Liberalism in Germany: Dead or just resting?

LOOKING every bit his youthful 34 years and sounding combative, Christian Lindner told Germany’s liberal Free Democratic Party (FDP) at their gathering on December 8th that “the time for mourning is over”. But it remains to be seen whether Mr Lindner, the FDP’s new leader, can resuscitate a party that many Germans have given up for dead since its drubbing in September’s election.Liberalism, which puts individual freedom above all, is not a native species in Germany as it is in Britain or America, says Karl-Heinz Paqué, an economics professor and former FDP politician, who is now considered the party’s intellectual “back office”. Germany entered the modern era with a tradition of paternalism, in which citizens and state expect much from each other. German liberalism failed in 1848, failed again under the Weimar Republic, and became part of the firmament only in West Germany in 1949.Even then liberalism remained concentrated in the south-west, as personified by Theodor Heuss, West Germany’s first president. Nonetheless, since 1949 the FDP has spent more time (as junior partner) in government than any other party and has infused much of Germany’s…

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