The PDSJ believes that the only way forward for the world is the peaceful co-existence of all its states, while categorically rejecting the exploitation of the 3rd World by the industrialized nations. Tensions can in large part be avoided even before they arise by appropriate forms of development aid and observance of the principle of respect for other cultures.
Our present system of education is much too geared to the getting-across of the sort of knowledge that can, today, in any case, be "called up" more or less to order via the Internet and other media. The emphasis in our schools and universities needs to be shifted rather to the acquisition of the ability to recognize interconnections, to the provision of tools for solving problems, to learning to handle our own as well as others' aggressive impulses, and to the inculcation of structured thinking.
A neo-liberal coldness and hard-heartedness has gradually penetrated and permeated, in recent decades, all spheres of society, the economy, and political and governmental activity. There is an urgent need for a revival, in our day-to-day dealings with one another, of the spirit of community, honesty and decency.
A neo-liberal coldness and hard-heartedness has gradually penetrated and permeated, in recent decades, all spheres of society, the economy, and political and governmental activity. There is an urgent need for a revival, in our day-to-day dealings with one another, of the spirit of community, honesty and decency.
Legislation passed in our country must reflect to a significant degree and in a consistent manner the basic sense of the "man (or woman) in the street" of what is surely right and what is surely wrong. When punishments are imposed, they must be imposed in a manner more plainly just and fair - although it is also the case that wise political action can go a long way to bringing it about that many criminal actions punished by our juridical system would cease to be committed at all.
Cultural diversity is to be encouraged and promoted; where subsidies are granted, they should certainly not be enjoyed by already-established, "mainstream" art and culture.
For the foreseeable future, we are not likely again to experience "full employment". Social policy must reflect this undeniable historical fact. We citizens need to be assured a livelihood in keeping with our basic human dignity, with or without remunerative employment!
It is an irrecusable duty of the present-day inhabitants of the earth to maintain the planet in such a condition that it may be inhabited with the same joy a thousand or ten thousand years from now as today. If this is to be the case, then we must refrain from all action which is likely to disturb the diversity of plant and animal species, alter the climate, or flood the earth with harmful radiation.
Globalisation has resulted in goods being transported from place to place on an ever larger scale. This development, which also applies to transport of persons, requires new and better solutions. It is the task of a responsible transport policy to develop these.
Remunerative employment which makes the same simple sense that it did at the height of the industrial age is becoming ever more rare. This is a fact with which politics has to come to terms. The wrong way to do this is to try to save jobs in certain industries by subsidizing them. The right way is rather a liberalization of the economy, and dismantling of unnecessary administrative structures and obstacles placed in the way of economic activity by the state.
An essential counterpart to such economic liberalization must be the payment to each citizen, unconditionally, of a "basic income" which will be his or hers by right of citizenship alone and which will secure for him or her a reasonable modest livelihood.
The savings achieved in this way will mean, where they are combined with a rigorous dismantling of the system of subsidization, that funding and financing will no longer be a problem.
The European Union and Its Expansion
The PDSJ understands the EU not as a mere aggregate of states which happen to be situated, geographically, within the physical region referred to as „Europe“ but rather as a genuine community of states, said community being defined both in terms of common trading arrangements and shared values.
The EU, however, is not, for all that, a community based on a shared religion.
For this reason, all those states should be permitted to accede to EU membership which fulfil certain requirements. Such requirements would include: respect for human rights; recognition of the rule of law and of democratic principles; the sharing of certain Western values such as, for example, monogamy; a certain level of economic capacity and, last but not least, a positive policy on environmental and peace issues.
Co-operation between EU member states must finally prove workable in practice. This especially on the levels of the intelligence-service, police, and judicial systems.
Steps must now be taken in order that EU law quickly come, in member states, finally to enjoy the same force as the respective national laws – although it should also be carefully examined here whether the existing multiplicity of laws and regulations is really in all respects necessary.
EU that is strong both economically and politically that will be able to exert a counterbalancing force vis-à-vis (presently) the USA and (in future) also China.
Given that the tools of reason no longer suffice to hold up the process of globalisation, discussion about its „pros and cons“ has become pointless.
The issue is now rather: how are we to create forming and guiding conditions for this de facto process which will make it socially tolerable?
Globalisation also offers us opportunities in the areas of human rights, democracy, the environment, and global peace – opportunities which we cannot afford not to grasp.
Hunger and Poverty
Not only in our own but in every state, hunger and poverty represent significant threats to peace.
Many of the armed conflicts and „ethnic cleansings“ that plague, in particular, the Third World, have their roots in a dire lack of basic necessities among the populations concerned.
The costs that ultimately ensue for us from such a state of affairs – those, for example, of deploying UN peacekeeping forces or of aid for social reconstruction – are enormous.
It is thus in our deepest and most genuine interest to combat hunger and poverty worldwide by means of appropriate forms of development aid!
War and Crises
The PDSJ deplores every resort to arms and violence but recognizes the right to self-defence where this is needful and acknowledges, moreover, that there exists a positive duty to come to the aid of those in need of this kind.
Mass expulsions of people from their homes, genocide, and „ethnic cleansing“ – these are things which no democratic society committed to social principles can stand idly by and watch occur, and this quite regardless of whatever economic self-interest may or may not ultimately be involved.
Given that such serious infringements of human rights are in almost every case preceded by a social crisis of some other sort, it is clearly the task of political authorities to recognize such crises as they emerge and to take steps – involving even, where this cannot be avoided, the threat of the use of military force – to prevent their escalating into atrocities of the sort we have mentioned.
In no case can we permit a repetition of, for example, recent events in the Balkans, which saw the deaths of hundreds of thousands of innocent civilians before either UN or EU finally felt moved to intervene.
Swift action is required above all in order to prevent the emergence of situations in which aggressors end up with certain potent, but self-created, faits accomplis on their side.
The threat of rapid and large-scale military intervention, regrettable as it is, really can help to prevent still worse eventualities.
Regardless, however, of the manner in which the parties to the conflict themselves behave, the intervening powers and their armies must adhere to the rules and principles (be these those of the Geneva Convention, or simply the unwritten principles of human rights, ethics, and morality) the respect of which they implicitly, by their intervention, demand of others.
Such complacent and arrogant comportment as, for example, that of the USA in Iraq, must be condemned in the sharpest possible terms and steps be taken to make its repetition impossible.
Were such ideas only developed and applied also to individual wars and armed clashes between states, they could perhaps, where they were combined with appropriate economic incentives, prevent altogether the tendency of developing countries to assemble larger and larger standing armies.
History has already proven sufficiently clearly that there are no really effective counter-measures to be taken against terrorist attacks. This was demonstrated in Europe by the actions of the IRA and ETA, and in Russia and Japan by those of other forces; in Israel, it is demonstrated almost daily to be the case, although this latter state has proceeded with every conceivable rigour against such attacks and their alleged sources, even to the point of the disregard of many international conventions. Even the „invulnerable“ superpower, the USA, has proven powerless against terrorism.
This present sense of powerlessness has led to the hasty ushering, through the parliaments of many countries of „anti-terror laws“ which are contributing to the undermining, in said countries, of the basic principles of democracy and the rule of law. We are waging wars (Afghanistan, Iraq) the consequences of which are impossible to foresee. We see daily new instances of torture, pillage and murder, while the governments involved sink to ever greater depths of dishonesty and deceit. And what is there to show for it? The number of terrorist attacks all over the world has risen instead of falling!
The USA is attempting to get its hands on the terrorists by means of posting millions of dollars worth of rewards for information leading to their capture. But how can the USA ensure that this money, once paid, will not itself be used to fund terrorism? And if, in the end, they refuse actually to pay the rewardmoney out, will this perceived treachery not itself go to raise new generations of terrorists?
Clearly, this is no solution. Rather, the only possible solution consists in removing the fundamental motivation behind the actions of the terrorists, while at the same time ensuring that anyone who persists in such actions will no longer find any refuge or support in the population at large.
But the very thought of such a solution demands thought also about the question: what are the motivations behind the actions of terrorists and how is it that such actions do meet with resonance and support within certain populations?
Clearly, this is no solution. Rather, the only possible solution consists in removing the fundamental motivation behind the actions of the terrorists, while at the same time ensuring that anyone who persists in such actions will no longer find any refuge or support in the population at large.
The victims of his action must, in the view of the terrorist, be classed in the category „collateral damage” – a category also, of course, deployed by such opponents of the terrorist as the USA, when yet another American rocket happens accidentally to destroy a block of residential flats.
