What is good for democracy

Freedom of Expression in the Crisis? : Why it is good for democracy to be wrong

Much has been said about the right to freedom of expression lately, some see it in danger - the “corridor of what can be said” is getting narrower and narrower, people complain. What is striking is the vehemence with which one's own position is defended as the only truth in the discourse, and the hatred with which people who think differently are overwhelmed, especially on the Internet.

It is not the state that restricts people's freedom of expression. It is you yourself. In doing so, they forget: Anyone can be on the wrong track. The ability to admit error is an underrated virtue, and yet it is so necessary - for coexistence and even for democracy.

A look back helps: our constitution emerged after the war on the ruins of a collective error. The Germans had chased after the wrong leader and brought the worst disaster to Europe. Something like that shouldn't be possible again.

The mothers and fathers of the Basic Law gave the Federal Republic of Germany a constitution that provided for a sophisticated system of individual freedoms and a state organization with effective checks and balances, which was also supposed to iron out the design flaws in Weimar.

It was not just the Allies who wrote the text - the trauma of historical misconduct, pain and shame flowed into the legal fabric, and even shaped it.

One of man’s destiny is the fallibility of his judgment. Not only did Goethe know that (“Man is wrong as long as he strives”, says God, “the Lord”, in “Faust”), but it was already evident to the ancient Greeks.

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Ancient Greece was the great laboratory of Western forms of rule: monarchy, aristocracy, tyranny, oligarchy, optimacy, ochlocracy, theocracy and finally democracy - it is no coincidence that they have Greek names.

The Greeks experimented with forms of rule like we do with start-ups today: which one produces the best results? Which one is best to live in? How stable is the form of government against internal and external enemies? How does it perform in times of crisis? It became clear to the Greeks that the simple question “Who is the best ruler?” Cannot be answered by humans.

It is good to be able to vote out the ruler

And a mistake in the selection of the ruler can have disastrous consequences for everyone, see above. So you needed a form of rule in which, on the one hand, the inevitable mistakes in the selection of rulers are not a catastrophe. And on the other hand, these errors can be revised, for example through elections. One would rather not rely on the gods for this.

America votes this Tuesday; possibly an error is also being revised here. Whatever the outcome, we shouldn't look too arrogantly at the Americans. We have seen too many attacks on democracy of our own for that, not only from the margins (lateral thinkers, extremists, Islamists), but also from some parties that have developed into ideological parties and that seem to believe whoever represents the right values, that is also allowed to do more - last seen in the attempt to intervene in the principle of democracy in order to force half the proportion of women in parliament.

At the same time, forgiveness will soon be a sought-after quality. At a time when the people's parties are getting smaller and smaller and the people are in parts a collection of members of groups defined by identity politics who lack the large, community-building bracket, it will be necessary in the future in order to be able to form governments at all.

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