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Internet Taxation in Germany


© December 2004 BigDumbDinosaur

(Traditional format)
Sun Dec 12 02:13:53 2004 Internet Taxation in Germany
Posted by BigDumbDinosaur
Search Keys: Internet,Taxation,Arrogance,Regulation,Government

Those of us who are in locations where the cost and availability of Internet access is largely controlled by free market conditions might not realize just how good we have it.  In case you're not entirely sure, perhaps you might wish to consider relocating to Germany, where the art of keeping the citizenry under the government's thumb apparently did not die in Hitler's bunker along with Der Fürher and his bride.  Heavy-handed laws are already the norm there, so it may be that the average German has been conditioned to meekly accept whatever crap is dished out by government Neanderthals.  I'm inclined to think that this must be the case, as Germany has regulations in place that seem to be a product of the Third Reich rather than a representative government.  Severe regulation and taxation of computer and cell phone usage - complete with Draconian penalties for non-compliance - is one such example, and things are about to take a turn for the worse if "Minister of Culture" Christiane Weiss has her way.

You may already know that Germany's telecommunications, radio and television industries are administered - controlled, actually - by the Radio and Television Licensing Authority (RTLA), a bureaucracy with an incredible amount of power, even by the standards of the former Soviet Union.  In fact, the RTLA's authority, which is so great it makes the U.S. Federal Communications Commission look like an old ladies' tea party in comparison, is extremely intrusive and completely at odds with the apparently erroneous assumption that modern Germany is a democratic republic run by enlightened officials, not a Fourth Reich controlled by Hitler's ghost.  Why Germans tolerate the existence of this bunch of Gestapo clones, whose behavior almost makes the original brownshirts seem benign in comparison, is something that defies explanation.

Now, you may think that I'm just another anti-authoritarian who is over-reacting like certain well-known paranoid types.  Not so, my friend!  In this story by a British journalist who has resided in Germany for more than a decade, you can read about a nightmare that even George Orwell overlooked, one that goes beyond merely taxing the bejesus out of hard-working folks.  What is described appears to be nothing less than the actions of a government intent on stifling free thought and the exchange of ideas with others.  If any regulatory body in the USA were to try to pull these tactics it would be sued to death with charges of violating the First Amendment.

I certainly hope that some of Germany's less-regimented citizens will rise up against the RTLA and demand that the market react to free enterprise, not a bunch of jack-booted, techno-terrorists lead by the astonishingly arrogant Ms. Weiss, who has apparently confused Mein Kampf with the German Constitution.  Oops!  Wait a minute!  I completely forgot: there is no legal German Constitution.   Evidently, the lack of such an august document has infused Ms. Weiss with the thought that she can do whatever she chooses to do, just like her mustachioed predecessor did in the 1930's.  When a number of Germans threatened to take up the matter with that other bastion of heavy-handed bureaucracy, the European Union, she asserted, "Cultural sovereignty is not to be interfered with," an apparent implication that the Nazi way is also the German way.  To me that sounds like a gross insult to those whom her government is allegedly representing.

Not being completely conversant with how laws are enacted and enforced over there, I don't know what, if any, action concerned Germans might be able to take to stop Ms. Weiss and her storm troopers.  However, I do know this: the notion of "government by the people, for the people" still doesn't seem to have taken hold in Berlin—even some 60 years after the head storm trooper met his maker.


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More Articles by © BigDumbDinosaur


---December 12, 2004

When I saw the link to "well known paranoid types" I thought it would lead to me.. dunno why I'd think that.. :-)

I can't find the reference, but I recall some guvmint type over here talking recently about how the Internet is like the old Wild West, and like the West, it is going to have to be tamed.. wonder what he has in mind?

--TonyLawrence

"...I thought it would lead to me.. dunno why I'd think that..."

Who'd you have in mind?

"...wonder what he has in mind?"

Wonder no more. Just fill out these forms so we can register your radio, toaster, toilet and your wife's hair dryer.

BTW, notice how I went the extra mile and got the umlaut over the 'u' in Der F&uuml;rher. &lt;Grin&gt; Seig Heil!

--BigDumbDinosaur

Hmmm, i actually find this article a bit offensive - in Europe most television and radio is taxed (because the state/country has national broadcasts that are funded this way). And this tax goes further so that the videotapes, writable cd's etc. are taxed and payed back to artists - while this may not be the American way - nor the regular way of markedeconomy ... its certainly not a Facist idea and most certainly not a Nazi one (note: Denmark has had this tax on the table for several years but just hasn't implemented it - and i'm certain that quite a number of other european states have same).

