Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Liberty Going Out Of Fashion in Germany!

"Of freedom and of life he only is deserving
Who every day must conquer them anew".

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe coined this verse a couple of hundred years ago in Faust. Move over, Johnny and meet the Germans of today. They are quite different!

Liberty is a value going out of fashion in today's German society, a study by the John Stuart Mill Society in Heidelberg has found. Egality, justice and security are the themes on which successful political campaings must be based. There is a desire for 'more state'.

The dream of Germans is the 'caring' and 'protecting' state and not the liberal one. That caring and protecting state is more just, wealthier, more human and more liveable.

Greeks ought to start asking the Germans the following question: If 'caring' and 'protecting' is so important to you, why do you want others to be so 'competitive'?


  1. They can answer probably, that they want a "caring and protecting" state to the extent that this state respect the principles under which, terms like "caring and protecting" become a reality always with a relative meaning, which usually political and business elites define in a society.(Schumpeter)
    Generally, German people are very well informed and develop for years with conciouness a mentality of being the "perfect citizens".
    However mr Schäuble - unintentionally - should let Germans loose for some years forget all that - to make a pause- and government increase salaries and engourage people to spent more. Become something like Greeks, for a very limited period!


  2. If I was German (I'm not in spite of my name), and a Greek asked me that question, I would answer him that: We do not insist on you being competitive, we just ask you to balance your budgets. If you don't want to do so, we would like you to find another donor to pay your deficits. By this time a lot of Greek readers will stop reading, this is NOT what they want to read, also, the attention span has run out. For the benefit of the few remaining readers I will continue. You can become more competitive, lower the waste in the state, distribute the wealth of the nation in a better way, lower your living standards, or any combination of the aforementioned. It is your sovereign decision which of the above "knobs" you want to adjust on. Do not begrudge us Germans a little "care and protection", we have paid for it with increasing competitiveness and decreasing living standards for many years. We are willing to go on doing so by paying our taxes, that is OUR sovereign decision. In the same period the living standards in Greece have gone up and competitiveness down, but do not worry, we will not ask you to contribute to our "care and protection".
    To the advise that Schaeuble should send Germany on a spending spree, why? What makes the author think that the money would be spend in Greece?
    Lennard Schorlemmer

    1. "We just ask you to balance your budgets" - well, with that slogan you would definitely not win a political election in Austria. Neither in Germany, I would guess. Since 1945, Austria has had a grand total of FOUR years in which it did not have a budget deficit. And the 'caring' and 'protecting' state?

      Well, the lowest 10% received 82% of their income from the state in Austria. The lowest 1/3 received 56%. The middle 1/3 received 31%. And even the highest 1/3 still received 16% of their income from the state. That's a pretty strong case for a 'caring' and 'protecting' state!

      I have lived in Germany from 2003-10. I remember the first time Merkel ran for office. I would say that her then camaign had quite a few touches of a liberal, market-based economy. Well, those touches went out the door with the election results (and so did the 'professor from Heidelberg' who had argued for more liberty). Much of what Merkel stands for today would have been considered social-democrat during her first campaign.

      I truly think that Germans are on a path towards politically correct 'Gutmenschen'. Pehaps not yet the majority but getting closer. About 10 years ago, I heard for the first time Hans-Werner Sinn arguing the following: some time between 2030 and 2050, the majority of Germany will be recipients of transfers from the state. When that happens, Germany will have achieved communism in a democratic way, he said (as always, he was very provocative).

      I enjoy reading the leftist blogs NachDenkSeiten and Spiegelfechter because some of their stuff is indeed thought provoking. But I have to say this: when reading these blogs, one gets the feeling that anyone who is a fiscal conservative needs to have his head examined. And I believe a very large portion of Germans are thinking that way.

      There is a maverick Austrian journalist, Christian Ortner, who runs the blog which he happily describes as the 'Zentralorgan' of neoliberalism. His thoughts are quite provocative, too, but they certainly don't carry the day in today's Austria. Read this sample from his book 'Prolokratie', a book which surprises me that it hasn't fallen victim to censorship by the Austrian 'Gutmenschen':

      Now the above has nothing to do with Greece but I thought I should mention it.

  3. @ Lennard Schorlemmer

    For the benefit also and a different perception

    1) Greece has the best structural surplus this moment in EU. ( min Budget 2014)

    2) Current Account

    In 2008 44 b € deficit in current account--- in 2013 surplus.

    3) About the "donor" its a not very succesful term, in relevance to other issues, not better to comment it.

    4) The term "competitive" can become a reality without only reducing, cuting etc but investing in expertise and creating added value businesses. The need is to create wealth not only to cut to improve "competitiveness".
    Ireland has an exeptional trade balance, even better than Germany's, but debt, deficit and unemployment are increasing. The development rate is 0.

    5) The increasing competitiveness in Germany is " a kind of subsidy" in this common market. It's not one way achievement. The other countries "permitted" Germany to become the role model. The increasing competitiveness can easily become a liability. Germany should adobt a more balanced approach not about Greece but for Italy, Spain and especially France.

    6) Try to spend more!

    A Greek


  4. It was not my intention to recommend a less (or more) liberal policy in Germany (or Austria). Personally I would prefer less state and re-distribution of wealth, this I try to influence in the country where I have my voting rights. Yes, Hans-Werner Sinn is always good for a laugh, but never completely wrong, and I can share his fears. Thank you for the other references.
    It WAS my intention to point out that Germans should decide how to spend or save their money. If they want less personal spending and more safety it's OK with me, they influence that by their sovereign voting. By and large German politicians do what the voters ask them to do (as you observe yourself), and the voters obey and uphold the laws decided by the politicians they have voted in, it is called democracy, or a social contract if you prefer. I think I would resent a foreign nation or national who tried to interfere in that system. I think I would resent it even more if it was a nation where democracy, and consequently economy, does not function.
    PS. Germany may not be entirely successful in applying the debt brake, but they try.

  5. Dear Greek friend.
    1+2. Then everything should be OK. Although these numbers were produced by the same economists who have produced the previous wrong numbers.
    3. It was, by no means, my intention to be offensive. It was the most neutral word I could find, the future will tell us if the correct word is donor sponsor, lender or usurer. The governments present cries for debt reduction give a hint.
    4. That is my point, cuts were necessary, but should have been followed up with structural reforms, fairer distribution of income and taxes, combat of corruption, sale of state bodies. The government had no stomach for that but prefered the easy cuts. The government agreed all these things with the Troika way back when, they have been foot dragging the implementation ever since.
    As for the lack of expertise it was realized at an early stage, therefore the Task Force for Greece (TFFG) was created. TFFG can assist with free human and system resources in all fields. To the best of my knowledge they have not been asked to assist with anything, they have, more or less, forced their assistance upon unwilling politicians and civil servants.
    5. I am ALSO sorry that Greeks are never allowed to fight their matches on a level field. The game is always fixed, but when will it dawn on Greeks that the game has been fixed by some of their own players? Not by "the others".
    6. Being an engineer I think problems should be solved where they arise. I do not think that Germans should increase their spending to make Greece more competitive (not that it would help). I do not think Dutch tomato grovers should raise their prices to make Greek tomatoes competitive.