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  1. #11
    IRL is not real Cimarron's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Nicodemus View Post
    From what I can tell, the German conservative is like the average American Democrat.
    Okay, but I don't understand what would be the social left policies in Germany then... Is there more "broad consensus" on social issues (the ones not entwined too much in economic issues, though that's a little hard to separate) ? Less debate in general, after having achieved most social reforms in past days?

    Then social conservatism sounds almost solely about preserving the status quo, even more than the U.S., where in addition to that, there may be pressure or rhetoric to change laws. Is it mostly an attitude / state of mind? You see I'm not getting the whole picture. :redface:

    (And of course, that depends on what you mean by average U.S. Democrat, but I hope not to draw that out.)
    Last edited by Cimarron; 10-03-2010 at 12:11 PM. Reason: Germany's left
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  2. #12
    Superwoman Red Herring's Avatar
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    I see you are seriously interested and have some background information on German politics already. So I´ll try to address your questions one by one, watchimg a Tatort on youtube to get me into "german mood" (if you want to know what Tatort is, ask Nicodemus)

    Get your popcorn, this will be a long post!

    1. rhetoric vs actions when in government
    The CDU has spend a lot of time in government. The only times they didn´t govern were the years under Brand and Schmidt (1965-74 and 1974-82) and the years under Schröder (1998-2005). I grew up under Kohl and the country that shaped me was shaped by Kohl. This just as an introduction and because the chronology will become important later on.
    Angela Merkel belongs to the moderate centre wing of her party and currently has some trouble with the more right wing figureheads of the CDU. It´s a cliche but as an East German protestant she lacks the cultural background of the partys most important voter base (southwest German catholics). Some members of the CDU resent that the party has moved too far towards the center and has become "socialdemiocratized". I haven´t read their party platform, so I´ll just give you a wikipedia summary of some core positions:
    The CDU is Christian-based, applying the principles of Christian Democracy, and emphasizes the "Christian understanding of humans and their responsibility toward God." People adhering to any confessions and non-confessional people are allowed to be members of the CDU. The CDU's policies encompass derivatives from Political Catholicism and Catholic social teaching, political Protestantism, as well as neoliberalism, fiscal conservatism and national conservatism. The CDU was the first proponent of the social market economy, although the party has adopted more liberal economic policies since Helmut Kohl's term in office as the Chancellor of Germany (1982–1998). In terms of foreign policy, the CDU commits itself to European integration and a strong relation with the USA. In the European Union, it opposes the entry of Turkey into the EU. It rather prefers a privileged partnership with Turkey. Besides citing human rights violations, the CDU also believes that Turkey's unwillingness to recognize Cyprus as an independent, sovereign state goes against the demands of EU policy that its members must recognize one another. Domestically, the CDU emphasizes curtailing red tape and the preservation of cultural traditions.

    Opponents of the CDU are the social democratic SPD, the socialist Die Linke and the center-left, environmentalist Bündnis'90/Die Grünen. The CDU has also governed with the SPD in grand coalitions and in coalitions with the Bündnis'90/Die Grünen. The CDU rejects coalitions with The Left and right-wing extremist parties. The liberal FDP is the preferred partner of any CDU government since the CDU and FDP have most in common in terms of fiscal policy. The CDU, as a conservative party, supports stronger punishments of crimes, and supports involvement on the part of the Bundeswehr in cases of domestic anti-terrorism offensives, and natural catastrophes. In terms of immigrants, the CDU supports initiatives to integrate immigrants through language courses, and aims to further control immigration. Double citizenship should only be allowed in exceptional cases.
    Why did I mention that inner struggle? The CDU considers itself the "party of the centre" (thus slogans like "we are the centre") but they also want to cover all the voters from the centre to the more expressed right ("there mustn´t be a party to the right of the CDU"). That obviously leads to some problems and explains how the party platform contains some references to christian values, protection of families, etc. while in their everyday practice the CDU have become quite pragmatic.