Summary: If you have a television or a radio in many state of Europe - you are bound by law to register and pay tax (licence) to have it (even if you don't use it). This is what pays for public broadcasting.

-- KimPetersen

---December 12, 2004

If they did that here the politicians would steal the money and use it for something else.

--TonyLawrence

"If they did that here the politicians would steal the money and use it for something else."

Yeah. They'd probably use it to finance political campaigns, the ultimate form of in-your-face broadcasting.

"Summary: If you have a television or a radio in many state of Europe - you are bound by law to register and pay tax (licence) to have it (even if you don't use it). This is what pays for public broadcasting."

Maybe Germans need public broadcasting to tell them what to do and think, but we sure as hell don't. Public broadcasting is nothing more than a source of government propaganda akin to the radio broadcasts that emanated from Berlin in the 1930's. Most of what public broadcasting claims to provide I can find on Discovery, History Channel, BBC World News, etc., without being forced to pay a tax to support their activities. In other words, I don't need any bureaucrat using my money to advance his agenda and tell me how to think and behave.

In any case, just because registration is law, that doesn't make it right. I see no reason why any government has to know how many radios, telephones, TV's and computers are in one's home. Perhaps if European officials weren't so hell-bent on poking their frigging noses into everybody's business, taxing the daylights out of everything, and micro-managing everyone's activities, their economies would realize the sort of impetus and sustained growth that we are accustomed to here in North America.

I'm sorry if the tone of the article seems offensive to you -- it *was* intended to be mildly so in order to make a point. Any government that has the authority to regulate the purchases of its citizens/subjects -- especially items like radios, TV's, phones, etc. -- has the means to stifle communication and the exchange of free thought. Do I think that sort of governmental intrusion is Facist? You're damned right I do! Once it happens, it's a relatively simple matter to shift from a representative style of government, which many European countries have right now, to a totalitarian regime, which many European countries have had in the recent past. Although Denmark has not experienced that sort of cycle in her recent history, Danes were adversely affected by the Nazi regime almost until the conclusion of World War II.

Germany, in particular, seems to have had a long history of oppressive government, culminating in the events of 1933 to 1945. Following the close of World War II, the USA went out of its way (both financially and politically) to get Germany back on its feet and on the road to a free market economy and a representative form of government. This seemed to work as long as Germany was split, as West Germans were fearful of the communists and what they stood for -- as well as what they failed to accomplish. However, following unification, it seems as though regression to the "Heil Hitler" mentality started. Today's Germany is headed back toward a repressive style of government -- this Internet tax thing being just the latest of several examples of the trend.

Europeans may think that many Americans are ignoramuses who know little about European history, culture, politics and such. There's no question that some Americans match that description -- most of whom seem to have found employment in the entertainment industry. &lt;Smile&gt;

Well, this American knows a lot about what goes on in Europe *and* the Middle East (I worked in Saudi Arabia and Iraq in years past). I've worked with technical types from various European states and I've seen how some had to do without some of the resources that I had available to me as a matter of course. Now, does that make Americans superior in some way? No, it doesn't. But, what it does say is that our free market system, which is not hobbled by control freak governmental edicts, works a lot better than most. My opinion is European countries are over-regulated, over-taxed and economically over-extended.

If you don't agree with me, please consider the following: how is it a single company in the USA accounts for the lion's share of commercial aircraft sales worldwide, whereas the resources of two entire European countries are required to design and build one commercial airliner to compete with the 747? And why is the leading importer of automobiles to North America Japan, not Germany, France, Sweden or the UK (even though cars like the Mercedes, Volvo and Saab are technically better than their Japanese competitors)? Could it be that the common answer is that the free market policies and limited governmental regulation that exist in Japan and the USA encourage the sort of investment and risk-taking that is required to dominate a market?

--BigDumbDinosaur

I just have to respond to this ... lots of misconceptions here ....

1. Maybe Germans need public broadcasting to tell them what to do and think, but....

Sorry, but ignorance is showing here, the public broadcast channels are politically independant - to just about the highest degree possible - its run by part grassroots (viewers communities), representatives of political parties (not government), and electee's [at least they are so in Denmark and the UK] - Btw. BBC is such an animal.

2. I see no reason why any government has to know how many radios, telephones, TV's and computers....

They don't want to know how many - they just want to know if you have *one* - since you pay for the ability to be able to view or see public broadcasts.

