Tax Reform

It is worthwhile to think thoughts through to their logical conclusion, e.g. tax reform. What does a tax system look like that is both socially just and ecologically accurate and guarantees a minimum income for all citizens? A century and a half ago, John Stuart Mill considered only the taxation of consumption to be socially just. What a nonsense to tax performance, whether that of a worker or a manager – performance benefits the community. But by consuming goods, the total amount of which is always and necessarily limited, each of us limits the consumption of his fellow human beings. However, a progressive consumption tax is only conceivable with today’s technical means. Ten years ago, I proposed such a system in “Wohlstand und Armut” (Metropolis). It will never be realized in this logically uncompromising form, but the direction is clearly marked out. Only in one point did I not go far enough. Herman Daly, the great American pioneer of ecology, went a decisive step further. It is not possible, he argued, to curb the consumption of resources through taxes, but only through capping, i.e. through steadily decreasing upper limits, e.g. for the consumption of coal, oil, gas etc. (published as paperback and Amazon Kindle edition). See:

Tax Reform

Germany – a Banana Republic?

The critics of representative democracy suspect it of disenfranchising voters because they are prevented from voting directly on legislative proposals. This accusation ignores social reality, which has changed fundamentally since ancient Greece and the Germanic Thing, where free men (women were still excluded) decided on war and peace and many other basic concerns. Modern society has become so complex that most decisions require technical expertise that can only be provided by specialists. We need only think of climate change. Almost every enlightened citizen realizes that the further poisoning of the atmosphere with CO2 is a great evil that we should stop as soon as possible, but only a few people are aware of the far-reaching consequences of ill-considered measures. If we really want to save the climate, our economy and our current way of life will have to undergo drastic changes – changes that in ways quite unimaginable to most people, would interfere with production, transportation, the energy industry, and most importantly, jobs and incomes.

Direct democracy is an ideal

that can only be realized if all citizens are equally well informed about all issues at stake. But that was no longer the case even in the days of Athenian democracy – and has been less and less so ever since. After the industrial revolution, man has lived in a knowledge society of exponentially growing expertise and professional competence. Even seemingly simple problems, such as whether and to what extent a state may incur debt, presuppose comprehensive knowledge, which the popular providers of knowledge, that is, the media, only convey in a fragmented or populistically distorted manner, because citizens usually stressed by everyday work are understandably not inclined or even able to deal personally with problems that have become unmanageable in their range and ramifications. To put it bluntly: the rejection of direct democracy in favor of a representative one was forced upon modern states by their transition toward knowledge societies. Anyone who still propagates the former as the solution to our actual problems is a dangerous populist because he wants laymen to decide on technical problems only understood by specialists.

But doesn’t this statement imply the suspicion

that democracy is no longer functioning, precisely because most of the issues at hand are no longer accessible to the average voter and the media – as the fourth authority alongside the executive, legislative and judicial branches – hardly offer any real clarification?

No, this conclusion would be quite misleading, because in a deeper and therefore essential respect, citizens remain the authority of last resort: in their value judgments. Whether a majority approves of further immigration or whether it lets itself be determined by pity to open the borders; whether people want material equality rather than a special promotion of talents, i.e. greater inequality; whether the inner cities should be kept free of traffic or the car should be given right of way everywhere; whether marriage should be limited to men and women or apply to all; whether religious minorities should have the same rights as the traditionally dominant religion; whether politicians should be allowed to enrich themselves personally through their office – these and similar questions depend on value judgments on which every citizen can express his preference – value judgments do not require expert knowledge.

Exactly the opposite is true: Values are at the root of all expert knowledge.  After all, the Industrial Revolution and the exponential expansion of our scientific and technical knowledge caused by it were themselves the result of a new value orientation. Since that time, man has hoped to find happiness in the improvement of earthly conditions instead of a future career in heaven.

The dichotomy of decision-making

in modern Western democracies is therefore tailored to modern society in its historically developed shape. The citizen is to remain the final authority in matters of moral value judgments. The majority within a territory are entitled to decide how they want to live together and design their own future and that of their children. The technical questions of how and whether these ideas can be realized in concrete terms are then decided by parliamentary committees and ministerial bureaucracies, which – ideally – dispose of the required knowledge. The division of democratic decision-making into fundamental value decisions expressed by all citizens and technical competence, which they delegate to technical committees and technically competent bureaucracies, is the direct and unavoidable consequence of social complexity.

Since every citizen has the right to vote and to stand for election,

representative democracy cannot avoid certain dangers. It may enable people without any knowledge to become politicians or even heads of state. It also allows demagogues who want to abolish democracy to rally a large following behind them. This danger can be mitigated but not abolished by an educational system that provides the broadest possible general education up to the beginning of professional training at universities. The greater the proportion of citizens who have at least the basic ability to distinguish specialized knowledge from charlatanry, the better the conditions for the functioning of democracy.

But education alone is not enough to prevent a legal transition to dictatorship (as has already been accomplished in Russia and is in the offing in Poland and Hungary). It may always happen that a majority of citizens is convinced that only a strong man with unlimited powers can solve pending problems. This is where the judiciary comes into play as the third pillar of a functioning democracy. It exercises the indispensable task of defending the constitution against those who try to subvert freedom by legal means.

Value judgments are subject to a wide range of fluctuation

not infrequently they are even opposed to each other. For this reason, coalitions are a suitable democratic means of giving minorities a say. When the two strongest parties have roughly equal numbers of votes, as is the case with the SPD and the Christian Democrats after this year’s federal election, then under normal circumstances both have the possibility and the right to seek coalitions that would secure government responsibility for either of them. This does not distort the voters’ mandate – on the contrary, the latter is reflected in possible coalition variants.

I dwell on these basic considerations of representative democracy before pointing out that they seem to have been forgotten in today’s Germany. Some politicians are paving the way toward a bananarepublic.

For the basic democratic competence

is taken away from citizens if his or her value decision is called into question. Whatever one may think of the two candidates for chancellor, Olaf Scholz and Armin Laschet – is of no importance in the present context. The only thing to keep in mind is the fact that one of them recorded an enormous increase in votes, while the other caused his party to lose votes like never before since its founding in 1945. In this case, the voter has made a clear value decision. He does not want Armin Laschet as German chancellor. Against such a background, it is quite insignificant that the two leading parties were able to garner roughly the same number of votes. This fact does not reflect the preference of voters, which is expressed by the enormous increase in votes for one candidate and the huge loss of votes for the other.

