Roland Dürre
Thursday August 10th, 2017

Digitalisation – Experts Talking at InterFace.

More often than not, situations arise by accident. All you have to do is create the right surroundings. It is always the same in life. Here is the story about how the “IF Expert Talk” on “Digital Transformation” at InterFace on July, 14th, 2017, was brought about.

First and foremost, you need to know that my beloved IT colleague and card-playing friend Lothar has been a member of the SPD for many years and as such was also the chairman of the board of directors at SPD-Ortsverein Neubiberg. In this role, he had invited me a few years ago to give a presentation about “new economy” (or something similar) for his SPD comrades at an SPD event.

That is what I did. After all, I travel a lot trying to make people aware of the fact that progress is, basically, important, but that you also have to act with a huge amount of responsibility when creating progress. To demonstrate this, I often cite the great Bertrand Russell:

All increase in technology will create a corresponding increase of wisdom if you want it to go with an increase, rather than with a decrease, of human happiness.

This sentence should make us all a little more considerate and critically contemplative.

So, while we were playing cards, Lothar told me that Thorsten Schäfer-Gümbel (deputy SPD chairman) was going to be in our region on Friday, July, 14th and that the regional SPD was welcoming him between 4 and 5 p.m. He said that the guest had expressed the desire to attend “an event in or near Unterhaching“, with as little organizational effort for him as possible.

And the new SPD chairman was keen on organizing the visit to a modern enterprise in Unterhaching for Thorsten Schäfer-Gümbel, perhaps with some connection to digitalization. Since he remembered my presentation at the SPD (years ago), he had the idea that maybe InterFace AG was a good choice.

As you all know, I am no longer active in the operative business of InterFace AG, but I still try to accompany and support the enterprise as a “friendly board member”.

Consequently, I gladly made the visit of an SPD delegation at the InterFace AG headquarters in Unterhaching possible. Among other things, I believe this kind of thing is also part of our social responsibility as an enterprise.

And, accidentally, the regular board member meeting of InterFace AG was scheduled for the very same day, July, 14th, between 3 p.m. and 6 p.m. Which meant that both my highly appreciated colleagues on the board of directors Dr. Professor Kathrin Möslein (deputy chairwoman) and Manfred Broy (chairman) were present.

And who could be better qualified to say something about digitalization in Bavaria and Germany than Manfred Broy, who is the founder of the Zentrum-Digitalisierung.Bayern (ZD.B)? Consequently, it was an obvious thing for me to ask the chairman of our supervisory board to interrupt our board meeting while the SPD delegation was visiting and to be part of the expert talk “digitalization” with Bela Bach and Herrn Schäfer-Gümbel.

After the expert talk, we continued with our supervisory board session and our visitors went to see the IF Lab. The video where you can see our visitors judge their stay actually made quite an impression on me.

Here is the full-length video of the “IF expert talk” on “digital transformation” from July, 14th, 2017 in Unterhaching at InterFace AG. You see the SPD candidate for parliament of the region München Land, Bela Bach, the SPD vice director Thorsten Schäfer-Gümbel, Prof. Dr. Dr. hc Manfred Broy (founding president of the Zentrum Digitalisierung.Bayern) and Paul Schuster, speaker of the board of directors at InterFace AG. Incidentally, Bela Bach did a great job moderating the expert talk. Earlier, she had told me that this was a first for her!

(Translated by EG)

Roland Dürre
Saturday August 5th, 2017

Theatre, States and the Church …

On Thursday, August, 2rd, I went to a debut performance at the Sommerhausen Torturmtheater. Currently, they are playing a piece by  Philipp Löhle. The title is “Der Wind macht das Fähnchen“.

This time around, four female actors play on the small Torturmtheater stage: Judith RiehlNadia SchwienbacherChristian Buse and David Lindermeier. Other active persons were Oliver Zimmer as the director and, of course, the great Angelika Relin, without whom this entire enterprise would not even exist.

Visiting the Sommerhausen Torturmtheater.

And Barbara and yours truly enjoyed the privilege of being present at the debut performance. We very much enjoyed a special performance. It was an evening as it will never return and it made me truly happy.

You cannot miss this performance. It will (only!) run until September, 30th, which means you already want to plan your trip to Sommerhausen. Here is the pre-view:

“Here it is, my whole pride” – the family. An experiment for the brave? 
In the year nineteen-hundred-and-some-uneven, when the world was still a better place, the story begins. Father, mother, son and daughter can be seen smiling in fast-motion as snapshots are taken at the breakfast table or during the Italy vacation. However, the bourgeois image is tricky, because as soon as hard times come, nobody stands up for the other. The family, too, depends on economic ups and downs. Everything collapses when father miscalculates the future of the modern “internetwork” and – consistently – gives notice. And it is this of all consistent acts he hands down to his son for life at the moment of truth.  
After crisis and separation, there is re-unification and new family portraits, seemingly in total harmony, but the idyll now has cracks. Irreparable cracks.

