Saturday, August 23, 2003
If we shadows have offended - think but this, and all is mended...

O bella Italia! Now, everything is back to normal again between you and Germany. It could have started with such a nice evening, Berlusconi and Schröder visiting "Carmen" in Verona's opera together, but Berlusconi thought differently, says Tom Rachman (Associated Press Writer):
The conservative Berlusconi said he was sorry not to have made it to the opera in Verona's ancient Roman forum, the Arena. The premier said he dropped out due to fears that leftist demonstrators would protest his presence and ruin the event for everyone.
Super-Silvio afraid of leftist demonstrators? Now, that is something I would not have thought; he usually is not that shy, as far as I can remember. Anyway, Saturday morning must have been a breakfast with much honey, on each person's bread and tongue, because everything was just fine, and the summer feud was ended. Not all feuds between the both countries ended that peacefully.
Remember that - despite Goscinny's and Uderzo's cartoon "Asterix" - Gaul was under Roman reign, while Germania was never fully colonized; Roman historician Tacitus foresaw that the barbarians from Germania would one day be the end of the Roman Empire, and it was the invasions from there that indeed initiated Rome's decline. Germany's culture catched on only later, in Roman times it was a rather barbaric place if we compare it to the speeches of Cicero before the Senatores. Then, it was Luther who produced another schism in Europe - Protestants in the North, Catholics in the South; destroying a united church with its capital in Italy. Still later, Goethe idealized Italy as "the country where the lemons grow" - something unthinkable in rainy, cold Germany; at the same time, Goethe wrote "Faust" - a book that still captures the "German" thinking very well, i.e. being torn in two between a more rational, empiristic point of view and a strong, subsconcious, "spiritual" energy which Goethe called "daimon". Italy, in contrast, was always a country of individualists, resisting the dream of the absolute more than Germans did. Each country produced a kind of artwork that captures these tendencies; look at Michelangelo's David and compare it to Beethoven's Symphony No. 9.
Personally, I think Italy and Germany could perfectly add to each other's capabilites; the relationship though always changed between war and peaceful friendship. In 1818, Schopenhauer said in Florence:
Mit Italien lebt man wie mit einer Geliebten - heute in grossem Zorn, morgen in Anbetung [with Italy, you live like with a beloved woman - today in great wrath, tomorrow in adoration].
In other times, a summer theater such as the one between Schröder and Berlusconi would have been dealt with in other ways; just remember what caused the French-German war in 1870. The fact that this mini-rift was dismissed as "summer theater" does not confirm the last part Schopenhauer's statement, but at last it rejects the first one. Actually, what really makes me mad is that the German soccer team lost against Italy 0-1 on Wednesday. But that is another matter...