From some sides we hear,

that such objections do not count because politics has little to do with morals. So, you can’t blame Armin Laschet for pulling out all the stops to save his political future. Anyone who speaks in this way is a cynic who despises democracy. He wants to deprive voters of the only real competence they are not only allowed but required to exercise if representative democracy is to have any meaning. Fortunately, there are high-ranking politicians like Michael Kretschmer, the prime minister of Saxony, who refuses to howl with the wolves. And Bavaria’s Prime Minister Markus Söder at least concedes, “No claim to form a government arises from second place.” These are the voices Democrats should listen to. Politician of whatever party should not be allowed to make a mockery of the will of voters and of democratic decency out of a personal obsession with power.

Let us not delude ourselves

The next step in the direction that leads us away from democracy and toward a banana republic would be to challenge the election itself – as has been done by Donald Trump in one of the world’s oldest democracies. It is regrettable that Angela Merkel, who achieved such a sovereign, such an admirable exit from politics, stood by the clear loser Armin Laschet, at least not contradicting him when he put himself in play as a candidate for chancellor. As for the Greens and the FDP, it is understandable that they see the unpleasant, undemocratic move of Arnim Laschet as an opportunity to squeeze out a maximum of demands for themselves, but this is no excuse in terms of democratic policy.

However, these breaches of democratic decency

should not make us forget that democracy faces even greater challenges. Citizens are supposed to have the right to decide on values and thus give direction to politics, while ministerial bureaucracies and parliamentary committees are then supposed to technically implement this direction and these values. But how is this to be done when the technical apparatus of modern economies has become so autonomous that the freedom of citizens is inevitably increasingly restricted?

Highways, high-voltage power lines and sprawling wind farms

certainly do not make the landscape more beautiful – that is no secret, but it is an inevitable development if our hunger for energy is to be satisfied. Likewise, small-scale agriculture once beautified nature, while large-scale plantations and endless fields are turning it into an agricultural desert – another inevitable consequence of the planet’s overpopulation, which is also responsible for our need to further increase harvests through the use of genetically modified, pesticide-dependent crops that meet the world’s growing demand. These are developments that nobody wanted – nor are they the effects of any particular economic system such as capitalism or neoliberalism. Rather, they result from the eightfold increase of population within the past two centuries and from the fact that all these people strive for the highest standard of living.

The techno-economic apparatus has taken on a life of its own

that increasingly restricts our freedom. The same applies, of course, to the people who operate its levers and ensure that we do not starve, have our jobs, and draw our incomes and pensions. The picture of democracy sketched above is an ideal abstraction that does not account for actual power. In addition to the executive, legislative and judicial branches, there is also the “privative” – the private sector – which, through lobbyists and the media, wields more power than all parliamentary committees and ministerial bureaucracies combined. In the US, the power of the private sector is obvious. Presidential candidates must run the gauntlet of an election campaign that gets more expensive every year and can only be won with substantial donations from big corporations. No American president can govern against big business, but he can certainly govern against the people.

In Germany, this development toward plutocracy has gone less far. However, the transition to a service society together with digital automation could decimate the workforce to such an extent that the unions, as a counterweight, lose as much power as they already did on the other side of the Atlantic. The greatest danger to democracy comes not from people like Armin Laschet who flout the rules of the game, but from the fourth power, the mighty private sector, which could abolish them altogether and use the government as the executor of its will.

Peter Michael Lingens – honest or merely respectable?

In Germany, at most a few insiders know Peter Michael Lingens or the Viennese weekly magazine “Der Falter,” where he publishes his weekly articles. But the problem of seriousness and respectability is no less pertinent north of the Alps. It seems to me, that we should regard it as one of the main problems of our time. From this point of view, it is more than mere coincidence that I choose the Falter and one of its authors to highlight a fundamental problem.

Without exaggeration, it may be said

that the Viennese Falter fulfills a vital task for Austrian democracy – it is fighting with all its might against the Orban-ization of the country. Sebastian Kurz, the current chancellor, is distinguished by superior intelligence, confident demeanor, and even personal charisma. This imparts a special poignancy to his politics, as he has never made a secret of his admiration for Orban, the Hungarian potentate on the other side of the border. Of course, Mr. Kurz is far too intelligent to openly advocate an “illiberal democracy,” but in practice he is proceeding along precisely these lines. While his government promotes all print media that follow its line with generous advertisements, one can also say bribes and makes them compliant through bribery (a scandal, because of course it does so at the expense of the taxpayers), the Falter is dependent on the income from sold copies. One can imagine how precarious in this case too the position of the critical mind must be.

I always read the articles of Peter Michael Lingens

with special attention and often with admiration, because he belongs to the endangered species of those journalists who, apart from the two colors black and white, still recognize the shades of gray in between. The great passion of our time is to praise the like-minded and insult all those who think differently. But that is not what Peter Lingens does. He strives for justice – that’s what makes him so endearing in my eyes. In this endeavor, he sometimes even goes to the limits of what seems reasonable. In several of his articles, he explicitly praised the economic policies of Donald Trump. Those who do not know that he condemns the pathological liar just as much as any clear-sighted person might have misunderstood his remarks as an expression of sympathy. Even when commenting on the policies of the Turquoise-Blacks in the current Austrian government, he doesn’t let protest obscure his sense of justice. Lingens reminds his readers that the Social Democrats, too, were by no means squeamish when they held power. Lingens is credible because he is not a simple partisan. His sense of justice, fostered by long experience, prevents him from concealing the weaknesses of those to whom his true sympathies belong.

But his honesty has definite limits

and these are circumscribed by respectability. The Falter is committed to the fight for democracy and democratic institutions. Its best journalists, Florian Klenk and Arnim Thurnherr, are out like sniffer dogs to show how, at the instigation of the current government, the independence of the judiciary is undermined, post racketeering is practiced, and media are bribed. In autocracies like Russia or China, all this has long since happened: Opposition media are shut down, the judiciary is controlled by the government, and the most important posts are awarded on orders from above. From a global perspective, democracy is currently under threat almost everywhere – even and especially in some of the states that until recently represented it in a classical way. In the United States, the supposed model and defender of democratic institutions, it almost fell victim to an ambush: the storming of the Capitol.

Peter Lingens is unfortunately in the right,

when he compares the actions of the right-wing part of the current government with similar power-seeking under social democratic governments. These actions do not represent a historically unique case. In democracies too, those in power, whether they belong to the left or the right, have always sought to expand their power and, if possible, to maintain it permanently. Unlike today, however, most of the population and the most important institutions, such as the judiciary, the press, etc., strongly supported adherence to the democratic rules of the game. It is this support that seems to have been eroding for some time. A charismatic, highly intelligent, and talented young “leader” like the current Austrian chancellor could very well challenge it and introduce Hungarian conditions in Austria as well.  This is precisely why magazines like the Wiener Falter are vital to democracy.

