Monday, July 13, 2015


Germany has isles too, you know, and the sun even comes out once in a while. Rügen.
The New York Times's magisterial diplomatic correspondent Steven Erlanger, happy as ever to lend a voice to the ignored and unheard, those whose desires and anxieties have no voice of their own, like German voters concerned about the excessive liberalism of the German governing coalition:
LONDON — Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany said about Greece on Sunday that “the most important currency has been lost: that is trust and reliability.” But many Germans think the most important currency that has been lost is the deutsche mark, the symbol of rectitude and confidence that embodied West Germany’s ascent from the ashes of World War II....
Indeed, maybe we've all been looking at this situation in exactly the wrong way. Maybe it's not Greece but Germany that ought to be exiting the Eurozone. Instead of a "Grexit" (isn't that what frogs say?) we could have a DEgress.

After all, isn't it Germany's bad example that makes it so hard for Portugal, Spain, Latvia, and Slovenia to follow the stern prescriptions for membership? With their high-living, free-spending ways and history of defaults (still haven't paid their debts from 1919, let alone 1945)? With their 1,371 average work hours per year (compared to 1,789 for the US, 2,042 for Greece) and labor unions on corporate boards? And their absurdly low VAT, at 19%, with reduced rates of 7% on food products, restaurants, and hotels, the lowest in the Eurozone (compared with 23%/13% in Greece, now to be extended to full rates for restaurants and hotels, presumably to give a competitive boost to the vital but endangered German tourism industry)?

Perhaps if Germany just went its own easygoing way the other countries would find it easier to buckle down to that austerity. Or perhaps, this is going to sound like a HUGE crazy paradox that nobody has ever thought of before, but perhaps people might look at the concept not just that austerity could be bad for a national economy, but that a well-planned social generosity of the kind that's been practiced in Germany since the 1950s might actually in some circumstances do some kind of good.

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