I had already been fascinated by the last play I had watched: “Eine Sommernacht”. Now it was even better – if that is possible. There is always great theatre at the Sommerhausen Torturmtheater. “Das Fähnchen“ is an exciting comedy with plenty of whit and intrigue!

It was a great theatre evening.

The beautiful conclusion of a wonderful day we had spent on our bikes. After approximately a hundred kilometres on our bikes on our way from Klingenberg to Sommerhausen, along the river Main with a few shortcuts through rolling hills, we arrived at Sommerhausen late in the afternoon. There was still time for refreshments and relaxing. And half an hour before the comedy started, we arrived at the Torturmtheater.

Some theatre before the theatre performance.

We enjoyed the always impressive theatre foyer and were looking forward to the performance. It was not altogether by force (it was not really necessary to listen carefully) that I listened to a conversation between a middle-aged gentleman (perhaps between forty and fifty) and an elderly couple (perhaps between sixty and seventy, with the lady not really saying anything, instead only reproachfully looking at her husband). For me, it was like a “small private theatre before the real theatre started“!

It was a dispute where the younger gentleman kept noisily finding it outrageous how the church behaved and what special rights that were no longer acceptable it took for granted. The other person tried to speak in defence of the church in a softer voice.

The younger gentleman criticized the church tax as a consequence of the concordat that seems to have been first installed in the 1930ies after negotiations with the Nazis. He found it annoying that leading church managers, like cardinals and bishops, get paid by the state.

The other gentleman pointed out that, after all, the church was socially very active with good deeds and that this was probably worth the price the state pays. Then the older gentleman said that the protestant church was probably better than the Catholic church. The younger gentleman countered that the protestant church actually made quite a huge profit with the Diakonie. And it continued in that manner.

Then the younger one found it lamentable that children had three hours of religious instruction at school where they were indoctrinated. The older one defended this system by claiming that school, basically, was not just there to teach knowledge, but also to give young people values. None of it was really high-level, the arguments were the same as always and nothing new. Not really exciting. Not even the values.

(After all, in my opinion, introducing values is actually part of teaching knowledge. But then, I learned a long time ago not to become an active participant in these kinds of discussions).

So I started thinking about the experiences I myself had had with the church. That reminded me of my friend and teacher Rupert Lay. I learned so much from him, above all that I have to appreciate my own qualities and take myself seriously. And that I have to be an autonomous person who is not easily manipulated.

The Jesuit Rupert Lay.

Rupert’s goal in life was to be there for the poorest of the poor. However, for him, that were not only the homeless and those who were ostracized from society. In his opinion, especially top managers belonged in this category. Which is probably correct. For me, it is hard to imagine any other profession (with the possible exception of pastors) where you have so many crazy people as among the directors of the German and international concerns. Sorry, but when I say “crazy”, I mean people who suffer from massive psychic illness and disorders.

Rupert Lay was mostly concerned with managers who had stayed sane. The “sick ones” were sorted out during his preparatory seminars. They never were allowed to attend his advanced seminars. After all, they would probably only have been a nuisance and would not have understood anything.

The really expensive fees you had to pay for Rupert Lay’s seminars were all transferred to his order, the Jesuits. And since Rupert Lay generally structured his activities to look like pastoral care, the tax office did not benefit either. At the time, some civil servants at the tax office found this extremely unfair, but apparently even they could not win against the power of the churches.

Heinrich Henckel von Donnersmark – Stage Name: Augustinus – and Rupert Lay.

I was also reminded of Father Augustinus, whose secular name was Henckel von Donnersmark. He was a baron. I knew him as well and liked him very much. Even though Rupert Lay was a Jesuit while Augustinus was a Premonstratensian Chorister. Both of them were the protagonists for ethics in business. I rather liked that. They were important counsellors of German top people in industry and politics. And they also made a good name for themselves as excellent speakers and management trainers.

Rupert Lay saw the system church a lot more critical than the “nice” Augustinus. Consequently, we (the Ronneburger Kreis) invited them to Frankfurt for a dispute. And we were quite surprised, because in the end there was far too much harmony. Basically, they kept telling the opponent that he was right.