At this point, respectability comes into play

Magazines critical of the government only have a chance if they are absolutely respectable. Any obvious error would be welcome food for their opponents. A magazine that opposes the government, that is, the ruling power including most other media, must be unassailable. But it remains unassailable only if it confines itself to the one topic where its position is difficult to attack, namely the defense of democracy and its institutions. That means, it should, as far as possible, avoid all topics where fierce and well-founded attacks could damage it to such an extent that its main concern is no longer taken seriously. One such issue is the climate crisis.

The climate crisis represents a neuralgic topic

because it is here that the question of honesty versus respectability is likely to arise. What is Mr. Lingens allowed to say and what not if the respectability of the “Falter” is to be maintained?

Some people may think this question to be preposterous. “In this country, we don’t have censorship,” they will say. “An intellectual journal like the Falter fiercely defends itself against all its possible forms.” These people are right. I am perfectly convinced that none of the star journalists, neither Florian Klenk nor Armin Thurnherr, prescribe thought contents to any journalist of their paper. Censorship just takes another shape. They will not allow an article to appear that could put their newspaper in danger, even if it tells the truth and nothing but the truth. This internalized imperative is enough to explain what a Peter Michael Lingens may and may not say on a hotly contested issue like the climate crisis. Or – let’s put it more sharply – what forces this otherwise so honest man to obscure the truth and instead tell us half-truths.

Untruths – that would be nothing special; in the tabloid press, lies are too commonplace to get particularly worked up about them. But if even the Falter and such an outstanding journalist as Mr. Lingens cannot be acquitted of this accusation, then the case takes on a paradigmatic significance. We are indeed facing a profound crisis that affects not only the climate, but at least as much the way we talk and are allowed to talk about it.

The assertion of falsehood would be outrageous

without the corresponding justification, which I would like to keep concrete and general at the same time, because it concerns untruths, to which even the Falter feel compelled – not to mention publications of lesser rank. Mr. Lingens would have had three possibilities to talk about climate crisis. Two of them are respectable in the sense that they do not damage the paper; the third alternative is honest, but far from respectable. It would get the paper into serious trouble.

Let’s start with alternative one,

which Mr. Lingens did not choose. He could have quoted almost any number of experts to tell his readers which strategy against the climate crisis remains definitely out of the question: switching to nuclear power plants in order to replace fossil fuels. Since Chernobyl, we know what a worst-case scenario looks like. Since Fukushima, we have learned that even a leading high-tech country like Japan is powerless against the consequences of nuclear contamination. Radiating material from damaged reactors is currently being discharged into the Pacific Ocean – with unforeseeable consequences. Nowhere on earth is there a safe place to store radiating residues. If all fossil-fueled power plants were replaced by nuclear ones, this would be the worst policy we can imagine as it leads to a multiplication of residues and nuclear pollution. Austria and Germany have done well to get out of nuclear energy. Moreover, few people know – apparently not even Mr. Lingens – that in the coming decades this path will also be forced on those states that continue to adhere to the nuclear production of electricity. This is because the stockpiles of uranium have been largely exhausted; today’s demand is fed primarily by dismantled nuclear warheads. The moment this supply is also depleted, uranium will have to be mined again, but natural mining has become so expensive that it will eventually consume as much energy as will subsequently be extracted from the uranium itself (Ugo Bardi, 2013, p. 94ff).

So Lingens could have argued, relying on internationally recognized expertise. He would then have placated his readers with the perspective that the green camp – to which, after all, his sympathies belong – has been proclaiming the right solution for quite a time already. Renewable energies should be expanded rapidly, and the electric car take the place of fossil-fueled diesel and gasoline engines. Most readers of the Falters would have considered this answer to be respectable. The paper would have benefitted. Even in business circles, the nuclear lobby is not strong enough to discredit the Falter as an anti-business publication.

Mr. Lingens has chosen alternative two,

which is riskier for the Falter since it must irritate a not insignificant part of its regular readers. As mentioned before, anyone carefully reading his articles knows that Mr. Lingens has much sympathy for the Green Party. Perhaps it is precisely this preference from which he derives the right to criticize them without much ado. In his latest article, for example, he takes aim at the Greens’ credo that the conversion of transport to electric cars will open up the hoped-for future of sustainability. He refers to an expertise conclusively proving that for the next few decades the supply of green electricity will not even remotely suffice to supply all electric cars with sufficient energy after the complete abandonment of fossil sources. However, if we continue to run the fleet on fossil fuel electricity, then CO2 emissions will, of course, not decrease.

Considering that for the Greens

the transition to electric mobility is one of the ten commandments you absolutely must believe in if you want to be one of their fold, this article represents nothing less than a frontal attack. Lingens is, of course, no expert in this field; like any of us, he must rely on the available expertise. He bases his judgment on a book by the technician and blogger Kai Ruhsert. But he could as well have cited an internationally respected authority such as the former president of the Munich-based Ifo Institute, Hans-Werner Sinn, who has gone much further in his criticism of the Greens’ promises. In a particular study, the renowned economist proved that green energies cannot sustain the German economy in its current form. As solar power is provided only intermittently, it must be stored, but the costs for doing so are simply unaffordable even for a rich country like Germany. To put it in his own words, “the green turnaround is leading us nowhere.” In fact, Germany must operate a parallel structure of largely gas-fired caloric power plants to compensate for solar power outages. No wonder that the withdrawal from coal and nuclear power has not yet brought about a reduction in CO2 pollution.

Mr. Lingens represents a point of view

Well established by science. Contrary to what the Greens would like us to believe, the climate crisis will not be overcome by simply switching to electric cars – and hence we will be living in a much better world. But it is not enough to expose an illusion for what it is. After this harsh criticism of a basic green credo, the reader is unsettled and wants to know what Mr. Lingens has to offer instead: after all, we must do something! This question is unavoidable, regardless of whether we are talking about a tabloid or an intellectual medium like the Falter. So, Mr. Lingens is forced to give an answer. People simply expect it from him. Supposed he were unable to give it, he should have remained silent on the subject. I think silence would have been the better choice for himself and the Falter.

Mr. Lingens speaks out in favor of nuclear power

He does so with great ease as he simply overlooks all available counter-expertise. It is simply of no interest to him – it cannot interest him, because after rejecting the proposals by the green camp he is forced to offer his readers a positive perspective. Indeed, the wish to do so immediately turns into the father of his thoughts – as proved by previous article, where Mr. Lingens does not shy away from endowing the nuclear solution with miraculous powers that are hitherto only known to himself. He pretends to know that “low-cost small nuclear power plants are not only very safe, but also do not need a “final repository” because they use their waste for continued operation.”

