Developments in West German Politics by Gordon Smith, William E. Paterson, Peter H. Merki

By Gordon Smith, William E. Paterson, Peter H. Merki

This ebook supplies up to date checks of key tendencies and matters within the Federal Republic with enough history research to make the remedy of many of the issues available to these with no certain earlier wisdom of German politics.

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Three factors shore up the position of the Lander, which gears the system to marginal adjustments rather than a sudden lurch towards the centre. One is the principle of tax-revenue sharing ( Gemeinschaftssteuern) which gives the Lander an assured proportion of the yield from various types of taxation. Alterations in the shares accruing to the federation and the Lander are subject to federal legislation, and it is here that the strategic role of the Bundesrat comes into the reckoning as the second protective factor in giving the Lander an effective voice at the federal level (see 'Parliament and Government', below).

At least in comparison with many other constitutions it is of recent origin and it was intended to be only a temporary device pending reunification. It is especially surprising considering that the Basic Law is itself a largely unremarkable document, more concerned with instrumentalities than with high principles, and it is certainly not a radical democratic statement. Yet the significance of the Basic Law becomes much better explicable once the connection with the Rechtsstaat is made: the West German constitution deliberately reinvoked the respected tradition that in previous regimes has been either suppressed or at most only partially realised.

This provision is in the German federal tradition: the federal government participates in the work of the Bundesrat, in consultation and in committees. As much as any other institution, the Bundersrat exemplifies the 'cooperative' character of the West German constitutional system. The lack of any direct elections, the fact that the Lander governments are in the first place responsible to their own electorates, and their natural concern to guard their own status and authority means that the federal government has little choice but to adopt an accommodative stance.

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