Friday, August 22, 2003
Trans-atlantic rift revisited

Recently, President Bush praised German peace-keeping efforts in Afghanistan, which was welcomed by German officials:
BERLIN, Germany (Reuters) -- The German government said praise by U.S. President George W. Bush for German peacekeeping efforts in Afghanistan showed attempts to bridge a transatlantic rift over the war in Iraq were bearing fruit. [...] [German] Government spokesman Thomas Steg said Bush's comments praising Germany's role in post-war Afghanistan showed how both countries were committed to cooperation on certain issues.
But there were some other reactions as well, as Richard Wagner (sic) mentions in the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung: for example, Gernot Erler, deputy parliamentary leader and defense expert of Schröder's Social Democratic Party, mentioned that Bush's statement showed the United States had realized "Germany's increasingly important role for Washington". But then, Erler also said Bush's statement betrayed that he had economic problems at home, and needed allies due to this fact as well. Further, Angelika Beer, the Green Party's co-leader, uttered that Bush praise only "confirmed" what "has long been recognized" by the international community. Schröder himself said Germany didn't need to "hide from anyone".
Do I sense schadenfreude there? As Heinrich Heine said, "He only profits from praise who values criticism." The German government, though, was so fundamental in its opposition to a liberated Iraq that it was incapable of taking any criticism seriously. Again, notice the double standards! German participation in Afghanistan is totally OK, and the Greens largely supported that too, but a US action in Iraq - let alone a German participation - is to be strictly condemned? Concerning Schröder, I partially agree - Germany is doing a lot (at the moment, it's the second-largest peace-keeping nation in the world), but sounding off is not an option. The US government knows what Germany is doing - it does not have to be rubbed under their noses.
The article mentions another important point in my eyes: the asymmetry in experienced threat between the US and Germany. This is a very important fact that continues to cause misunderstandings and erroneous estimations. On 9-11, I was doing an internship in Düsseldorf, and our tasks were cancelled - everybody was crowding around the TV, some were weeping, most were pale. The next day, the large news screens in the train stations were crowded too, hundreds of people were standing around and appaled. Since then, much has changed - most Germans see 9-11 as a unique catastrophe which is horrible, but don't feel threatened, even though several 9-11 attackers lived in Germany, even though Germans were held hostage, even though Germans were victims of a bomb attack carried out by Islamists, ..., ergo, they do not understand what exactly the US are doing in Iraq. In contrast, the Americans indeed feel threatened - 9-11 showed that the US homeland is vulnerable as well (the last attack on American soil committed by a foreign enemy was in 1814, when the Brits set Washington aflame), a new and frightening experience. The US wants security and does not want this to happen again ever, which is absolutely legitimate. I only hope Europe does not need its own 9-11 before it understands, though I fear so.

The Enemy Within

Today's Washington Post considers the possibility that the recent UN bombing could have been committed by Iraqi employees. Jamie Tarabay (Associated Press Writer) writes:
U.S. investigators suspect the bombing of the U.N. headquarters in Baghdad was an inside job and are questioning Iraqi employees and guards, many of whom were linked to Saddam Hussein's security service, a top American official said Friday. [...]
Kerik [former New York police commissioner who is working to re-establish an Iraqi police force] said some of the Iraqi personnel at the U.N. compound initially refused to cooperate with the bombing investigation and were being interrogated. "There are concerns about some of the people who were working there," he said "It's all under investigation at this point."[...]
Most of the U.N. security guards at the compound had been placed there by Saddam's security service before the war and reported on U.N. staff movements at the Canal Hotel, headquarters for U.N. inspectors looking for weapons of mass destruction. [...]
"They were some of the most treacherous, and if we still have them running around in a capacity where they will have access to important information, then that is something we have to be concerned with," Kerik said.

Well, I'm quite surprised the UN did not think about this obvious weak spot. Did they really continue as if nothing happened? If so, this is really starry-eyed, it was clear from the beginning that an intervention in Iraq would result in pockets of resistance, but to place them in one's own ranks - and it was known that these security forces were Saddam's men - is really foolish. Saddam had and has many followers in Iraq. The first thing to do is to secure that the key points of consolidation in Iraq are free of them. And the UN too.

Wednesday, August 20, 2003
"In Defense of Global Capitalism" - Europe's answer to Naomi Klein

I have always wondered at the manic, polemic rants of fundamental anti-globalizationers, often void of rationality and facts. It is individuals like Naomi Klein et al. who try to convey the picture that globalization turns us all into corporate slaves and lackeys, perpetuates children's work, destroys the environment and generally leads to the apocalypse. A fine Swedish author and thinker - Johan Norberg - has thought the same about anti-globalization and has now published a fantastic book in order to debunk some popular anti-globalization myths, called Das Kapitalistische Manifest (in German; the English edition, In Defense of Capitalism, will be published in September; a short summary in English can be found here).
Johan Norberg has recently been interviewed by the Canadian Frontier Centre for Public Policy. In this interview, he represents his points very succinctly, e.g. (bold type by me):
FC: You mentioned the tendency of globalization opponents to focus on very emotional examples and to avoid the big picture - you had some very interesting statistics about progress, maybe you could share some of those?