Nor is this view the lonely paranoid delusion of the individual terrorist. He is very often fêted as a hero by large sections of the nation to which he belongs. His nation, that is to say, shares with him his political goal.
We are told all too often, by those who claim to know, that the actions of terrorists are exclusively the results of brainwashing and religious fanaticism.
Such factors may indeed play an ancillary and contributory role but they do not form the real core of his motivation. This real core consists in the fact that the terrorist feels himself to be „with his back against the wall“ both in terms of his concept of honour and in terms of his suffering from poverty and subjugation.
The key issue here is not whether this sense of being dishonoured, beggared and subjugated is one which corresponds to the real state of affairs in the world. What matters is that the terrorist feels the situation to be so.
It follows that the only method which will ever really succeed in „beating terrorism” is tolerance. Behave like guests in someone’s home, even when you are an occupying army; take care to observe and respect the concepts of honour, and the customs and mores, of the national groups with whom you have to do; and make sure that your commercial agreements, when you make them, are fair and just. Then, and only then, will you „win the war on terror” – quickly, efficiently and at minimal economic cost!
Education policy as it is presently practiced in Germany is far too focussed on the mediation of the sort of individual and quantifiable knowledge that can be looked up in books and other sources. In our present-day „information society“, however, this is exactly the sort of knowledge that least requires mediation, since it is readily available to all on the Internet, for example.
What a genuinely contemporary education programme would need to place its emphasis on would rather be the acquisition of a capacity to recognize connections, to identify problems, and to develop possible solutions to these latter. Steps must be taken to promote logical thinking and the extension of certain „handicraft“-style ways of handling problems to questions and issues lying outside of the immediately practical sphere. One basic principle must be stressed particularly strongly: education is a basic human right; it must be accessible, free of charge, to anyone and everyone, regardless of their economic or social status!
Steps must be taken to remedy those present shortcomings in the training of teachers which bring it about that precisely this basic and crucial principle tends not to be put into practice or even properly perceived.
Schools and What Is Taught in Them
Besides the mediation of knowledge, it is also the wider task of schools and teachers to make children and adolescents „fit“, in the most general sense, for the life that awaits them.
But much that is indispensable to this end is provided by schools today either not at all or only in very inadequate form. The learning that is lacking would include, for example, that bearing on how conflicts might be made manageable by being taken up into a cultural framework designed to just this end; that bearing on how to deal properly with one’s own aggressions as well as with those of others; the different ways of dealing with stress; constructive manners of dealing with setbacks; and, most especially, learning about what will tend to promote the development of a stable and autonomous personal identity.
We make a serious mistake in allowing ourselves the luxury of teaching either not at all (in the Gymnasium) or only in an inadequate manner, the most important of our investments in the future: the bringing-up of our children.
Where this bringing-up of our children is one consistently aimed at inculcating into them a behaviour conforming to the norm, this does, of course, appear prima facie to „make life easier“ first for the schools themselves and later for the firms that these children, once grown up, will work for, as well as for the state. This inasmuch as, so raised and educated, even the citizens of modern political democracies will tend to remain indistinguishable, in essence, from the manipulable and obedient „subjects“ of pre-modern states.
Considered in the long term, however, such conformist behaviour is rather totally counterproductive. Because for everyone to think in terms of the same cognitive patterns and models means that this thinking will never yield any new or different results. Only „lateral“, or other forms of unconventional and decidedly individual thinking can ever produce solutions which are innovative and open up genuine perspectives for the future.
In the end, it isn’t, after all, manipulable „subjects“ that our political community requires, but rather, indeed, genuine citizens capable of taking responsibility for their own thoughts, words, and deeds. But it is here that the difficulties really begin: if such is the case, it follows that the state must begin to understand its role as that of providing certain services for its citizens; those placed by us in positions of authority would then have to be themselves subject to constant supervision by those over whom they exercise said authority. This really would mean progress for Germany – but at the cost of changes that certain interests would find dismaying!
University Study and Adult Education
Education should not be looked at from the crude point of view of „what it costs“ but rather considered as an investment.
For this reason, universities must certainly be provided, in the most generous possible way, with the means to carry out their appointed task. Support from the private sector is, of course, not to be excluded here.
The emergence of „elites“ cannot be achieved by decree but is rather the spontaneous result of exceptional performance.
This is why the attempt of our present political leaders to bring into existence, artificially and overnight, certain „elite universities“ is doomed to failure from the very start.
A genuinely high standard of education, training and research can only be achieved on the basis of fair competition between the various institutes of higher education and, of course, on that of equally fair competition among prospective students for study places at the institutions which prove themselves indeed the best.
For quite some time now, it has been hard to overlook developments in our society which call seriously into question whether the course this society is presently taking is one that will lead us into any future worth aspiring to.
Bullying and harassment in the workplace; the steady decrease in neighbourly behaviour and in actions of simple human solidarity; the correlative increase in egoism; the diminishing faith that can realistically be placed in promises and solemn commitments; vandalism; and, last but not least, a rising suicide rate – all these, along with the unignorable increase in violent attitudes and behaviour, among children and adolescents as well as among other age-groups, are visible expressions of the fact that something is going seriously wrong.
Certain of the roots of this general negative trend in society are easy enough to identify: the lack, for many, of any sense of a future, or anxiety in the face of the future envisioned as most likely; the absence of positive role-models and the predominance of „value-systems“ which offer, in fact, no genuinely appropriate values.
Likewise, many will doubtless agree at least on the general outlines of possible solutions to this problem, namely:
Party officials, MPs, mayors and ministers, chancellors and, last but not least, civil servants constitute, as it were, the „management personnel“ of our state system. Whether by law or by special decree, a very significant degree of power has come to lie in the hands of this political „management class“. In this as in every case, of course, the rights accruing to those enjoying such power imply correlative obligations and duties. And we citizens have, for our part, a right (both in the sociological and the moral sense) to insist that these correlative duties be actually recognized and respected.
We have, that is to say, a right to demand of our political „management personnel“ not only that they possess, in the highest degree, the specific professional skills required for their work but also that they meet the very highest of moral standards by which the behaviour of individuals in a modern, enlightened society can be measured.
„Morality“ applied to the political sphere means: honestly, conformity to the law, awareness of duty and obligation (particularly of the politician’s or civil servant’s duty vis-à-vis the citizens), and fidelity to the specific content and conditions of the mandate given.
Far from, as has hitherto been the dominant practice, proceeding with special lenience in punishing the misdeeds of prominent individuals, we demand rather that the strictest and severest penalties be applied in such cases.
There is something especially reprehensible in such misdeeds as tax evasion, the according of illegitimate preferential treatment, bribery (be it as recipient or as the actual bribing party) dereliction of duty, and illegitimate self-enrichment, where these are practiced by individuals enjoying the position of role-models in our society.
The time has come for the all-too-familiar instances of such individuals’ making public statements which they themselves know to be false („pensions shall not be affected“) along with any activities which tend to condone and lend support to such conscious mendacity (such as the distortion or misrepresentation of statistics) to be recognized to constant serious statutary offences and to be pursued and punished accordingly.
In contrast to political morality, morality and ethics as these apply in the sphere of economic life and activity present – at least prima facie – a more complex and differentiated aspect.
Whereas politicians have, in the last analysis, duties and obligations vis-à-vis their fellow citizens only and precisely qua citizens, incumbent on those enjoying power in the economic sphere are obligations vis-à-vis other persons under a whole series of different aspects, namely: vis-à-vis the population in their totality (e.g. in respect of damage to, or protection of the environment); vis-à-vis their employees (in respect of their jobs, their conditions of work, their wages); vis-à-vis their companies, and vis-à-vis their shareholders.
In fact, however, these different obligations stand, considered in the longer term, in no kind of contradictory relation to one another. It is only from the viewpoint of a short-sighted company policy that these different considerations take on the aspect of a „conflict of interests“. And such „conflicts of interests“ tend to loom larger and larger, the more short-term and shortsighted the manner of thinking about these questions becomes.
There is an urgent and dire need for a fundamental rethinking, on the part of the state apparatus, of the function it is meant to fulfil. For years now, politicians responsible for the domestic affairs of the country have been covering up all that is clearly going wrong in society and in the organs responsible for its administration by means of a flood of laws, ad hoc decrees, and – what is much worse – by means of placing restrictions on basic human rights and the rights of the citizen.