For me, Augustinus was the best orator I ever knew. I well remember one of his presentations in Wiesbaden in the 1990ies for ICL – at the time a relevant IT producer from Great Britain. He had introduced himself as manager of “the enterprise Catholic Church” and described his role as that of the “lobbyist of the most powerful and oldest enterprise of the world”. Quite some self-irony.

Churches talk about peace and love.

On the other hand, the presentation also gave me an insight about myself that I see confirmed to this day. The church is an enterprise that has peace and love written all over its statutes. Quasi as Marketing. They have been doing this for more than 2,000 years. In all these years, it thrived with this message and became really rich and perhaps also powerful. I find it extremely sad that, in all those 2,000 years, it never managed (and perhaps never even wanted) to make the world a little more peaceful and love-oriented. On the contrary: to this day, the Catholic Church, along with its competition on the market, cause the opposite of peace and love: war and hatred.

Consequently, that was the time when I first understood that I do not wish to associate myself with a system like the church. Nor will I say more about it.

Just like I will never again vote for CDU/CSU because they are the reason why we had re-armament in Germany. The same is true for the SPD and the Green Party. I will not vote for these parties because they broke an important taboo when they allowed fighting missions abroad for the ‘German Armed Forces.
Basically, everything is quite simple:

(Translated by EG)

And if you want to go to Sommerhausen by train, you want to look for the railway station of Winterhausen. From the Winterhausen station, it is only one kilometre to the theatre on foot..

Roland Dürre
Friday March 17th, 2017

We Cure the Symptoms and Ignore the Sources.

Long Live Populism!

Talking Instead of Acting?

Charly, the Great Dictator.

Now I witnessed the first (electoral) campaign events with Martin Schulz. Even from the distance, I got the impression that this is another and admittedly talented attempt at using the general uncomfortable feeling of many persons as a resonance body for someone’s own goals and demanding a few improvements where small details are concerned that, however, only equal a treatment of symptoms if you look at the entire picture.

In these speeches, I perceived what is probably generally called populism and what is probably the last remaining recipe for success in the current generation of politicians. Apparently, nobody ever got the idea of asking what caused the problems and then introducing change in a social consensus through political activities.

Consequently, Martin Schulz is the next populist looming on the horizon for Europe. This time it is a candidate for the one “party of the people”. Again, the motto in the speeches I heard is the same:

We are appalled by the symptoms and enjoy to point out what went wrong, but we do not dare to approach the sources.

After all, that would be system-critical and call for change. Which is an absolute no-go. Especially for the SPD. Because that is something the comrades forbade themselves many years ago. After all, they want back to power. And even when they were part of the government, they avoided all “system-critical” issues wherever possible. Because “holy” practical constraints and systemic necessities stood in the way of change.

The environmental catastrophe and destruction of our planet (plastic, climate, …) and the social polarization of humanity with all its consequences such as flight because of destroyed living space and more left them just as untouched. In fact, they would like to just leave these issues out of the government altogether. Because it would only have be a nuisance.

“Social Democracy First” is rhetorically easy to communicate. Except: it is a little harder to actually realize and then to work on the causes. After all, you do not want to be (too) inconvenient and you also would not wish to hurt anybody, would you? These topics do not even appear in the electoral slogans, because bad news are not popular. Especially if you can no longer ignore them.

Regardless of the fact that reality, too, might well be a good topic for populists. See the video below. But if you talk about reality, you cannot be afraid of your own courage. You have to be able to bear the truth. And you are ill-advised if you fear that it might cost you votes. So what you need is courage. But currently, it seems that cowardice is more popular. Fear happens between the ears and it reigns over the world in a truly demonic way.

So here, yet again, I am trying to describe the reasons why our society drifts apart into fewer and fewer rich and more and more poor people. Which is exactly where you should get active if you call yourself a social democrat.

The reasons for polarisation are:

  • The free speculation with everything: currencies, enterprises, food, raw materials, property, copyright, all sorts of rights …
  • A property legislation that protects individual “mental property” in an exorbitant and excessive way;
  • A general understanding of ownership that seems to have totally isolated itself from the maxim of “ownership is also a responsibility”;
  • The social legitimacy of illegitimate influence on common-good interests exerted by interest groups (aka lobbyism as a criminal act of advantage theft);
  • Propaganda, including the seduction and manipulation on all levels, also of the sub-conscious, as a normal business method (aka marketing). Seduction that aims at making the concerned persons behave in contrast to their will and ratio.

Although we know better, we still believe that

  • Growth beats health;
  • Taylorismus beats task-identity;
  • Shareholder Value beats common-good economy.