    2. FDP vs CDU
    The CDUs roots are that of compassionate conservatism, it was shaped by Rhine capitalism (Rhine Capitalism - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia), the (christian) idea of social solidarity (meaning that with wealth comes with responsibility) and market capitalism ("soziale Marktwirtschaft"/social capitalism). That has changed over the last few years though, as there seems to be a consensus that the model needs reform. This model of compassionate social capitalism clashes with the FDPs vision of small government and maximum freedom for the markets.
    The other major difference between the CDU and the FDP is that the FDP, being basically a libertarian party, favours gay rights, the abolishment of compulsary military service and has no problem with the legalization of soft drugs while it opposes non-smoker protection legislation that limits the freedom of smokers. That stuff doesn´t always go down well with traditional CDU voters.

    3. What would be the social left policies?
    I will assume you mean left social policies. The SPD and the CDU have moved closer over the years (much to the discontent of traditional SPD voters) due to the reforms under Schröder and the necessities of the grand coalition (2005 - 2009). Classic demands and policies of the left (the SPD, and usually the Greens and the Left as well, to varying degrees) are the introduction of a minimum wage across all industries, health care reform, on a regional level educational reform (the current systems rigidly divides tudents according to their skills or social background, depending on who you ask), etc.
    Once more, wikipedia to the rescue:

    The current party platform of the SPD espouses the goal of social democracy, which is seen as a vision of a societal arrangement in which freedom and social justice are paramount. According to the party platform, freedom, justice, and social solidarity, form the basis of social democracy. The coordinated social market economy should be strengthened, and its output should be distributed fairly. The party sees that economic system as necessary in order to ensure the affluence of the entire population. The SPD also tries to protect the society's disadvantaged with a welfare state. Concurrently, it advocates a sustainable fiscal policy that doesn't place a burden on future generations while eradicating budget deficits. In social policy, the SPD stands for civil rights in an open society. In foreign policy, the SPD aims at ensuring global peace by balancing global interests with democratic means. Thus, European integration is one of the main priorities of the SPD.
    The SPD is mostly composed of members belonging to either of the two main wings: keynesian, left-wing, social democrats, and the centrist, moderate social democrats belonging to the Seeheimer Kreis. While the moderate, Seeheimer Kreis social democrats strongly support the reformist programs introduced by former Chancellor Gerhard Schröder, the keynesian, left-wing social democrats continue to defend classically left-wing policies such as the expansion of the welfare state. The classically left-wing of the SPD claims that in recent years the welfare state has been curtailed through reform programs such as the Agenda 2010 and the more economically liberal stance of the SPD, which was endorsed by the moderate social democrats.
    4. Is there more "broad consensus" on social issues?
    If you are referring to the issues adressed in the first post (abortion, death penalty, universal health care, etc) - yes. There are different positions of course, but most of these issues have indeed been fought over in past decades (huge social changes first during the founding of the republic - the constitution included the abolishment of the death penalty, more or less equal rights for women and the equality of all ethnic groups from day one, that is 1948 - and then again under Brandt). Most social issues were debated in the 60s and 70s.

    5. Is there less debate or have most reforms been achieved in the past?
    See above. Yet another factor is the German need for compromise and the aversion towards politically extreme solutions. After the nazi years and the failed socialist experiment in the east, Germans have become allergic towards radicalism and instinctively look for the centre and a midway solution. This has led to social stability but also slows down the democratic process.
    I do have the impression that Germans are less politicizes than say the French.
    About the past reforms. That´s a tricky one. many of the great social achivements were already introduced under Bismarck or during the Weimar republic. The second big wave of social reform was in the era of Brandt. But sometimes reforms need reform. Kohl was known for his aversion to change, so a lot of stuff accumulated in those 16 years (in words: sixteen!). During those years Germany was reunited, the EU has been growing, a globalized market lead to new challenges, etc. In comes Schröder and starts drastically cutting down on welfare to save what can be saved (as he says). After a while the people get so disgruntled there aren´t enough votes for either of the SPD or CDU, so the people get both. And the reform of the reform of the reform starts. That pisses people even more of, the SPD looses its followers (or what´s left of them) and we get a CDU/FDP coalition. That looked like there would be drastic reforms (you know, reforms of the reforms of the reforms mentioned earlier), but the head of the FDP starts calling welfare receivers parasites, etc. and the polls show a record low for the FDP right now. There is much talk of reform, but being a disciple of Kohl, Merkel´s main skill is keeping her party under control and sitting out crises and criticism.

    6. So is social conservatism mostly about preserving the status quo?
    In the area of social values - yes. Maybe even a slight return to the past when it comes to multiculturalism. There are no huge social issues the CDU wishes to change, not that I know of.