3.For the part about the short way from above to Fascism - you fail to get the point that *while* we have public broadcasts - we also (and the EU is pretty damn f**king stict about this) encorage private broadcasts and tailor the public ones so that they don't intrude on these as unfair competition. Just about the only country in Europe where you can talk about government control of the media is Berlusconi's Italy.

4. ... their economies would realize the sort of impetus and sustained growth that we are accustomed to here in North America

Sorry - but your numbers are ascewed - the EU is at the moment the world #1 economy - and i believe that at the moment the average citicen in Europe has a larger puchase power than the American one (ref: https://www.oecd.org/document/26/0,2340,en_2649_34357_1820442_1_1_1_1,00.html)
(not that this can't change - its just the current numbers). And certainly the lower class/poor has a lot more money here than over there. So while some European countries at the moment feel have a recession - overall things are pretty well (btw. Germany is in such a recession - prolly the late causes of Kohl's at-once solution in the merger of east and west Germany

5. as for the "Heil" attitudes you see ... yes there are those over here - but i really don't think they are solely on this side of the ocean - racism etc. seems not to know any boundaries.

6. As for the lack of a German constitution (instituted in 1949: Grundgesetz)... you might want to read up on that - Germany even has a constitutional court called the Bundesverfassungsgericht - so i really am quite confused about what your referring to here ....

Note: note that i don't actually state anywhere if agree or disagree about the above mentioned tax (which i actually find pretty stupid), i just had to react to the onesided bias that you and the article took to a subject thats a lot more complex when taking all the factors into account.

-- KimPetersen (who was just a annoyed that you (or rather the article you quoted) had to invoke Godwin's law...)

"...the public broadcast channels are politically independant...its run by part grassroots (viewers communities), representatives of political parties (not government), and electee's [at least they are so in Denmark and the UK] - Btw. BBC is such an animal."

If politicians are directly involved with broadcasting, then the broadcasts are, by definition, not politically independent, eh? Or are you trying to claim that your politicians are altruistic beings who would never put their agenda ahead of the public good? If so, please send them here and we'll give you some of ours to take their places.

BTW, I'm well aware of who's pulling BBC's strings. I watch them to get a different perspective on world events -- which doesn't mean that I expect 100 percent unbiased reporting. &lt;Smile&gt;

"2. I see no reason why any government has to know how many radios, telephones, TV's and computers....

"They don't want to know how many - they just want to know if you have *one* - since you pay for the ability to be able to view or see public broadcasts."

Or two or three or four...they *do* want to know how many, because that's the basis on which usage is taxed. And I don't *WANT* to view their stupid propaganda broadcasts, so I don't feel compelled to pay for their crap.

"...you fail to get the point that *while* we have public broadcasts - we also (and the EU is pretty damn f**king stict about this) encorage private broadcasts and tailor the public ones so that they don't intrude on these as unfair competition. Just about the only country in Europe where you can talk about government control of the media is Berlusconi's Italy."

A public broadcast financed by tax money is ***inherently government controlled***, right? After all, once the taxes have been collected, they and whatever they purchase are under government control. As the old wheeze goes, "it's the golden rule:" he who has the gold makes the rules.

"4. ... their economies would realize the sort of impetus and sustained growth that we are accustomed to here in North America

"Sorry - but your numbers are ascewed - the EU is at the moment the world #1 economy..."

The EU is not an economy or sovereign state, but a treaty-bound group of countries who think they have something in common, but still stick with their own cultures, language(s), laws and customs. About all that there is that seems to be in common is the euro and a mild dislike of the USA. As for the languages, laws and customs, I think Christianne Weiss' attitude speaks volumes.

In contrast, my neighbors in Wisconsin, Indiana, Kentucky, Missouri and Iowa (the states bordering Illinois) have far more in common with me than the average Frenchman has with his German neighbors to the east or his Spanish neighbors to the south. For one thing, we all (more or less) speak the same language. We all pledge allegiance to the same flag. We all tend to follow the same sports. We all subscribe to the same legal system. And we all contribute a common economy.