When will we understand that

  • the interests of the stakeholders (customers, employees, …) should have priority over the shareholder interests and that
  • In a society with a future social togetherness instead of private property preservation must have the highest priority both for all individuals and the entity?

So why do politicians never talk causes but instead only make loud populist noises? And why do they always only write in their programs about minimal corrections and symptoms that need to be cured? And why do these methods actually make them successful?

🙂 Here is an example for POPULISM I rather like. Even if Harald Lesch is only partly correct (and I can easily imagine it), my aforementioned “social fear” might soon no longer play a role at all, because surviving will be more important.

Yes – this is exactly the speech I would like to hear from a politician…

(Translated by EG)

Roland Dürre
Tuesday February 21st, 2017


Says the USA as they look towards EUROPE …



I find it terrible

  • After all, up to now I believed it is the world-wide goal of everybody to wage fewer wars, kill fewer people, produce less misery and build fewer weapons.
  • And that weapons always will only be useful for business in the weapons industry.
  • In the last fifty years, I myself never knew a war that solved any problems. On the contrary.
  • Side effect: now I know that Greece (relative to its gross national product) is the EU country that spends most money on armament (2,4 %) and Germany (thanks to the strict rules formulated by the “federation partners” when we were “re-united”), least (1,2 %).
  • Just like I always also hear that, among all the EU countries, Greece is worst off and Germany best off.
    🙂 Honi soit qui mal y pense!


And here are some questions.

  • Why does not EUROPE counter by asking the USA to spend more money on climate protection?
  • How does EUROPE expect to become more independent if they do not vehemently oppose the amoral request of the USA, rather than agreeing like an obedient sheep?
  • What exactly are the shared values of the USA and Europe that need to be defended?
    (Would you like me to guess? I cannot think of very much.)
  • Does the NATO really have to manoeuvre in the Baltic States and already plan the next manoeuvres in Poland?

In particular, I do not understand it because EUROPE, just like the USA (and the same is true for the enemy RUSSIA) are bankrupt with permanently increasing debts. And besides, these nations, just like the entire world, have totally different concerns that they really should get worried about. It is the “fear that eats up the soul” and truly fills the heads of some old men from a world long gone. That makes me sad.

(Translated by EG)

Klaus Hnilica
Tuesday February 14th, 2017

Woebegone Europe – What Exactly Is It?

At the moment, nobody can probably say what kind of construct the so-called ’Europe’ is. Economically, it does not look too good, its crisis countries struggle against increasing unemployment rates, it is politically divided and the citizens and elites have become more and more each other’s enemies because, after seven years of Euro crisis, they now see themselves confronted with a refugee stream from Africa and the Near East that does not look like it will end in the near future.

Is this the demise of this ’European Artificial Concept’ European Union (EU) and currency union, where none of the governments that are part of the whole is capable of showing us a uniting narrative – which means that the stupid shouting of rightist disruption mushrooms is being slurped up by an abandoned citizenry like Grail Messages?

Or is this diffuse concept EU doomed because all its borders have to stay open? Since, as the German Chancellor – who simultaneously writes into her subjects’ annals that a 3,000 kilometre-long border as Germany has it cannot be controlled anyway – tells her citizens that otherwise the Euro will have failed. Just like the EU with its 14,000 kilometres of borders, cannot be expected to control them all?

And those who think they know better and tell people that ’Schengen ’ should under all circumstances have been adhered to and that the exterior borders should have been protected are told that, after the interior borders had fallen, they perhaps learned nothing at all from the world financial crisis that, too, was initiated by the Americans. After all, did anybody care about the Maastricht Rules when the individual governments hastily saved their banks because the economic control mechanisms had failed – or that is at least how they interpreted it – and, consequently, everybody had to return to the ’primate of politics’ as a matter of course?

And that is how we are going to continue, no matter what! As it is, the safety packages and soft budget limitations are an excellent tool for keeping the interest rates of ’Mr. Draghi’s EZB’ low and even for, without any shame, indebting ourselves even more without having to deal with the intricacies of debt reduction and structural reforms as the usual dumb asses demand!

What a pity that parts of the population and the EU and currency union get more and more dissatisfied regardless: masses of them run towards the leftist parties in the south and towards the right extremists and national conservatives in the north and east, instead of at long last becoming wise and taking their example from good old Germany – this is true for the euro crisis, the refugee crisis and the energy revolution! It would be quite easy, wouldn’t it?

