Have you ever heard of the Kooperationsverbot? Neither had I. It’s a word that expresses the German version of the neoliberal wet dream.
The point of Reagan/Bush-type governments is to make their jobs smaller. What they love is to narrow their powers and diverge as much responsibility to local units as possible – states, town councils, municipalities. In the US, the struggle between the states and the federal government has been the main battleground between the right and the left since the country was created. When you’re on Bruce Willis’s side against FBI agents Johnson and Johnson, you are also subconsciously on the side of the South in the Civil War, Nixon’s side against Kennedy and George Bush against sanity.
Germany, for different historical reasons, also has very strong states. And while Germany has nothing like the Republican splinter group the Tea Party (which basically thinks that federal governments should have just two departments – one for building roads, and one for bombing other countries), it does have the Kooperationsverbot, the cooperation ban, which was a bit of legislation forced through by the CDU and allowed by the SPD in 2006. It means that the federal government cannot finance something over which the states have jurisdiction – i.e. education. This reduced the role of the federal education minister to a kind of adviser.
Cem Özdemir, the Green Party education spokesman, said today, while commenting on another new study that shows how unfair the German school system is: “If I was education minister, the first thing I would do is make sure I had some work to do by getting rid of the Kooperationsverbot. You’ll never be able to finance a school reform without federal help. You basically have to hate children to do that.”