The Internet in Germanys political parties - English

Who knows about the Internet?

By Alexander Görlach23.05.2015Economics

While Torsten Albig is having success within the SPD with abstruse ideas regarding the Internet, the Union is becoming a party of digital Titans. Philipp Mißfelder will advise the Internet star Peter Thiel in the future.

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Sean Gallup / Getty Images

Torsten Albig is now also on the scene. The Minister President of Schleswig-Holstein doesn’t want to remain behind his colleagues in the party, Heiko Maas and Sigmar Gabriel. Thus, he too has targeted Google as an enemy. He wants to reign in the American search engine since he thinks it too influential. He is considering regulating it. However, factual consideration of the arguments of Google’s critics within the SPD is impossible since those arguments fail to understand the Internet and what it does.

As reported by “heise online”, Mr Albig sees a danger in that the Internet gives new providers the opportunity to play a role in the opinion-making process. However, what Albig considers a danger, is social change and progress in the eyes of start-up companies. Or, to say it in English: Disruption. Mr Gabriel reports that the US giant Google pays no taxes in Germany. Since our German DAX companies also like to found companies abroad in order to pay fewer taxes, this is perhaps not decisive here. What one must realize here is that votes are at issue and, so: Fear of change. No experiments.

The Union takes over digital leadership

“No Experiments” is a campaign slogan from the Adenauer Era. Previously, one tended to capture conservative voters with a “fear of change” campaign. However, after the Union has provided the first German Chancellor responsible for the first Integration Summit, the first Islam Conference, and the Energy Transition, she is slowly and steadily taking over political leadership in digital matters.

Even the younger members of the Union party do not want to be outdone by their leader. Philipp Mißfelder, for example, the Union’s foreign policy spokesperson, was this week appointed to the advisory council of the US online entrepreneur Peter Thiel. The German-born investor Thiel, who, among other things, was the mastermind behind Facebook, PayPal, and Palantir, is regarded as a guru in the sector, and presumably only takes advice from those who can provide him with new information. Mißfelder is regarded as a representative of traditional values within his party. He names Helmut Kohl as his political model. If the old view would still hold, a political personality such as Mißfelder would not have been regularly invited to speak at online conferences such as those of the German online leader DLD, which are put on by Burda.

A signal to the German digital industry

The personnel issue here is at first glance surprising since, only a few months ago, Mißfelder again gave up a prestigious position as “America Coordinator” in order to concentrate on his role as foreign policy spokesperson and NRW treasurer. Some in his party have branded him as someone who has fallen from grace in the eyes of the US. At second glance, however, things look very different. Perhaps Mißfelder, who clearly knows more about technology and the US than most in parliament, didn’t want to ignore the NSA theme, or disgrace his own party leadership on that account.

Once again, the Americans have shown that they have a sufficiently broad worldview to use someone like Mißfelder strategically. And Peter Thiel is also no unknown quantity on the American political scene. Such a personnel decision sends a signal to the German digital industry. The new ecosystem created by these companies needs factors that favour its growth. And, in the end, this growth will lead to jobs in Germany. Germany cannot defeat the US in this field; it can only have success if it partners with the world’s leading technology nation. Philipp Mißfelder has understood this.

“Der Geist steht links” [“The Mind is on the Left”], as the intellectuals love to say. It isn’t clear whether this was ever true: Today, economic reason is on the side of the Union.

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