JN: In the world as a whole, during the last fifty years, we have seen a bigger reduction in poverty then we have seen during the five hundred years before that. It's an enormous development, the most rapid reduction in poverty in world history. During the last twenty years, the world's population grew by 1.5 billion people. In spite of this, we have seen a reduction in the number of absolute poor by about 200 million. Take hunger statistics. Chronic hunger has gone down from 40% to less than 18% in the last thirty years. Infant mortality has gone down from 18% to 8%. When the protestors and TV and newspapers tell one story, one anecdote about someone living a miserable life since they have lost their job, it stirs up the emotions and we think that something is going wrong in the world. But we are missing the big picture. Things are definitely getting better.
Indeed, the big picture is often neglected; instead, anecdotical evidence is presented, which is regrettable but not representative.
FC: During the 1990s, Sweden embraced school choice and started peeling back the public health monopoly. The unions and the teachers have not opposed it. Why are your labour organizations and your public sector union leadership more sophisticated than ours?

JN: You would have to answer about the Canadian unions. But in Sweden, the fact is that they are not ideological. They are more interested in creating a real improvement in the way they live their lives and in wages and working conditions than in shouting in the streets that they want to change and improve the world. [...] In the last ten years, nurses have seen wage increases of almost 50% which they couldn't get under the monopoly system. With competition, they can begin to demand better working conditions because they can always turn somewhere else.
Un-ideological unions? I would not have thought this might be possible, but then, I live in Germany, where the recent strike in East Germany was started on mainly ideological grounds, which resulted in a desaster for the IG Metall - they lost and had to stop the strike; now, they are considered by most as unrealistic, backward reform blockers (which is true). It was extremely important that the IG Metall lost this strike, because they were a bit off the ground, drifting around in ideological dreamworlds of the cozy past. The future will tell us whether the world's largest trade union will have to face reality.
FC: Why are you not keen on a unified European currency - the Euro?

JN: A common currency will also lead to common policies in many unsuitable areas of different economies that are in totally different stages of the business cycle. It means an interest rate that is much too high for Ireland, too low for Germany. It means that countries in recession will perhaps not come out of it. The only way to deal with this is to have very flexible labour markets so people move to where there are jobs and lower taxes. But that won't happen. I think the European politicians are more interested in centralizing policy to have massive redistribution to the places that are in worse shape. And that would be a subsidy for bad policy.
An interesting statement, with which I only partially agree. I think it was the correct decision to install a European currency, because it not only is a symbol of European integration, but because it lays economic pressure on politicians here to get realistic and push reforms. The growing bureaucracy in Europe is a menace, intransparent structures and unclear decision structures (umm... did I vote for any European Comissioner?) are a great obstacle to prosperity and competition. Daniel W. Drezner also points to the fact that probably both France and Germany will surpass the stability pact's 3 percent ceiling, and that this might decide the question whether the EU is a supra-national authority or an international organization (how interesting that the EU can still be "interpreted"...). Back to the interview,
FC: You have said that farm subsidies, particularly European farm subsidies, make everybody poorer. Why is that?

JN: It makes the developing countries poorer because that is exactly the kind of sector where they could compete. They have a lot of cheap labour, good soil, good climates, and so on. They could compete, but we stop them from doing that with tariffs that shut them out. Subsidies to our own farmers create food surpluses, which we then dump in poor countries. We destroy the potential for competition from them. But it also makes us poorer, because we are denied the opportunity to buy from the better source and it costs us billions of dollars.
Now, that is a valid point, and a key point in the EU. Britain and Germany share the opinion that the subsidies at least have to be reformed, which is dogmatically blocked by Chirac, who wants to keep up agricultural subsidies in France by any means. It might well be a very decisive question for the future of the EU when the economy here declines even more.
Johan Norberg is a brilliant and clear thinker, and one can only hope his ideas gain a wide audience. Btw, the only reaction to this book that I heard of from the anti-globalization camp has been a cry of outrage (on a personal level), but no facts that could contradict his ideas. The anti-globalizationers better get some good arguments, and soon.

UPDATE: I have abbreviated quotations a bit to increase readability. I'll try to keep postings shorter in the future and focus on the main points.

