Liberal in the Traditional, Classical Sense

By February 24, 2009Trade

One group that’s active in the Washington, D.C., with educational programs, talks from visiting political figures and scholars, etc., is the Friedrich Naumann Stiftung*, or foundation, representing the views of the Free Democratic Party, the traditionally pro-markets, pro-freedom party in Germany.

The FDP has been making great progress lately, developments examined in a reasonably good update in Der Spiegel, “Free Market Party on the Rise in Germany“:

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.

The party ultimately decided to sign on to the €50 billion stimulus package last week. But even as it changed course, the liberals managed to fill the headlines with its anti-tax, pro-markets message — the same one it has been delivering for years.

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.

A grand coalition like the CDU-SPD is bound to alienate the more philosophically driven — Why, there’s not a groschen’s difference between the two! — which may be one reason for recent advances by Die Linke, i.e., the Left, organized around the former East German Communists.

In any case, consistent support for a market economy can pay off.

* The official name is Friedrich Naumann Stiftung: Fuer die Freiheit, with the last phrase being “For Freedom.” Not many people remember Naumann, a classical liberal politician who played a role in the founding of the Weimar Republic.

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