Politicians, civil servants and the „administrative personnel“ of our society in general must finally come to understand that, in dealing with the citizens of this society, they are indeed dealing with citizens, and no longer with the „loyal and obedient subjects“ of some pre-modern feudal state.
We citizens pay for the administrative work performed by these administrators; politicians and civil servants are our employees.
Such is the understanding of the nature of the state propounded by the PDSJ.
If something is going wrong in the state system, the measures taken against this must consist in rectification of the structures within which state and society operate, and not in lies, cover-ups and the oppression which must necessarily result from these latter.
Civil Service and Local Authorities
The whole jungle of civil service and local authority departments, with its complex tangle of laws and regulations, stands in urgent need of being cleared and set in manageable order – and this on every level, from borough and county right up to national.
The government and civil service apparatus must be slimmed down and made more efficient. Cutting of costs can be combined with an actual improvement in service levels by means of a more rational management of purchasing procedures, better integration of IT and Internet facilities, and more careful consideration of how work processes should actually best be organized.
In the interior decoration of civil service and governmental premises, there is no place for showiness or the „grand style“. We are not advocating a Spartan design for all such premises, but the equipping of such offices with designer lamps, for example, is certainly going too far in the other direction.
Given that increased security will tend, in the majority of cases, to go hand in hand with restriction of individual liberties, security issues need to be approached not only with a particularly high degree of sensitivity but also with an awareness of the fact that involved here are certain problems that belong indeed to the spheres of philosophical and ethical consideration.
How, though, is one to identify here the appropriate „middle path“ ? One has at least the rudiments of a solution to this problem where one begins to consider the concept „security“ as a concept functionally equivalent to „freedom from fear“.
Because „freedom from fear“ is only possible where the conditions for ensuring such freedom have been carefully thought through before implementation.
To try to prevent crime by making laws harsher and surveillance of the citizenry more intensive is to follow the wrong path entirely here. If we Germans have learnt anything from our experiences with Hitler’s SS and the „Stasi“ security forces of the former GDR, it is this.
Were it possible to greatly improve the success rate as regards „crimes solved“ while actually reducing the level of surveillance, this would certainly be the better path to follow.
One might go a long way toward attaining such an ideal goal by establishing, on as broad a basis as possible, a base of securely coded DNA profiles. Were this to be done, however, it would have to be strictly ensured that, if a specific DNA sample sufficed to lead those examining it to a specific profile, this profile would not be such as to lead said examining parties back to the associated genome.
From the point of view of a politics concerned with identifying the general determining and promoting conditions required for a just society, the topics: terrorism, criminality exercised in the areas of the economy and public provision, vandalism, and so on need to be dealt with under another heading.
Immigration and Right to Asylum
The introduction of a basic income which would be each citizen’s by right would appear, when matters are considered merely from a superficial viewpoint, to go to aggravate the problems surrounding immigration and asylum-seeking.
The first point that needs to be made here, however, is that the whole necessity that asylum be, in certain cases, accorded is a theme that would really, in principle, need to be discussed within the context of a discussion of foreign, rather than domestic policy. This inasmuch as, if economic and political circumstances within the countries from which asylum-seekers flee were in any sort of proper order, there would be no need for anyone to seek asylum at all.
Since, however, it would be totally unrealistic to imagine that it would be possible to correct such dysfunctional circumstances within any short space of time, we must recognize that we will continue, for the foreseeable future, to find ourselves confronted with the problem of asylum.
We hold to the hitherto prevailing view to the extent that we too consider that asylum ought not to be allowed to turn gradually and imperceptibly into a residency without fixed term. The method hitherto adopted, however, of dissuading asylum-seekers from allowing their stay in the asylum-granting country to become a de facto permanent one – namely, that of making their time in said country as uncomfortable and unpleasant as possible – is certainly the wrong one.
Rather, we should be using the time spent by the asylum-seekers in the host country to give these asylum-seekers further training and education. This inasmuch as such training and education is – considered in the long term, at least – the most effective, and cost-effective, form of development aid.
Good reason for the immigration into Germany of citizens of states lying outside the EU – be it in the form of a „green card“ system or in some other form - neither exists at present nor will it exist after the introduction of a system of basic citizen’s income.
If voices in industry are presently demanding the introduction of such a „green card“ system, these demands originate solely in the hope of thereby acquiring the use of cheap, easily manipulable, but nonetheless appropriately academically qualified „tools of production“.
Moreover, it is also counter-productive on the level of a more global politics to set about luring and drawing away from developing countries like India or Pakistan the very citizens of these countries who are most likely to contribute to their nations’ progress on the path to prosperity and democracy.
Immigration to Germany from other EU states might be limited and controlled by the fact of such immigrants’ becoming eligible for the receipt of the basic citizen’s income only after having been resident in the country for a lengthier period of time – except, of course, in the case of their country of origin’s also paying out such a citizen’s income.
Moreover, it should also be noted that the idea of the introduction of such a basic citizen’s income represents the only concept hitherto known which is capable of securing, also in the longer term, social peace and harmony.
The processes of radical rethinking demanded by the PsgD must extend also to our system of law and justice. Besides these changes, laws must give consistent expression also to the general prevailing sense of what is right, and of what is wrong. This would result in a reduction of the present overload of legal proceedings and to a reduction of the time required for those proceedings still brought.
Quite aside from this, however, it is urgently necessary that the duration of legal proceedings be drastically reduced in all areas of the law and before all sorts of courts. This speeding-up of legal proceedings would constitute already in itself an increase in justice and the security of law.
The „Controlled Substances Act“ and Drug-Related Crime
Already in the very earliest human societies (and indeed even in the animal kingdom) we observe individuals using the most various means and methods - from dancing oneself into a trance-like state, through various sorts of narcotic plant, to today’s synthetic drugs - in order to bring themselves into states of ecstasy or intoxication.
All attempts hitherto made to ban such intoxicating or narcotic substances have proven totally ineffective. We live, presently, in an age in which a greater range of such substances are more readily available, at any time and any place and for people of almost every age, than in any previous era. And this despite the fact that the state is currently investing countless millions in the investigation of drug-related crimes and grave penalties (in some countries even the death-penalty) are attached to drug-trafficking.
Where we closely consider the development of drug consumption, the drugs themselves and the geographical regions in which they were originally consumed, we must arrive at the following conclusion:
every geographical region has had, since the very earliest times, its typical local drug or narcotic: so, for example, alcohol in Germany and other Central European areas, cocaine, myristicine and mescaline in certain areas of America, opium in the Far East. The enjoyment of such „regional drugs“ over periods lasting millennia has resulted in no serious harm or damage to the societies in question. Otherwise, the peoples concerned would not have survived at all. It was only at the point where the „regional drugs“ in question began to be transferred into other regions that problems arose. In these latter regions, there is lacking all that implicit knowledge of how to use and handle the drug in question which had developed over long periods in its region of origin. Society faces a similar problem in the case of newer drugs which possess an addictive potential intolerably higher than those hitherto available. Thus wine, at a certain point, produced schnapps, opium heroin, and coca leaves cocaine. In the case of the very newest drugs, such as Ecstasy or LSD, there exists in no society anywhere any traditionally-acquired knowledge of how to operate safely and constructively with them.
A further very serious problem posed by the currently globalized world of drugs is drug-related criminality. Particularly as the drug-dealer, operating in any case outside the law, will always be attempting, either through simple persuasion or by cutting „softer“ drugs with „harder“, to bring his customers to consume more addictive substances, so as to ensure his profits. The customer, then, once addicted, will acquire the money to feed this addiction by fair means or foul. A large number of crimes are drug-related in this sense - from petty theft, through illegal prostitution, right through to robbery with murder.
The damage suffered by society and the economy, both as a result of such deeds themselves and as a result of the costly police investigation and juridical process which must follow on them, is gigantic and can no longer be borne.
Experience has shown that measures hitherto taken here have been largely ineffective; on the other hand, however, it would surely be irresponsible, both in ethical and in economic terms, to immediately legalize all drugs and narcotics.
A way out of this dilemma is offered by a 3-stage model of the following sort:
The advantages of this model are obvious:
It would remove drug-related criminality, reduce medical costs through reducing the transmission of AIDS, hepatitis C etc. It would also lead to a drastic fall in the demand for drugs on the black market, which would in turn bring about the collapse of the drug cartels, so that the drugs on offer on this black market would also swiftly vanish, the addict thus passing beyond the reach of the dealer.
