Posts Tagged ‘germany’

Tax invasion

February 23, 2008

It is mostly small countries, many of them in Europe. Their most important good: privacy. Laws that hide bank accounts and protect data. What they fear most: attention. Naturally then, Liechtenstein was not pleased when German officials began far-reaching investigations, tracking down a large number of German citizens with secret accounts in Liechtenstein. The claim: tax evasion, on a very large scale.

There are some legal issues about how the crucial data was obtained (apparently the BND (the German secret service) bought the information from an undisclosed source). But mostly reactions in the news have ranged from outrage at the systematic way in which monetary elites have manipulated the system to sheer schadenfreude about them being caught.

But it actually seems difficult to agree with either sentiment. Not just because most people engage in some form of instinctive tax evasion – the difference in absolute numbers and income level is too significant for that. It is more the nasty suspicion that this is not a victory for the man on the street at all. In fact, neither side seems particularly worthy of empathy. The moral standing of the monetary elites in question has suffered a number of severe blows in the past few years due to numerous other scandals. But can we really rejoice in the triumph of a state that is essentially a success in eliminating privacy?

Beyond the legal issues, moral questions are lurking. Questions about the legitimacy of taxes and the duties one might have to society, questions about privacy and respect thereof in light of the opportunity of obtaining data.

surrounded by friends

November 23, 2007

The integration process of the European Union has always met with mixed reactions. Nor is it news that the common market has caused workers to fear a loss of benefits. But the latest worry raised by German border guards, that with Poland joining the Schengen zone, German border guards are facing changes in their career prospects, certainly adds a new twist to an old complaint.

Isolation never comes alone

November 14, 2007

“In our “Vienna Circle”, as well as in kindred groups (in Poland, France, England, U.S.A, and, among individuals, even in Germany) the conviction has grown, and is steadily increasing, that metaphysics can make no claim to possessing a scientific character.” (From the Foreword to Carnap’s Logical Syntax of Language, 1934).

This statement is of course philosophical, but also, crucially, political. Already in 1934, while still in Prague, Carnap is no longer looking for philosophical allies in Germany: if there are any, they are marginalized by the predominant metaphysical schools, in particular Heidegger’s (who had been the target of an extended polemic by Carnap a few years earlier). It is noteworthy that Carnap decides to list the countries where he hopes to find allies for his philosophical projects, rather than the groups themselves (such as the Lwow-Warsaw school of logic).

But just as Germany has isolated herself philosophically, as Carnap clearly wants to imply, Germany has also isolated herself politically.