Tuesday, August 19, 2003
The Nanny State

Before posting today, I want to express my sincere condolences to those in Israel or elsewhere who have lost a family member or a dear friend in the recent terror attack that killed 20 and wounded 100. Little Green Footballs is reporting on this. At the same time, I would like to say the same about another coward suicide attack in Iraq; it was done near the UN's HQ in Iraq.

There was a recent opinion poll published in the FAZ (in English) today, which is quite interesting. Anke Bryson writes (bold type by me):
Fifty-one percent of Germans would prefer to live in a political system where individuals can assume as much responsibility for their own lives as possible, according to a new survey by the Allensbach opinion research institute.
Some commentators have hailed this as a sign that their compatriots are finally tiring of a state that swallows more than half of their output only to redistribute much of it in a highly dubious manner; a state that also gives most ordinary citizens almost no choice in social provisions such as health and pension insurance.
Well, 51 percent seem to approach the Clue™, that is more than I expected. Still, I have been "tiring" of these issues for quite some time now, especially if money is spent for Viagra-Kalle and Miami-Rolf. Bryson continues:
Most German employees, including lower- and middle-income ones, cannot opt even partially out of generous, but expensive and structurally ailing, social programs, even if they would like to.
See? You have no option here, it's the socialist welfare state that embraces you with its adhesive tentacles in a hug that in the end will kill you softly. Isn't it a fundamentally democratic state we live in, where we cannot even choose? I always thought that choice is a democratic axiom. Bryson continues:
It [the survey] shows that nearly half of all eastern Germans, and one-third of western Germans, believe the state should assume primary responsibility for its citizens.
And here we find one of the characteristics that most clearly distinguishes between European etatism and American freedom. In an excellent column, Ralph Peters aptly puts it (bold type by me):
Socialism, a doctrine born in Europe, struck very deep roots. The collective takes priority over the individual. The European social contract amounts to this: We will not let the talented rise too high, and we will not let the lazy fall too low. "Equality" doesn't mean equal opportunities, but equal limitations. For Americans, freedom means the freedom to do: To make our own way, to struggle, achieve, to rise (to climb social, educational or economic ladders), to move beyond our parents' lot in life and give our children better chances still.
I'm not telling anything new here, but it is still amazing for me to perceive the amount of difference in mindsets between Americans and Europeans. Europe focuses on "egalité" (in the sense of leveling everything), while the US is more concerned with "liberté", the freedom of the individual. This difference also crystallizes in economy, as Bryson notes:
[...] expansive "consumer" protection - for example, through advertising bans or the restriction of special retail sales - betrays the same mentality. In many cases, it amounts to a form of corporate welfare, since it protects some businesses at the expense of limiting competition and keeps prices higher for consumers.
This is true; our current government as well has preferred to back larger business companies, though the lion's share of German GDP is produced by medium-sized enterprises, which are drowned in bureaucracy. But then, Schröder is member of a party which is currently debating how to handle and redefine the concept of "social justice" which is nothing but an aggregated term of "socialism"; and the left wing of Schröder's party is already getting mad, blocking all reform - again.
And now, another threat arises for Germany - Chinese beer challenges the world market. Where shall all this end?