A further advantage of the establishment of fixed locations for the distribution and use of narcotic drugs is that this would ensure sustained contact with the addicted individuals and the possibility of attempting to persuade these latter to undergo therapy.
Criminal Law and the Penal System
There is much that is not in order in our system of criminal law. For reasons that do not appear clear or justifiable, offences against the person tend to be pursued and punished with far less rigour than offences involving property; the punishment imposed on those responsible for the inflicting of bodily injury within the context of a genuine accident is very harsh when compared to that imposed on those inflicting bodily injury with intent; and in the punishment, in general, of offences involving property, far too little attention is paid to the actual scale of the material value illegally damaged or acquired.
Moreover, punishments imposed take, when these take the form of fines, far too little into consideration the individual financial situation of the offender in question. To impose a fine of € 1.000,--, on someone attempting to get by on social security payments is to punish this person much more harshly than someone earning a decent wage would be punished even by a fine of, say, € 10.000,-- . The former has no resources in reserve on which he can draw to reduce the impact on him of the fine, whereas, for the latter, such a punishment means no more than his having to put off buying his next new car for a couple of years or withdraw a hefty sum from his savings account.
What needs, however, to be condemned most strongly is the widespread practice of imposing on prominent figures proven to have broken the law either no punishment at all (as in the case of ex-Chancellor Helmut Kohl) or a relatively mild one, while regularly „making examples“ of normal citizens caught in such acts.
In the cases of offenders with greater financial means at their disposal, an appropriate measure might be the imposition, in addition to a fine, of some form of arrest-like detention during one or more holiday-periods. The offender would certainly feel the effect of such a punishment, without thereby suffering serious harm or damage.
Moreover, the execution of penal measures in general should not be looked on as a forcing of the offender to „do penance“ for his offence, or as a right of punishment belonging to the state, but rather as an opportunity to straighten out, by means of intensive education and support, the shortcomings of the offender in question in respect of his awareness of himself as a member of society along with others.
There exists already today sufficient proof that these increased costs would have, in the last analysis, their economic dividend, since we would see thereby a significant fall in the rate of recidivism.
Our whole system of administrative law needs to be totally reworked and to become clearer and more manageable.
Indeed, „courts of administrative law“ are things which ought not even to exist, since it is surely our right to expect that state and administrative bodies keep in all matters very carefully and exactly to the regulations they themselves have established, such state authorities being, by definition, models for our whole society.
Moreover, it is imperative that our system of administrative law come finally to express, besides the generally prevalent sense of what is right and legitimate, also the way in which the modern citizen of a democracy - as opposed to the „loyal subject“ of some still-feudal society - sees and understands his relation to the state.
This should apply particularly to laws bearing upon the rights and duties of the police.
At a time when an ever larger gulf is opening up between the economic power of large enterprises and that of individual citizens, civil law is absolutely necessary in order to ensure that contracts drawn up between these two sets of parties are fair and proper.
All too often, it proves possible for banks, property sharks, and other large concerns to further their interests, contrary to all natural sense of what is right and proper, by means of cleverly conceived contracts.
The present job insecurity and prevalence, across many social strata, of low incomes also make it imperative that we rethink the law on debt and indebtedness.
The current practice, whereby payments overdue are given, at the costs of the debtor, into the hands of lawyers and debt recovery agencies, constitutes a disproportionate pressure on said debtor and contributes in large part to the emergence of situations in which a temporary financial crisis swiftly develops into the absolute financial ruin of this latter.
Companies always have, in principle, the choice of insisting on cash payment directly upon delivery of their wares and services. If they offer these latter on credit, they do this not in order to be amenable to the customer, but in order to increase their sales and profits. Given that this is the case, it is more than merely deplorable that these companies then set about completely ruining those who - often through no fault of their own - have fallen behind on such credit payments by adding to these latter interest and punitive charges.
At a very minimum, the debtor must be accorded the possibility of unburdening himself of such debt-recovery charges by acknowledging his liability for the debt in question and publicly registering his inability to pay.
There are certain areas of shared social life that should not be made subject to market forces, since this would result in a stifling of the necessary diversity of developments. Philosophy, for example, would count among these areas, having indeed its proper place at publicly-funded universities, even if, as may be argued, this discipline displays an essential connection and symbiosis with culture and society as a whole.
The question, then, is not whether or not culture is to be subsidized at all; the question is rather: how, and in what degree, should it be so subsidized ?
Plastic and Graphic Arts
It should be one of the tasks of the state to maintain artists’ workshops, studios, and galleries so as to make it possible for artists to produce and to present their work on an equal basis.
Given that it is simply not possible to arrive at an „objective“ judgement on the value of an artwork, extreme caution should be exercised in the matter of using works of art to decorate public buildings, wherever such works can only be acquired at a very high price on the alleged grounds of the reputation of the artist producing them or of their immaterial aesthetic value.
Rather, public buildings should be used as inexpensive platforms for the presentation of the works of (as yet) un-established artists.
The artist who seeks economic success should seek it, like everyone else, on the free market.
In principle, it is desirable that the media landscape be as broad and various a one as possible. Ever more noticeable today, however, is a tendency for all existing media to gravitate toward a single homogeneous and formulaic type.
The ranges of programmes offered by the various private TV channels are now, for example, barely distinguishable from one another and even the publicly-funded TV channels are tending to follow formulae set by these private operators.
The German public TV channels ARD and ZDF are, as is well known, financed via obligatory licence fees. It is intended that this form of financing should ensure that the programming on these TV stations can take a form independent of government control, advertising revenue and even - within certain limits - of „ratings“ in the sense of viewer numbers. These stations have, in other words, a commission to educate and to promote culture.
This is not a commission, however, which the publicly-funded TV stations are currently properly fulfilling. Instead of these stations’ carving out their own market niche by offering alternatives to the cheap „reality TV“ and daytime talk shows that are the staple of the private channels, they choose instead to spend millions of euros on acquiring the rights to broadcast sporting events.
The offer of this sort of broadcast is nothing that belongs, properly speaking, to the purview of the public channels and should be left by these rather to the private broadcasters. Not only is it the case that the money so spent is money withdrawn from the public channels’ proper task of developing an alternative range of educative and edifying programmes; the predominance of sports broadcasts in public TV schedules also alters, for the worse, the nature of the programme offer itself.
It is interesting to note that we see nothing like the same degree of coercive gravitation toward a homogenous formula and norm in the sphere of the print-based media.
Regrettably, the state is now attempting to acquire control also over the Internet. With the exception of some few special cases (such as child pornography) such seizure and control by the state of spaces of free interchange and communication can only be counter-productive as regards the interests of a society oriented to civility and social solidarity.
A process of rethinking and re-evaluation is also required in respect of the representation of violence in action movies and video games. The latitude given by the law to scenes of murder and beating is an anomalously wide one in comparison with the censorship exercised in respect of erotic subject-matter.
The remarks which we have made above in respect of the plastic and graphic arts apply, in principle, equally to the sphere of music.
Particularly in the areas of classical music, operas and operettas we see - thanks to the prevailing system of massive government subsidy of such activities - fees for performers, and sums for the services of directors and producers and for the staging of their productions being paid out which stand in no relation at all to the actual box-office takings of the concerts and productions in question.
Among the musicians listened and looked up to by young people in particular, we see a serious lack of figures capable of acting as genuine positive role-models. Given that it is clearly the case that the major record labels have little use today for stars symbolizing maturity and a correspondingly healthy sense of what they are and aspire to be, the publicly-funded TV and radio channels should make it their business to support and promote such artists and bands, so as to give them too a „platform“ within the entertainment industry.
This would be one way, at least, of getting across to today’s youth the value of such ideals as constancy and perseverance.
Even if all that we have said above applies also to the theatre, the actual large playhouses themselves which are indispensable to the continuation of large-scale theatrical activity are a heavy burden on whatever source is used to sustain them.
It makes no sense to continue to allow this burden to be one weighing solely, through state subsidization, on the public purse.
For this reason, serious consideration, at least, should be given to the question of how the whole technology of staging and production which is permanently to hand in such playhouses might also be put to more commercial use, without damage being thereby done to the practice of the theatrical arts in the highest and purest sense.
The system of social security established in Germany by Bismarck proved unexpectedly durable, surviving for many decades; now, finally, it is facing financial collapse.
