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Unformatted text preview: like in the US Senate. In the second chamber of parliament, no individual state is accorded privileges other than its vote,
which is exerted en bloc and weighted roughly by population . The result of the majority vote is binding for all, and the
policy outcome is uniform across the nation. In particular, the tax law is identical, even for state and municipal taxes ,
and the states are denied any form of own taxation. Tax revenue is typically shared and apportioned among layers of
government according to the constitution (income taxes) or law (VAT), and disbursed horizontally among regional
entities according to formulae with strong equalization components.
Homogeneity of policies is also fostered at the national level through the voting mechanism for the national parliament
(Bundestag), which follows the model of proportional representation while excluding all parties that fall below 5 percent
of the vote. This provision tends to neutralize extremist and factional parties, which had once played a key role in ruining
the Weimar democracy. This mechanism represents another example of asymmetric institutions designed to foster
homogeneity and ultimately symmetry of outcomes at the national level.
However, the rules equally protect minorities rather effectively through various asymmetric provisions: direct mandates
according to majority voting are combined with proportional representation whereby the majority voting system favors
singular (and even non-partisan) candidates; and parties that attain at least three direct mandates will be represented in
parliament although their proportional vote may fall below the margin .
Although the political landscape has varied quite considerably during the history of the Federal Republic of Germany—
with new entrants in parliament such as the greens and the former communists after unification—, the political system
and its institutions rely heavily on consensus-forming according to the preferences of the median-voter. He or she will
ultimately determine the pace of politics at the national level with the states and municipalities being compelled to
implement and administer such policies within a common national framework.
The almost complete lack of policy discretion at lower tiers of government, and the “emptiness of the agenda” of state
parliaments combined with the inability of states to use own tax instruments is exacerbated by a host of
intergovernmental transfers that are all destined to foster national homogeneity and uniformity of living conditions. It
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4 5 38 Legally, a German citizen is not defined by language, however. The criterion is still “blood relationship”, a rather doubtful remnant of Nazi ideology.
This criterion proved to be highly controversial (and expensive) in recent years because it encompasses the descendants of German emigrants, even
from the time of czarina Katharine, who are now alienated from German culture, while it excludes the children of foreigners, born and residing in
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