The European ‘social model’ is nearing the end of the road:
Jobless Germans could be forced to surrender anything but the cheapest of cars to keep their benefit payments flowing, if a plan by conservative politicians goes ahead.
The latest bid to make drawing Germany’s traditionally generous social benefits less attractive would see the long-term unemployed forced to shun high-end “Vorsprung Durch Technik” Audi convertibles, BMWs and Mercedes S Class cars for distinctly lesser models.
Those who live by the state will die by the state.
As the splendidly politically incorrect Ray D. puts it:
This much is clear: Next year’s World Cup in Germany promises to be a high-scoring event!
Just in case you have not been already doing so, essential blog commentary on Germany’s cliff-hanger can be found over on David’s Medienkritik.
It will be interested to see if just under 12% unemployment has actually got the attention of the German electorate or is it going to be more of the same old stuff? Angela Merkel is something of an unknown quantity and the mere fact she is described as a ‘loose cannon’ by the political chattering classes makes her someone worth watching with at least a soupcon of hope. Germany badly needs an ‘Iron Lady’ so it will be interesting to see if Angela Merkel has what it takes or will the entrenched system just make her one of them.
The election hangs on a knife edge…
Bob ‘give-us-yer-fokken-money’ Geldof must be losing his touch:
Berlin’s planned Live8 concert next week threatens to turn into a fiasco because it has failed to attract the support of politicians or business sponsors, the event’s German organiser has admitted.
Marek Lieberberg, a friend of Bob Geldof contracted to run the Live8 concert in Berlin, said the lack of support meant the rock bands appearing at the event risked having to pay for the €1m (£663,000) show themselves.
A risk? Surely not a ‘risk’ but a heaven-sent opportunity for the socially-conscious cream of the rockeratti to put their own money where their big ‘fokken’ mouths are.
German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder’s social democratic (SPD) party has been hit hard in regional elections over the weekend, with voter anger at his party over the crummy state of the economy overwhelming an attempt by some of his own party members to whip up a storm of anti-capitalist sentiment in order to cling to power. Good. I honestly don’t know whether we are seeing a transition phase in Germany towards sanity and liberal economics. What is clear is that a country that has suffered double-digit unemployment for more than half a decade cannot go on like this without dreadful strains on its social fabric. Maybe some of the more intelligent parts of the German political class might get this point. We need the once-mighty German economic machine, brought to such a pitch by the late great Konrad Adenauer and Ludwig Ehrhard (friend of Hayek) brought to a purring level of growth again. It is in no-body’s interests, least of all ours in Britain, to see that nation permanently in the doldrums.
There is a related article here about what has gone wrong in Germany here in the latest edition of the Spectator. As Glenn Reynolds likes to say, read the whole thing.
German’s leftwing SPD politicians have been bashing those symbols of hated capitalist activity, private equity buyout funds which look out for distressed firms, sell off some of the assets and reconstruct the remainder in the hope of turning a business around, before selling it at a profit. How shameful. Such people are “locusts” destroying Germany’s economy, scream the politicians (who of course have been doing a tremendous job on that score).
In fact, I find all this abuse rather encouraging. If entrepreneurs see value in the German economic landscape, and perceive there are rich profits to be made in turning around businesses and then flogging them off, it is very good news indeed for the country’s economy. By releasing capital from uneconomic areas and focussing it on lucrative new bits, the overall pie gets bigger, jobs get created, and productivity is also increased.
In fact, one could almost create a new economic law: the amount of abuse raining down on entrepreneurs is directly proportional to the good they do. I haven’t seen much reason to doubt this law yet.
Downfall (Der Untergang) proved the perfect foil to the Europe of the Diversities conference, referred to earlier by Johnathan Pearce. This is a controversial film that has excited some who argue that representations of the Nazis which humanise their actions, and detail their suffering, downplay the consequences of the regime. There is weight to this argument, as the film focuses fully on the people within Hitler’s bunker, their loyalty, their duty and their concerns in those final days.
Deftly underscored by Stephan Zacharias’s string-laden soundscape and cinematographer Rainer Klausmann’s truly terrific skill in capturing of the grim reality of the horror that was 1945 Berlin, Hirschbiegel pushes many buttons: the collective guilt of a nation for atrocities committed by their state balanced against the horrific human price of no surrender; the astonishing loyalty of the women around the cold-hearted dictator and the SS who vow to fight on because “we cannot outlive the Fuhrer’s death”; the double standard of being superior but cleansing themselves of traitors and the imperfect until there’s no leadership left to carry the torch.
Although Friedrich Hayek argued that totalitarian regimes allowed thugs and psychopaths to enter positions of authority, this film shows that traditional values of honour and duty were perverted and strengthened by the Nazis. In the film, it is Prussian values which sustain the dying regime, bring the Hitler Youth onto the streets and motivate the soldiers.
One should watch Shoah prior to this, as an inoculation, since one must make a conscious effort to recollect the camps in order to avoid feeling any empathy with these monsters.
UPDATE: For those who thought my link to a revisionist website was too obscure a warning signal that these memes still exist, here is an interview with Lanzmann, the director of Shoah, explaining the reasons why his work must exist.