Using nuclear waste for continual operation? Lingens declares the new reactors to be a kind of perpetuum mobile, where eternal operation feeds on its excrements. Who whispered this silly nonsense into his ears? Is he confusing small-scale reactors with fast breeders, the most dangerous nuclear reactors of all? And where did he get the aberrant assertion that mere downsizing makes nuclear plants safer? The opposite is true. Just as a new generation of mini nuclear warheads has lowered the threshold for a nuclear war, small nuclear plants multiply the risk of terrorist attacks. And they do not reduce nuclear waste in any way; ten small reactors produce as much of it as one large one. They only accelerate the depletion of the remaining uranium reserves.

With this second alternative

Mr. Lingens has done no service to the “Falter”. By simply disregarding the overwhelming evidence against nuclear power and clinging to ridiculous assertions in the process, he has alarmingly lowered the level of the discussion about what to do about the climate crisis. His contribution is dishonest, but it is still respectable as it cannot cause serious harm the Viennese periodical. After all, the nuclear lobby will be pleased. And for a magazine critical of the government, it is of vital importance that it has at least part of the business community on its side.

Let’s now move on to alternative three,

which differs fundamentally from the previous two in that it would do great damage to the Falter. Its thesis is radical, and it is well known that neither Germans nor Austrians love radicalism, even if perfectly true.  What this alternative says, the attentive reader will already suspect. On the one hand, scientific evidence tells us that the strategy proposed by the Greens will not save us from climate disaster. On the other hand, equally well-established evidence proves that a renaissance of nuclear power plants cannot be the solution. And this is where matters really get complicated, because readers want to know what can be done if the Greens spread illusions instead of hope and the seemingly simplest solution, the “clean” supply of nuclear power, is totally out of the question. Alternatives one and two are dishonest because they deliberately conceal part of the truth. But they are respectable because business, politics, and most of the population are willing to believe them even against the evidence. Alternative three is honest in the sense that it does not conceal any of the present scientific knowledge. I would like to illustrate what I mean with a side glance at a great German intellectual.

Hoimar von Ditfurth

published a book in 1985 that would never have gone into print had its author not enjoyed such great authority and popularity with a broad public. This man of science combined an encyclopedic knowledge with the rare ability to explain the most difficult problems in such a way that they became comprehensible even to laymen. However, in contrast to countries with a long democratic tradition, Germany rather tends to devalue this particular skill. An incomprehensible language was and is the prerogative of experts, just as the use of Latin was the prerogative of the priesthood in the Middle Ages. Moreover, von Ditfurth spoke and wrote a beautiful German. In any case, his book “Es ist so weit – so lasst uns denn ein Apfelbäumchen pflanzen” /The apocalypse has come – let’s plant an apple tree/ was printed and became a bestseller, which for a short moment made Germans freeze in terror, as its message was outrageous. It was a fundamentally honest book, which – 35 years ago and in a manner unsurpassed to this day – listed all the existential dangers threatening humanity. Von Ditfurth considered the situation to be hopeless.

I can still remember how a flabbergasted radio reporter asked von Ditfurth whether he could justify taking away all hope from the young generation with his apocalyptic vision? The question was meant to include the answer – this book was too radical and therefore not really respectable, thoughts like these should not be spread. Of course, this book like all others of this great intellectual was the fruit of painstaking research. As far as I know, it has not been refuted on any point to this day, but its radicalism soon proved to be its undoing. The public, including most experts, did not accept or even want to know such a devastating vision. All were in a hurry to forget the book and its author. It provided no answer to the readers’ justified question: But what can and should we do?

No situation is ever hopeless,

on this point I wish to contradict Hoimar von Ditfurth. It is part of man’s freedom to be able to choose a path other than the usual one in any situation. But von Ditfurth was right in saying that our situation is historically unique, and that all the usual recipes fail in this totally new situation. In a huge feast, a potlatch – that’s how I would like to put the issue – man has burned up most of the fossil energy reservoir of millions of years within only three centuries and in the process poisoned the air (CO2), the water (plastic waste in the oceans) and the soil (with artificial fertilizers and pesticides) to such an extent that is now taking revenge on him. It is true that by the end of the twentieth century a large proportion of people had achieved a material standard of living never before attained in its long history. But now we realize the price we must pay for this unbelievable feast. At least since the beginning of the twenty-first century, we are living in a “repair society”. Even if not condemned to certain doom, as von Ditfurth said, we are certainly faced with a probable one if we fail in turning the tide. And today that will only happen in a radical way. The end of the great potlatch means renunciation, and radical renunciation at that. This is the third alternative, which Peter Lingens does not mention – and for good reason. Just dare to mention the word “renunciation” and you will be bombarded with indignant protests from all sides. The Greens don’t even mouth the hot potato; instead, they prefer to make illusory promises so dear to their voters. It makes sense why a journalist like Peter Michael Lingens would rather dishonestly make himself a propagandist for nuclear power instead of mouthing the word renunciation. And we understand why an article that tells us the bitter, radical truth cannot – yet – be printed in Falter. There is an unspoken censorship preventing such an event.

But the truth cannot be permanently suppressed

Lingens should know this. He is an authority when he relies on his psychological intuition, matured in long experience. Here he certainly knows how to separate the wheat from the chaff, i.e. the political jugglers from those who think of more than just their own ego and career. We even forgive him the occasional tendency to speak pontificatingly ex cattedra, as if he had already transformed himself into his own statue. Lingens is a great observer of people, a man of practice – and of courage too. Coming from a family of resistance fighters, he did not even shy away from standing up to the great Kreisky when defending his friend Simon Wiesenthal.

As a theorist

he is much less fortunate. When a man doesn’t care about attacks in the fight for moral values, one admires such an attitude as a strength of character. It is quite different when a man theorizes and does not care about arguments that question his position. Then we do not call this character strength but dogmatism. Lingens’ statements on economic theory are often dogmatic in a way that is hard to bear. As we have seen, his recommendations for overcoming the climate crisis are far from honest. When he talks about politics, Lingens is knowledgeable and has no need to appear with aplomb. When he presents himself as a theoretician, he compensates his shortcomings with the appearance of infallibility.*1*

1: Mr. Lingens is a bad theorist – if this is a personal attack, he must condone it, as he often dismisses the opinions of others as ignorant and stupid. Just as the defense of nuclear energy now threatens to become his intellectual “trademark,” Lingens enthusiastically champions national debt when arguing as an economist. He even goes so far as to recommend digging and filling in holes as a political means to stimulate economic activity (but in the meantime he seems to have deleted that passage). Just as Mr. Lingens invented perpetual motion in the case of atomic energy, in this case he uses a mysterious “balance mechanics” to attribute miraculous powers to debt as well.

