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Politics and morality: moral taxes for the climate?


Meat tax, plastic bag ban, more expensive air tickets: In many policies against climate change, the moral resonates. That is dangerous for democracy.

The IPCC is clear: the world's rising meat consumption is a problem for the climate. Rightly, a debate has broken out about it, but it is far from being just about meat. Almost every week there is a new proposal on the table, which contribution citizens should make to stop climate change: Not only meat should be more expensive, but also flying. And the train driving should be cheaper please. Plastic bags are prohibited and, of course, the SUV drivers are also to be scourged.

To put it bluntly, that politics, business and society must all act together to cushion the effects of climate change and prevent the worst, is beyond dispute. But the sheer accumulation of different demands still causes some people a bad feeling. It is not for nothing that Gabriel Felbermayr, head of the Kiel Institute for the World Economy (IfW), recently spoke in the ZEIT about a "Penitential Sermon Contest" in which Germany escapes - rather than ensuring that the country progresses in environmental technology To become a role model for others.

Unlike in the 2013 election campaign, when the Greens maneuvered away with their idea of ​​a "veggie-day" for canteens, the politicians responsible behave wisely, this time explicitly to mark the renunciation as a moral duty. But it still resonates unspoken: What is morally right, the state must enforce by any means.

In archaic societies, law, morality, and custom were all one.

The moral coloring of public discussions is not progress. It is a sad civilizational setback. In archaic societies, in early and pre-modern states, law, morality and custom were all one. Moral norms were law and were enforced by the state with power. At the latest with the Enlightenment began the distinction of law and morality. The state should be responsible for the law. Morality and custom - that was the domain of society and the church. The situation is not that clear. To date, there are state laws that are strongly moral - such as the prohibition of killing in criminal law or the prohibition of the death penalty in the constitution. Even the bigamie ban in Germany falls into this category.

Nevertheless, the fundamental separation of state and morality in the modern constitutions is a great gain in freedom for the citizens. Because state law only wants to influence the external behavior. The thoughts and feelings are still free. Morality, on the other hand, aims at the inner attitudes and attitudes. She wants to control thoughts and feelings. That is - at least potentially - totalitarian. Against this background, it becomes clear that too much morality in the debate and in politics threatens freedom.

Of course there are reasons for the increasing moralization of public discussion. With moral arguments, the complex world can be (apparently) easily understood. Who knows exactly what is right and what is wrong, has the right solution for every problem. This is tremendously relieving both mentally and emotionally. A tedious confrontation with difficult arguments, which may not be quite clear? This is no longer necessary if you only have the right morale. And of course, the morale lobe is very effective if you want to enforce interests politically. If you are morally on the right side, you have to expect less resistance. On the contrary: assent and support are certain. It can be a very effective but perfidious rhetorical trick to bring moral arguments into play. No wonder that populist politicians of all stripes would prefer to argue morally. Through (apparently) clear moral judgments, voters can be easily and effectively won.

Source: zeit

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