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.
Mark Holland has spotted a little gem in the German press
It would appear that the little village of Norderfriedrichskoog in Schleswig-Holstein, with a population of just 45 inhabitants, has 500 registered companies including subsidiaries of conglomerates like Deutsche Bank, Lufthansa and power giant e.ON
Because the town does not charge business tax, that is tax on profits. And the firms have saved €300 million in the last decade.
German Finance Minister Hans Eichel is desperate to get his mitts on this loot and wants to ‘reform’ local authority finances. According to Eichel’s plans, all local authorities must set a minimum rate for local business taxes.
And there was me thinking Germany was a federation. Wouldn’t the states have something to say about this? I guess Eichel is simply following the EU trend of ‘harmonisation’, ie raising upwards to the highest common denominator.
When the Olympic games were held in Sydney in 2000, a number of public viewing areas were set up in public spaces throughout the city. Giant video screens were erected, and large crowds gathered to watch sports events and enjoy the atmosphere.
Like in Britain, liquor licensing laws in Australia are quite strict in that if you enter a bar and buy an alcoholic drink, you must consume it on the premises of the bar. Although you have bought it, you are not permitted to walk off with it. During the games, a few portable bars were actually set up in the public spaces with the video screens. However, in order to comply with local liquor laws, certain relatively small areas of the public spaces were designated as alcohol drinking areas and barriers were erected to cordon people in these areas off from everybody else. On top of this, people in these areas were only sold drinks in cans or plastic cups. (These enclosures were quickly nicknamed “playpens”, on the basis that drinkers were being treated like small children). The dangers of broken glass were considered sufficiently great that people were not allowed to buy drinks in glasses or glass bottles. This was all very paternalistic, in the way that alcohol licensing laws in the English speaking world often are.
This past weekend, I happened to be in Germany. When I visited the Kurfürstendamm, the main shopping street of what once was West Berlin, I discovered that some kind of event was happening, declaring itself to be the “Global City 2003″ festival. Now any city that is sufficiently insecure that it feels the need to declare itself to be a “global city” or a “world city” actually isn’t one. There are plenty of interesting and enjoyable things to do in Berlin (including some of the most magnificent museums of cultural treasures anywhere) but when it comes down to it the city is not London, Tokyo, or New York. And the “Global City” festival was not all that global. There was a ferris wheel and a few other rides. A catwalk had been set up in the middle of the street and there were some fashion shows. A stage had been set up and there was some live music. There were stalls selling souvenirs of various kinds.
However, the most important thing was clearly eating and drinking, and this was done in a very German way. → Continue reading: The benefits of beer glass ownership
Q: What is the difference between a social democrat and a socialist?
A: A social democrat is a socialist who has realised the socialism doesn’t actually work.
A perfect illustration is provided by German Chancellor Gerhard Schroder, the very model of a modern social democrat, who has announced that things must change:
If we want to generate growth and jobs, we must lower those costs that eat into take-home pay.
Financial constraints are not the only driving force behind our reform programme. The reform of the welfare state is also a precondition for the success of future generations. In the past, the main topic of welfare politics was the redistribution of wealth. First, we must remember that wealth can only be redistributed once it has been generated. Second, we should note that redistribution has limits, beyond which mere monetary transfers encourage dependence. Third, elaborate systems of redistribution tend to produce “side-effects” in opposition to the desired results.
Do my eyes deceive me or is this doyen of the ‘Third Way’ demanding tax cuts and warning of the dangers of a dependence culture and unintended consequences? No, I think I am reading it right and if Herr Schroder keeps this up he might find himself being invited to write for the Samizdata one of these days.
And neither is this manful attempt to grapple with common sense a breaking of the ranks or a solo frolic in the fields of sanity because I could not help but notice that it follows hot on the heels of this rather more nebulous and ill-defined attempt from Peter Mandelson to say something along similar lines.
Coincidence? No, I don’t think so. Nor is it due to mere fickle fate that both of these portentious editorials appear in the pages of the Daily Social Worker where messages like this are about as common as gay bars in Riyadh. Now, I’m taking a calculated guess here but I’d say this is all part of a cunning plan to prepare the ground ahead of a big summit on ‘Progressive Governance’ (subtitled: ‘Oh Christ, we’ve been rumbled. What do we do now?) to be held here in London this coming weekend.
Could all these ominous warnings and pleas for an open-mind from the likes of Herr Schroder and Mr.Mandelson be a means of softening the ground for heavy blows ahead? Because to the extent that anything at all emerges from this gathering of professional pick-pockets and incurable busybodies, it is bound to be triumphal, shiny ‘reform’ and ‘new deal’ initiatives of the kind that pretty much herald an end to the welfare-state settlement.
If I am right (and that remains to be seen) then it is obvious that some of the brighter stars in the left-wing firmament have seen the writing on the wall and they know only too well that carrying the 20th Century state-socialist models into the 21st Century is a guaranteed one-way ticket to palookaville.
Wouldn’t it be fun to watch them emerge from their smoke-free rooms next week and jointly announce to their tax-consuming constituents that the booze has all run out, the snacks have all been eaten, the guests are all tapped out and that the party is definitely over.
Anti-American hatred may be sweeping round the ‘European Street’ more quickly than the Black Death, but the political elites may be secretly grateful to the Great Satan for handing them an opportunity to wriggle off the hook:
German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder has blamed the Iraq war for crushing global economic growth, as the European Commission prepares to cut its growth forecasts on Tuesday.
“It can already be seen that the war in Iraq has increased the economic uncertainties worldwide, and some of the hopes for economic growth have been impaired, if not entirely destroyed,” Mr Schroeder said in a speech on Sunday night.
And, with a single bound, Gerhard Schroeder was free!! See it isn’t exsanguinating taxes, rigid labour laws, a bloated public sector and a monstrously over-regulated economy that is causing all the problems, it’s those perfidious Yankees and their imperialist war for oil.
Do not underestimate the number of people who will fall for this because they want to fall for it. Remember that Schroeder is the leader who only got re-elected by shamelessly exploiting anti-American sentiment in Germany and I will not at all surprised to see him successfully spin this out until at least the next election.
Meanwhile, our own Chancellor Gordon Brown is due to announce his annual budget on Wednesday following a year of massive tax increases and looming redundancies. He is under pressure for sure but now he has a golden bridge. I can see it now, Gordon will shrug his meaty shoulders, sigh and assure the public that ‘if it had not been for the war…..’.
Christmas will soon be upon us, and along with television adverts advising us not to drink and drive, hangovers from office parties and late-night shopping, another regular feature rears its reliable head – the condemnation of commercial Christmas.
This time, the nags against Christmas free-market fun come from Germany, which in its current over-taxed and economically sclerotic state, could use all the commercial fizz going, I would have thought. But no, a German priest wants his patch to be declared a “Santa-free zone”.
Like the late Ayn Rand, a devout atheist, I always think that one of the very great things about Christmas – which after all started off as a midwinter pagan festival to give us all a good excuse to eat and drink excessively – is its commercial character. The glitz and colour of this time of the year provides much of its “point”.
So come on Santa. Sprinkle a bit of Christmas happiness over our a glum Teuton neighbours. Right now, they need it.