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Die Welt, Germany

The Flaw in the American System


By Olaf Gersemann

Translated By Sandra Alexander

29 December 2012

Edited by Lydia Dallett


Germany - Die Welt - Original Article (German)

Every friendship ends at money — above all in politics. Ultimately, the fight over the new budget plan in the U.S. Congress shows the weaknesses of the political system.

A political system that promotes an ideological polarization of the population, or at least does not prevent it; a political system that in the best case yields parliamentary majorities capable of action only as an exception; a political system that even then does not force compromises, at the exact moment when they are urgently necessary: that’s how it is in the U.S.

These days, America is suffering under it — and soon perhaps the whole world with it. Namely, a recession threatens the U.S. if President Obama, his Democratic friends in Congress and the Republican opposition do not rapidly — very rapidly — succeed jointly in avoiding the fiscal cliff.

America is suffering — and the rest of the world, at least the European world, wavers once again between sheer lack of comprehension and appreciative horror: These stupid Yankees! Jump into the abyss and carry us with them once again.

What’s true about [this situation] is that America’s political system is revealing its weakness these days as seldom before, a weakness that in other times was a strength, and still is.

As far back as the 18th century, the fathers of the Constitution, in fear of the Hobbes Leviathan, in their distrust of a sweeping central government power, aimed everything at making paralysis the normal state of affairs.

A Way to Tame the Powers

They sensed that this was the way to permanently tame the first and second powers of the state, executive and legislative. They did this because here is no relying on the third, the judicial, if it comes to that, and the fourth power, public opinion, will accomplish nothing in doubtful situations.

The German taxpayer is now experiencing, with the proceeding transformation of the Eurozone into a transfer union, how wise these considerations were.

Broadly speaking, America, meanwhile, has not fared too poorly with its political system. Measured by the adjusted purchasing power per capita income, the best individual indicator for societal prosperity, the U.S. — often and gladly forgotten in Europe — is still the richest large industrialized nation.

Its lead is so large that nothing will change too soon, fiscal cliff or not.



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