Instead of investigating the question: „why is this the case?“ recent governments have tried in vain to hold up this collapse by the use of such fiscal measures as the raising of the mandatory contributions to state health insurance, the reduction of public services, and the „capping“ of public spending.
The simple but crucial fact which has escaped the attention of our politicians here is that the factor which they have chosen to make the basis for all such calculations and interventions - namely, income from labour - no longer has the future before it that it had in Bismarck’s day.
Bismarck could, in his era, make, with impunity, income from work the basis of all social-political calculations, because such income enjoyed, at that time, a fixed and clear relation to social productivity - no work; no products.
That is to say, income from work then formed an exact mirror of what was produced in society. Which is to say that what Bismarck used, in the last analysis, to finance the German social security system was social productivity.
If we, today, take the step of shifting our basis of calculation explicitly away from „income from labour“ and onto „productivity“, then there is no reason why the system should not continue to function in the future as it has in the past.
In this case, however, the contributions made to said system would no longer be contributions measurable on an individual basis; this would mean that the payments made by the system to its beneficiaries would have likewise to be, rather than individually calculated, paid out at a single general „flat rate“.
A further advantage of a productivity-dependent financing of our social security systems would be that, in this way, also those goods and services which are produced in countries with low average wages and imported into Germany would come to make up part of the contribution to the social security system.
It is furthermore thereby ensured that also that added value which arises from capital sums, commissions, speculation, and income from property and real estate etc. will make its contribution to the financing of the social-security net.
Both in government circles and in society in general we see frequent serious confusion between the idea of someone’s being „unemployed“, or „out of work“, and the idea of his or her performing no „gainful labour“.
A person of so-called „independent means“, who lives in grand style exclusively from money inherited from his parents certainly doesn’t do any work, and is, in this sense, plainly „out of work“ in the most literal sense of the term; and yet such a person tends not to be referred to, either in the official language of government or in everyday parlance, as one of the „out of work“, that is, the „unemployed“.
Likewise, to take the very opposite case, a citizen whose work-capacity is employed in purely voluntary, unpaid service but who does indeed devote him- or herself body and soul to work for some local association or for his or her immediate social environment; such a citizen will tend, despite all this, to be referred to and looked on as „out of work“ - indeed, on all too frequent occasions even as a „social parasite“ - although the fact plainly is that the citizen in question is only „out of gainful work“, that is, engaged in no „gainful labour“.
All the more anomalous are the double standards just described in view of the fact that it is often the „unemployed“ in the sense of those not engaged in any „gainful labour“ who preserve many areas of shared social life - technical support agencies; volunteer fire departments and other emergency services; political parties and associations - from total collapse.
The useful social function fulfilled, on the other hand, by those persons of „independent means“ who don’t work, but whom no one thinks of referring to as „unemployed“, tends to be limited to providing usable material for the gossip columnists of the so-called „society“ sections of our newspapers......
Moreover, the factor „work“ itself is tending to forfeit, due to the ever-faster progress of automation, the key importance it once had. „Full employment“ in the sense traditionally attached to this term is an idea which we must now give up.
The instruments recently improvised in Germany in order to try to restore, even if only in appearance, the statistics re persons „in employment“ which we once knew - the coercion of those drawing job-seekers’ allowance into establishing themselves as „one-person businesses“ or „Ich AG’s“, or into accepting jobs at absurdly low wages - have proven to be flops.
Indeed, quite aside from the evident political and economic inexpediency of such measures, it is surely ethically and morally indefensible to coerce those drawing unemployment benefits into transforming themselves into „mini-enterprises“ for whose services no market really exists or into accepting „gainful labour“ where the „gain“ is so minimal as to support no reasonable daily existence.
Equally morally indefensible is the practice of obliging those applying for unemployment benefit or social security to use up, before they become eligible for receipt of these latter, all the financial resources they possess; it is impermissible - certainly at least in cases where the situation of neediness is not one which the prospective recipients have brought upon themselves - that recipients of unemployment benefit be turned, for this reason, into second-class citizens.
Health / Health Insurance
The main categories of cases in which health insurance is called upon to bear cost-burdens are:
Funding of Health Insurance
Where there is adopted, for the funding of health insurance (HI), a system partaking both of the principle of social solidarity and of the principle of specific causation of specific illnesses, the principle of purely „solidary“ funding of health-care costs would find application in cases of type 1 (personal/biological disposition), type 3 (accidents occurring without the involvement of artificial elements) and type 5 (provisions made against possible future illness); the principle of specific causation, on the other hand, would apply in respect of cases of type 2 (use of alcohol, tobacco etc.) and point 4 (accidents with involvement of artificial elements).
That part of the health insurance system which is to be funded on a purely „solidary“ basis will draw its funding from a portion of general tax revenue set aside for the purpose specifically of health insurance funding.
That part of it which is to be funded rather according to the principle of the specific causation of illnesses and injuries will draw its funding from a surcharge added, with a view specifically to the financing of this part of the health insurance system, to the VAT due on individual products.
Example: the costs accruing to the social health funds as a consequence of the smoking of cigarettes are to be calculated and distributed across the prices charged for each individual packet of same.
This tax-contribution to general health-care costs will be re-calculated and re-set, or re-distributed, at intervals which appear appropriate (e.g. every two years).
The most sensible procedure would be to integrate into this same system of funding that form of health insurance which is currently classified as „nursing care insurance“.
Nursing Care Insurance
The hitherto-applying separation of „nursing care insurance“ on the one hand and health insurance „proper“ on the other is not a rational separation and tends to lead to costs being pushed back and forth between the different parts of the health insurance system in a manner which makes no sense either for the insured persons or for the social health funds themselves.
What Health Insurance Should Provide
The principle guiding the actual provisions assured by health insurance must be the principle of what is, at any given time, actually medically possible.
There must be no question of lack of money bringing with it, for anyone, lack of proper medical treatment, where this is needed. This should also apply to needed dental treatment. Inasmuch as proper nourishment depends on the condition of the teeth, to make such treatment dependent on income is to make nourishment itself dependent thereon - an attitude expressive of a deep contempt for one’s fellow man and corresponding to a modern form of slavery !
Savings in the Health Sector
The whole system of the prescription, and the reckoning of the costs, of drugs and pharmaceuticals needs to be rethought from the bottom up.
The system must be made more efficient without this meaning that the medical treatment currently available be in any way compromised; indeed, any changes introduced must go rather to restore that level and quality of medical provision which has tended, in recent years, to be eroded.
Systems must be created under which no unnecessary prescriptions will any longer be issued, without this meaning the banning of necessary medical measures. Given the special position of trust enjoyed by doctors and chemists, any fraud perpetrated by these latter in respect of fees for the services and goods provided must be pursued with the utmost strictness and severity of the law.
To the boundless striving after profits which currently characterizes the pharmaceutical industry bounds and limits must after all be set, possibly by means of the establishment and development of large-scale state-owned pharmaceutical enterprises which will constitute salutary competition for these latter.
Where doctors provide bad or erroneous treatments or prognoses, the fees claimed therefor should be refused them by the health insurance funds concerned. It is high time that the hospitals too introduced an efficient, modern system of administration and documentation. The system of „purchasing management“ which we have elsewhere raised as a desideratum for public authorities should also be put into practice in hospitals.
Efforts should be made to promote and encourage measures likely to preserve good health or to accelerate post-illness recovery wherever these are likely to lead to a reduction in cases of sickness and in the money expended thereon. Care should also be taken to apply here a genuinely synoptic and holistic view of the matter, since a key underlying cause of illness is indeed a generally inadequate quality of life.
Health insurance authorities might also contribute to the lowering of their costs by evaluating each of the invoices for treatment costs submitted by doctors in terms of other invoices received for similarly-diagnosed complaints. Those doctors who prove thereby to be doing their work inefficiently should then be prompted by means of all appropriate measures available (training courses, reductions of said invoices unilaterally, by the health insurance funds themselves) to approximate more closely to the standard generally applying.
Current demographic developments no longer permit a system of state pensions based, according to the principle of the „contract between the generations“, on the sum total of individual wages or salaries.
The only solution seems to be the introduction of a basic „flat-rate pension“. It remains unclear, however, just how the transition to this basic pension is to be funded.
With the introduction, indeed, of a basic income belonging by right to every citizen qua citizen, the whole pension problem, and everything connected with it, ceases to exist, inasmuch as the „basic income“ here in question itself functions, as it were, as a „basic pension“.
