Politics and Government in Germany, 1944-1994: Basic Documents

By Carl-Christoph Schweitzer; Detlev Karsten et al. | Go to book overview

11
Basic Rights and Constitutional Review

Donald P. Kommers

T he Basic Law includes an impressive charter of fundamental rights and freedoms (Doc.1). Such a charter of rights was also included in the Weimar Constitution. But there the relevant articles were not given the priority which they enjoy under the Basic Law of the Federal Republic. The Basic Law starts off with the charter of rights and makes certain that they cannot, as was possible in Weimar, be subjected to amendments as far as their 'substance' is concerned. The rights specifically guaranteed reflect the dominant influence both of the Social and Christian Democratic Parties in the Parliamentary Council (Parlamentarischer Rat) as well as Germany's experience with totalitarian government. One manifestation of socialist influence is the limitation on the right to property; under Art. 15, for example, natural resources, land, and the means of production may be transferred to public ownership. A manifestation of Christian influence is the basic right conferred upon parents to have their children receive religious education in public (state) schools in accordance with their religious views and the incorporation into the Basic Law of certain provisions of the Weimar Constitution concerning the public rights of religious organizations.

Apart from these and related provisions, the charter of rights also guarantees all of the fundamental freedoms against the state--so- called negative freedoms--traditionally associated with western liberal democracies. These include freedom of speech, press, religious belief, association, and movement. Included in the Basic Rights charter are also guarantees of the right to property, the right to choose a trade or occupation, the right to marry and raise a family, the right to equality between the sexes, and the right to refuse military service for reasons of conscience. These basic liberties are defined as 'inalienable human rights', constituting 'the basis of every community, of peace and justice in the world'. Another distinctive feature of the Basic Law, distinguishing it from the constitutional provisions of

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Politics and Government in Germany, 1944-1994: Basic Documents
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Preface to the First Edition xv
  • Preface to the Second Edition xvii
  • Introduction xix
  • 1 - The Origins of The Federal Republic Of Germany, 1944-1949 1
  • 2 - Berlin 29
  • 3 - The Two Germanies 48
  • 4 - Germany Reunited 1989--Her First Successful Revolution, And a Peaceful One 76
  • 5 - Foreign Policy 108
  • 6 - Defence Policy and the Armed Forces 150
  • 7 - Parliamentary Democracy: The Bundestag 175
  • 8 - Political Parties 201
  • 9 - Chancellor, Cabinet, and President 239
  • 10 - The Judiciary 272
  • 11 - Basic Rights And Constitutional Review 297
  • 12 - Federalism: Bund and Länder 325
  • 13 - Public Opinion: Interest Groups and the Media 371
  • 14 - Economic and Social Policy 401
  • Statistical Tables 432
  • Glossary 446
  • Select Bibliography 449
  • Notes on the Editors 458
  • Index 460
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