The Crisis of Social Liberalism – And Why We Need More of It

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This article reflects my personal opinion.

On Friday was the inauguration of the new US president, Donald Trump. His speech, invoking a homogenous movement of the people, bore testimony to the threat that his presidency will constitute to a liberal society. He is the spearhead of a multifaceted right-wing movement that is on the rise in most Western countries. Many narratives have been conceived to explain this uprising. One states that modern social media tend to promote fake news and right populist explanations for complex problems. Others include rising nationalist sentiments and aggravating economic inequality. However, while all of these narratives have a true core, what unites all of these new political movements is their promise of change, their promise of overthrowing the existing order. The condemnation of “the liberals” and “the elites” has been commonly looked down on as only appealing to the bigots, the ill-educated, the “deplorables”. What is often ignored are the real inconsistencies and weaknesses of the established system and the fact that in many countries, there is no real political alternative addressing these issues. Make no mistake, most movements representing the “New Right” exhibit an appalling lack of cogent concepts, many disgustingly coquet with racism and use the calculated breach of taboo as their main means of advertisement and all of them have a distasteful style. But their political attacks can only be as rewarding as the systems they are aimed at are frail. Unfortunately, modern Western societies, frequently characterised by the term “Social Liberalism”, are neither very social nor exceptionally liberal. Continue reading “The Crisis of Social Liberalism – And Why We Need More of It”

Daydreaming About Inequality – A New Income Tax System

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This article reflects my personal opinion.

The taxation of income often becomes a controversial issue in election debates (given that those debates actually revolve around factual topics). However, the proposals put forth mostly concern new regulations, new special rules, exceptions and deductions and small rate hikes or cuts and often are nothing more than half-hearted gifts to certain interest groups. In the long run, this leads to a progressively complex tax system that, combined with a similarly proliferating social welfare system, results in a bureaucratic leviathan that can paralyse a society and economy and at the same time fails to mitigate inequality. What if one started from scratch and intended to create an income tax system that is simple while being comprehensive and aims to mitigate growing income inequality and was not afraid of experimenting with somewhat unfamiliar ideas? In this article, I want to briefly explore a little thought experiment and imagine a new income tax system  (I will sometimes use Germany as reference case). Continue reading “Daydreaming About Inequality – A New Income Tax System”

The 2016 US Presidential Election and the Military Industrial Complex

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This article reflects my personal opinion.

With the first presidential debate on Monday, the 2016 race to the White House has entered its final phase after what has already been an extraordinary shrill and eventful election year. Many observers are puzzled by the fact that a blunt, populist ex-reality star faces a realistic chance to become the most powerful man in the world. They do not understand it for the same reason they have not understood Brexit. And while every US American voter with a shred of rationality left should suck it up and vote for four more years of the same in Hillary Clinton over a narcissistic madman spreading nothing but hate and dangerous half-truths,  there is one issue that most likely will not change and those who have to bear it have no say in the matter anyway, as they do not live in the United States. Regardless of whether the next commander-in-chief will be called Clinton or Trump, the US will continue to forcefully protect their interests by means of the world’s dominant military force and intelligence network and the support of shady allies around the globe. Even if the candidates wanted to, they would not have the power to stop the military industrial complex that has taken on a life of its own. Continue reading “The 2016 US Presidential Election and the Military Industrial Complex”

You Can’t Always Get What You Want: Some Thoughts on Inequality

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This article reflects my personal opinion.

The economic article published here two weeks ago gave a short introduction to income inequality and showed that it has been on the rise again for the past decades in most developed countries. And while there is less reliable data available, the same is most likely true for wealth inequality. Inequality of opportunity has probably been stable and hence failed to work as a countermeasure. These developments have led to movements around the globe fighting for more equality and demanding a higher contribution to society from the rich and wealthy. Their voices are increasingly being heard and some of them have developed inspired, constructive propositions to reshape societies, with the recently most prominent one being the campaign of Bernie Sanders in the United States. However, at this point in history, one can assess that perfect equality is neither achievable nor desirable. While it might work in small, very homogenous communities, every time it has been tried on a larger scale it led to oppression and persecution of dissidents and the formation of a new, politically legitimised elite. So given that inequality is not inherently bad, the question arises: When does inequality become a problem that should be tackled by society? Continue reading “You Can’t Always Get What You Want: Some Thoughts on Inequality”

The European Refugee Crisis – The Return of the German Angst?

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This article reflects my personal opinion.

Immigration. A word that lately lets emotions run high and has emerged as the key issue in arguably the two most important elections this year, the Brexit referendum and the American presidential election. The topic has found its way into the core of the public discourse in the Western World due to a large number of people who have been looking for refuge from war and dire social and economic crises in their homelands. Also in Germany, the difficult topic has taken control of big parts of the public debate, especially after a series of attacks carried out by men from a muslim migrant background has shocked the German society. The onslaughts have further exacerbated the situation in which the two loudest camps face each other unforgivingly. On one side are the “Alternative for Germany” (AfD) and movements like “Patriotic Europeans Against the Islamisation of the West” (Pegida), who warn of a foreign, violent domination of Western countries by an Islam that cannot be integrated into a free society. On the other side there are the so-called elites, governmental politicians and most parts of the established media, who largely deny a connection between immigration and crime and terrorism and stress the opportunities and advantages of migration for an ageing society. But a discussion just about whether refugees are advantageous for Germany or not is shallow, most of the time mainly characterised by ideology and not rationality and, quite frankly, egoistic. Continue reading “The European Refugee Crisis – The Return of the German Angst?”

No Farewell to Arms: The Violence Will Continue

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This article reflects my personal opinion.

The recent events in Dallas, Minnesota and Louisiana and all the other places, where gun violence tears the American society apart on a regular basis, were likely caused by three issues. First, by a racial problem that the United States never managed to fully overcome and that once again shifted into the focus of media attention. Second, by growing inequality that increasingly disfigures the American dream. And third, the shootings fundamentally are symptoms of a problem that is rooted in the American identity, namely that the history of the United States has been to a large extent a narrative of violence, both regarding foreign affairs as well as internally. None of these issues and developments have been conclusively come to terms with by the American public and as long as this will not happen, the spiral of violence will keep on spinning. And only a miracle would allow this year’s presidential election to be the trigger for this desperately needed redefining of the American identity. Continue reading “No Farewell to Arms: The Violence Will Continue”

The Times They Are A-Changin’

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This article reflects my personal opinion.

On Friday, supporters of the Remain campaign in the United Kingdom European Union membership referendum were faced with the ruins of their beliefs. In contrast with most of the latest polls, a majority of the voters had decided for an exit of the UK out of the EU. Although the demographic analysis of the referendum has not yet been finalised, it is already rather clear where the lines between the two camps ran. Besides the obvious separation between London, Northern Ireland and Scotland as net supporters of the Remain campaign and most of the rest of England and Wales as Leave strongholds, voters divided alongside age-demographic and educational lines. Areas with many young and well-educated residents were more likely to vote “Remain” while areas with a high concentration of low-skilled workers and old residents tended to vote “Leave” (see this guardian article for a colourful demographic breakdown of Thursday’s referendum). A lot of young voters feel that their future has been sabotaged by a generation who will not be around long enough to suffer the consequences of their vote. Congruently, many academics and other high-skilled workers perceive the referendum as a blow to their economic opportunities by ill-informed protest voters. And together, Remain supporters all around the world ask themselves “How did this happen?” Continue reading “The Times They Are A-Changin’”