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2005-05-30

Debating a comment by the Prudent Investor 

One comment like this (re:new German left/Austria) by the Prudent Investor (PI) is enough to keep my blogger-heart beating for at least another month. Since he mentioned his interest in debate, I'll address some of his main points below:
PI: Liberalism and efficient state-regulation are ideal in theory, but contradict themselves in practice as this will end only in corruption on a massive scale. It always has.
This is why the efficiency aspect - along with transparency and participatory models - is so important, as I tried to propagate here recently in the Cowen-Gusenbauer post. It is also why changes have to proceed in incremental steps. I hold a belief that information technology and other recent developments have the potential to facilitate a political system that performs better on efficiency, transparency, participation. If that is true, then the state can reasonably become more ambitious without necessarily falling prey to the dangers of corruption.
PI: I am advocating economic education in the first place as I can see there is lack of it in our school system (Geographie und WIrtschaftskunde, LOL) below the university level. Then people can work out for themselves which direction the political debate should take.
Good point, 100% agreement.
PI: But a political system that effectively excludes some 8 % of the population from the workforce - and blames them for their 'failure' - is standing on the brink anyway, as soon as we close in on Germany's unemployment rates. ... Looking at Austria with one eye only as I am preoccupied with the foreseeable demise of the USA I still can say that the next election will be very difficult for me. If I could, I would vote for Lafontaine as he is the only intellectual counterweight to the unfettered capitalism Austria is sliding into too.
Maybe I do Lafontaine injustice, but isn't he basically arguing for deficit spending, where the state uses money it doesn't have to pump up demand in the hope of generating economic growth? Hasn't the economic history of the 1970s and 1980s shown that this doesn't work in the general case and in the long run, because state spending is empirically too wasteful? And isn't protectionism a second pillar of Lafontaine-type leftism, which only nurses moribund, incompetitive industries? I would love to see the contours of a workable alternative to mainstream economic policy in Lafontaine's direction, but I persistently fail to see it. That's why my basically pessimistic conclusion is that the core mechanisms of economic policy should remain (or become) liberal, and that poverty relief should be given much more resources - but it should operate on top of that liberal economic core.

Kampl update 

Since I'm receiving a number of google hits for 'Kampl', I don't want to be seen as sweeping the latest sequel of this annoying saga under the rug. Yes, it's true, yesterday Siegfried Kampl, member of the Austrian Bundesrat, revoked [DE] his previous offer to withdraw from that second chamber of Austrian parliament. He had been under massive pressure to step down over his outrageous remarks from a couple of weeks ago ("brutal persecution of Nazis after 1945" etc., as I reported earlier). Yesterday Kampl gave as a reason for his change of mind that the current spokesman of the second chamber, who belongs to the opposition, "provoked him" by giving a speech last week in the chamber in which he condemned the remarks of Kampl and a similar incident involving an FPÖ-deputy named Gudenus. Kampl said he is now bent on assuming the rotating presidency of the chamber for the second half of this year, and claimed to have left the BZÖ, Jörg Haider's current party, to prevent damage to it, although he would remain loyal to Haider regardless. The opposition has announced that it will boycott such a presidency, if it really comes to that. There is a certain person in this story whose reasoning I believe can only be grasped in the vocabulary of psychopathology. I will refrain from a full statement of what I think about this person other than to say that I find him disgusting.

2005-05-29

Sad politics: French voters reject EU constitutional treaty by 55% 

Just as Chirac is threatening to appear on my TV screen in a couple of seconds, I feel it's a sad moment for political Europe. The fact that European proposals elaborated with as much collective effort as the constitutional treaty are successfully and easily destroyed by people like the ones who are celebrating now on the TV stations across Europe (Mme Le Pen, Mr Emmanueli, Mr Haider) shows that the constructive part of the political spectrum has a serious problem in relating to its constituents. There is an issue of dissociation between the people and its representatives. On the other hand, this is exactly why it's high time to do something for the kind of politics we deserve.

2005-05-27

Lessons from the new German left for the Austrian situation 

What does the emergence of a new left in Germany signify, which may lead to a common bid of WASG and PDS at the Bundestagswahl in autumn? Does it hold a lesson for the Austrian political spectrum?