    Generally speaking I´d say that on most issues the different parties usually agree on the rough direction to take, the debate is more on how to do things (and finance them, politics is almost always about money), less on if they should be done at all.

    Hope that helped a bit!
    The good life is one inspired by love and guided by knowledge. Neither love without knowledge, nor knowledge without love can produce a good life. - Bertrand Russell
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  3. #13
    On a mission Usehername's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Cimarron View Post

    What is social conservatism like in your country / countries, as a political force?
    Canada surely has social conservatives and political conservatives like the U.S. The question is more to do with their power, or lack thereof.

    in a nutshell: i once read a paper with a thesis stating that the social conservatives have power and force in Canada. this is how weak they are.

    (i imagine outside of the cities there are large numbers of people with that position, but they tend to have less power and cause very little blips.)
    *You don't have a soul. You are a Soul. You have a body.
    *Faith is the art of holding on to things your reason once accepted, despite your changing moods.
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  4. #14
    Superwoman Red Herring's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Usehername View Post
    in a nutshell: i once read a paper with a thesis stating that the social conservatives have power and force in Canada. this is how weak they are.
    :yim_rolling_on_the_

    We have a saying though that "those reputed to be dead live longer"! I think there tends to be a pendulum movement over time as well.
    The good life is one inspired by love and guided by knowledge. Neither love without knowledge, nor knowledge without love can produce a good life. - Bertrand Russell
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  5. #15
    Superwoman Red Herring's Avatar
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    One more thing. I just came up with another difference that hs something to do with social values.

    I just read the reviews for Inglorious Basterds on the german amazon page and most negative reviews (and there were a lot of them) had to do with gratuitous violence.

    This might be a bit simplified, but when it comes to movies and video games, Germany tends to be much more sensitive about violence than about sex or language. In fact, nobody cares about bad language (even though you´ll see less cursing than on HBO), sex is not much of an issue (even though there are strict age limits for certain materials), at least it is hardly ever discussed. What bothers most people is the depiction of violence.

    Censorship is another point where the CDU clashes with the FDP. Article 5.1 of the constitution states that "There is no censorship", but that only refers to a priori censorship, there is a posteriori censorship when material goes against specific laws.

    And yet another point of conflict: data protection and privacy issues, that is the powers granted to the police and the secret service to wiretap and collect and store data etc. Another big issue here.
    The good life is one inspired by love and guided by knowledge. Neither love without knowledge, nor knowledge without love can produce a good life. - Bertrand Russell
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  6. #16
    IRL is not real Cimarron's Avatar
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    Yes, I can see "Stronger punishment of crimes," "Need for increased state measures against domestic terrorism," and such things as socially conservative policies with fairly similar ideas here, or in many developed democracies.

    Interesting about the rather small difference between the left and right sides of the social debate, but bringing in German history and how it shapes culture is probably a good point (for any country's politics).

    ---

    About Canada, funny. Interesting dynamic.

    ---

    Thanks, and other countries, you can join in, too.



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    You can't spell "justice" without ISTJ.

  7. #17
    Senior Member lowtech redneck's Avatar
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    Back to Germany for a moment, Red Herring's post reminds me that there some issues where the average American (socially conservative or otherwise) is more "liberal" than the average German: free speech and freedom of religion. Put simply, German (and European in general) censorship laws would be considered quite excessive, dangerous, and morally objectionable to most Americans. And few social conservatives in the United States would even think to ban the hijab from public schools in order to encourage integration (a burqa ban might be proposed, but that would be justified on the basis of a plausible security threat rather than on cultural objections).

