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Mar 7, 2009

Free Market FDP on the Rise in Germany.

Back in the 70s at the beginning of the libertarian movement in Australia one European nation was held in respect as a glowing example of the benefits of the free market. Back then the German economic miracle was the stuff of legends, a country virtually destroyed and in ruins, both physically and economically was able to rebuild and become an economic powerhouse in quite a short time. There was of course no miracle; just capitalism doing what it has always done when left alone.

Tragically Germany has since that time succumbed to the lure of social policies of the left and joined the malaise that is the hallmark of Europe. Through all of the post war era though a free enterprise party, The Free Democrats (FDP) has continued to exist and has gathered strength from the fall from favor of Angela Merkel’s CDU, which has happened because of the parties move to the left alienating many of its freedom orientated members.

The FDP is in no way what could be described as libertarian, but display an encouraging number of characteristics of classical liberalism however are not rooted in full free market philosophy. I doubt that the term laissez-faire could be attached to it by anyone but its most trenchant opposition, probably due to a lack of guiding principles allowing some populist leanings to slip in.

Spiegel Online has an interesting article on the FDP “Free Market Party on the Rise in Germany.”

At first glance, it may seem like a contradiction: Despite a deepening economic crisis and growing anger at corporate greed, Germany's free market FDP party has been rising in the polls. …

By the time Germany's second stimulus package received the final stamp of legislative approval last Friday, it was no longer news. Chancellor Angela Merkel's cabinet had given the initial go-ahead. And the lower house of parliament in Berlin, the Bundestag, had followed her lead.

With the economy in a shambles, financial markets frozen and capitalists in disrepute, Germany's neo-liberal political party, the Free Democrats (FDP), are enjoying remarkable success in both the polls and the voting booth. Its newfound self-confidence combined with double-digit survey results could shake up Germany's political landscape ahead of national elections scheduled for the end of September.

The first indication that the business-friendly FDP was on the upswing came in the state of Hesse, home to Germany's financial center Frankfurt. In late January state elections, the FDP raked in 16.2 percent of the vote, much higher than what the party normally receives. The success landed the FDP in the state's governing coalition -- and handed it enough leverage to block legislation in the Bundesrat. …

Indeed, say analysts, it is the party's consistency which may now be boosting its image. While the political course being charted by both Merkel's CDU and by her coalition partners from the Social Democrats (SPD) have been varying widely as the government attempts to come to terms with the financial and economic crises, FDP leader Guido Westerwelle hasn't had to budge. …

Westerwelle and the rest of his party, though, have been doing their best to portray the current crisis as a failure of government rather than a failure of the markets. The US government, so goes the message, is to be blamed for the real-estate quagmire in America, not the market.  Furthermore, as seen prior to the party's about-face on the stimulus package last week, the FDP has been consistently attacking the government, saying its response to the growing economic storm has been inadequate.

A recent survey found that, when it comes to the anti-recession measures so far taken by Berlin, many Germans agree. Only 36 percent of the 1,000 surveyed backed the €50 billion plan passed last week. But that's where the good news ends for the FDP. The survey included a fictional stimulus package crammed full of measures such as raising the minimum wage, upping welfare payments and boosting pensions -- all things the FDP cannot abide.

Fully 48 percent of Germans supported the imaginary measures.

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