The WASG, a left-wing split-off of the SPD, so far seems to be a moderately successful rallying ground for voters who have been frustrated by the red-green coalition in Germany and its resolve to address the country's economic woes with economic liberalisation. At the regional elections in Nordrhein-Westfalen the WASG won 2.2% of the vote, compared to 0.9% for the PDS. A common list [DE] of the two in the federal elections this autumn would have a good chance of clearing the 5% hurdle due to the strength of the PDS in the east.

In Austria, socialdemocrats and Greens are in opposition. As the right-wing Austrian government has implemented economic policies not unsimilar to the ones of the German left-wing government, it has been relatively unproblematic for SPÖ and Greens to communicate with some ambiguity about economic policy: although they deny it, both parties have two wings on these issues, a relatively liberal and a state-interventionist one, which sometimes communicate mutually inconsistent messages. In this status quo there does not seem to be space for a new political party along the lines of the WASG in Austria as long SPÖ and Greens are in opposition. Unreformed Keynesians find space in the SPÖ, attac-activists are engaged within the Greens - in Germany, these are the core constituencies of the WASG.

It is likely that after the next elections in Austria at least one of these parties will assume a role in a government coalition, which will then proceed with policies of the rather liberal kind. If the coalition will actually be a red-green one between the two parties, then the German situation holds a lesson: SPÖ and Greens will have to watch their left wings. It can be stipulated that the situation would turn out to be more threatening for the Greens, just as seems to be the case in Germany now. The socialdemocratic party is broad and heterogeneous by tradition, whereas the small Green party loses its core appeal of being "different" as soon as it enters any government role, and then, after initial euphoria, relies for long-term success on maintaining a stable core of unique political positions that are highly valued by the electorate. The German Greens have been both lucky and unlucky in this respect with the dominant role of their hugely popular foreign minister Joschka Fischer. Personal popularity however has the tendency of wearing off after a while and leaving nothing but a stale taste in the voter's mouth. A robust political programme that credibly addresses key topics such as employment and growth - in addition to transparency and personal freedoms - is a necessary additional resource.

2005-05-23

Tyler Cowen and Alfred Gusenbauer on welfare 

I enjoyed reading Tyler Cowen's paper from 2000 over the weekend, "Does the welfare state help the poor?". I would guess that what it presents in concise and understandable form is a reasonable summary of the economically liberal case against the welfare state as we know it and its ambition to help the poor by means of redistribution. For contrast, on Sunday I had the pleasure of watching Alfred Gusenbauer, the leader of the Austrian socialdemocrats (SPÖ), in the one-hour TV-interview format "Pressestunde" [DE] of national broadcaster ORF.

Cowen makes three arguments in his paper:
  1. Welfare payments do help the persons who receive them, contrary to what is sometimes argued by liberal radicals. More capital always means more choice for the owner. In a side-argument, Cowen shows that only a very small proportion of national wealth is actually redistributed, and that a lot of state spending favours the well-off.
  2. Since increases of state spending empirically reduce long-term growth as they tend to be spent inefficiently, state welfare hugely decreases the wealth of future generations of poor due to the effects of compounding.
    If the annual growth rate of American gross domestic product had been one percentage point lower, between 1870 and 1990, America today would be no richer than Mexico. Similarly, if a country can grow at a rate of five percent per annum, it takes just over eighty years for it to go from a per capita income of $500 to a per capita income of $25,000. At a growth rate of one percent, that same improvement takes 393 years.
  3. Finally, state welfare hurts the poor in other, poorer countries.
    Most directly, the higher the level of welfare payments, the more difficult it is for a country to absorb large numbers of immigrants. ... If our only goal is to make people less poor, the most effective anti-poverty program might be to abolish or shrink the welfare state and allow in more immigrants.
    Cowen discusses differential treatment of immigrants as a possible counter-measure, mentioning the German [and Austrian] Gastarbeiter-system, but rightly remarks that differential treatment becomes infeasible when the share of the discriminated population exceeds certain thresholds. Therefore even countries with differential treatment must impose severe limits on immigration.

Alfred Gusenbauer, in turn, criticised 'tax-dumping', by which he means lower levels of corporate taxation in neighbouring EU-countries that receive regional cohesion subsidies from the EU. Gusenbauer also wants to re-increase the share of tax revenues from large corporations. He wants to tackle unemployment by increasing the number of case-workers in the labour agencies, and generally by increasing state spending on matters that will increase long-term growth, such as R&D and infrastructure. Gusenbauer emphasised that there is an alternative to ever-lower levels of taxation, namely a high-tax regime as it is successfully employed in the Scandinavian countries. Austria, he said explicitly, should follow the model of these Scandinavian countries.