Dear Mr. Lingens, if your panacea did really exist, then every “failed state” could pull itself out of the swamp by its own hair. It would only have to print money and distribute it. Even economic laymen know that debts only make sense if they lead to investments, the future proceeds of which exceed those debts. Even companies do not always succeed in achieving this goal; states often fail because the money borrowed is mostly used to distribute election gifts that yield little or no return. In this case, future generations will suffer under the burden. But Mr. Lingens is right about one point. It was sound policy that the state did not hesitate to take a lot of money in hand to combat the Corona crisis. This debt does not generate a return, but it has averted a large part of the devastating consequences (i.e., the reduction in returns) that the economy would have suffered without it.

Migration and Dishonesty

By dishonesty I understand an attitude that hides behind a facade of morality unpalatable measures that obviously violate avowed principles. The European immigration or rather anti-immigration policy is a glaring and shameful example. It is an incontestable fact that a vast majority of Europe’s citizens do not want further immigration. The governing bodies – i.e., national governments, the European Commission, and the European Parliament – are, of course, fully aware of this fact, not only through referenda, but also through the outcome of elections whenever migration (or xenophobia) becomes an issue. Politicians are therefore doing their best to curb immigration, for example, by paying (more correctly, bribing) Turkey with more than three billion euro to put a stop to further unwanted immigration to Greece and other countries of eastern Europe.

Any honest international observer knows that holding migrants back can only be achieved by force. People who no longer see a future in their own country due to political oppression or a lack of prospects for economic survival (a no less life-threatening challenge) are understandably prepared to overcome any obstacles by sheer violence if necessary. Keeping them out of a more promising country therefore requires an equal amount of counterviolence. This too is no secret to the EU. But the Union feels satisfied if others soil their hands in the process, so that she herself need not climb down from her elevated moral pedestal. I call this dishonesty. Violence is not diminished or made more acceptable by leaving its execution to others.

The same dishonesty is apparent in Europe’s treatment of the refugee camps in Greece, Libya or Tunisia. The prevailing conditions there are definitely inhumane (just as they are in the US-camps at the Mexican border). The countries of North Africa, just like Turkey, are being paid by Europe to do what is necessary to stop the avalanche of people from the battered countries of the Middle East as well as from the desperately poor countries of sub-Saharan Africa that are particularly affected by climate change. They do this by treating the refugees like lepers or criminals, because young adventurers hoping for a better life elsewhere or even desperate people with nothing to lose are deterred only in this brutal way. If instead they were handled with kid gloves in these reception centers, we can be sure that cell phones would immediately broadcast the sensational news to the entire world, causing the flow of people to swell into a mass migration.

Those who resist cheap lies cannot deny these facts. But most people want to be appeased with lies. They certainly don’t want any more strangers in their country, but they still want to live with a clear conscience. So, they are willing to pay large sums of money for the defense against migrants, but they do not want to know that the defense against desperate people and young adventurers is possible only by force and in violation of human rights. Can we see anything other than dishonesty in this attitude?

As long as there is that glaring difference between poor and rich nations, the situation is not likely to change. We should therefore ask ourselves what is more important, a clear conscience or the defense against unrestricted migration? For, obviously, both cannot be had at the same time. Moral absolutists, who reject any kind of violence against their fellow human beings, have a clear answer from the outset. For them, the distribution of all refugees from Asia or Africa arriving in Greece, Italy and Spain over the whole of Europe is a self-evident postulate. If they were consistent, they would even have to go much further. Without doubt, it is inhumane to expose boat refugees to the danger of drowning. The consistent moral absolutist would have to advocate a bridge across the Mediterranean, e.g. at Gibraltar.

Oddly enough, moral absolutists like to see themselves as staunch defenders of democracy. This is an embarrassing fact as it results in an obvious contradiction. They are very keen to help the people on the other side of the border, but for what they see as the unenlightened majority in their own country they have little understanding at best, and open contempt at worst. As already mentioned, an overwhelming majority in all countries of Europe is strictly against further immigration – and this with some irrefutable reasons. First-generation immigrants are willing to accept great hardships such as minimum wages in order to gain a foothold within their new homeland. They are therefore popular with entrepreneurs, but feared by workers, the unemployed and precarious employees as dangerous competition (a justified fear that populists like to exploit in the shape of xenophobia). As is well known, Donald Trump’s victory is not insignificantly explained by the resentment of the so-called “white trash” and its fear of precisely this competition. These people still crave for a wall on the border with Mexico. The moral absolutists, on the other hand, need not fear competition from refugees. On the contrary, they benefit from cheap servants, errand boys and parcel deliverers who depress wages. In other words, they can afford to be enlightened cosmopolitans and cultivate a clear conscience – after all, they are predominantly part of the educated, sheltered and privileged section of society.

We live in a time when we can no longer have both at the same time, a clear conscience and the defense against people beyond our borders. When we repel them, we accept the use of violence, yes, and inhumanity. It is nothing but dishonesty if we imagine to improve the situation by paying others to do the dirty work for us. That does not diminish our own responsibility. If we want to maintain a clear conscience at any price, we have to open the door to the avalanche of people from the many long overpopulated parts of the earth.

But what would we achieve by doing so? From an ecological perspective, the countries of Europe are already far beyond the sustainability limit at their current population levels. The most industrialized countries of Europe consume up to five planets. Not more but less people is – ecologically speaking – the only right strategy for the future.

The decision for or against open borders is thus one of the great challenges of our time. The decision is all the more painful as the people on the other side of the border have, of course, the same right to a decent life as we do. But moral absolutists oversimplify when they unreservedly approve migration on the basis of this conviction. They can certainly have a clear conscience – but only at the price of banishing inconvenient reality from their field of vision. The price is high – it consists in more or less conscious dishonesty.

In contrast, the opponents of open borders have a much harder time. They know that an unrestricted influx of strangers will cause resistance – popular uprisings, social disintegration, and even civil wars (in the United States, social disintegration is well underway). Their disillusioned view of reality makes the realists – let’s call them that way – anything but happy. They are painfully aware that desperate refugees can only be warded off by force in a world where climate change will soon condemn many to even greater poverty. For the realists, the problem is not dishonesty but the admission that there can never be – nay, that there will never be, a clear conscience on these issues.

