Category Archives: Politics

No direct democracy

One standard criticism of the Basic Law is that it doesn't allow the people to ever vote on federal laws directly. This is a point I fully agree with. As I said in my last post, a simple majority at … Continue reading

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Eternal articles and judical review

One of the most famous features of the Basic Law is its eternity clause in article 79 (official translation, emphasis mine): Article 79 (1) This Basic Law may be amended only by a law expressly amending or supplementing its text. … Continue reading

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Half-hearted federalism

As the name might imply, the Federal Republic of Germany has constituent states. Federalism, of course, has many advantages. It keeps decisions closer to the people, allows laboratories for experimentation, etc. In theory most Germans agree with this, but when … Continue reading

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"Capital punishment is abolished."

Those are the simple words of article 102 of the Basic Law. Nowadays most developed countries have abolished capital punishment and many have done so constitutionally. But in 1949 constitutional abolition was still unusual. We Germans tend to over-idealize this … Continue reading

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How to choose a head of state

In my last post I approved of the German constitution's design choice to have an apolitical head of state. Once that design choice is made the question is how to choose that head of state. The obvious first idea is … Continue reading

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The two-headed Leviathan

In my last post I argued against the parliamentary system. If I got my will, the absence of a stable majority in parliament would no longer mean a constitutional crisis. That would make the president's reserve powers dispensable. But there … Continue reading

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Nominal and actual power in the parlimentary system

When the United States or even France elect a president it is big news.  The election of the German president not so much. That is, of course, because, at least in normal times, the German president doesn't hold significant power. … Continue reading

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Nothing is quite as permanent as a provisional arrangement

The German title of the German constitution is Grundgesetz für die Bundesrepublik Deutschland. Literally translated, that would be the Basic Law for the Federal Republic of Germany. There is a German word for constitution (Verfassung) and previous constitutions were titled … Continue reading

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Constitution blogging day in view of tomorrow's presidential election

Tomorrow (Sunday, March 18, 2012) the 15th Federal Convention will elect Joachim Gauck president of Germany. As I already threatened when there were speculations about his predecessors resignation, I'm seizing the opportunity to talk about the German constitution, the Grundgesetz. … Continue reading

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