Part of the trouble I have with the SPÖ is that it acts as if the poverty of non-Austrians should be of no concern to Austrian voters. For example, the SPÖ is strictly anti-immigration, but in addition, it also wants European corporate tax harmonisation to force fast-growing Eastern European countries to adopt the SPÖ's allegedly preferred economic model, the high-taxing Scandinavian one.

To start with, there is an empirical error in this, since to my knowledge corporate taxation has traditionally been low in Scandinavia, whereas labour taxation is much higher than in Austria (the SPÖ hints that it would even lower labour taxation, a vote-winner). The Swedes for example know better than to harm their multinationals - they groom them so that they can act as large employers.

Even more importantly, if an immature post-revolutionary state with significant levels of corruption were to adopt a Scandinavian-type state-heavy political model, the results could only be disastrous. The Eastern Europeans do well to stay clear of such ideas, at least for now. At which point we come to Austria, and need to make a painful assessment of its level of development in comparison to that of the Scandinavian nations. No, the maturity, openness, and efficiency of the Austrian state is not at the same level as the Swedish one. No, the education level of the population and social equality are not on par.

We still haven't said anything about the contradiction between Cowen's claim that state spending reduces growth and Gusenbauer's claim that it does the opposite. What to make of this? State spending in Scandinavia doesn't seem to wreck these economies, although this doesn't tell us whether it helps them forward or keeps them back. But what we probably can say with some confidence is that relatively efficient state spending in a well-functioning state will help the beneficiaries of redistribution (as Cowen concedes) and will still allow for above-average growth rates. This, I believe, is what we should strive for.

The SPÖ believes that an SPÖ-governed Austria can work like Sweden. The ÖVP believes that Austria should stick to the modest government appropriate for a second-tier state. As you would have guessed, I believe that both are wrong: an Austrian government should be honest about its limitations, should try hard to improve the openness, transparency, and efficiency of the state, and only as it starts to succeed it should gradually become more redistributive, in baby-steps: baby-steps get on the elevator, get out of town, out of the country, out of the continent.

2005-05-20

Kosova: Better a bad government than a European one? 

Patrick Moore at RFE/RL, "More Talks, More Models for Kosova", concluding section:
An international commission recently suggested that the EU extend explicit prospects of EU membership for an independent Kosova that would, however, be an EU protectorate for at least several years. Many Kosovars have come away from this and other discussions with the impression that the EU is concerned as much with procedure as with results, and that it is determined to somehow "prove" its ability to deal with Balkan problems through prolonged paternalistic rule regardless of what the locals might wish. Many people in the Balkans sense that the attitude in Brussels is that if the "peoples of the Western Balkans" want to join the EU, they will have to do as they are told.
As RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service has noted, many Kosovars also suspect that the EU will ultimately try to force Kosova into some form of joint state with Serbia and Montenegro, which both Podgorica and Prishtina reject. These perceptions of Brussels' intentions have led some Kosovars to question how well such proposals have been thought through in light of concrete experience. They argue that the track record of creative Western statecraft in Bosnia-Herzegovina and Serbia and Montenegro has not been particularly encouraging.
In 1964, veteran British Middle East expert Anthony Nutting criticized his country's policies in that region by noting that "Britain failed to realize that the Arabs preferred being governed badly by themselves to being governed well by somebody else" ("The Arabs," New York: Mentor, p. 364). His observations are probably still valid four decades later -- and in the Balkans as well.
A forceful piece. Yet a bad government of an independent Kosova, and in particular one that would not uphold the 'standards' and turn hostile or negligent towards minority Serbs, Roma and Sinti, or other minorities, would be an intolerable outcome of the Western intervention in this conflict. That simply must be prevented, even if this means procedures, procedures, and more procedures. I agree with Moore though that hopes for a 'European' solution of the dilemma that would somehow replace the idea of independent nation states with federalised EU-regions are probably illusionary.

2005-05-17

Uzbekistan links 

Let me do my modest bit for increasing attention to the events in Uzbekistan, since both that country's establishment and the very same US government that invaded Iraq seem to be trying to put a blanket of coolness over what happened:

Several hundred people were killed by government forces, among them allegedly many unarmed civilians, although the violence apparently was started by armed insurgents with undemocratic goals. Soldiers however are said to have walked among chores of wounded unarmed demonstrators lying in the square and shot survivors in the head, according to eyewitness Rustam Iskhakov (in the Guardian).