Even if there might be the danger that the occasional wisecrack who believes that Germany, based on well-meaning, will actually do the wrong thing due to its uncoordinated policy, thereby threatening to destroy the peace project of a unified Europe. One of those wisecracks is he historian Heinrich August Winkler. He says: It is part of our German responsibility to kiss inflated moral egos that especially progressively inclined Germans world-wide possess good-bye. It is an erroneous belief that we, if necessary even all by ourselves, have to realize the good things. It must not become our lives’ lie!“

Hm – how confusing! This is definitely not what our Federal Chancellor thinks?

But maybe the man actually has a point?

(Translated by Evelyn)

Roland Dürre
Monday February 6th, 2017


Roland at PMCampDOR (© Visual-Braindump).

The current US president said it again and again. As I see it, he said it a little too often, because for a US president, “America FIRST” should go without saying. Of course, the USA must come first for a US president. And nobody would criticize “America FIRST” if the man who keeps saying it were not Mr. Donald Trump who, even to my way of thinking, acts slightly irrational.

Even for humans, it is true that you first have to care about yourself, before you can think of others. How can anybody who does not value his or her own self appreciate others? That is why masses of persons in the sense of a social system, too, first have to think of their own well-being.

Consequently, I like the slogan “America FIRST“ as a behaviour-oriented value much more than a USA that considers itself a boorish world policeman and also acts accordingly. For instance, I do not understand why Trump’s predecessor, Obama, who won the Nobel Prize for Peace, ordered his soldiers to drop a total of 26,171 bombs in seven countries in the year 2016 alone (as the US expert for foreign policy and national security, Micah Zenko, says on the website of the think tank “Council on Foreign Relations“). And I do not understand why nobody in this country protests against it. Maybe it is because we are the third biggest weapons exporting country of the world – and because in this country everything that creates jobs is per se a “good thing”.

I am not a powerful president. I am only a simple private and retired person who likes to blog. Consequently, I am thinking about what is “FIRST“ in my life.

I live in Neubiberg, which means one would assume that I say “Neubiberg FIRST“. But somehow or other, I still feel more at home in Unterhaching, Riemerling and even Ottobrunn than in Neubiberg. All these locations are situated in the south-eastern affluent suburbs of Munich.

Consequently what I say is: ”Upper Bavaria South-East FIRST“

I often ride my bike and like using public transportation. Consequently, I yell
“New Mobility and as few combustion motors as possible FIRST!”.

I want a maximum quality of life. And since Munich is so near, I also yell:
“FIRST less traffic noise and pure air in and around Munich!“.

I also wish to live healthy and not have more plastic on this planet. Consequently, I say:

“exercise and health FIRST!“.
“healthy food and no plastic FIRST”.

Now I leave my micro-cosmos. I live in Upper Bavaria, but I grew up in Swabia. So now comes a softly spoken “upper Bavaria and Swabia FIRST”.

However, “Bavaria FIRST” gets stuck in my throat. One of the reasons is that a large part of the weapons exports come from Bavaria, which, for me, is a total no-go.

I definitely have no breath left for “Germany FIRST”.
For me, the gigantic government buildings in Berlin are first and foremost a gigantic symbol of power. Everything smells of reign and bourgeoisie. This also includes the parliament with its many luxury limousines that sit in front of the building with their motors running so the chauffeurs will not get cold.

The Chancellor’s Centre with its wide rear expanse is not my world, either (the same is true for the Bavarian Government Central Building in Munich). There are more things in Berlin that I do not understand. For instance the new German Secret Service building. It will be the biggest governmental building ever built in Germany. All those things are not what I would feel comfortable with. So, naturally, there is no  “Berlin FIRST“.

In my perception, Europe is even farther removed than Germany. So you will never hear me say “Europe FIRST“.

If there is anything I would wish to say in a really loud voice, then it would be

“Peace and Humanity FIRST
“Humanity and Tolerance FIRST!“

If, one day, there is a peaceful and free Europe of regions as part of one world where a common-good economy is practiced and where we have no wars, then I will yell “ONE WORLD !“ and “Europe FIRST!“

But only if politics and the economy make the people and the common good as their first priority.

(Translated by EG)

Roland Dürre
Sunday February 5th, 2017

Democracy & System

Not Democracy is the Problem, but the Underlying System.

A short time ago, I had a facebook discussion with my esteemed friend Detlev about this topic. Because I believe in democracy. But I think the underlying system it no longer any good. What we badly need is a structural reform.

After all, times have changed. What was considered “normal” at the time of the industrial era is no longer normal now. That is true for your workplace (#newwork), for enterprises and also for politics.

