Liberty on the Defensive – Egalitarianism on the Advance

Published on 2015/03/03

The so-called “rent freeze” approved by the governing coalition last week is but one symptom for a progressive shift toward the political left in the Federal Republic of Germany. An empirical study recently done by the Free University Berlin on the spread of extreme leftist ideas in Germany (“Gegen Staat und Kapital – für die Revolution – eine empirische Studie”) published the results of a poll conducted by Infratest dimap.
If this was not one of Germany’s most highly respected public opinion research institutes, it would be hard to believe some of the following findings the poll returned:

  • 42 percent of all Germans agree with the statement: “The social equality of all people is more important than individual liberty.” In East Germany, the notion was backed by an actual 51 percent.
  • 61 percent endorse the following: “Our economy is not genuinely democratic because big business is calling the shots, not the voters.”
  • Even the following far-fetched idea was embraced by a third of the respondents (33 percent): “Capitalism will inevitably lead to poverty and hunger.”
  • 42 percent (and actually 59 percent in East Germany) believe: “Socialism / communism is a sound concept that was just poorly implemented in the past.”

Conversely, only 16 percent of the Germans share the opinion: “Entrepreneurial freedom is the foundation of our prosperity.”

This, of course, is balderdash. Capitalism is hardly the root cause of poverty and hunger in this world. In 1820, as much as 85 percent of the global population lived on the equivalent of less than a dollar a day, compared to a current ratio of just 20 percent. Residents of developing countries have an average life expectancy of 65 years today, whereas a hundred years ago it was barely 30 years. “Capitalism,” as Jan Fleischhauer argues in his fascinating book on the left in Germany (“Unter Linken”), “can make a legitimate claim to have lived up to its promises in a way that is nothing short of exemplary. With socialism, it is the exact opposite, time after time. It fails to deliver on each and every one of its promises. Indeed, every time its proponents have set out to turn their lofty ideas into reality, they thoroughly botched the job.”

The widespread notion that socialism, while having been poorly implemented in the past, is basically a great idea, therefore strikes me as far-fetched. After all, it is a concept tested around the world: In Russia, in East Germany, in China, in North Korea, in Albania, in Sweden, in Cuba – there is actually no version of socialism that has not been tried somewhere. Fact is: In every case, the consequences were economic inefficiency and a lower standard of living than in market economy systems. And in most cases, inefficient economies were attended by oppression and misery. Any direct comparison of the two systems will show socialism at the losing end – no matter whether you compare North and South Korea or East and West Germany. The memory of this, however, appears to be fading fast, or so the aforementioned survey suggests.

Exactly 20 years ago, I wrote a book titled “Where is Our Republic Heading?” (“Wohin treibt unsere Republik?” Ullstein-Verlag, 1995). At the time, I diagnosed a shift in West Germany’s political opinion toward the left that had started in the 1960s, and foretold that the trend was here to stay. Specifically, my book predicted that the Greens would gain in influence, that the leftist party (PDS at the time, since renamed Die Linke, meaning “The Left”) and the Social Democrats would cooperate, and that the social democratic leanings of the Christian Democrats would deepen. I was right, and events have borne me out.

Property developers who have to deal with green or leftist policymakers and civil servants will learn first-hand how prevalent green and leftist ideas have become. The introduction of the rent freeze and the minimum wage are but two of many examples for the triumphant advance of egalitarianism.

Going forward, I’d like to sound another alert: This is a development that has yet to run its full course. Sooner or later, it will manifest itself in a political majority that will govern this country in the spirit of our times – in a left coalition government composed of Social Democrats, Greens and Left Party.

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