The final, „phase-out“ phase of the old state pension inspired by the „contract between generations“ idea could, however, be funded by such methods as: a time-limited tax on legacies; a tax on luxury goods; or a system of setting off the „basic citizen’s income“ due against the pension being paid.
The introduction of a „basic citizen’s income“ would also make obsolete the whole complex of problems associated with current „welfare payments“ such as are made even to those ineligible for unemployment benefit. Only in certain exceptional cases - as, for example, sudden homelessness, or the need to provide temporary accommodation for people recently released from prison - would such payments continue to be necessary.
The PDSJ condemns every type of damage to the environment which goes beyond that absolutely inevitable in the course of the conduct of a modern, mobile collective human life.
We stand for a sustained effort to preserve the diversity of animal species, a stance which also implies a holding to the principle that medical and other experimentation on animals should be kept to the absolutely indispensable minimum.
It is an irrecusable duty of the present-day inhabitants of the earth to maintain the planet in such a condition that it may be inhabited with the same joy a thousand or then thousand years from now as today.
Even if atomic power stations meeting European safety standards can be demonstrated to constitute a safety risk lying well within the limits of the acceptable, there are still at least 3 reasons why we should be attempting to phase out our use of atomic power as an energy source:
A degree of safety may be offered over the next few decades by the storage of such waste in old mine-shafts, but no serious scientist is prepared to make prognoses regarding what will become of such waste during the next 500 oder 1000 years.
Given, however, that such substances can remain radioactive for tens of thousands of years, it is precisely for such periods that prognoses are required. The consequences are unthinkable of such waste finding its way into the ground water - even if such leakage were to occur at some point thousands of years in the future.
The safe and sustainable disposal of those masses of atomic waste alone which have already accumulated and been temporarily stored represents a great future challenge for the human race.
Generating and Saving Energy
As in the case of all measures taken in politics, there must be considered, in taking measures intended to protect the environment, what effects the measures in question will have on the social and global whole. This global and synoptic manner of thinking, which takes into account also the longer-term effects, is exactly what has been lacking in all almost all political decisions taken, and basic concepts proposed, in recent years.
The PDSJ is concerned above all to oppose and reverse this trend.
And precisely in matters of energy generation such an approach is absolutely necessary if serious long-term errors are to be avoided.
Let us look here just at the single example of solar power:
When all factors are taken into consideration, a solar cell unit tends, applied in a geographical situation like ours in Central/Northern Europe, to generate, measured over its whole operative lifetime, just about exactly the same amount of energy as was required to manufacture said unit in the first place. And this setting aside the question of the waste products and emissions produced in the process of said manufacture. Nevertheless, the technology here in question is currently being subsidized to the tune of millions of euros.
We encounter similar nonsense in the area of the subsidization of wind-energy installations.
Certainly, both these latter technologies have much to be said for them - but it is ridiculous to propose them as substitutes for existing atomic or conventional power-stations.
The key to a system of power generation with a sustainable future is a combination of thermal-based solar power installations with geothermic power. Both of these energy sources are present in practically inexhaustible quantities, do no harm to the environment, cost nothing and can be tapped at any point on the globe.
What is geothermic power? It concerns the exploitation of the natural warmth present in the interior of the planet. The method of this exploitation is the following: two boreholes of approx. 4 kilometres in depth are drilled into the earth; water is pumped into one of these, which then, heated under high pressure to temperatures of 200°C - 300°C, rises once again out of the second borehole and acts as propelling force for a turbine producing electricity.
Afterward, this same water can be applied, cooled down, to district heating purposes (this, in contrast to the situation at atomic power stations, is merely an option) before it is pumped once again into the initial borehole.
This procedure also makes available so-called „process heat“, for example for the chemical industry.
Since the thermal energy of the earth itself is practically limitless and is available at no cost at all, the large-scale technical production of hydrogen is a relatively unproblematic affair. The hydrogen so produced can then replace the energy sources used until now - oil, petrol, natural gas, and coal - without giving rise to the harmful emissions associated with these latter. Where a catalytic convertor or muffler is also applied, all that will be emitted by the chimneys or exhaust pipes of power stations or automobiles run on this system will be harmless steam.
When one considers that the world’s oil reserves are likely to last only another 30-50 years (depending on the speed of development of the Chinese economy) then it is certainly high time that we introduce new forms of energy generation that will be less damaging to the environment.
On the economic plane, the development of geothermic facilities would surely prove a big success on the export market and thus bring still further advantages.
In terms of foreign affairs, the end of our reliance on oil thus achieved would have both advantages and disadvantages: countries like Germany would become, indeed, self-reliant in terms of energy needs; for the OPEC states, however, this would mean the collapse of the mainstay of their economies.
In the interest of world peace, then, steps would have to be taken to ensure that these states were not left completely „out in the cold“ and appropriate measures introduced to ease the changes that would be brought about in the conditions of their economic survival.
Where the necessary steps are taken to introduce such new and sustainable forms of energy production as that just outlined, the problem of saving energy certainly becomes a much less urgent and serious one. Nonetheless, stress must continue to be placed on this theme of saving energy wherever possible - if only in view of considerations related to the problem of wasted heat.
The paths and procedures which are already being followed must be held to consistently and further developed.
These would include, for example, the broader and broader application of solar power collecting installations for the heating of water for daily use, the proper insulation of buildings, sensible architectural solutions in this respect included in all buildings newly erected, and the development of energy-saving solutions in respect of traffic and transport.
Many ideas being proposed in this area at present lack the global and synoptic perspective referred to above. Let us take as an example the policy of the special disposal of recyclable waste:
In many parts of the country, people who wish to dispose of their plastic waste in this way must take it themselves to the designated collection point. Since the majority of them tend to use their cars to do this, the savings in energy and raw materials that were aimed at tend not to be achieved; indeed, the effect is often just the opposite one.
This is a reminder that all measures relevant to the protection of the environment must be checked and, where necessary, corrected from the point of view of their longer-term effects on the whole social and natural system.
There is hardly another sphere of human endeavour which presents, so closely entwined, the aspect of both curse and blessing as the sphere of so-called „genetic engineering“.
The positive opportunities which the scientific manipulation of gene structures offer in the medical realm, for example, must definitely not be left unexploited; on the other hand, however, no effort must be spared in order to remove the enormous risks which any such manipulation has, by its very nature, to involve.
We should have no illusions about the fact that anyone who undertakes to engage in such manipulation of genes is indeed, in a very real sense, „playing God“.
And no one who „plays God“ can be allowed to be motivated or influenced therein by any financial interest, since money, as is well known, tends to undermine character…..
This is why the PDSJ defends the position that there should be no granting of patents on plant or animal species, sperms or egg-cells, or on any other form of biological life.
Genetically altered crops and foodstuffs must in every case be clearly designated as such and the cultivation of such crops and foodstuffs on common or open land must be avoided or, at the very least, radically restricted, since there appears to be no necessity, at present, that such a form of cultivation be generally adopted.
In the sphere of stem-cell research conducted on embryos the very highest and strictest ethical standards are to be applied; hesitancies and inconsistencies in policy on such matters are to be avoided at all costs.
The presently-applying regulations, for example - whereby the removal of stem-cells is, in principle, forbidden but experimentation on stem-cells already removed and imported into Germany from abroad - are surely morally reprehensible in the highest degree.
One must either draw and hold to the firm and clear conclusion that research on stem-cells is ethically indefensible - and ban such research completely.
Or one must draw and hold to the conclusion that such research can be ethically defended - and consequently freely permit, also within the country, that removal of such stem-cells which is a precondition of said research.
It is perfectly clear that the stance being presently taken - namely, that, since someone else has already taken the ethically dubious step of actually removing and making available the stem-cell and this latter is now de facto available for research, there is no reason why we should not go ahead and conduct it - represents a despicable form of moral „double standards“.
It is indeed true - regrettably - that this is by no means the only one of the laws and regulations applying in our society that is founded on „double standards“.
Here if anywhere, however, where Man is taking the epochal and fateful step of intervening in the sphere of „God’s own Creation“, there can be no question of permitting deviation in any way at least from a clear ethical and moral definition of the legal framework of such intervention.
Protection of the World’s Water and Water Supplies
Basically, the policies on water protection currently being pursued are the right ones.
Unfortunately, it took several serious catastrophes to persuade us of the validity of many insights long since articulated by „green“ political forces.
A policy of less soil-sealing, less artificial „river-straightening“, less pesticides, less heat wastage... that is the right way forward!