The dilemma is expressed directly and factually in the incessant struggle between the two camps. The realists are willing to bribe border states outside the European Union for their services and to turn a blind eye to the way they crack down on refugees at the borders. They are only lying if they convince themselves: It is those brutal others who do so and not us. And they are also lying when they try to keep this brutality out of the public eye. 

The moral absolutists, on the other hand, are making every effort to expose these evils and make them public. They are constantly on the lookout for human rights violations by Frontex and in the refugee camps. Thus, in Europe, realism and moral aspiration are in irreconcilable and constant struggle with each other. It seems to me a particular misfortune that this real and existential dilemma is usually expressed and discussed only on the level of right-wing xenophobia versus left-wing cosmopolitanism. But that is not really the point – as is vividly demonstrated when European states recruit well-trained professionals from abroad and welcome them with open arms. As long as foreigners do not overburden the native population through excessive numbers and a lack of willingness to integrate, they can be a great enrichment. Almost all modern states have come into being in this way – a fact that a cursory perusal of telephone directories quickly confirms. The point is that an unregulated influx becoming too large within a short period of time poses a threat to the internal cohesion of any society.

Future – God’s eighth Day of Creation?

When studying and trying to understand the past, we always do so in order to cope with the present and be better equipped for the future – that’s a truism. But our endeavors become difficult when the past provides us with contradictory signals so that the future turns into mystery. Then it can happen that our certainties waver and we look for completely new orientations and even concepts. Continue reading Future – God’s eighth Day of Creation?

Yes, we can – No, we must! Build a better, sustainable World

When contemporaries talk about the dark years of Nazi rule, they want to make us believe, consciously or not, that they themselves would have been immune to the poison of inhuman propaganda. The fact is, however, that about 99 percent of Germans did not openly resist the regime, and a large part of them were eager to clap their hands at the big parades. Only a few took refuge in a kind of internal emigration offering invisible and silent resistance. Those, who today pretend to know precisely how they would have acted in those somber times, can muster hardly even one percent probability that they would have actually put their own lives at risk through open resistance.

When people have the bad luck

to live in a dictatorship which nips in the bud any open resistance, they have no choice but to close their mouths if they do not want to expose themselves and their relatives to immediate danger. Only uncritical later born ones imagine that they would have been the exceptions, that is the few opponents or even resistance fighters. They behave like people believing in former lives. When asked what they figure out to have represented in earlier times, they invariably assume the roles of the greats: Napoleons, Caesars, or Alexander, although the probability that they were merely part of the overwhelming majority of poor servants, slaves, or peasants is immensely greater.

Meanwhile, few people doubt

that we humans are social beings, who find it infinitely painful not to belong to some group of like-minded fellows. In the long run, we cannot stand to being looked down upon by others or being cut off as outsiders. It is not only external pressure that causes us to adapt to others, but the same pressure also comes from within each of us. Without a common language and common convictions, that is, some common identity, people find it hard to live. This is precisely why it is such a terrible misfortune when a criminal regime abuses this basic need for common language, convictions and identity for its own purposes.

To avoid being seen as eccentrics by their peers, many then adopt opinions and actions they would previously have vigorously rejected. The hatred that Hitler stirred up against the Jews had appeared offensive to many people, so they looked all the more for reasons to justify their silence. Did Germany not regain much prestige abroad? And had the regime not succeeded in ending the terrible unemployment within the country in a very short time? Very few understood that in order to pay off the resulting debts, the regime expropriated the Jews then robbed in merciless wars all of Europe.

Even regimes that, in comparison to Hitler’s thousand-year Reich

cause infinitely less suffering and harm, can count on our social needs as long as they are able to produce some undeniable achievements. Vladimir Putin successfully ended the chaos of the 1990s (partly promoted by the West); he has given his country’s economy a remarkable boost despite Western sanctions, and with a surprisingly effective armament has turned Russia into a superpower again – a power that has nothing to fear from anyone but terrifies the rest of the world with its latest nine-times supersonic nuclear missiles that no existing ballistic defense is able to intercept. For these achievements Russians are very grateful and willing to accept the crimes of their leadership: the occupation of Crimea in violation of international law and the unbroken chain of murders and assassinations of resistant opposition members.

It is no different with China

Anyone who believes that the one-party system there is built on shaky foundations is completely mistaken about this rapidly rising country. In reality, American democracy is currently much more at risk of imminent collapse than the regime in Beijing. While a civil war and final transition of the greatest Western democracy to an authoritarian system under presidents like Donald Trump now seems entirely possible, China is showing the world a model of stability. The Muslim minorities in Xin Jiang and the people of Tibet are ruthlessly oppressed, but this is accepted by the majority, because the government can justly claim that no other regime ever brought material prosperity in so short a time to a people bitterly poor still half a century ago. It now seems likely that the billion-strong nation will reach 75 percent of the American gross national product as early as next year.

Everything in China is new, monumental and nowhere else do people believe so unconditionally in the blessings of science. In the fight against Covid-19, the country strictly followed the recommendations of its expert epidemiologists and achieved a resounding success, while Western countries, above all the USA, are completely incapable of decisive action due to rampant internal dissent. Nothing is new in the US, far from it: the infrastructure is crumbling and is threatened by decay, much like in Third World countries. Only American science still remains a leader in many fields, but it must increasingly assert itself against a superiority of medieval creationists and fake news propagandists. Meanwhile, China’s government rides on a wave of success, it is silencing the opposition with an argument that is hard to contradict. We will make you rich and admired all over the world – what more do you want? What has the American one percent plutocracy to offer? It has made itself rich above all others while a majority got relatively poorer. No wonder, then, that democracy is losing more and more credibility in its oldest homeland.

Dictatorships remain in power for so long,

as a majority believes their promises. The later born ones should therefore be honest and not contradict probability. 99 percent will always shrink back from any statement or action that a resolute regime punishes with labor camps or death: they prefer to cooperate and will rather behave as opportunists. We may count those among the chosen few who at least do not take part in the general adulation and keep an inner distance – in dictatorships this is the only kind of resistance that does not endanger their lives.

Accordingly, there are situations in which people are almost powerless

This is an important lesson, because today you cannot talk about any topic without being confronted with an immediate objection: “But what can we do?” During most epochs of human history, 95% of all human beings could do little or nothing, if one understands by that the change of a given political and social order. At best, they could – even under the Nazis – preserve their inner freedom. During the thirteen years of the Third Reich, was there the slightest possibility for individuals to create another better world? Certainly not! There was only the possibility to keep a consciousness of decency and truth in one’s head and to preserve this ideal for future times.

What does this look into the past have to do with our present situation?

