Constant Germany: Lessons of Steadiness in an Uncertain World

By Laurent Ladouce

German Chancellor Angela Merkel stepped down on December 8th after 16 years of political leadership. This unassuming person won international recognition as a model of leadership and was considered the most influential woman of the world for the past ten years.

The New York Times recently wrote of her legacy: “It is the end of an era for Germany and for Europe. For over a decade, Ms. Merkel was not just chancellor of Germany but effectively the leader of Europe.”

Rev. Sun Myung Moon often said leadership entails the ability to guide as a teacher, to embrace and unite as a parent, and to create projects as a master. Dr. Merkel, a theoretical quantum chemist from the former East Germany, rarely spoke like a scientist; her manners and rhetoric were simple, even dull. She never proposed any revolutionary project.

She was, however, the unbeatable team leader and referee who could get people to work together in a spirit of trust. She was perceived as the mother of the nation, affectionately called Mutti (mother).

Some saw her as an icon of female leadership. But more to the point, Merkel has been reassuring for Germans. Not just the exceptional woman, many Germans saw in her the average German they wanted to be, albeit in a leadership role. They felt secure with her. She was seen by large sectors of the German population as an embodiment of a cardinal virtue in German political culture: constancy.

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Konstanz is a peaceful German university city on the Bodensee or Lake Constance. It is situated in the very heart of the German-speaking world, where Germany, Austria and Alemannic Switzerland meet.

Though this central spot of the German-speaking world is called Konstanz is a coincidence of geography, it’s also a good symbol. “Constancy is the complement of all other human virtues,” said the Italian patriot Giuseppe Mazzini (1805-72). Most German political leaders would agree. Modern Germany offers a model of political constancy which grew even stronger after the challenge of reunification. After Merkel is gone, this constancy will likely remain.

This essay focuses on Germany’s healthy institutions rather than on a remarkable person. Chancellor Merkel indeed has much merit. But German governance often allows for very capable leaders like Dr. Merkel to be elected and to remain. This is a lesson for us all.

Continue reading “Constant Germany: Lessons of Steadiness in an Uncertain World”

Balancing Elites and Masses in Two Legislative Bodies

By Gordon Anderson

Headwing society is one in which elites and the general population have a symbiotic and trusting relationship in all social institutions. Many types of social institutions exist in the different spheres of society: governance, economy and culture. However, because government involves legal power and can force people to serve the will of the elites who wield that power, government institutions can cause the greatest oppression and get most of our attention.

Sustainable societies need to be both intelligently managed and serve the needs of people, “the masses.” Slavery and serfdom are the starkest examples of the masses serving the will of elites. Only a small percentage of the population makes up the political class. But, without proper checks and balances, the elites in this class will use their power to become lords and masters, treating the masses as second-class citizens and expendables.

Earlier societies were governed by kings, princes and feudal lords. Aristotle referred to good kings as those who served the population, and bad kings as those who used the people to serve themselves. Today, in more complex institutional and bureaucratic societies, individual kings are often replaced by classes of elites in government administration, political parties, and those with great wealth or organizational power. Instead of merely focusing on individuals in power, we need to focus on social institutions and elites. While this problem needs to be fixed in universities, corporations, churches, NGOs, and all kinds of social institutions, this article uses the example of governance.

One way to balance the interests of the masses with the skill of elites in the law is with two legislative bodies. This can be constitutionally addressed with an upper legislative house representing elite expertise and a lower house representing the population, with each house having the power to veto one another. This allows only legislation that is deemed functional by the elites and enjoys the “consent of the governed.” This type of legislation began in ancient times and needs to be continually updated as societies evolve.

Ancient Rome and Tribunes’ Power to Veto

A significant historical development occurred in Ancient Rome when the “plebs” (the people, or working classes) decided they had enough of fighting in the armies of the patricians (ruling elite class) without any say in the laws their Senate passed. Without checks and balances, the Senate passed legislation that burdened the masses and provided the elite with special privileges.

Continue reading “Balancing Elites and Masses in Two Legislative Bodies”

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