Montag, 12. Dezember 2016

USA-Austria: A Lecture From The New World To The Old World

In December 1850, the American Secretary of State, Daniel Webster, felt it was time to give one of the large European powers a lecture in liberty. He wrote a 6-page letter the the Austrian Ambassador to the US, Johann von Hülsemann (also known as the "Hulsemann Letter"). Below is an excerpt:

"The power of this Republic at the present moment is spread over a region, one of the richest and most fertile on the Globe, and of an extent in comparison with which the possessions of the House of Hapsburg are but as a patch on the earth’s surface... Nothing will deter, either the Government or the people of the United States, from exercising, at their own discretion, the rights belonging to them as an independent nation, and of forming and expressing their own opinions, freely and at times, upon the great political events which may transpire among the civilized nations of the Earth... The President has perceived with great satisfaction, that in the Constitution recently introduced into the Austrian Empire, many of these great principles are recognized and applied, and he cherishes a sincere wish that they may produce the same happy effects throughout His Austrian Majesty’s extensive dominions, that they have done in the United States.“

What had happened?

Beginning ion 1848, the Hungarians revolted against the Habsburg Monarchy. A new revolutionary government was set up. In June 1849, US President Zachary Taylor appointed A. Dudley Mann, a Virginian working with the U.S. Legation in Paris, as a special and confidential agent of the United States to the Government of Hungary. Mann was to travel to Hungary and present a letter of introduction. He was authorized to recognize the new government if Hungary appeared „able to maintain the independence she had declared.” Mann had gotten no farther than Vienna when Austrian and Russian armies defeated the Hungarians in the Battle of Temesvár on August 9, and the Hungarian forces surrendered at Világos on August 13.

Subsequently, Johann von Hülsemann complained bitterly to the US government for having meddled in Hungarian affairs which prompted the 6-page response by Daniel Webster.

The letter is a somewhat arrogant lecture from the New World to the Old World but it certainly makes for interesting reading.

Dienstag, 24. Mai 2016

Austria - Barely Saved From Fascism?

The recent Austrian presidential elections have provoked amazing international interest and speculations. The international media, above all from the Anglo-Saxon world, created the fear that, before long, men with armbands would march again and round up undesired residents.

The most balanced commentary I have read during these past few days is this: "Austria is leagues beyond its past; so stop invoking it!"

One of the more shocking commentaries I have read is this from a Latin media group: "In Austria, fascism is one step away from power!". Regrettably, quality papers like the NYT blew exactly into the same horn. Let me try to support my argumentation.

All those who see Austria as home of the extreme right and one step away from putting on brownshirts again I encourage to take note of the following: Austria is now the first country in the world which has a Green as a head of state, elected directly by the people. No asylant homes have ever burnt in Austria, a country where the German Pegida wanted to set foot and failed miserably. A country which, last year, accepted 90.000 asylum applications and another 19.000 so far this year (as percentage of the population, that’s more than Germany!).

In the 70 years since WW2, Austria had a socialist (then renamed „social democratic“) chancellor for over 40 years and since 2007 it has been a social democrat without interruption. During the other years it was the conservative party which put up the chancellor. Not once has there been a right wing (or left wing) radical in any government. Certainly within the OECD (and possibly within the entire word), Austria has the most expanded social welfare state when measured in terms of redistributed incomes. There is minimum income, full health insurance and retirement income for EVERY Austrian resident, national or foreign. Austria has one of the most attractive welcome packages for refugees! The so-called extreme right FPOe has never once questioned the nature of Austria’s welfare state!

What Emran Feroz writes in Telesur is nothing other than a self-disqualification. To suggest that Austria was „one step away from fascism“ this past weekend is a joke, to put it mildly. Anyone who agrees with that only gives testimony to his own ignorance. To describe the roots of the FPOe as „deeply connected with the Nazis“ falls into the same category. The roots of the FPOe are the liberal risings against the monarchy of 1848. They have never been left or right, they have always been liberal in the sense of the classic English liberals and national in the German sense. Many FPOe members have trouble with the concept of an "Austrian Nation" because they believe that Austrians are part of the German cultural heritage. Things changed after 1945. Those defined as ‚former Nazis‘ were excluded from voting in elections for a few years. When they were ‚freed‘ again after about 5 years, a fierce competition for their votes took place because they tended to represent the upper end of society. The conservatives took their share and the socialists their share. And those who didn’t make it either to the conservatives or socialists stayed with the FPOe. A case could be made that those who stayed with the FPOe were the greatest believers of all but they have all died by now.

The only Austrian government that ever included former Nazis was that of Bruno Kreisky, the legendary socialist, in 1970. Kreisky negotiated that with the then head of the FPOe, a former SS officer who had been involved with extermination activities in the East (!) but who, for obvious reasons, stayed out of government. Kreisky, the socialists’ ideal, gave ministerial posts to a total of 6 former Nazis. No Austrian chancellor before or after Kreisky had ever done that. So much for that!

The SPOe was Austria’s 'party of the workers'. Today, the FPOe has assumed that role. And here is the catch: the threat of fascism in Austria is always put forward when the SPOe is threatened to be kicked out of government! And the SPOe-influenced public Radio & TV supports that propaganda very nicely.