  8. #18
    Superwoman Red Herring's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by lowtech redneck View Post
    Back to Germany for a moment, Red Herring's post reminds me that there some issues where the average American (socially conservative or otherwise) is more "liberal" than the average German: free speech and freedom of religion. Put simply, German (and European in general) censorship laws would be considered quite excessive, dangerous, and morally objectionable to most Americans. And few social conservatives in the United States would even think to ban the hijab from public schools in order to encourage integration (a burqa ban might be proposed, but that would be justified on the basis of a plausible security threat rather than on cultural objections).
    As for religious freedom. You are right and I am no friend of telling people what to wear or what to believe. On the other hand the American tolerance for religious expression seems to be based on the idea of a religious nation. Nothing wrong with wearing a hijab to school if there is religion all over the place anyway. Countries like France and Germany (France even more so) have a more laicistic foundation. So people tend to not want to see too much religion of any kind in public. That is something you can do in the privacy of your home, but don´t rub everybody´s nose in it. Schools, universities etc. should be religion-free.
    As for political freedom. True. Germany´s traumatic past has made it susceptible to radicalism and there is something like constitutional self-preservation here, meaning that the consitution contains restrictions that are meant to safeguard that very constitution from being overthrown too easily - once more, blame the experience. Spain makes it very hard for any political party to form that favord basque independence, a referendum on catalan independence or a new catalan constitution is a no-go.
    The greater political freedom in the USA is the reason German neonazis often use American publishers for their propaganda, since hate crime laws are stricter over here. And denying the holocaust is a criminal offence.
    There has been a discussion for several years now about the possible prohibition of the NPD (that is one of the three extreme right wing parties which has strong links to violent neonazi circles). The question is how tolerant you can be towards the intolerant (another classic) and how lenient the state has to be towards a movement that wants to abolish that state.
    The good life is one inspired by love and guided by knowledge. Neither love without knowledge, nor knowledge without love can produce a good life. - Bertrand Russell
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  9. #19
    Senior Member Survive & Stay Free's Avatar
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    What's understood as "socially conservative", do you mean culturally conservative? Or is it as an alternative fiscal conservatism?

    In the UK one nation conservatism like Disraeli's conservatism or Bismarck's conservatism where generous in spending, public works and concerned by priorities which where introduced to politics and public life or given impetus in politics and public life by socialists. Disraeli's concern that there where two nations, hence the title one nation conservatism, was reflective of concern that free market liberalism was polarising people into paupers and propertied noveau rich. In Bismarck's case he introduced simultaneously laws prohibiting socialism and welfare reform measure which constituted a compromise between the social classes, containing class struggles within permissable limits.

    While conservatives such as Nisbet have argued that these where examples of pragmatism which neither of their authors cared to mention as significant in biographies.

    I'm inclined to believe they do matter to people who I would consider "social" conservatives since that time, such as individuals who are described as in the UK "Tory"/Conservative Party as "Wets" (this dates to the eighties and describes broadly speaking socially concerned, welfarist or Keynesian conservatives who objected to privatisation as selling off the "family jewels" and monetarism and Thatcherism, it is supposed to denote being "soft").

    One of them Ian Gilmour is actually one of my favourite authors, he wrote a critic of Thatcherism entitled Dancing With Dogma and another book Britain Can Work which was broadly Keynesian, anti-trade union or at least considered trade unionism in the eighties as primitive, and definitely in favour of full employment as social and economic policy. He considered Mise and his ilk the mirror image of Marx. He would also have been part of a tradition in conservativism which I would consider politics trumphing economics, principles over percentages.

    I see the main division as being between fiscal conservatives, which are virtually synonymous with free market libertarianism or neo-liberals in their policies, and social conservativism being closer to keynesians, although Keynes was a cultural and political liberal. In the UK we have a strange situation in which a neo-liberal or fiscally conservative consensus reigns but one party is more moderately culturally conservative than the other (labour).

    There are authors such as Daniel Bell who are culturally conservative, economically socialist (although this could mean keynesian, I'm aware he's an American and havent read his books to see what he means by that in particular, a lot of Americans think of socialism as being synonymous with taxation and state spending of any kind. That's not what I understand as socialism) and politically liberal.

    In some respects that reflects my views but I think that cultural conservatism can vary according to region or nation, sometimes even ethnicity, for instance attitudes to family, work, public choice theory, religion, traditions, national identity, even attitudes to authority, obedience and dissent.

    There's also the question as to whether or not conservative or traditionalist is meant or what's meant by traditionalist too.

    In the UK fiscal conservatism is on the march again, the Cameron "big society" is just Thatcherism for today, what does it really mean? Big society? Well its supposed to be companion to small government, which in the minds of some people (actually the teachers unions) means rolling back the state to education and pensions provision only, no benefits for the unemployed or sick and disabled, no tax funded social services, no tax funded health services and no comprehensive education service beyond schools.

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