Unless I’m completely mistaken, right now we are experiencing the return of big government.
You don’t have to think about it long to realize that the enormous tasks facing us in the coming years can’t be mastered without a strong government.
We must stand up to terrorism without succumbing to hysteria.
We must assimilate hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of refugees and regulate the influx of additional migrants.
And we must recognize that for the first time since 1989, the European Union is no longer surrounded by potential partners and aspirants wanting to join, but rather more and more by states that are either sliding into instability or becoming more authoritarian.
In view of the Americans turning away from Europe and the Middle East, we, ourselves, must therefore guarantee our own security in the future. To an extent that seemed unthinkable just a few years ago and standing in complete contradiction to the Germany’s habitual pacifism. The recent decision to engage in Syria is presumably also just the beginning.
All of that can only be done with the state. Civil society can’t do it alone, in any case not perpetually. The market can’t, the algorithms of Google and Co., the digital despisers of big government, certainly can’t, and Europe is failing pathetically right now. There are classic jobs for the state that no one else can handle: public safety and order, law and justice.
All signs point to our needing more police, more judges, more teachers, and presumably more soldiers and spies in the future. And, in each case, more means a lot more. We aren’t talking about a handful of additional social workers and public prosecutors here and there, no, we’re talking about groups of hundreds.
Integration, domestic security, intelligence, meaning information collected by secret services – those are the three major tasks of the state in the coming years, and the state can only do it when the state has sufficient means at its disposal – and also uses them.
The state, the very same state that has been increasingly denounced and called incompetent for a long time, the state about which there only fantasies of it drawing back and withering away were making the rounds – this state is just now experiencing its needed renaissance.
Now, that doesn’t mean that we need more laws. It also isn’t a matter of more powers for security services. It’s about us creating the structures and the institutions that are needed for the government to be able to do its work, such as the call for the creation of an integration ministry by Markus Kerber, the director general and member of the presidential board of the Federation of German Industries (BDI), in this issue of DIE ZEIT (50/2015, page 13).
It’s also about tougher issues. About decisions that tear us apart inside. Only as an example, at some point we will no longer be able to avoid the debate in the federal republic about whether we want to remain dependent on the Americans, British, and French for intelligence gathering – and then in cases where we see a possible problem, having to, as supplicants, also accept their breaking the rules. Or whether a central power like Germany shouldn’t also become sovereign in intelligence gathering, at least to some extent, which would mean expanding the security services against all the political reflexes we’ve worked to acquire.