Were there to be put into practice the energy policy propounded by the PDSJ - namely, an end to reliance on oil and petrol as energy sources and a reorientation of our energy supply toward geothermic power and hydrogen - then air pollution would cease automatically to be an issue.
Considered from a global perspective, all other states would be obliged to join in with this reorientation if they want to avoid slipping into economic insignificance as a result of the extremely low energy costs ensured by this new technology.
We see here once again how reasonable and efficient that style of thinking is which orients itself not in terms of short-term problems and solutions but rather in terms of the wider determining conditions.
Waste Disposal / Recycling
In principle, the ideas of minimizing waste products and of recycling are very sound ones; it is only the methods of these ideas’ realization that have been faulty. The „Green Dot“ system and the recently-introduced system of returnable deposits on cans and bottles are in fact only resulting in huge costs for the average citizen and equally huge profits for that small number of companies who have received licences and contracts in this regard.
Where we adopt the global/synoptic viewpoint recommended above and take as our premiss that waste is damaging to the environment, the first question that must be asked ís: „What is waste?“.
„Waste“ consists in all those substances and items which must somehow be disposed of in waste dumps and incineration sites. And the primary problem is clearly that of how drastically to reduce the quantity of such substances.
Mere „waste products“ become „waste“ in this emphatic and significant sense in every case where the processing of such waste products into something re-usable appears to be prohibited or unreasonable from the cost point of view.
In the great majority of cases, this will apply wherever different materials are so closely mixed up with one another that their separation is either impossible or too costly to be worthwhile.
But how are industrial enterprises to be persuaded to stop using in their products such nigh-inseparable mixtures of materials, since to do so will most likely endanger their competitiveness and ability to innovate ?
At least the basis of a solution might be provided by a relatively high level of taxation set for primary raw materials (e.g. oil and petrol) and a „negative taxation“ of secondary raw materials (e.g recyclable plastics), these two levels of taxation being also permitted to be set off against one another.
This would result in waste products’ finally themselves attaining the status of secondary raw materials, and not being indeed simply „wasted“ in the form of „waste“ in the emphatic sense referred to above.
Protection of the Natural World
The powers determining our political and economic existence must finally now begin to develop some understanding for ecological matters, and must act, henceforth, on the basis of said understanding.
Nature and the natural environment represent, among all the „goods“ available to us here on Earth, those which are most fundamentally and inseparably co-constitutive of lived human existence per se.
Science has already revealed to us at least a part of the complex connections making up the symbiosis of micro- and macro-realms. Also scientifically recognized is the fact there are really no such things as „weeds“ or „pests“ in Nature. The situations prompting such designations represent rather disequilibria in the natural order - and these disequilibria are, in most cases, caused by human intervention.
The PDSJ considers it to be one of its key tasks to put these insights, by means of the creation of general determining conditions conducive to this purpose, into actual political practice.
Animals as Pets or as Livestock
The keeping of animals either for commercial purposes or for private pleasure must in every case conform to the needs and nature of the species in question.
To keep animals in cages or in narrow pens and stalls can no longer be tolerated - particularly where this is done with an eye to lowering costs or increasing profits - since animals are unquestionably beings with feelings and anxieties much like our own.
Similarly indefensible is the mass transport of animals across long distances, since this surely subjects the animals to unnecessary stress and pain.
Research and Experiments on Animals
Research and experimentation conducted on living animals is to be excluded in all but the very small number of absolutely indispensable instances. The criterion to be applied in deciding what is „absolutely necessary“ here should be the actual social need for the knowledge and skill acquired through such research. In no sense, for example, can there be said to exist any need or necessity to use animals in testing cosmetic products.
Cosmetics containing ingredients which represent a risk - be it even a merely potential risk - to their human users so serious that they have beforehand to be tested on animals surely constitute already by definition „socially unnecessary products“.
Even in the area of medicines and pharmaceuticals, we can and should get along very largely without recourse to experimentation on animals.
It may indeed be the case that this would result in rather higher drug development costs - but such an argument does not suffice to justify the torture of living beings.
The growth of the EU and the progress of globalisation have brought with them, unfortunately, also an increase in the amount of goods transported from place to place. To attempt to control and limit this volume of transported goods by raising the duties paid on it (e.g. by means of the toll recently introduced for heavy-goods vehicles) would be act to act contrary to the spirit of free trade and to the tendency toward globalisation itself.
The task of the state is rather to make, by means of the creation of sensible legal and economic frameworks and improvement of the infrastructure in general, such large-scale transport of goods more cost-effective and less damaging to the environment.
It is hard to see, for example, why a large part of the problem could not be solved by making greater use than is made at present of rail transport.
The real situation must be carefully analysed and considered solutions proposed.
The path hitherto followed - that of applying, against any development disapproved of, the single remedy of artificially increasing its cost through taxation - is certainly the wrong path. The right one would be to find new and innovative solutions that will allow forms of transport that are not damaging to the environment to be effected more cheaply. This will inevitably lead to such forms of transport being used more widely.
Until some genuinely practical and realizable synoptic concept has been developed which offers the prospect of really reducing the amount of private traffic on the roads, there will remain something false and irresponsible in such measures as the artificial reduction of available parking spaces.
The way forward is rather for government and local authorities at all levels to cooperate in placing in the foreground, in these matters, all the economic and environmental aspects involved.
Public transport remains an insufficiently attractive option for most people. Over both longer and shorter distances, those using it gain little advantage in either money or time saved as against those using private automobiles.
The putting into practice of such sensible ideas as multi-person taxis should no longer be blocked.
Moreover, public transport should, in general, be made more competitive, for example by ceasing to compel, by means of artificial blocks and barriers, its users to change from one means of transport to another.
Policy on Employment and the Job Market
The time has come for the industrialized nations to say goodbye to the dream of „full employment“. Given the ever higher level of automation and the ever more vigorous entry of the large populations of the countries of the Third Word and the former „Eastern Bloc“ into a globalized process of production, the quantity of goods that would need to be produced in order to maintain conditions of full employment in Europe would represent a quantity no longer either materially necessary or objectively marketable.
If we wish to maintain conditions of peace - both between and within individual states - we cannot afford to allow the (German) population to slip into the condition of a society composed of „first-class“ and „second-class“ citizens: that is of those who have work, and those who are forced to „sleep under bridges“.
In periods of full employment, indeed, it still made sense to exert pressure on „scroungers“ and „social parasites“ to take up the work opportunities offered them.
We live, however, in times of enduring mass unemployment, and in such times „pressure“ is the least appropriate of ways to maintain social peace. For such pressure, exerted on those who are in principle willing to work but for whom no work is available, will tend to cause illness, to make those suffering it actually less capable of working when work becomes available, to increase the rate of criminality, and to lead - in extreme cases - to drug-addiction and suicide.
There is only one possible way out of this situation: those obliged to exist in a condition of unemployment must be provided with the financial means required in order that they may structure and employ their „free time“ in a meaningful and constructive manner.
Examples of such „meaningful and constructive use of free time“ here would be: voluntary work in clubs, social-service facilities, political parties, art and culture (to name just a few possibilities).
Such activity serves to preserve and maintain the professional skills of the person in question, to challenge him or her to keep up with new technical developments, to cultivate punctuality and reliability, and to increase the unemployed individual’s sense of his or her personal worth through the participation in socially useful labour.
Small-scale business would also profit from this solution, since it would mean that current rules on tenure of employment could in large part be relaxed, short-term or specifically project-related job offers becoming much less problematical affairs.
Another decided „plus“ here from the economic viewpoint would be a clear rise in domestic demand for goods and services. Because a person without means, living entirely on social security, has indeed great need for various economic goods but no money with which to acquire them. As a consumer, he or she practically does not exist.
Now, it would clearly constitute an action quite against the spirit and ideal of general social solidarity to accord to all the unemployed the wherewithal that they need to maintain a life of dignity and constructive activity while those citizens fortunate enough to have full-time remunerated work have to acquire this same wherewithal „in the sweat of their brow“.
The solution here has to consist, then, in the payment to all of a basic income belonging to each citizen simply by right of being a citizen. This basic income would be paid out to each citizen in equal amount, quite regardless of age, of other income-sources, or of ability to work.
The amount of the basic income in question must be so set that the style of life that it permits to those receiving it is no „grand style“ indeed, but nonetheless a life involving a standard and dignity of living significantly higher than that presently enjoyed by recipients of social security or „welfare“. The most sensible procedure by which to calculate this amount would most likely be its determination as a fixed percentage of the total social product.