Monday, August 18, 2003
German socialism - thriving and exported

Back to something profane again. The peculiarities of Germany's over-luxurious welfare state are debunked by two recent, absolutely bizarre judicial decisions. First of all, a German alcoholic and drug-addicted, aged 54, was officially granted Viagra (which German public health funds do not provide to their members) because he "wanted to father a child". One must add to this that German health funds are about to collapse, and our politicians are still fraudulent concerning this issue - utilizing the "Salami tactics", i.e. disclosing the truth step by step, introducing ridiculously superficial changes - and then have the courage to call it a "reform". Back to "Viagra-Kalle", if we consider this situation, a person that is sick must really ask why the money is spent on such a thing, as health funds are intended to protect people's health, and not something umm... else. It is a slap in the face for really sick persons.
And here comes another shocker: a German, who claims he is "allergic" to Germany, now lives in Florida - in a flat sized 60 square-meters. Now, that is actually OK - were it not that it is the German welfare system that pays for this, which is a sum of 1587$ per month. Now, there is a law in Germany that focuses on this issue (paying welfare to Germans abroad) - but it was destined for German Jews who did not want to return to Germany after WW2, and who should be compensated (and the law does make sense in this context).
Bild states that our sponsored lucky friend Rolf J. lives in Collins Avenue, Miami, only two minutes to the beach. A German court has now ordered that "Miami-Rolf" has 6 months to find a new, cheaper flat. His reaction? "Then, I want the German state to sponsor me a car". Miami-Rolf was granted German welfare abroad, btw, because he has managed to provide an expert opinion by a psychiatrist stating he shows suicidal tendencies.
You know what? I'll just go to a psychiatrist myself and tell him to analyze my artificial sighs and suicidal tendencies. After the three magic words "allergic to Germany", he will probably instantly pull a form from under his desk, where I can make my crosses:
- Which state do you want to live in?
- Please select price class of apartment!
- Do you need a BMW abroad or will a local car do?
- Is a home pool required or would a three-year free entry into the local baths suffice? etc.

This is a sick combination of pure socialism and an appalling exploitation of an over-fat welfare state crunching under its own weight, in a time where unemployment rises to record levels here; where public health funds are collapsing soon; where retirement pensions are shrinking because too few younger people are born; where economic growth is dipping into recession because serious structural reforms are not done because our politicians are liars and cowards. Germany is certainly one of the states with an extremely balanced distribution of political power (which was obviously a wise thing to implement after the war). But we have reached a state of affairs where we need real reforms, either by a "Great Coalition" between the two big parties or by a constitutional amendment. But Germany, I tell you, is not yet sick enough. The Germans, like sleepy and egocentric young children, must go down the road some more before politicians dare to speak the truth. It is indeed Old Europe's cynicism and cowardice that can be perceived in the current political farce here. And I really loathe it.

P.S.: to all Internet Explorer users who have a problem with a cut-off site - I'm still working on this (thanks for the hint Tobias). The site is displayed perfectly with Netscape/Mozilla though (it seems Internet Explorer is much more fastidious concerning HTMLery).

UPDATE: At least, I've managed to repair my XML-link (in the sidebar at "syndicate this site"), and although blogspot is still incapable of producing stable and reliable permalinks, it seems to work. I strongly recommend - especially for heavy blog users - to install a newsreader, which is an enourmous help and a great tool. I can only recommend the (free) Wildgrape NewsDesk, I have installed it and it's great. Check out this link in case you want to know more about XML/RSS/Newsreaders.

ANOTHER UPDATE: I found and corrected the error in my template, the site should now be displayed without errors by anybody using the Internet Explorer.

Sunday, August 17, 2003
Germany - an Arab State in Europe?