There were 6 candidates in this year’s election, a first! Since 1945, the president had always been a toss-up between the SPOe and OeVP. This year, the candidates of those two parties came out as numbers 4 and 5 with a combined 23% of the vote. A true slap in the face. Deservedly so! My favorite came out as number 3; she missed the finals by 1%. She would have made a great president! A retired head of Austria's supreme court; never affiliated with any party; completely unknown a year ago; campaigning without any support, only on the basis of her credentials, credibility and value structure. With her gone, I looked at number 1 and 2. Number 1 (the Populist) wasn’t exactly my cup of tea but since I really disliked number 2 (the Green), I would have been forced to vote for the Populist. So I didn’t vote at all. 

Please ponder this: if Donald Trump campaigned in Austria, Norbert Hofer (the Populist) would be considered center/center-left and all the others more or less far-left. To stamp Hofer and/or his party as „extreme right“ or „right-wing radical“ will accomplish nothing other than motivating those who would never have considered voting for them to eventually do vote for them. If for no other reason than to show that they don’t like unfair treatment.

Friedrich von Hayek, the nemesis of all socialists, once argued that it was the socialists who paved the way for National Socialism. All those who celebrate today that Austria was saved from fascism this past weekend are paving the road for an FPOe-government in 2018 (or earlier, if early elections are triggered). Don’t forget: the FPOe registered 20% at the last election of 2013 (behind OeVP and SPOe). Today, polls show it at well over 30%, far ahead of both, OeVP and SPOe. Norbert Hofer received 49,7% of the vote. So clearly, not only FPOe voters voted for Hofer. This was the first time than non-FPOe voters voted in huge numbers for an FPOe candidate. What is the message of that?

My answer: the message is that people know when they are being manipulated and they don’t want to be manipulated. Many Austrians just didn’t buy this stuff about fascism being around the corner and they decided to prove that with their vote. Keep opinion leaders forecasting that fascism is around the corner and the FPOe will head the next Austrian government, for sure.

ADDENDUM per June 2, 2016
As is now known, never before in Austrian history have postal votes played as important a role as in this election. They accounted for 12% of total votes in the First Round and 17% of total votes in the Final Round.

Postal votes increased by 205.565 votes from 534.774 to 740.339 votes (+38%). For postal votes to have increased by such an enormous percentage within only one month allows a number of speculations. It definitely suggests that there has been an organized effort to get postal votes out. One city made an interesting observation. As a general rule, every polling station records a certain number of invalid votes. Only one exception in that city: the nursing home. One can only assume that elderly and perhaps senile people are more skilled in filling out voting forms than any other group of voters.

Freitag, 13. Mai 2016

Gerhard Zeiler Plädiert Für Eurozone-Transfer-Union!

Anläßlich eines Interviews in der ZIB2 am 12. Mai machte Gerhard Zeiler, ex-Kandidat für den SPÖ-Vorsitz und Bundeskanzler, folgende Aussage:

Wenn wir aus der EU austreten, dann treten wir auch aus dem Euro aus. Das ist für ein Exportland und für ein Tourismusland wirklich der größte Schaden, den man sich vorstellen kann. Ich lebe in Salzburg am Wochenende. Wir haben dort Tausende Italiener, die jedes Wochenende kommen. Wenn unsere Währung sich um 30-50% verteuert, egal, wie sie heißt - und das wäre ein Effekt des Austritts aus der EU - wieviele glauben Sie, kommen dann nicht mehr? Wieviele Urlauber fehlen dann in den Skigebieten? 10%? 20%? 30%? Wir könnten es uns als Österreich nicht einmal leisten, nur 5% weniger zu haben. 

Die Aussage sollte unterstreichen, dass die FPÖ für die SPÖ als Regierungspartner nicht in Frage kommen kann, solange sie einen EU-Austritt befürwortet. Unbewußt - und höchstwahrscheinlich unbeabsichtigt - hat Zeiler damit jenen Recht gegeben, die argumentieren, dass die Eurozone eine Transferunion zwischen Überschuss- und Defizitländern werden sollte.

Es gibt nur einen Grund, weshalb der Euro international weniger wert ist als eine wie auch immer genannte Währung, die von Österreich alleine emittiert würde --- und das ist der Umstand, dass es im Euroraum eine ganze Reihe von Ländern gibt, die aufgrund ihrer wirtschaftlichen Leistungskraft (bzw. Mangel davon) den Wert des Euro schwächen. Im Grunde genommen handelt es sich um die Südländer (Italien und Frankreich inbegriffen).

Wenn es in der Tat so ist, wie Zeiler behauptet, dann verdankt Österreich seinen Erfolg als Export- und Tourismusland - bzw. seinen Wohlstand - zu einem erheblichen Anteil jenen Ländern, die den internationalen Wert des Euro schwächen. Würden diese Länder aus dem Euro austreten - so die logische Folge - dann würde das für die österreichische Wirtschaft dramatische Folgen haben.

Zeiler kann also nur dahingehend verstanden werden, dass er eine Transferunion von "stark" zu "schwach" befürwortet, damit die "Starken" ihren Wohlstand aufrecht erhalten können. Die Mehrheit der Volkswirtschaftler würde ihm sicherlich zustimmen. Die Österreicher hätten das sicherlich nicht getan, hätte Zeiler dies als Bundeskanzler angestrebt.