Let them eat cake

As with every scandal, the Siemens affair is considered to be financial and political in nature, not moral – if the laws are enforced and competition functions properly, then such things don’t happen. However, the facts, and above all the way public opinion has absorbed the shocks, show that the moral aspect is the dominant one. People feel disgust and are expressing it in opinion polls. They are frustrated at the way the judiciary has dragged its feet on the issue, which they interpret as an attempt at a cover-up, and they are angry at the insensitivity of politicians who either half-heartedly deny the accusations, keep silent or pass the buck to the judicial inquiry. An elected leader not only takes an oath to safeguard freedoms and the law, but should set an example, as a symbol of the values of a democratic state. When an elected leader, the guardian of public property, the representative of public morals, receives gifts, consorts with state suppliers, lives a celebrity lifestyle rather than that of a civil servant, he is finished, even if no crime has been committed other than a violation of the moral code. If the politician concerned fails to realize this, and does not resign, then the other elected officials must call on him to do so, to sacrifice his post for the benefit of the moral structure that holds the system together. But they don’t do this. They cling tooth and nail to the power that has been temporarily granted them as if it were an inherited privilege, like Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette. This lack of dignity is what the people see, this ingrained selfishness, the mentality of clubbing together that protects and cloaks all members of the clan, this arrogance and lack of accountability. It is this which the people see as an example of the political morality of their elected leaders. And they may well ask, «Aren’t they ashamed of themselves?» The answer is: «No, not at all.»