Absolutely unbelievable. Reader Werner over at Europundits mentioned this article over at Henryk M. Broder, which is a pain to read: An Arab state in Europe. The author made some incredible observations:
I got my first whiff of the things to come on the evening of 9/11. The news of the bloodbath in New York City had arrived in Germany in the afternoon, so we had had to re-arrange our entire newspaper. I felt exhausted and sad and needed a pint of something: so I went to a pub in what used to be East Berlin. The pub was crammed full, the TV was showing the unbelievable news again and again and I could not help overhearing a man at a neighbouring table who used his mobile phone as if it were a microphone. He kept shouting about "that criminal Bush", "arrogant Americans" and "Sharon, that fascist", and of course about "those Israeli swine who are behind it all".
Yea, sure, dude. Wielding classic anti-Semitic arguments on 9-11? Sick asshat. But the beat goes on, and it gets worse:
Roll on the war against Iraq. It is true that there were hot debates about this issue everywhere, particularly in the US itself: both the legitimacy and the wisdom of the war were questioned, journalists voiced reasonable doubts whether the Iraqi regime did in fact possess weapons of mass destruction. In Germany such debates were conspicuously absent. Here it was very simple: the entire country had turned into one big peace camp. The sentence "Mr Stein is in favour of this military campaign" sounded like "Mr Stein lives in a house which is made of green cheese". Writers and intellectuals were even more unanimous than they had been re. Afghanistan. All newspapers - with the notable exception of DIE WELT, the paper I happen to be working for - denounced Mr Bush and Mr Blair as dangerous lunatics. German television stations began to resemble outposts of Al Jazeera.
My experience is different, at least the FAZ published some articles that were at least not anti-American (still critical), so did the local paper here and sometimes the Financial Times Deutschland. The vile rants - as far as I've read - were done by der Spiegel (check out their sardonic new cover, stating "world power without electricity"; Papa Scott has evidence that der Spiegel deliberately lied to create an anti-American sentiment), taz etc. As to television - he's right on that, I've been watching CNN (cough) very often in the past, and it sometimes appears not too fond of the US itself; still, it is light-years better than the average TV channel here, with one exception: N24, a tiny private channel (in the evening, they show documentaries on Gulf War I, on "Wings of Steel" [once Dick Cheney was interviewed about the F-16] and stuff) has been positive concerning the US too, compared to the rest. The author continues:
None of this would be worth mentioning were it not for the fact that the German government and TV stations and newspapers spoke with one voice. What does this kind of consensus remind us of? Certainly not a Western democracy in the middle of Europe. But it does have an uncanny resemblance to countries like Egypt or Syria.
It was painful to see that German opposition, CDU, only relatively late took a strong pro-US position. There should have been a clear US support from the beginning. But then, we HAVE no real opposition in Germany - the two main parties are so similar, they only differ in minimal degrees of quantity, not in quality. As to the "one voice"-hypothesis: I can only speak for myself, but even though most friends opposed the war, there were a few who at least did not oppose it.
For if one pointed out that this war might - as a side-effect - contribute to the security of Israel, this was not perceived as an argument in its favour. Quite the contrary. One journalist wrote that a conspiracy of people like (you know) Wolfowitz and Perle was responsible for this military adventure; another journalist suggested the US might be securing Iraq´s oil fields for the benefit of Jerusalem.
It was not an argument in its favour? Ladies and gents, behold the double standards! Every dead Iraqi soldier fighting for Saddam is mourned like a martyr, but nobody cares about the threat Israel was and is submitted to, not mentioning the brave American soldiers that AGAIN give their lives to free a suppressed country. And who in the peace camp mourns for those Israelis who die from suicide bombers? (sound of crickets)

Even though the article was slightly exaggerated at times and not wholly congruent with my perception, it drastically describes what was and is going on in certain minds here, even though some papers (and people) here seem to regain their balance.

Leo Strauss and Neo-Conservativism

Yesterday, I already mentioned Leo Strauss and his still noticeable impact on Neo-Conservativism; I’ll try to deliver some facts today. Strauss (1899-1973) was a teacher of political philosophy at the University of Chicago, and though his ideas were (and are) barely known in Europe, the impact of his ideas in the US should not to be underestimated. As Robert Locke writes in a fantastic article in the FrontPage magazine:
As a crude measure of his importance for those readers who continue to believe that philosophical matters are of no practical importance, consider the following list of his students or students of his students: Justice Clarence Thomas; Supreme Court nominee Robert Bork; Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz; former Assistant Secretary of State Alan Keyes; former Secretary of Education William Bennett; Weekly Standard editor and former Quayle Chief of Staff William Kristol; Allan Bloom, author of The Closing of the American Mind; former New York Post editorials editor John Podhoretz; former National Endowment for the Humanities Deputy Chairman John T. Agresto; […]

It is obvious that Strauss’ ideas have access to the highest levels in the US, and as he was a political philosopher (he indeed regarded political philosophy as the only philosophy), I’ll try to shortly present his main ideas.

