Gap theory (politics)

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The application of the gap theory , which goes back to the lawyer and politician Friedrich Julius Stahl , was Otto von Bismarck's attempt to solve the Prussian constitutional conflict in the interests of the king.

After the Prussian Landtag in 1862 had not approved the army reform for the Prussian King (later German Emperor) Wilhelm I , as this would have been done at the expense of the bourgeois Landwehr , Otto von Bismarck offered the King to act as Prime Minister , if necessary also on his own initiative to rule parliament.

Stahl and Bismarck were of the opinion that in all cases for which no explicit regulation was made in the constitution, the monarch as sovereign - and not the parliament - had the competence to resolve this constitutional loophole in a decision.

Since, in Bismarck's view, the constitution does not prescribe any regulations in the event that the king and the two chambers cannot agree on a budget , he still has to act as head of government and representative of the crown so that state life does not come to a standstill. The army reform was carried out with capital obtained from Bismarck and thus unauthorized - because without a budget approved by parliament.

It was in this context that Bismarck's famous quote fell: "The big questions of the time are not decided by speeches and majority decisions - that was the big mistake of 1848 and 1849 - but by iron and blood ".

After Prussia had won the war against Austria in 1866 (Bismarck ended this war against the will of the king and thus, according to the above statements, unconstitutional), Bismarck was able to win the national liberals on his side and had the budget confirmed afterwards through the so-called indemnity bill . The funds used by Bismarck were paid back.

The adoption of this bill represented a compromise between Bismarck and Parliament. By approving it, the National Liberals “thanked” the Prime Minister for creating the prerequisites for a German state; in return, Bismarck tacitly recognized the financial sovereignty (budgetary law) of Parliament.


  • Hans-Christof Kraus : Origin and genesis of the "gap theory" in the Prussian constitutional conflict . In: Der Staat 29 (1990), pp. 209-234.
  • Winfried Becker: The alleged loophole in the legislation in the Prussian constitutional conflict . In: Historisches Jahrbuch 100 (1980), pp. 257–285.