues the debate described in the periodical ” Internationale Politik”. The book is particularly promoted by public broadcasting stations. For example, according to the Westdeutsche Rundfunk (WDR), closely affiliated with the Social Democrats, Trankovits has “carefully analyzed why too many opinion polls, too much democratic participation and accessibility to the citizens could paralyze Germany.”[7] And according to the Hessische Rundfunk (HR), “his book seeks to counteract disenchantment with politics (and politicians) and is an encouragement to all of us.”[8] Both broadcasting stations are providing much space and praise to the author and his publication – initial state support for an attempt to bring the debate on dismantling democracy into a larger public. A review of Laszlo Trankovits’ book “Dare less Democracy” can be found here.

[1] Die Obama-Methode;
[2], [3], [4] Laszlo Trankovits: Weniger Demokratie wagen! Wie Politik und Wirtschaft wieder handlungsfähig werden, Frankfurt am Main 2011 (Frankfurter Allgemeine Buch)
[5], [6] Internationale Politik Mai/Juni 2010. See also A Bit of Dictatorship
[7] Die Stimme des Volkes;
[8] “Weniger Demokratie wagen!” – Laszlo Trankovits im Gespräch;

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