Monday, May 23, 2005

The Big Déjà Vu

Germany is sinking under its own hatred. A country whose political philosophy rests on negativity cannot long survive. Wolfgang Munchau, in this month’s Spectator, outlines the problems that Germany has created for itself. First, the old New Germany:
    Looking back at the 1960s and 1970s, when I grew up in Germany, one of the most striking things was that everyone talked about work and money. The country was infuriatingly materialistic. The old West Germany felt more like an economy than a country. It used to have a proper currency, the Deutschmark, but it lacked a proper political capital. At a time when the British believed in incomes policies, capital controls and state ownership, Germany was as laissez-faire an economy as you could find anywhere in Europe. The Germans were the Americans of Europe, as a friend remarked at the time. Everyone was brimming with confidence and the superiority that comes with the belief that you are running the world’s most superior economy. The 1970s were the heyday of Germany’s social market economy, the economic equivalent of having your cake and eating it.
Then along came re-unification and all its resultant problems.
    Unification was supposed to make Germany even stronger. The opposite happened….
When I returned to Germany in the 1990s, what surprised me most was not the poor performance of the economy — this I expected. I was most shocked by the extraordinary loss of self-confidence among the political and business elites, combined with a poisonous cocktail of the three big As: anti-Americanism, anti-Semitism and anti-capitalism.
Germany has been anti-American for some time. And it’s anti-capitalism is self-evident in its economic decisions.
    The absence of a proper market economy means that most people and politicians have no gut-level understanding of how a market economy works. Most Germans do not negotiate their wages. They are paid according to fixed-rate tariffs set in negotiations between trade unions and employers’ associations. Most people have little exposure to the financial market and its products. Among wealthy nations, Germany has one of the lowest ownership rates of private homes, shares, mutual funds and credit cards. What makes Germany even more distinct is the universal belief that the primary responsibility of companies is not to make profits but to fulfil a moral duty to their employees and their communities.
But it is the growing anti-Semitism, in Germany of all places, that chills:
    A cartoon in the latest issue of the house journal of I.G. Metall, the German engineering union, depicts what appear to be American-Jewish investors as insects with long noses sucking the lifeblood out of the German economy. It is quite shocking to see how the present generation of centre-left leaders uses symbols of racism with such carelessness, considering that their predecessors — political leaders like Konrad Adenauer, Willy Brandt and Helmut Kohl — have spent decades dispelling the ghosts of the past and helping to create the image of a mature and normal democracy.
Well, it appears to be an image only, not a reality. Nor is Germany is alone in its thinking. Spain’s now-suspect 3/11 fix, Britain’s increasingly uncivil public spaces, the anti-Semitism and cesspit of the no-go areas of suburban Paris, Italy’s loud anti-Americanism, the darkening skies in Sweden and Norway: they are all of a piece.

So it may be that the lights are going out all over Europe. Again. This time, there may not be the American will to save them from themselves.

Hat tip: Barcepundit


a4g said...

What is it in Germany reunification that seemed to poison the country, in stark contrast to other Eastern European nations that seem to have in various degrees embraced the American ideals of capitalism and individualism? (witness the reception of W in Georgia)

Is it because the might of the German economy was able to be utilized to 'ease the pain' of the reunifying easterners, where the other nations had to sink or swim on their own merits?

The only thing I can surmise is the 'liberal guilt' effect that interdicts the very intimate act of charity and twists it into a social engineering machine.

Any thoughts?

Dymphna said...

Maybe it's the poison left in the East German system? That was some ugly marriage. And none of the other countries had to go thru that.

Of course, there was the postponed- for-several-generations Serbian Croatin mess, but it's internecine.

Germany is also dealing -- or not dealing -- with its Turkish problem. They didn't let their untouchables have German citizenship and now where are they? You could see this coming 25 years ago, before we were talking Islam terrorists. Back then, you could see sullen Turks doing the dirty work.

Now they can all blame the Jews. How convenient.

You could be right about the other nations having to make do with their sink-or-swim efforts. In that respect, the Germans themselves look sullen and spoiled.

That Japanese Time mag had it wrong: it is Europe that is rotting into third-world entities. There's just so long you can live on your heritage before the rotten timbers give way under you.

Rune said...

Germany is sinking. Once the economic engine of Europe, it is now the eternal sick man. Britain, thanks to the economic liberalisations of Thatcher, already has overtaken Germany as more productive per man hour. In ten years it’s set to overtake Germany on overall GNP – even though it’s only some 60-70% of its size. East Germany is sluggish, while the rest of Eastern Europe is steaming ahead with yearly growth figures in the 7-8% range. Though they’ve just yesterday called for early election to this autumn – and the pro-American opposition candidate looks to be the winner – she also did not partake in the critique over the Iraq war. So things may be looking brighter.

Btw. Bush is coming to Denmark on July 6. I’ll be the one with the flag, in case you see the pictures.

Dymphna said...


What great news! Bush had better make sure Laura comes along. The Queen is an elegant woman...the picture of grace, no?'ll be the white guy waving the flag. Shouldn't be hard to spot you.