Kudos to German media watch blog Davids Medienkritik for getting Stern magazine to change its text describing the Italian intelligence officer killed at a US military vehiclular checkpoint as having been ‘murdered’ by US soldiers.
The fact this powerful magazine reacted quickly to David’s sharply critical remarks shows that more and more of the mainstream media are now well aware of the blogosphere’s ability to shine an uncomfortable spotlight on such things.
Nice one, David!
With all the understandable attention being focused on the dreadful situation in the lands skirting the Indian Ocean, there is always a danger that disasters of a different, more Man-made kind, get overlooked. Well this week the German statistics office reported a dreadful set of unemployment figures, showing the number of jobless in Europe’s biggest economy to be at the highest level for seven years
A Bloomberg report on the story contains the following passage:
New measures cutting benefits for the long-term unemployed took effect on Jan. 1. Those without a job, including people previously registered as social-welfare recipients rather than as jobless, will also face increased pressure to accept job offers or risk losing benefits. The changes will add an as yet undetermined number of people to the January jobless total.
But it is clear that the German authorities are still tinkering with the issue. That 10.8 percent of the working age population of such an important country should be out of a job is a disgrace. What I find odd though is how little outraged commentary in the economics part of the press there is about this. It is almost as if the European chattering classes have come regard this problem in Germany, and also France, with an air of sullen resignation. Of course, dealing with it will involve lots of vulgar, Reaganite actions such as deregulation, tax cuts to spur business formation and the like, which of course goes against the grain of Germany’s ‘managed’ form of business so beloved of leftist commentators like Britain’s own Will Hutton.
Germany needs to get its act together. Some 15 years since reunification with the eastern part of the country, Germany has failed to live up its early promise. With so many young people, including those from immigrant backgrounds, on the dole, no wonder commentators wonder about the social fabric of that country. They should.
This is not a re-run of the 1930′s but surely I am not the only person who can hear the thin bat-squeak of warning?
Germany’s Neo-Nazi National Democratic Party made sweeping gains in important elections in the eastern state of Saxony yesterday after a shock protest vote that reflected the widespread unpopularity of Chancellor Gerhard Schröder’s economic reform programme.
The extreme-right Deutsche Volks Union also retained seats in Brandenburg state elections. However Mr Schröder’s Social Democrats remained the strongest party in the state despite substantial gains by the reformed-communist Party for Democratic Socialism (PDS.)
National Socialists+Communists+Germany = Hackles rising.
Whereas all other post-socialist countries had to reinvent themselves as liberal democracies without a huge influx of aid, the East Germans were reunified with their western brethren and hosed down with Deutschemarks. Out of solidarity, they were given money and West German workers could feel good as they witnessed that earmarked solidarity tax on their payslips.
Now, some East and West Germans want the wall back:
“Is the east ungrateful?” the mass tabloid Bild recently asked, citing a poll which showed that 76 per cent of east Germans thought that life under communism was not that bad after all. It listed pollution, deaths at the Berlin Wall, the 14-year wait to buy a car, in order to remind many of how miserable life had been. The animosity was shown in a survey this week in which one in five Germans – 25 per cent of westerners and 12 per cent of easterners – said they wanted the Berlin Wall to be rebuilt.
The Easterners are probably that small cohort of pensioners who still worship the bust of the Red Tsar on their bookshelf. The Westerners are just tired of tax, and who can blame them.
Whilst the rest of Eastern Europe gets richer, East Germany has faltered under the smothering embrace of a West European welfare state. They have been spoiled by generous handouts that are no longer affordable. Their kneejerk reaction has been to exercise their recently acquired freedoms and demonstrate for more spoils, demonstrating yet again how German welfare turned those imprisoned by communists into beggars.
For the past six weeks tens of thousands of east Germans have been gathering in town centres for weekly “Monday Demos”, a reference to the demonstrations that led to the fall of the Berlin Wall 15 years ago. Their complaint: even before they have benefited from capitalism, the reforms being implemented by the government of Chancellor Gerhard Schroder – particularly plans to scale back benefits for the long-term jobless – will disadvantage them still further.
If East Germany had maintained its independence and had been forced to take the harsh decisions that all post-socialist societies faced, these demonstrators would now feel that they had benefited more from capitalism. They would be busy earning money, not worrying why the state was axing their dole.
Gerhard Schröder is calling companies who outsource ‘unpatriotic‘, after Ludwig Georg Braun, the president of the federation of chambers of industry and commerce, advised German businesses to seek opportunities elsewhere.
So, Gerhard Schröder, the man who has presided over yet another interventionist government whose policies have made Germany progressively more and more uncompetitive over the years, brazenly refuses to accept his personal responsibility for imposing the very policies which are driving businesses to seek to invest elsewhere.
But then I suppose as the prerequisite for any professional politician is to be able to look an entire nation in the eye and tell them black is white and up is down, and then ask to be applauded for saying that… and what is more, more often than not, that is exactly what happens.
Whatever. Reality always has its way with vainglorious politicians in the long run because people, and their capital, will eventually go where their interests are best served.
And that place will not be Gerhard Schröder’s Germany.