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CDU Chairmanship: Conservatives in the Kulturkampf - Column


Roland Koch is coming back - and possibly soon Friedrich Merz too. When the Union chooses its new boss, it is also a question of choosing between 1990s economic nostalgia and modern criticism of capitalism.

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Ludwig Erhard (here 1964): Prosperity for everyone

Photo: A0009 dpa / dpa

There are certainly more serious decisions than who will now lead the honorable Ludwig Erhard Foundation.

That is why the world will not suddenly leave the gravity lines if Roland Koch, the former Prime Minister of Hesse, will soon accept the job that has now been offered to him.

Nevertheless, the election has potentially greater symbolic value - also for the much more important subsequent election that is pending in the conservative chat group: who will lead the CDU in the future.

On closer inspection, it's not just about which man wins.

But also about a latent cultural struggle about what the mission and economic leitmotif of Ludwig Erhard's party should be for the next few years.

Back to a more market economy, less state and the primacy of the economy, as it was preached in the nineties and early noughties - by people like, oh, what's their name, I've got it, Friedrich Merz and Roland Koch?

Or towards completely new conservative answers at a time when globalization, climate and capitalism somehow all seem to be weakening? 

Blackrock speech with a roaring nineties touch

Sure, that is currently being overshadowed by the question of who has the better answer to the corona pandemic here or there - which is also quite important.

It's just about the time after that.

And: How much there are two worldviews in the Union can be guessed by a comparison between what Wolfgang Schäuble spoke just a week ago in an unexpected criticism of capitalism - and the carefree way in which Friedrich Merz lectured on a well-known talk show two days later, what »the capital market« tells us.

Blackrock speech with a roaring nineties touch.

Thomas Fricke, arrow to the right

Born in 1965, has been running the WirtschaftsWunder internet portal since 2007.

From 2002 to 2012 he was chief economist at "Financial Times Deutschland".

He is co-founder of the "Forum New Economy", in which experts have come together to create a new economic leitmotif.

At Merz, the suspicion always creeps up that he would prefer to talk the same way as at the weddings of Agenda 2010 - about the fact that the Germans have to do without (of course, only those who do nothing right), the state is stupid and everything goes down the drain if the welfare state is not reformed very much (a prophecy that did not come true back when he wrote this in a book in 2004, but shortly afterwards the longest phase of falling unemployment in ages).


Except that he always tries to bite his tongue because someone has told him that it doesn't go down so well today.

With limited success.

Just like last Sunday, when he said things like that "private investors have to invest, not the state" - as if such absurdly categorical mantras had not led to far too little publicly in schools, rail networks and climate protection for years and digital networks.

And of course private


state investments are needed, not either or.

Or when he lectures that after the pandemic we will have to prepare for a long period of frugality.

You can guess who has less money in the end.

Or that the poor German economy is once again suffering from the “highest taxes, bureaucracy and electricity costs”.

As if the economy had not survived the past few years surprisingly well with precisely these burdens, making more profits than ever.


more on the subject

  • Conservative Crisis: Why the Merz Tour is DangerousA column by Thomas Fricke

  • Icon: Spiegel Plus CDU summit: Five hours of self-destruction - the protocol by Florian Gathmann, Christoph Hickmann and Veit Medick

It sounds like from a different perception zone when former Finance Minister Schäuble - known to be a leading member of one and the same party -, when asked about the here and now, speaks more of the "dark side of globalization" that we have become aware of through the pandemic.

Or about the fact that "we (must) use the shock of the pandemic so that the incredible flywheel of capitalism and the financial markets does not turn too far."

And that freedoms destroy themselves if “we overdo it with freedoms”.

Or that "capitalism as we are currently practicing it is at the expense of the already weak".

And that under the heading of “free world trade” we “exploit” workers in countries like Bangladesh.

A brief interim note: This is the speaker of the Bundestag President Schäuble, not Kevin Kühnert or the old Karl Marx.

That goes with everything, just not with Friedrich Merz's worldview.

Even the dogma of the always black zero suddenly no longer sounds so dogmatic.

That was just more "a symbol" that was kept for "communicative" reasons.

A Schäuble slip up?

Obviously not.

Even younger people from the party like Jens Spahn counter the old Merz tour and explain today that we need "a new understanding of the state".

And that the state must become more active again, for example in order to remedy the underpayment in nursing care or to make a more active industrial policy to strengthen strategically important corporations.

Father Erhard was also interested in prosperity for everyone.

Not what the capital market says.

A look at what is currently being discussed internationally by economists shows that there are good reasons for such radical thinking games.

It has long since been about creating a more controllable globalization or a smaller gap between rich and poor.

And no longer like the wedding of Reagonomics and Thatcherists about what could not be privatized (which in many cases has long since turned out to be a disaster).

That does not mean, to anticipate this, that communism is about to move in - which Mr. Schäuble certainly does not want either.

Such black-and-white reflections do not match anyway.

To suspect that Erhard was in a market economy like in a picture book, as zealous defenders of the Grail like to exclaim, is also a grotesquely romanticized picture of the real conditions in the post-war period - there were no over-the-top financial markets, banks were still lending for real ones Investing instead of using derivatives.

The movement of capital was tightly controlled, the exchange rate fixed, and there was more wage for everyone, just at different speeds.

Prosperity for everyone or abolition of solos for the top ten percent?

Father Erhard was also interested in prosperity for everyone.

Not what the capital market says.

Or the abolition of the solos for the upper income earners.

When Erhard was Minister of Economics, a rather substantial property levy was levied in the course of the so-called equalization of burdens after the war;

and naturally there was a wealth tax.

What would the government then do to shoulder the burden of the pandemic?

Wolfgang Schäuble and Jens Spahn may not yet have fully developed answers to all of this.

As is the case when the search for new models against globalization, democracy and climate crises is currently going on globally.

It just sounds a lot more relevant to deal with such fundamental questions than once again lecturing on economics from the nineties.

Even in Germany, which is still badly lagging behind, there are also conservative people who stand for not turning the market economy into an empty dogma.

Without praising the state as a miracle cure, which would be just as stupid.

Whether Michael Hüther, the head of the employer-related institute of the German economy, who has been advocating more state investments and more flexibility in the debt rules for some time.

Or the renowned financial expert Martin Hellwig, when he reminds banks to have higher requirements.

If all of this is correct, it could be doubted whether the good Ludwig Erhard Foundation has now chosen the right one with Roland Koch to look for what a modern, conservative answer might look like.

At least the man has so far not attracted much attention through constructive (or other) criticism of capitalism.

more on the subject

Economics: When the mainstream came from the rightA column by Thomas Fricke

With the nomination, the foundation ended a few bitter years, in which it was led by Roland Tichy, who was rumbling to the right.


Now would be the opportunity to accompany the change by replying to the question of which interpretation of the vaunted master really fits into the present day.

A return to globalization capitalism à la Merz - but which never happened under Erhard?

Or something that sets much more limits, as Schäuble and Spahn envision - as was also the case under Ludwig Erhard?

A choice for the foundation.

And in about eight weeks for the Union.

Say: for Germany. 

Icon: The mirror

Source: spiegel

All business articles on 2020-11-22

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