At first glance very little, but at second glance very much. Nobody has to fear for his life, even if he represents the most adventurous or even downright insane views, as for example the proselytes of the QAnon movement. In Western countries this freedom even extends to the president of a world power, who may openly disregard and discredit elementary truths of science. Not only ludicrous opinions, but obvious fakes have conquered the public life in the United States and elsewhere and are not only tolerated by disoriented masses but frenetically applauded when emanating from the very apex of political power.

This is the first thing in common with a dark past

In Germany we involuntarily think of the jeering crowds that cheered Goebbels or Hitler. But as a matter of fact, we gave a farewell to the freedom of thought just a decade ago. A striking break in Germany’s intellectual history was the way the country’s intelligentsia dealt with Thilo Sarrazin. Even those who did not agree with the opinions of the former social democratic senator, should have said with Voltaire that he not only had the right to express them, but that his fears should be taken seriously.

But there was no willingness to do so. It was considered unforgivable that he questioned the self-image of his compatriots, according to which they had thoroughly “overcome” their past and could not only boast of the greatest tolerance toward strangers, but even lived in the greatest harmony with them. Sarrazin denied this and insisted that cultural differences acquired in youth can be so persistent as to become a serious, insurmountable obstacle to a mutual beneficial coexistence. Self-righteous German intellectuals did not want to hear such admonitions. From the outset, a real intellectual confrontation with Sarrazin’s theses was therefore out of the question. What was to be heard instead was a goat’s song of indignation all over Germany and Austria, where the self-declared defenders of political correctness demonstrated their abysmal contempt for a man, who merely repeated what serious scientists had long before him said and proved with relevant numbers in lots of unheeded scientific articles. Sarrazin’s only scientifically untenable fault had been that at one point he confused culture with biology attributing a special gene to the Jews.

Only German Chancellor Merkel made a valid objection

The book was “not helpful,” she said. That’s right. In the scarcest conceivable formula, she touched upon the extremely difficult problem of uncomfortable, sometimes really destructive truth. As already mentioned, in his book “Deutschland schafft sich ab! (Germany abolishes itself) Sarrazin had only presented insights that were not at all controversial in professional circles. But it cannot be denied that his insights were in no way helpful if Germans wanted to successfully integrate strangers and win their confidence.

Does this constitute a valid argument to suppress all unhelpful truths? Certainly not. The great damage was not caused by the book but by the furious outcry of its enemies. Had it not been for the witch hunt that followed its publication, the book “Germany abolishes itself” would hardly have caused greater damage, but it would have saved the government from recklessly accepting more foreigners into the country than the population is ready to welcome with active help instead of being overpowered by distrust and finally xenophobia. I guess that the sober civil servant Sarrazin, so totally averse to fanaticism, never wanted to achieve more.

The nationwide outrage of the self-righteous,

which at that time included above all people who did not necessarily shine with more knowledge and argumentative intelligence, but who insisted all the more on their moral superiority, marks the beginning of an intellectual regression in Germany called “political correctness” elsewhere. The rapid progress of this new pressure for conformity is now everywhere to be seen. Especially in American politics under President Trump, who elevated lying and the whitewashing of problems to the rank of a working principle.

But we are hardly in a better position in view of those imminent challenges that currently worry us far more than immigration. As far as the latter is concerned, we did perhaps really manage – at least for the time being – to turn foreigners into good and equal citizens who enrich our societies. Provided, of course, that in the coming years there will not be millions of new asylum seekers who bring the specter of xenophobia back to life. But now there are other problems or rather crises that threaten us a lot more. “Yes, we can” has a much less convincing ring, though it is certainly true that “we must” overcome them.

Here, of course, I am thinking first and foremost of the great environmental and climate crisis,

which will remain with us even when there will be no more talk of Corona. But what does actually happen? In a grotesque way, discussions are dominated by taboos and bans on speaking and thinking. The freedom to openly speak ones mind is being deliberately destroyed by the outraged, the wishful thinkers, the populists, the hypocrites and the reptile conjurors of political correctness.

Bertrand Russell, at his time a globally respected mouthpiece of a left-wing world conscience, was still allowed to say what is anathema today, namely that humanity is destroying itself through uninhibited reproduction and that nature will take revenge if mankind were to prove unable to oppose this development with the means of intelligence, namely targeted family planning. In this case, nature, so Russell, would just mobilize its usual apocalyptic horsemen, namely wars, epidemics, etc. Nobody today is allowed to utter such an elementary truth. Such freedom has been destroyed, not least by a well-known Austrian writer who populistically distorted Russell’s warning by conjuring up the horror image of “superfluous human beings” – as if family planning meant that we wanted to eliminate our fellows.

Arnold Toynbee, one of the most renowned historians of modernity, could still maintain that the fossil-industrial revolution invented in Great Britain would probably be no more than an interlude in history, because in the future humanity must once again reduce its consumption of resources to an ecologically acceptable minimum while putting a definite end to the poisoning of nature produced by the remains of consumption.

But the most clear-sighted thinker, whose entire life’s work was to warn of and to avert the ecological catastrophe, is undoubtedly Herman Daly, who may therefore rightfully be considered the “pope” of ecological enlightenment. Daly never shied away from speaking the truth without any compromise. For example, he explained that none of the usual measures, such as taxes, help against the squandering of resources, but only definite upper limits on their consumption. But these could only be adhered to if states decoupled their economies from each other so that each of them was responsible for consumption and the poisons it produced. Daly also clearly recognized that Karl Marx’s definition of exploitation was too narrow. Exploitation also occurs when the wealthy classes encourage the proliferation of the poorer ones in order to secure a constant supply of cheap labor (it is no coincidence that the poor in ancient Rome were already called proletarians, that is child-makers). As a scientist of his time, he was still allowed to state such and similar unsavory truths. Today the hypocrites, trivializers, and beautifiers shiver with indignation when confronted with such insights.

But the resistance always gets really fierce when cherished illusions are frontally attacked. Under the prevailing political conditions, a green revolution is simply impossible. We are just as powerless as people were under the National Socialist regime. Admittedly, we can take all kinds of positive actions on a small scale – under National Socialism Germans were able to do so as well. Within their own families they could do a lot to ensure private peace. But it was, of course, an illusion to believe that in this way the crimes of the regime could be prevented.

With regard to the climate crisis, we find ourselves in exactly the same situation. We can certainly vote for the Greens, give up air travel, some may change the car for a bicycle and even deny themselves the pleasure of meat, but this will not avert the climate catastrophe. The reason is to be found in the dynamics of power.