The former British ambassador to the country has been reporting on the systematic use of torture by the regime, among others in two interviews for Indymedia UK and RFE/RL.

Blog coverage: Registan.net and Scraps of Moscow

2005-05-16

Catcalling finance minister Grasser 

Yesterday was the day of the surreal jubilee celebration. 50 years after the signing ceremony for the Austrian State Treaty [Staatsvertrag], honoraries of the four allied powers who co-signed the treaty (Russia, USA, UK, France) together with all current high representatives of the Austrian political system held a celebratory ceremony in Belvedere castle. Some 10,000 people considered it worth their time and effort to attend the festivities in the park of Belvedere. Blogger Bill Dawson was there, although apparently he missed the official highlight of the day, namely the re-enactment of the myth-laden moment when the four foreign representatives together with heads of the Austrian government stepped out on the balcony to greet the masses (in the original event, the foreign minister held up the treaty and shouted "Austria is free!"). Sauseschritt was also there, but made sure of avoiding the worst part of the drama by being one day early. A fake Belvedere-balcony mounted on a crane was available across the country in regional capitals. It could be mounted by inspired patriots who felt an urge to shout their own pathetic version of the famous three words.

Some of our good patriots chose another shout however and booed Austria's youthful finance minister Grasser when he left Belvedere to climb a streetcar in historical dress-up, which was going to transport the government to yet another celebratory event. Theirs was a shout that deserves some sympathy, although not really over its likely reason, namely Grasser's fame in the European yellow-press of late, which was hard-won by kissing billionaire jet-setter Fiona Swarovski in several picturesque mediterranean locations. No, I'm fed up with Grasser politically. Yet again he has made a big fuss of playing the model-liberal at an EU council of ministers, a character that he does not dare to enact on the state-friendly national stage, but that apparently serves him well for defining himself for his potential future employers in the private sector. The issue, just so we don't completely ignore it over all the symbolism: the proposal to introduce a tax of 1 to 2 euros on plane tickets to increase funding for development aid. This proposal won support at the last council of ministers, albeit only after reducing the tax 5-to-10-fold from the initially envisaged 10 euros per ticket, and after allowing for the tax being "voluntary" in most countries. Alas, Grasser believes it's "unfair on customers" and will distort competition. Question for Grasser: who will cancel a flight because of a higher ticket-price by 2 euros? Answer: nobody, of course, but being against wins you a mention of your ministerial name in the international quality press, yet again. But on merit? Wasn't there a jubilee just recently celebrating Austria's neutrality as afforded by the State Treaty? Should neutrality, the commitment to abstain from all military conflict, even when it is about a just war by all possible standards, should this neutrality really be a free lunch proposition in the 21st century, long after the Cold War that provided its original justification has ended? Or should neutrality imply an obligation to promote global fairness and justice by peaceful means, such as by outstanding levels of development aid? I think it simply has to in order to be defendable. Two euros per plane ticket is not even close to the price that Austrian society, which is so fond of neutrality according to all opinions polls, should be willing to shell out for this. I'm only afraid that Mr Grasser would never have such a thought even if we put him through five jubilee celebrations a day for the rest of this year.

2005-05-13

Machiavelli on the political innovator (and open source software) 

I came across a shorter version of this Machiavelli-quote (The Prince, chapter VI) in Larry Lessig's article "The architecture of innovation". Yes, I was also thinking about Open Source Software and related political issues, but the quote is intriguing more generally:
And it ought to be remembered that there is nothing more difficult to take in hand, more perilous to conduct, or more uncertain in its success, then to take the lead in the introduction of a new order of things. Because the innovator has for enemies all those who have done well under the old conditions, and lukewarm defenders in those who may do well under the new. This coolness arises partly from fear of the opponents, who have the laws on their side, and partly from the incredulity of men, who do not readily believe in new things until they have had a long experience of them. Thus it happens that whenever those who are hostile have the opportunity to attack they do it like partisans, whilst the others defend lukewarmly, in such wise that the prince is endangered along with them.
Machiavelli's advice to the innovator is to use the sword rather than prayer in defending his cause, but fortunately that is not the choice we face today. A cool head and water-proof arguments seem to be advisable though. I found the following publication helpful:
G. Haber and M. Getzner (2003), "Gesamtwirtschaftliche Effekte des Softwaresektors in Österreich 2003" [DE], Universität Klagenfurt