We no longer need winners. Emperors, “bog bosses” and centrally established officers (CEOs) are “out“. The same is true for a party “taking over the power” or a system that “gains power”! Because the power must remain with the sovereign: the people of a nation. And it cannot be taken by anybody else.

But first: our dialogue. Detlev is a master of the word, he had posted a great theory:

The liberal democracy is the most sensitive creature of the world. Nurture the baby!

The problem does not lie with democracy but with the underlying system. I no longer want to vote for parties. Instead, I would like to decide between two options of how to deal with important topics that have been prepared in responsibility and following the idea of social consensus. Without any influence by lobbyists. I want to elect people who then actually work towards the reform. As responsible “coordinators”.

In former “democratic systems”, we had to elect a person who then had to decide what happens. This was true both for a chancellor (FRG) and the president (USA).

But now we no longer need “leaders”! The time of the “centrally established officer (CEO) is at its end in business, and we also should kiss it good-bye when it comes to the organization of our nation (politics).

“France, liberate yourself of persons.“
Those were the words of Anarchsis Cloots in his “call for the human species“
Then Jules Michelet instructed them to establish the government:
“Everything is done by the masses, the great men contribute little. Those who are allegedly gods, giants, titans just deceive us through their greatness, because they maliciously step onto the shoulders of the docile giant: the people“.

That was after the Napoleonic catastrophe. In its wake came a government characterized by a constitutional body that met regularly. And today? Again, France has a presidential system. Roland, why do you believe that it might work out this time? Just because we now have the internet? Or do you believe human nature has changed? I wish it were so.

I coach a number of young persons and start-ups. And I notice all the time that they have actually made progress compared to former times. Yes, people change!

Very well, then let us try to prevent presidential systems from happening, especially those with a strictly authoritarian concept. Where shall we begin?

First and foremost, I am going to write an article where I will integrate what you said. Your formulation and demand “prevent presidential systems from happening!“ alone is already a remarkable mental progress.

My conclusion:
To nourish something also means to reform it. For instance, I can easily imagine that it is no longer the purpose of democratic elections to bring a person or/and a party into power. Instead, its purpose is to distribute tasks.

For instance, you could elect persons who get the mandate to work towards possible solutions that might be acceptable for all if a social problem needs to be solved (with problem being defined as a state of affairs that cannot be left as it is). Maybe such a body could be the new parliament. It should work following the rules of the “Art of Hosting”, the “honest discourse “ (see: Habermas) and similar concepts. And then it should present the people the solutions they found.

We – the people of the nation – decide which of the solutions they presented us is the best. And if we like none of them, then the gentlemen in the parliament will just have to come up with something better.

It goes without saying that all and any influence through third powers of any kind (aka lobbyists) must be forbidden. Naturally, that also includes religious and similar.

I will no longer need a government in the traditional sense of the word with earls and knights. A well-trained administration is far more important. It must do exactly what the parliament has offered as solutions to problems and what the people have decided. And it must also execute all other important decisions that draw their legitimation from a democratic vote.

Dear Friends:
Prevent Presidential Systems from Happening!

(Translated by EG)

I would wish to have plebiscites in a very direct democracy. Switzerland is a good and very successful example for a “better democracy”. To be sure, even here there is still potential for optimization.

The often heard argument against plebiscites that they sometimes also end in irrational results is easy to counter. If you have ten traditional decisions, you will probably mostly have five poor ones. If you have ten plebiscites, then the number is maybe one in ten.

Well, even the best system will not work totally without mistakes. Only when omniscient machines rule us can we come to that state of affairs.

Roland Dürre
Friday February 3rd, 2017

A Story About the EURO History.

Europe is More Than the EU (and the EURO).

After all, we no longer have the five-hundred Euro bill – regardless of the fact that the currency is losing value.

Last Tuesday, I went to the Café Luitpold where I attended an event the title of which had been advertised with the sentence you can read in the heading of this article (up to the brackets; what is in there is mine).

Harald Lesch had been invited as the star of the evening, but unfortunately he had to cancel at short notice. His replacements were two “Europe experts”.

Regardless of Harald Lesch not being there (in fact, he had been the reason I registered for the event), it was an interesting evening, especially because the nonsense they all talked was very refined. Mind you, we are talking people who in our country are considered the elite in science. To be sure, it is sometimes annoying if you have to listen, but for me it is also a morbid joy to listen to refined nonsense.

The two gentlemen on the podium started with Ancient Rome and some of their theories were really rather absurd. For instance, when someone in the audience asked if the downfall of Europe perhaps had something to do with losing our spirituality and religion, the answer was that the true danger for Europe was not from atheists but from agnostics. The offered explanation was that a fanatic atheist finds it easier to understand a strict Islamic faith than an agnostic.
Which makes integration easier.

