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Divided by a Common Past

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.

11 comments to Divided by a Common Past

  • D Anghelone

    Any poll on Hadrian’s Wall?

    Their complaint: even before they have benefited from capitalism…

    The huge level of subsidies that have flowed into east Germany have done little to stimulate the economy.

    Probably not up to the samizdata.net understanding of capitalism.

  • This story is a good example of why I grow increasingly conservative and mean-spirited as I age. That anybody could wish to live under communism, just goes to demonstrate that the vast majority of men could do with a sharp kick in the ass, and a mean, schoolmarm-ish scold to remind them of how bad it used to be.

    Leave conditions hard and harsh, and men will overcome. Pamper them, and they will learn to sit in a pile of their own excrement, waiting for handouts.

  • Mike

    Talking of the East, did anyone else hear about the latest bit of EU idiocy? France and Germany have told the new EU members to raise their business taxes to similar levels to FR & DE cos they’re losing businesses to the East! So, if the Eastern countries don’t do something which is manifestly not in their own interest, FR and DE will seek intra-EU economic sanctions! Maybe FR and DE should /lower/ their taxes (unthinkable) to attract businesses back? Or is this going to be the new scheme of things: will the EU be used by FR and DE for their own protectionist ends?

  • Jonathan L

    So massivegovernment largesse has something to doing with capitalism? Glad to be told.

  • John Thacker

    In fairness, it certainly was (and is) a choice between pain now or pain later– socialism causes massive misallocation of resources due to the lack of a price mechanism, and removing those subsidies is extremely painful due to the adjustment. It’s reasonable even for committed free-marketers to argue about the proper speed of reforms. It was, I think, especially an open question at the time of German reunification, since there wasn’t a whole lot of experience in massively de-socializing socialist economies.

    That said, I think that the balance of the evidence since then has shown that quicker reform is better in the long run. Expecting people to take the long view is dicey, however.

  • how nice of you to live in a country with a comfortable and secure government – from which you benefit from no matter how much you whine to the contrary – to tell those
    who don’t have one to get off their asses and quit whining. there are many anarchistic third-world hellholes that would fit your definition of “libertarian” states – why don’t you move there – and ps: make sure to take the guns you fetishize, you would most likely have to use them there.

  • Bonzi

    Well said, Arlow!

  • Euan Gray

    anarchistic third-world hellholes that would fit your definition of “libertarian” states

    And I’ve lived & worked in some of them. Truly they suck. No or little tax, a great deal of private law, and endemic violence. And yes, guns are handy there. But your comment in general was perhaps not as informative as it could have been, I fear.


  • Andrew Duffin

    “will the EU be used by FR and DE for their own protectionist ends?”

    In what way would that be a “new” way of doing things? It’s the old way, the only way, that the EU has ever operated.

  • Talking of the East, did anyone else hear about the latest bit of EU idiocy? France and Germany have told the new EU members to raise their business taxes to similar levels to FR & DE cos they’re losing businesses to the East!

    Except that they haven’t, because they don’t have the power to. But keep the fanatical anti-EU propaganda going, by all means.

  • George Orange

    I recently went on vacation in germany and was appalled at the taxes and the limited vocal freedom of the germans. They are still paying for the easts re-unifuckation which by the way was only supposed to last three years but are also still paying war reparations from ww2. They are not allowed to say anything that is auslander unfreundlich’outlander unfriendly’ and can be fined and thrown in jail for saying something like “turk go home” or “germans for germany”. Mussolini killed jews,and hitler was from austria,but no stigma lies with anyne but the germans. Austrians can say whatever they want without being called “nazi’s” and one of their political leaders is called hieder and I heard a rally call of “hiel hieder” which would surely land you in jail in germany. Socialism doesn’t work,Every person must pay his own way.when help is needed due to loss of job or physical/mental inability to pay,it should be given as a loan to be repaid by the individual who needed it from his own retirement/welfare account which every person should have set up from inception by the governments and both biological parents will have to contribute to the account to pay insurance for the child and its welfare[food ,clothing,utilites]. This will end the promotion of the welfare baby and make all individuals responsible for thier offspring which they are obviously not financially able to pay for . The ramifications of this are widespread,Stronger economies for all, less taxes. Reduction in single home parents and or with multiple children from different fathers. This will also help stem the flowof immigrants,mexicans in america and turks in germany because there will be no more free ride. No more running across the border pregnant and popping out a kid on the other side and “viola” a new american citizen is born and now they can stay and get medical and food and rent and clothes all paid for by americans that have worked and paid taxes into a system[flawed and bankrupting california, all of america next] that they have not contributed one cent into,that should be a right held exclusively to people legally here in america.we are one of the few countries that does this ,and to recognize a child as an american just because they are born here?? Who thought that up?? If you are an american citizen and have a child born overseas is your child not first considered ” american’?? Why should we automatically give that to anyone born here ,especially if they are here illegaly? I don’t know anyone I’ve asked if they would like to pay for someone else’s anything. Why should we? The crying bleeding heart liberals are the ones that are always spending our governments money to “help the poor children” . Make us feel guilty if we go against it. Well I don’t think any of us want to take some little kids food away but let’s make thier parents pay for it and when they realize they’ll have to pay for everthing they’ll come to the quick realization that a condom or contraceptive isn’t very expensive[I believe the health department provides that free here too] and take precautions to prevent them from being financially bound to thier offspring for the next 18yrs. Communism is dead,killed by financial overlaod.These socialistic programs are a burden to everycountry and need to become part of history before they bankrupt the world.And we eventually suffer the fate of the communists, which the whole world had to bail out.