- Strauss revived ancient philosophy as a real political critique. He held that understanding ancient philosophical ideas – especially those of Aristotle and Plato – helped to overcome the flaws of modern political philosophy. Locke sums up why:
Strauss contends that the modern view of politics is artificial and that the ancient one is direct and honest about the experience of political things.
It was Machiavelli’s “Il principe” that opened new doors in thinking and actually started political philosophy (and modernity): Man was, for the first time, seen as not a part of nature but as standing outside of it. Locke (bold type by me):
Pre-Machiavellian philosophy, be in Greco-Roman or Christian, had taught that the good political order must be based upon human virtues. Machiavelli believed that sufficient virtue was not attainable and therefore taught that the good political order must be based on men as they are, i.e. upon their mediocrity and vices. This is not just realism, or mere cynicism. It amounts to a deliberate choice as to how society should be organized and a decided de-emphasis on personal virtue. It leads to the new discipline of political science, which is concerned with coldly describing men as they actually are, warts and all.

- These ideas led to Enlightenment and more freedom than before, but it also led to purposelessness. Locke:
The philosophical price of freedom is purposelessness, which ultimately gives rise to the alienation, anomie, and nihilism of modern life.
This idea has been presented very succinctly in Erich Fromm’s “Die Furcht vor der Freiheit (the fear of freedom)” as well: man, in his long-awaited liberty, is afraid and wants guidance and fulfillment of spiritual needs. To avoid nihilism etc., Strauss suggested the concept of the “Straussian texts”, texts that contain an “exoteric” meaning for neophytes and an “esoteric” meaning for those familiar with the code. This might sound strange at first thought – did not Socrates wander about the market of Athens, accompanied by his students, and ask anybody he could reach about simple concepts, until advancing to the philosophical foundations; i.e., is philosophy nothing democratic? In contrast to hectic conspiracy theorists, Strauss regarded democracy as the worst regime except for all the others that have been tried from time to time, agreeing with Churchill here – i.e., as Peter Berkowitz states in The Weekly Standard:
Although he [Strauss] regarded modern democracy as flawed, it is, Strauss suggested, the form of government best suited to the protection and enjoyment of human liberty, and therefore should be defended wholeheartedly.
At the same time, Strauss did not believe that all men were equal, says Locke:
If man is political by nature, the goods of politics also exist by nature. The goods of politics are the ways man must behave to make political community work. If there are natural goods, there is a natural hierarchy of goods, and therefore a natural hierarchy of men, as different men pursue different goods. Civic equality may be salutary for the functioning of society, but men are not truly equal in value.
If we refer this “value” to “efficiency” or “capability”, I agree; indeed, in psychology there exists a whole branch that does research in how humans differ.

- Religion, according to Strauss (who was an atheist), is still important and necesarry. As Der Spiegel writes in a informative though slanted piece (in English) about this:
As his [Strauss’] theory goes, philosophers following in Nietzsche's footsteps could devote themselves to the question of how the death of God and the renunciation of religion impacts thought and being. But without the inner cohesiveness faith provides, states could not exist. For this reason, according to Strauss, religion serves as a binding agent in a stable social order. It is, admittedly, the opium of the people, but it is also an indispensable opium.

I’ll try to sum it up: modernity, with its value-relativism, nihilism and purposelessness, can lead to the rise of totalitarianism; Strauss had experienced that himself, being Jewish, he fled Germany 1932; he had experienced that a state like the Weimar republic, with its total tolerance and relativism, might be relatively easy destroyed by totalitarianism. Therefore, it is necessary to have firm values. Because neither all men’s capabilities nor investigative energies are equal, philosophizing should be for the minority who can cope with it, according to Strauss; religion should be the “opium” to keep up the stable social order and prevent totalitarianism, which is also a threat as it can become a replacement for religion (Strauss also thought that happiness was the natural aim of man, to which religion – in whatever form – adds too).

Not trying to be cynical, but it might be possible that Strauss was exactly what Irving Kristol described: “A neoconservative is a left-winger who has been ambushed by reality.” His ideas are interesting, though some ideas strike me as peculiar. Why should – especially in our highly-educated times – not everybody be allowed to hear the truth? I agree on the danger of decay of values and relativism; this really is a thing that totalitarians in mind, be they Islamists or whatever, can exploit – and they do. But I disagree on the idea that an information deficit and a mere retreat into religion are helpful in fighting totalitarianism, I think it is the combination of being informed and a corset of firmly-rooted democratic (in the old sense) and religious values that best helps to fight totalitarianism.