2005-05-10

Election watch Albania 

RFE/RL Newsline reports:
FIRST-EVER ALBANIAN INDEPENDENT POLL GIVES DEMOCRATS A LEAD IN JULY ELECTIONS. A poll of 1,251 adults conducted recently by the National Democratic Institute for International Affairs (NDI) suggested that the opposition Democrats have a six-point lead over the governing Socialists in the 3 July parliamentary elections, Reuters reported. The survey gives the Democrats 29 percent against 23 percent for the Socialists, with nearly one-third of the electorate still undecided. The news agency noted that the poll is the first independent one held in Albania (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 26 and 28 April 2005). A Socialist spokesman dismissed the survey as being just one of many polls. Opinion surveys in some parts of the post-communist Balkans have often proven unreliable given the high percentage of undecided voters and the reluctance of some respondents to discuss their political views with strangers. PM

2005-05-09

Constitutional embarrassment 

The Austrian parliament will ratify the EU constitutional treaty this Wednesday. Now suddenly, at the eleventh hour, a number of eminent Austrian constitutional experts have come to the fore who argue [DE] that the change of the political system by ratification of the EU constitutional treaty is so severe that a popular referendum would have been required by the Austrian constitution. A popular daily newspaper as well as both FPÖ-clones have also joined some sort of campaign for a referendum - mind you, all this is happening a few days before the ratification in parliament, and after no noticeable activity in the matter for the last several months.

ÖVP, SPÖ, and Greens, who are all against a national referendum, say that none is legally required (just because), and that for reasons of appropriate representation, an EU-wide referendum should have been the tool of choice for ratification. Yes, yes, in a perfect world - but in the real-existing European bazaar, European referenda will become possible only by means of, uh, the EU constitutional treaty. So it's a rather lame argument.

At the bottom of this is of course the fact that pro-EU political parties are keen to avoid any risk of awakening the sleeping beast of popular anti-EU sentiment by putting actual popular votes on the table. And the above-mentioned eminent constitutional experts have said that should the matter be brought before the Constitutional Court, the judges there would be loath to causing any unloyal trouble. It's a sad story. As if the last weeks hadn't brought enough depressing stories about the Austrian political system yet.

2005-05-05

Call to action 

Here is a harrowing picture showing a dead or dying child in Iraq (via Harry's Place). Its caption reads
Picture released by the U.S. Army Tuesday, May 3, 2005 shows a U.S. Army soldier comforting a child fatally wounded in a car bomb blast in Mosul, 360 km (225 miles) northwest of Baghdad, Iraq, Monday, May 2, 2005. 15 Iraqis were wounded in the combined suicide bomb attack. (AP Photo/U.S. Army)
I also want to remind readers of the Beslan incident here. Political violence that costs the life of a child is so terrible that it calls on all of us to work harder in our idealistic political engagement, however small our individual contribution will be.

2005-05-04

Poverty relief - local and global 

I want a comprehensive political programme that addresses the issues of national poverty relief in a high-income country with measures and frameworks that are consistent with an interconnecting strategy of poverty relief on an absolute, global scale.

Typical counter-examples:

To ask for globally or regionally homogeneous taxation and labour regulation reduces an opportunity that less developed economies have, although it may relieve pressure on less qualified workers in rich countries.

Trade restrictions such as customs duties on mass-produced goods may relieve pressure on less qualified workers in rich countries, but deny an opportunity to underdeveloped economies.

---
Scratchpad: Every financial subsidy that is distributed to a subset of the poor without an equivalent increase in their productivity worsens their competitive position in the global labour market against those who don't receive the transfer, since work now makes sense only at a higher wage for the beneficiaries. The subsidy will only lead to a sustainable improvement for the beneficiaries if their position is simultaneously strengthened by an equivalent gain in productivity. However, if a poor and unemployed man gets a subsidy of 10000 euros, he will not complain about his loss of competitiveness, and even if he goes on to spend the entirety of his new capital on chips and beer, he will not complain about having received the money to start with. There is a gain, but it is not sustainable. Conclusion: empowerment, education, and promotion of job creation as the more important part of poverty relief? The financial subsidy only as a psychological stimulus that is part of empowerment? Obviously this applies only to participants of the labour market, for all other poor the financial subsidy is unproblematic, including those in a labour market with for example 70% unemployment rate as well as those who are ultimately unable to find or keep work.