The power spiral

The leading giants USA, Russia and China, but also some smaller states like India, Pakistan, Iran or North Korea, are so focused on each other that they constantly scan the strength of their rivals, i.e. their level of armament and economic power, in order either to catch up with them or at least not to lag behind them. It is completely unthinkable that any one of these states should voluntarily leave the arena of this race, unless a world power grants it protection or an economic collapse drags it down. The Soviet Union collapsed in 1989, but hardly ten years had passed when the new Russia re-entered the arena of the global arms race. True, Europe remained aloof as if it could change righteousness for armament. But it could do so only because until Obama it trusted that the US would never allow it to come under Russian rule.

The spiral of military and economic power makes it impossible for anyone to reduce the consumption of resources if that puts him at a disadvantage vis-a-vis his rivals. The American military alone, with its aircraft carriers and jets, is one of the main consumers of fossil fuels – not to mention all other resources. This should deliver us from the illusion that a serious reduction in the consumption of resources is possible as long as the global spiral of power continues to turn.

In the future – and under present political conditions -, it will only turn faster, since emerging giants like China are not at all willing to comply with the American demand to join the US and Russia on questions of disarmament. Not only does China first want to become as rich as the West, it also wants to become equally powerful by equipping its military with a nuclear arsenal at least as large as that of Russia and the US. The same rush for military strength is apparent in India and may in generally be observed in all states as soon as they get economically strong. Under these circumstances, a reduction in resource consumption and environmental poisoning is simply out of the question. Only Corona has brought about an involuntary break, but not in China, the country that causes the greatest environmental pollution.

For thirteen years, it would have been an illusion

if the Germans had believed that they could change the political or social situation in their country. They were de facto condemned to powerlessness. With the exception of Corona, our lives are infinitely easier today, but none of us can change the great environmental crisis now threatening the entire world. Again, it is a regime, this time the power spiral of global actors, that prevents effective resistance. Of course, a single state like Austria or even the whole of Europe could drop out of the race and ban all processes that demonstrably pollute nature. But the consequence would be that such an individual state or Europe as a whole would reduce its own competitiveness to such an extent that its exports collapse because its rivals displace its goods on the world market. That would be a solo run paid for with weakness. But weak states are – as we, the former colonial powers, do, of course, know very well – easy victims of the strong.

Is all that remains mere powerlessness and a sure the way

into catastrophe? No. Just as many Germans, after the thirteen dark years of their history, retained within themselves the image of another better world and translated this image – however imperfectly – into post-war reality, so the global community, which is more interwoven today than ever before, will have to take the final step towards global unity in order to become once again master of its destiny. Only after this terrible race, this final struggle of humanity against itself, is brought to an end, will men come to grips with the existential crisis of fossil-industrial civilization.

We know exactly what to do in order to make this happen. My book “Yes, we can – No, we must! Build a better, sustainable World!” says as little really new about measures we have to take as do most of the books written after Herman Daly’s fundamental work. But one thing it does illuminate in a completely new way and in all its facets: The book shows in detail why we – i.e. every state on earth, no matter how green it pretends to be – are completely incapable of putting this program into practice under the prevailing political conditions.

Nobody likes to hear this bitter truth,

because, even when we are powerless, we like to placate our conscience with comforting illusions. But it is precisely this self-deception which makes us run blindly towards disaster. “Yes, we can – No, we must! Build a better, sustainable World!” is an illusion-free call for honesty and a sharpened conscience. That one of the most honest and illusion resistant of all warners, Herman Daly, gave it his special praise is certainly a recommendation: “Dear Dr Gero Jenner, Thanks for sending me your cogently reasoned, well informed, and clearly written book. I hope it is widely read. Best wishes, Herman Daly” (July 14, 2020). 

This may be an additional reason to overcome taboos, mental prohibitions and political correctness, for that is what the book is all about.

Ye shall know them by their Fruits!

This classic saying from the New Testament (Matthew 7:16) confronts effect and cause. A bad effect is not likely to have a good cause, and vice versa. Thorns do not bear grapes, and we find no figs on thistles. We should therefore not rely on fine words and theories. What counts are the effects that arise from them.

Continue reading Ye shall know them by their Fruits!

Brave New Corona World – A heated Debate between Steven Pinker and Aldous Huxley

Aldous Huxley: Did I not make sufficiently clear what I think about principled optimists and ideological perfectionism when I wrote a masterpiece of world literature on the subject? Don’t believe that a man of the mind ever takes leave of thinking and simply retires. Instead I’m anxiously following what you’re doing down there – and certainly that gives me no rest. Coronavirus is only one among many threatening forebodings. Homo sapiens insapientissimus seems to do everything in his power in order to put himself on the red list of species without a future. And you don’t even know what you are doing! *0*

Continue reading Brave New Corona World – A heated Debate between Steven Pinker and Aldous Huxley

Is Democracy still alive?

We are used to measuring this form of government above all by the degree of freedom that a government grants its citizens. Viewed from this perspective, the picture is as bright as it is gloomy. No one prevents me from expressing even the most absurd opinions. I may even call publicly for the overthrow of the government, provided that this is done without insulting specific individuals and without denouncing the democratic constitution as such. Continue reading Is Democracy still alive?

De gustibus EST disputandum!

An important, perhaps the most important, task of a good teacher is to dissuade students from making hasty judgments, for it is with this craving that we come into the world, while on the contrary reason only develops very slowly. Infants immediately start crying when they feel unwell and they smile when being treated kindly. But the vocabulary of pubescent young people still contains mainly expressions like super, cool, great or negative ones like poo, disgusting, evil etc. The aversion to independent thinking and the tendency to replace arguments with hasty values and judgments remains in later life – for many people throughout their lives.

Continue reading De gustibus EST disputandum!

Thymos and Logic – Why we know, yet do not act

Francis Fukuyama, arguably America’s most profound political scientist, enriched our understanding of man and history by an important notion of Greek origin – “thymos”. This term, used extensively by Plato in “The State”, is well suited to illuminate our present situation. The Greek philosopher speaks of thymos to describe a decisive dimension of human action. In his opinion, man does not obey reason alone; in truth, something else is added, namely will, desire, passion, anger, self-assertion – in short, “thymos”. Whoever ignores this driving force hardly understands human behavior. Continue reading Thymos and Logic – Why we know, yet do not act

Unholy Martin – Capitalism and Christian Moral Theology

Opportunists use to swim with the current, only courageous outsiders dare to swim against it. Such a role has been assumed by the Catholic moral theologian Martin Rhonheimer, professor of ethics at the Pontifical University of Rome. Continue reading Unholy Martin – Capitalism and Christian Moral Theology