That was my “Oh-my-God” moment.

My friend Sigi was also at this event in the nice coffee shop in the noblest part of Munich. After the presentation and discussion, Sigi told me a story that sounded quite familiar. Because I had often told it similarly – but never to Sigi.

To make up for it, let me tell you that Rudi Jansche told me the story as early as twenty years ago, albeit in the future form at the time. It was before the EURO was introduced and Rudi was one of the top managers of a relevant English concern in Germany that had a lot of power in the rest of Europe and also in the FRG. And I often wondered where my mentor Rudi had gained all this foresightedness.

I will now tell you the EURO story (Sigi’s and mine) as I myself experienced it:

In the early 1960s, I was in France as an exchange student. They still had the French Franc. My French was not yet very advanced and I was a little confused to see that a sports jacket, for instance, cost 100 (cent) Francs. And my host said that he had payed ten thousand (“dix milles“) Francs or  “dix milles balles“.

The riddle was soon solved. They had had a currency reform in France shortly before my visit. The “nouvel franc“ had been introduced. It equalled 100 old Francs. People could continue to use the old “francs“ as “centimes“. Basically, all they did was drop two digits. Many people, however, still spoke and had the mental concept of the old Franc, regardless of the products now being priced in the shops in new Francs.

For more information about the French “currency reform”, Wikipedia – here is an excerpt:

On December, 27th, 1958, the introduction of the Nouveau Franc (NF) as of January, 1st, 1960 was ordered. One NF, since 1963 officially only termed Franc (F), equalled 100 old Francs (anciens francs). The old Franc coins could still be used as Centimes. In everyday life, the old Francs continued to be part of the language for decades.

This Wikipedia article is absolutely worth reading. It gives you a good idea about the French inflation.

I have a vague memory that there was a time when one Deutsche Mark (DM) bought you more or less one nouvel franc (NF) – or vice versa. However, that time was soon over. It only took a few years for one Deutsche Mark to buy you three Francs. And matters continued in this way.

It was quite a surprise for me to see how with every visit in France the baguette got less expensive (for me). After all, its maximum price was regulated by law and apparently the state paid to subsidize it. Just like it surprised me that, even after several visits in France, I remained “le boche“ for some French people. Some of the families that had formerly been friends with my host family actually started to avoid them because they had opened their homes to a “boche“ and also – which was even worse – had sent their son to Germany, where the arch enemy lived. The good news is that, regardless, I soon found many young friends in France.
Our family (with my parents and my sister) mostly went to Austria on vacations. I still fondly remember the Schilling. It was truly an adventure to have the turnpike opened for us at the border and to drive through and then use a foreign currency. We were in a foreign country!

The Schillings – both the 1-Schilling coin and the 5-Schilling coin – looked beautiful. I remember that one DM equalled roughly seven Schillinge. This never really changed very much.

Both the vacations with my parents in Austria and my French exchanges were soon a thing of the past. Having escaped the parental home, I more and more often chose countries like Italy or Greece.

This is how I learned about Lira and Drachmens. Those were totally different kinds of currencies. The bills were greasy, the coins reminded you of GDR money and they were worth practically nothing.

In Italy, I was surprised to notice that the pizza got cheaper by the year for me, regardless of the fact that, nominally, it got more and more expensive in Lira. It was similar in Greece. For the owner of DMs, it was paradise. Unfortunately, those times are now long gone.

From the perspective of the Italians and Greek, it was not so great. For instance if they wanted to buy a Mercedes. Except that, as soon as they had the bank agreement for the credit to buy the car, said Mercedes was already more expensive. And that meant they would then buy a 2CV, R4 or Lada instead.

And then the EURO came. And everybody was happy. The German industry and the international concerns were enthusiastic, because now they all could sell a lot more. After all, now there was a shared domestic market with a shared currency. So you could really get under way and either destroy or take over the remaining local competition, depending on what seemed most advantageous for your own business.

Initially, the Italians and Greeks were also quite happy. After all, the prices for the nice German automobiles remained stable. Now you could afford them, just like you could afford so many more of the beautiful things the German and international concerns flooded the country with.

I was the only one who was not happy, because now, the Pizza and the Gyros was more expensive than before in Italy and Greece. Formerly, whenever we rode our bicycles over the Alps to the Mediterranean Sea, the general rule was that staying overnight got less and less expensive the further north you travelled. That is no longer true today. Now the least expensive places to stay overnight are in Bavaria. It gets more expensive in Austria and continues in the same direction in Italy.