In truth, Canada and the USA, two of the three parties to the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), have far more in common than any two members of the EU will ever have. Our economies are structurally very similar, we share a common language, play many of the same sports, use the same power line voltages and have essentially identical currency systems. Our values and political beliefs are very similar (Iraqi war controversy notwithstanding). I can call my relatives in Gananoque (Ontario) or Kamloops (British Columbia) without having to dial a country code, and without having to sweat over outrageous charges and taxes. :)

Speaking of NAFTA, when the idea was originally floated, there was an enormous amount of controversy. One soul said there would be a "great, big sucking sound" as jobs left the USA and went to Canada or Mexico (some jobs did, only to be replaced by others). Other folks, me being one of them, were somewhat in favor of NAFTA, only because it would give Canadians a wider access to our markets and a bigger slice of the economic pie. I wasn't terribly enthused about Mexico being included, given that country's long history of gross political corruption, unstable government, questionable human rights policy and sorry work ethic (since then, the election of Vincente Fox as Mexican president seems be turning things around).

Anyhow, the EU may represent a very large market, but it is one based on uneasy treaty, not mutually observed, respected and enforced laws. For example, there's nothing to stop Germany from leaving the EU if it is determined that Christianne Weiss' policies vis a vis phones and TV's are monopolistic and therefore contrary to what the EU deems to be proper. After all, says she, that would be interference with Germany's sovereignity. If the EU decided France was intentionally low-balling wine prices or Spain was overcharging for machine tools, what's to stop those nations from saying "Screw you!" and bailing out? What's the EU going to do about it? Start a war?

My point is, the EU has the same weight of law in Europe as NAFTA does here. If Canada decides one day that they want out of NAFTA or that some aspect of NAFTA doesn't agree with their aspirations and goals, we Americans will have little recourse.

"...and i believe that at the moment the average citicen in Europe has a larger puchase power than the American one..."

If that is the case, then why does everything there cost so much more than here. When I have traveled to the UK or Europe, I have always been astonished by what I have to spend for basics like food and gasoline, relative to those same items here. Gas is a good example: currently it is about 1.80 per gallon in our area, which price includes all taxes. The last time I was abroad (Germany, as it so happens), the cost of gas was (after converting litres to gallons and Duestchmarks to dollars) about 4.50. Same chemical, same result when burned in an automobile, but 2-1/2 times the cost. As for services, like radio, TV, telephone, etc., the real cost in Europe is substantially higher than *anything* similar in North America -- even in Mexico. Case in point: it costs me less to call my relatives in Canada that it would to call from one side of Paris to the other.

"...And certainly the lower class/poor has a lot more money here than over there..."

I don't get terribly concerned about the "lower class/poor" in the USA. Poor is a relative term. Just about all of our "lower class/poor" folks seem to have enough money to get shelter, food, a cell phone -- and in some cases, a supply of illegal substances to ingest. Starving to death in the USA is virtually unheard of -- someone is always willing to feed someone else if they are hungry. To me, starving children in Africa are "poor."

"...as for the 'Heil' attitudes you see ... yes there are those over here..."

Austria and its dislike of Jews immediately comes to mind.

"...but i really don't think they are solely on this side of the ocean - racism etc. seems not to know any boundaries."

You won't get much of an argument from me on that point. The USA has had a long history of racist crap, a lot of which I witnessed first-hand during the 1960's. While I'd have to say at this time that overt racism is not nearly as serious as it was forty or fifty years ago, it's still there. You can't legislate attitudes out of existence.

"...As for the lack of a German constitution (instituted in 1949: Grundgesetz)... you might want to read up on that - Germany even has a constitutional court called the Bundesverfassungsgericht - so i really am quite confused about what your referring to here..."

Not to get into any kind of a peeing contest over this, but Grundgesetz became legally invalid in 1991 following reunification. There has been nothing enacted to replace it, although Grundgesetz is still unofficially acknowleged as part of the legal process (a friend who is a German immigrant -- his family came here to get away from the Christianne Weiss types -- clarified Grundgesetz's status for me). As for Bundesverfassungsgericht, it appears to have the same legal status as Grundgesetz. I suppose some governmental official intent on reverting Germany to totalitarianism could try to take advantage of Bundesverfassungsgericht's tenuous situation. I certainly hope I never read about something like that on CNN.

"Note: note that i don't actually state anywhere if agree or disagree about the above mentioned tax (which i actually find pretty stupid), i just had to react to the onesided bias that you and the article took to a subject thats a lot more complex when taking all the factors into account."

There is no bias intended. I'm hardly claiming that the USA is a panacea for all that ails mankind (although you'd think otherwise, considering the number of folks who enter illegally each year). We have some truly onerous problems here -- the current occupant of the White House being one of them. However, we prefer to work out our problems without having a bunch of bureaucratic busy-bodies sticking their noses into everything and everyone's business. In another four years, we'll have another chance to elect someone who actually has a clue -- I hope!

--BigDumbDinosaur



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