Such a basic citizen’s income would also greatly simplify matters in respect of wages and contracts of employment: the whole issue of „employer’s and employee’s contributions“ would fall away in the former case and the whole obligation to register every employer-employee relation in the latter.
This would mean not only a radical reduction in the costs incurred by an employer in offering someone a contract of employment but also the drawing of many former „black-economy“ jobs back into a sphere in which the state and the community would also, through taxes, profit from them. The growing gap between high- and low-earners would be, at least as regards the low-wage sector, somewhat closed and the job market made at the same time more flexible, while the work available would be more fairly distributed.
This would in turn lead to an increase in domestic demand.
The highly costly administration of mass unemployment would thus become as obsolete as the equally costly administration of income tax in today’s Tax Offices. Existing Social Security Offices could also be more or less entirely shut down; likewise Housing Benefit Offices. Nor would the existing administrations for Child Benefit or student grants be any longer required, and the offices administering old-age pension matters could, once outstanding claims and obligations had been dealt with, also be shut down.
The sole and exclusive function of the state is to be a provider of services to its citizens. The specific „services“ here in question consist in seeing to it that the shared life of said citizens is one that is reasonable, safe, free of violence and characterized by a sensible social balance.
It is a fundamental mistake to conceive of the state as an end in itself, as a commercial enterprise, or as a self-service emporium.
From these definitions alone we can clearly and confidently conclude which economic and administrative spheres ought to remain in the hands of the state and which ought rather to be given over into private hands.
A basic truth that must always be borne in mind here is that privatised enterprises will always be aiming to work in a manner oriented to maximum profit. This applies both to their decisions in terms of costs and to their decisions bearing on actual returns.
In all spheres in which one important concern is the maintenance of a degree of social solidarity and cohesion, it can be a very rational and reasonable policy for the state itself to administer and operate some economic presence with a view to intensifying competition and regulating prices (as much applies in the spheres of banking, drugs and medicines, telecommunication, energy-provision, leisure, public transport, roads and highways, and education).
But it must in the end also be clearly borne in mind that every area administered by the state is one in which economic activity is being conducted with money held only „in trust“ (that is, with tax money) and that there is a solemn obligation to use this money effectively and economically.
Present levels of public debt must be reduced at all costs. We have no right to demand of our children and grandchildren that they take over from us such a heavy negative inheritance simply in order that a minority of people can live, today, the high life.
One measure that should be considered here is, for example, a special tax levied on the profits of banks and other speculators.
Wasteful Use of Tax Revenues
Monies raised through taxes remain the property of the tax-payers, having only been given into the care of the governmental administration in order that this latter may fulfil its task of serving and promoting a society based on ideals of social solidarity.
It is to the tax-payers that those civil servants entrusted with this administration owe explanation and account in respect of what they do with said monies.
Such explanation and account must involve impeccable procedures in respect of all goods and services ordered or provided, foresight in planning, a general administrative strategy which takes into account the whole picture across all the various departments, and - last but not least - accounting records kept in a manner meeting the very highest standards applying in normal business dealings.
There must in every case ensue, from any doubts or criticisms raised by the Federal Audit Office in respect of non-probity or incorrectness in the administration of public funds, an investigation of the matter in question by the Public Prosecutor’s Office; it should also, in each such case, be examined whether there may be grounds for legal action under civil law. Steps should immediately be taken to change existing law so as to make this possible.
Taxation and National Insurance Contributions
One of the most serious and fundamental errors in our present tax system consists in the very idea of making human labour an object of taxation.
To be capable of work, and to be in a position to do so, constitute human rights as fundamental and essential as the right to air that one can breathe. To impose taxes on such fundamental and essential human rights is expressive of a contempt for humanity itself.
Particularly as work in itself makes no contribution to the structures of the state! Rather, it is only productivity which makes this socially necessary contribution.
This can be shown by an example from agriculture. Imagine a farmer who has worked a whole half-year long very hard on his fields, only to see his ripening harvest destroyed at the last moment by a storm.
He has worked a great deal - but achieves in the end, through no fault of his own, nothing that can be called „productivity“. But ought the farmer, in this position, still pay taxes and employer’s contributions for those who have helped him in his farm work?
Take the opposite case, however, of the same farmer’s happening to discover an oil-well in one of his fields. In this case, he would suddenly, without having expended much labour, have acquired a huge degree of productivity and a huge income, and would not be obliged to pay, in any significant degree, income tax or social contributions for it.
These two examples show how senseless it is to impose taxes on the factor „work“.
Given, however, that it would be impossible simply to eliminate income tax and national insurance contributions without putting anything at all in their place, the solution presents itself of shifting the burden presently borne by them over onto VAT. The intention behind the progressively rising structure of income tax contributions is that of creating, at least in a very limited degree, something like an equalization of income in society. But the same equalization might easily be achieved by imposing increased VAT taxation on luxury goods and by drawing also revenues from capital investments into the VAT system.
Certain special taxes - such as those on tobacco, spirits and beer - should be re-examined and, where necessary, revised or scrapped altogether.
Taxes imposed with the intention of protecting the environment tend - particularly given the many complex exceptions foreseen in their provisions - to distort the framework of competition.
If it is really our intention to create a politics compatible with the protection of the environment, our emphasis should rather be on creating the appropriate general conditions liable to promote such a protection. Simply to decree that petrol used in aeroplanes is to be taxed at a different rate from the electricity used in rail transport or the fuels used in cars and busses cannot be the right way forward. One approach to a solution might be found in the flat-rate taxation of primary energy on such non-renewable energy sources as oil.
Moreover, taxes, fees, and contributions should be established and levied according to the principle of the „person ultimately responsible“.
Absolutely necessary as well is a simplification of tax administration, a measure which will also cut costs.
Speaking generally, the tool of subsidization is not an appropriate tool with which to correct erroneous or pernicious developments in the economy and society.
Where such developments arise, it is generally rather the wider determining legal or economic framework that is faulty or inadequate. Only in cases where such a framework proves totally insusceptible of being adjusted is there an argument for the short-term application of subsidies.
We must bear in mind particularly here that subsidies can have indirect effects on several levels. Thus, the housing benefit system represents a subsidization not only of tenants but of the housing and renting industry itself, since, did this subsidy not exist, the high rents demanded could not be paid (or demanded).
If there were no housing benefit, this would result - given a basically healthy social and economic framework - in certain very expensive flats and houses standing empty. And this in turn would lead to rents dropping.
Ideally, it would only be in the case where the basic economic and legal framework were somehow out of kilter - where, for example, the potential profits to be gained on the capital investment market lie at such a high level that the renting of property is not so lucrative as the drawing of interest - that there would even be any question of the paying out of housing benefit. But this would indeed apply only for so long, and no longer, as the general framework in question - in this example, the level of interest rates - had not been brought back into kilter.
A particularly indefensible measure is long-term subsidization intended to „save jobs“, as for example in the coal-mining industry.
It would be much cheaper simply to pay the miners their full wages without them actually turning up for work than to have them further endanger their health by digging out coal that is only going to be stockpiled.
A more complex question is that of subsidies in the form of the making available of venture capital. The issue that needs above all to be considered here is whether the enterprise being subsidized would have been able to carry through the development in question, at a reasonable level of economic risk, without subsidy from the side of the state. The object of consideration and examination here would need, of course, to be the enterprise as a whole, and not merely the subsidiary making the application for subsidy.
What is completely incomprehensible is that „a bank with a small electronics firm attached to it“ should receive, year after year, state subsidies even for very minor developments and innovations that do not even ever need to be paid back.
In the area of agricultural subsidies, there exists, in the form of the surplus capacities involved alone, likewise good reason for dismantling.
Given, however, that the adaptation of the general economic and legal framework of our society has been neglected for many years now in favour precisely of the short-term remedy of subsidization, this process of dismantling of subsidies will have to be one conducted step by step and in co-ordination with said neglected adaptation.
Customs and Excise Duties
Barriers and obstacles to trade are counter-productive - and customs and excise duties are indeed one form of barrier to trade. The administrative costs and efforts they impose are immense, especially for smaller companies.
Therefore, customs barriers must be reduced as far as possible, and the amount of administrative effort involved correspondingly minimized.
|Translated by Alexander Reynolds|
Party for Democracy, Justice and Solidarity
Partei sozial gerechter Demokratie