Naturally, there was a downside to the EURO. The beautiful cars from Germany, like many other things, had been bought on credit. And while the German industry was all fascinated and sold record numbers, some countries were destroyed by their debt. It was no longer possible to “heal” through devaluation. The only things that remained of the nice Euro straw fire were inflation and less income.

The creditors wanted high interest rates from these weak countries and got them, too – and that caused additional pain. Just like it is always painful if you are already bankrupt and have to pay a lot of money without getting anything in return.

However, the EZB, the EU and the International Monetary Fund saw reason. They lowered the interest rates and bought the trash bonds in order to avoid the great “catastrophe” of state bankruptcy of one or several member states.

That seemed to save many European countries, not only in the south. But it was especially beneficial for the biggest of all debtors in Europe: Germany, i.e. us. Our reward for agreeing to it was that we no longer had to pay any interest. We would not otherwise have let it happen, because, naturally, our motto is “Germany first“!

This is how we won twice over: first our industry took total advantage of the shared market thanks to a shared currency – and then we no longer had to pay any interest for our national debt. All of a sudden and in a wonderful and smart way, we suddenly had a balanced national budget.

My friend Rudi foresaw all these things. But the responsible government under the great Chancellor of the re-unification did not.

Even if that government had not wanted the EURO, that would not have helped. After all, even at the time, the government, along with the entire EU, did whatever the industry said. And the industry wanted the EURO. Incidentally, that was also true for the other EU countries. Or, to be more precise: they wanted to do away with the DM, because the dominant role of the strong DM had been a constant annoyance for them for a long time. And the only way to get rid of the DM was the introduction of the EURO.

And now we have a problem. I very much look forward to hearing what the new miracle candidate of the SPD has to say about it. After all, he supported this line in the EU parliament, didn’t he?

Now he must and will again talk German: Germany first. After all, there is no second German politician (with the possible exception of the Great Bavarian) who learned better from Trump how to “popularize” the people.

He, too, will have nothing to fight the current system of party and lobbyist oligarchy with, nor will he want to. But I am sure that he will manage to promote his own so unbelievable career. And now he dreams of becoming Federal Chancellor.

Well, that is fine by me. It probably will not make the slightest difference who reigns in the Berlin of megalomania. Merkel alongside Schulz or Schulz alongside Merkel. The only certainty is that Mr. Gabriel will remain Federal Minister of State (due to secret understandings – the main tool of current policy).

Consequently, nothing will change about my story. It will end like so many fairy tales: and if they did not die, they will continue to govern.

Supplementary comment: 
From EURO fans, I hear all the time that it is so much nicer to travel these days. The disadvantage of having to change money is a thing of the past.

That is an argument I do not understand at all. In the also not so good old days, I always had travellers’ cheques on me. I had to change them in the country of destination. It was probably total nonsense, but my super-ego ordered me to do it.
Today, however, money is only an accounting unit and the conversion from one currency to another is one of the easiest tasks for our “digital world”.

But then, the EURO happened and now we have it. I would really have liked to ask the two Europe experts if they considered the introduction of the EURO useful for the idea of a new shared Europe or if it was detrimental. I never got the chance to ask that question. I cannot answer the question, but I assume it was more detrimental than beneficial.

Now, we not only have the EURO, but also the zero interest rate. And there is a continuing rise in national debt for European countries that is still covered by the EZB and the International Monetary Fund. That is a situation about which nobody can predict how long it will work out well.

During our last PM Camp, Gerhard Wohland said that a problem is a state of affairs that cannot continue. Nobody has a solution to our problem. Perhaps there is no solution. Consequently, those responsible in Europe will just continue in the same way as before. What other choices do they have?

For me, however, Europe is so much more than the EURO. And I believe it is totally irrelevant when and how it will explode. After all, it is only an accounting unit that will then be replaced by new and just as virtual accounting units. A good administration will be quite capable of doing that.

To be sure, this will be yet another situation where you will get winners and losers. Most likely, the rich ones will again be the winners and the poor ones will be the losers. But that is something we are more than used to and so we will continue until there is the next bomb.

And that sounds like logics of history to me. Perhaps the bang will come soon, because the world has far greater challenges to master than your average currency crisis.

(Translated by EG)

Hans Bonfigt
Thursday February 2nd, 2017

Entschuldigung eines alten Sozialdemokraten

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Hans Bonfigt
Tuesday January 31st, 2017

Heuchler, Lügner und Claqueure:

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