2005-05-03

African development from the top 

I am often impressed by the articles of Dominic Johnson, the Africa correspondent of the German taz-newspaper and also a frequent contributor to the Austrian Südwind-magazine. For a special Südwind-issue on the Millenium Goals [DE], Johnson has contributed an analysis on 'Africa as a Millenium-Project' [DE].

Johnson summarizes the state of the discussion about the 450-pages report 'Our Common Interest' that was produced by a commission established by Tony Blair in an attempt to trigger a collective policy initiative of the G-8 for African development. The report calls for a massive increase in aid, contingent on good governance by the African governments, and it is so voluminous and detailed that it addresses virtually all possible objections to it in one way or another, writes Johnson.

The real issues lie elsewhere. Will there be sufficient support for Blair's initiative at the G-8? Johnson is sceptical and cites reservations of the US, France, and Germany, for different reasons. Secondly, does Africa really face an external problem, or has it been held back by undemocratic regimes, by mismanagement and corruption of its own local elites for decades? Some of the offending governments like to cite the example of China, which achieves fast economic development without open politics. This, says Johnson, is a dangerous argument, and the donors will have to oppose it forcefully.

Yet, Johnson's real concern is a different one. Like all its predecessors, the new development formula was designed in a top-down manner. There is simply no way it can encompass the reality on the ground, with all its local complexities that often spoil the effective implementation of even the best thought-out paper-policies in Africa. Without listening to the myriad local issues in a bottom-up process, no integrated vision of African development will ever succeed, concludes Johnson pessimistically.

He may be right, but it's still rather likely that an implementation of the Blair initiative will do more good than harm I'd say.

2005-05-02

Black-Red in 2005 

I know that for several weeks before my latest travel-related break I have deafened you, my respected readers, with nauseating reports from the world of political colours in this country. I hope to take a leave from any further mention of colour-terms for a while and return to real issues, but before I can do that, here is one about that most famous of Austrian political colour-combinations, which almost seemed to have gone out of use: black (conservative) - red (socialdemocrat). Probably most of you are aware that these two parties have peacefully shared power in this country for most of the last 60 years. This delivered social stability, as the natural political divide between the conservative country-side and the socialdemocrat, Vienna-focussed east was laid to rest, and economic policy converged in the center. Yet, for many of my generation whose political socialisation occurred in the 80s and 90s, black-red (at the time, red-black) also represented the stale inflexibility of a power-oriented coalition that had outlived its social usefulness. Red-black as we knew it came to an end in 2000 when the socialdemocrats were kicked out of government for the first time in 30 years, and when the conservatives of ÖVP seemed at the point of establishing a far-reaching hegemony in all branches of the state.

Last night state-broadcaster ORF featured a discussion on the occasion of the 1st of May about labour market policy. The panel included EU-commissioner Günter Verheugen, but in addition there were the leaders of all five organisations that negotiate Austrian labour-market policy among themselves: chancellor Wolfgang Schüssel; the head of the industrialists lobby Veit Sorger; the head of the federal chamber of business Christoph Leitl; the head of the federal union organisation Fritz Verzetnitsch; and the head of the chamber of employees Herbert Tumpel. Of these five men, the first three are ÖVP-conservatives, the latter two SPÖ-socialdemocrats. Although it was a bit weird that ORF hadn't invited any politicians of the opposition, for example SPÖ-leader Alfred Gusenbauer who would have completed a 3-3 match lineup, the old black-red bipolarity with its subtle mechanisms of maintaining a stable core of consensus was there for everybody to see, as if the ÖVP-FPÖ coalitions since 2000 had never happened. It was interesting to observe how these five men neatly fitted every cliche that one could have about their respective positions: the tanned, robust industrialist who wanted to convince us to be positive and to love capital; the wheeler-dealer head of the chamber of business, a master of NLP; the brutally simplifying head of the chamber of employees; the conciliatory unionist (a relatively positive figure); the chancellor who added a spark of intellectual brilliance and eagerness for political campaigning. Yes, but would anything unexpected ever leave their five mouths? Would we encounter individuals who trade in ideas and flexible belief systems? Don't expect anything of the kind from any black-red lineup. 'The party', whichever of the two it is, is far too powerful, far too immobile, to allow for any significant creativity to unfold. Recently, calls for a revival of the ÖVP-SPÖ coalitions of the past have been heard emanating from the graveyards. Fresh ideas will have to come from somewhere else.

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