Logic is no longer important in political discourse

Civil society / foundations

Hans-Peter Meister

To person

Dr. rer. nat., biologist, born 1959; in the eighties press spokesman for Federal Environment Minister Klaus Töpfer; 1995 founder, today managing director of the Institute for Organizational Communication (IFOK), Bensheim / Berlin / Brussels.
Address: IFOK, Berliner Ring 89, 64625 Bensheim.
Email: [email protected]

Publication a.o .: (together with Jürg Minsch, Peter-Henning Feindt, Uwe Schneidewind and Tobias Schulz) Institutional reforms for a policy of sustainability, Berlin-Heidelberg 1998.

Against objections based on democracy theory and efficiency, it is argued that only advisory bodies can organize the participation of citizens and interest groups on the one hand and technical expertise on the other. The model of discursive policymaking in civil society is presented.

Commissions and advisory boards as a substitute for politics?

Commissions, councils and advisory boards are the focus of media criticism and party political disputes. While a large number of institutionalized advisory committees were created in the first decades of the Federal Republic of Germany, which were purely academic, today mixed commissions are en vogue: Whether it is the Hartz, Rürup, Herzog or Süssmuth commission, the national one Ethics Council, the Council for Sustainable Development or the recently formed Innovation Council - politics has created a dense but very heterogeneous network of advisory bodies. The individual committees and councils serve very different purposes: staging politics, finding consensus and legitimation, integrating civil society groups, gaining scientific expertise, debating partisan politics or identifying and evaluating alternative policy options.

Many of the traditional political advisory bodies, for example the Advisory Council for Concerted Action in Health Care or the Scientific Advisory Board in the Federal Ministry of Economics and Labor, are barely noticed and usually play a marginal role in the political decision-making process. Apparently, they sometimes advise bypassing the demands of politicians - mainly because the scientific insights cannot be easily converted into political decisions. [1] What economists consider "rational" is all too often seen as "inopportune" in political business. [2] Mixed ad hoc commissions, on the other hand, apparently correspond more to the logic of political competition. They are currently in high demand and are primarily used for symbolic staging of politics, but increasingly also for the development of feasible concepts when there is a need for political action.

This development is heavily criticized. Politicians are accused of a lack of courage and a lack of willingness to make decisions. Commissions are an escape from responsibility, admission of their own lack of conception or an election campaign instrument of PR strategists, are the allegations. Others state a "new confusion" due to the increasingly dense and non-transparent network of advisory bodies in which responsibilities can no longer be traced ("organized irresponsibility"). In addition, there is the criticism of the double role of the large management consultancies, which are represented in reform commissions and later benefit from the implementation of their own reform proposals through consulting assignments.

Politicians, so the impression, threatens to suffocate in the network of advisory bodies it has spun itself. It's not that new: Fritz Scharpf formulated his diagnosis of growing political interdependence as early as the 1970s. [4] This still seems to be valid today. There are also concerns about democracy theory: What role remains for parliamentarians if the political debate and decision-making takes place largely outside of parliament - in party committees, in rounds of chancellors, at round tables or on "Sabine Christiansen" and in other talk shows?

How can this "deparliamentarization" of the political decision-making processes and the increasing importance of commissions and advisory boards in an emerging "civil society" be explained? The approaches of institutional economics help to answer this question. [5] This examines the incentive conditions within which the actors - for example in politics - act according to their respective benefit calculations. Accordingly, allegations against the politicians are initially inappropriate. Rather, it can be assumed that they act rationally in accordance with the logic of their system and follow its rules of the game in order to be better than the competition in the competition for votes.

If one takes this perspective, one escapes a moralizing accusation of individual politicians, which Karl Homann criticizes as "moral armament". [6] The fact that this generally has no effect is, according to Homann, taken as an indication of the corruption of the age instead of directing attention to the framework, which in modern society is to be regarded as the systematic place of morality. "Not changing people and their motivation, but changing the conditions for action based on the self-interest that remains the same as the motive for action" is therefore the pioneering research program of institutional economics.

For our topic we state: It is attractive for politicians to "stage" politics and to demonstrate the ability to act through short-term ad-hoc measures. A policy of "staying power" geared towards long-term success does not necessarily bring game advantages in the struggle for power. By delegating responsibility or building a buffer in the form of commissions or advisory boards for unpleasant decisions, you can obviously score politically. There are many reasons for this: They range from the increasing complexity and dynamism of the issues to the problem of the administration's self-interest, the weak position of the legislature, the strong influence of the parties and the powerlessness of politics, its decisions without the support of those affected to implement.

The interim conclusion is: Anyone who wants less influence from commissions and advisory boards, more transparency and legitimacy in the political decision-making process, must not rely on appeals. What is needed is fundamental reforms that change the incentives for decision-makers. The proposals under discussion mostly aim at a gradual unbundling of politics, with which the corporatist model of consensual democracy is to be reshaped in the direction of the model of competitive democracy (particularly widespread in the Anglo-Saxon region). The reform of federalism should not only bring about a clearer division of competencies between the federal government and the states and thus weaken the role of the Federal Council as a veto player, but also enable more competition between the states. Even the demand for the introduction of a moderate majority voting system is expressed. [8] Is that the ideal way to modernize our political institutions?