A German Conservative Credo

Few concepts are as elastic as that of ``Conservatism.'' At one end of its spectrum of meanings, conservatism has (over the last two decades) come to be viewed as promoting too much of a civic life of greed and grab. At the other end, conservatism in many European countries has historically veered too close for comfort to right-wing extremism. In Germany today, conservatism was forged in the wake of the Weimar Republic's failures, experiences unknown to Anglo-Saxon conservatives. This history accounts for the type of conservatism practiced by the Christian-Democratic Union (CDU) and Christian-Social Union (CSU), who focus on moderation and balance, preservation and innovation, and on commanding Germany's political center.

With federal elections due in Germany this autumn, much will be said about the nature of German conservatism. Some, looking at CDU/CSU candidate for Chancellor Edmund Stoiber's emphasis on Bavaria's economic success, will seek to portray the coalition as shaded dangerously by the ``anything goes'' market conservatism practiced in America. Others, pointing to the German conservatives' emphasis on social values, will say that we are as statist as the Social Democrats. The truth itself is far more complex than these facile comparisons, which also makes it more durable.

CDU/CSU policies are, of course, founded on the idea of individual freedom, but we believe in an individualism tempered by Western culture and the Christian tradition. We are skeptical about unfettered individualism because of our awareness of man's sins, but also because of our profound awareness of the historical defects and aberrations in Germany's 20th century history. Yet, despite this deeply ingrained skepticism about human nature, we embrace humanity's talent for progress and innovation, because we recognize man's ability to correct mistakes and errors.

To continue reading, please log in or enter your email address.

Registration is quick and easy and requires only your email address. If you already have an account with us, please log in. Or subscribe now for unlimited access.

required

Log in

http://prosyn.org/ub7YfhB;
  1. Patrick Kovarik/Getty Images

    The Summit of Climate Hopes

    Presidents, prime ministers, and policymakers gather in Paris today for the One Planet Summit. But with no senior US representative attending, is the 2015 Paris climate agreement still viable?

  2. Trump greets his supporters The Washington Post/Getty Images

    Populist Plutocracy and the Future of America

    • In the first year of his presidency, Donald Trump has consistently sold out the blue-collar, socially conservative whites who brought him to power, while pursuing policies to enrich his fellow plutocrats. 

    • Sooner or later, Trump's core supporters will wake up to this fact, so it is worth asking how far he might go to keep them on his side.
  3. Agents are bidding on at the auction of Leonardo da Vinci's 'Salvator Mundi' Eduardo Munoz Alvarez/Getty Images

    The Man Who Didn’t Save the World

    A Saudi prince has been revealed to be the buyer of Leonardo da Vinci's "Salvator Mundi," for which he spent $450.3 million. Had he given the money to the poor, as the subject of the painting instructed another rich man, he could have restored eyesight to nine million people, or enabled 13 million families to grow 50% more food.

  4.  An inside view of the 'AknRobotics' Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

    Two Myths About Automation

    While many people believe that technological progress and job destruction are accelerating dramatically, there is no evidence of either trend. In reality, total factor productivity, the best summary measure of the pace of technical change, has been stagnating since 2005 in the US and across the advanced-country world.

  5. A student shows a combo pictures of three dictators, Austrian born Hitler, Castro and Stalin with Viktor Orban Attila Kisbenedek/Getty Images

    The Hungarian Government’s Failed Campaign of Lies

    The Hungarian government has released the results of its "national consultation" on what it calls the "Soros Plan" to flood the country with Muslim migrants and refugees. But no such plan exists, only a taxpayer-funded propaganda campaign to help a corrupt administration deflect attention from its failure to fulfill Hungarians’ aspirations.

  6. Project Syndicate

    DEBATE: Should the Eurozone Impose Fiscal Union?

    French President Emmanuel Macron wants European leaders to appoint a eurozone finance minister as a way to ensure the single currency's long-term viability. But would it work, and, more fundamentally, is it necessary?

  7. The Year Ahead 2018

    The world’s leading thinkers and policymakers examine what’s come apart in the past year, and anticipate what will define the year ahead.

    Order now