Don't Let Me Stop You

What the heck, you'll do what you want anyway.

Can Germany Escape the Trap of Socialism

Posted by Dan Draney on June 8, 2005

For years now successive German governments on the Left and the Right have pursued disasterous economic policies, digging their economy into a deep hole. After decades of essentially no growth and continuous double digit unemployment, there is new hope. Angela Merkel, a Christian Democratic Party leader, who grew up under Communism in East Germany is poised to lead the country out of the wilderness.

This article from Tuesday’s Wall Street Journal on Ms. Merkel is, unfortunately, a subscription only link at present. Perhaps it will move to the free site this weekend, but in the meantime here’s a sample:

WSJ.com – National Welfarism: “If Angela Merkel succeeds in winning office at the September elections and, against great resistance in her own party, in remaining true to herself, the Federal Republic should see changes more radical than any since 1949. As a physicist, she knows that the relationship between cause and effect cannot be simply wished away. Her most formative experiences came during communist East Germany’s collapse. She has seen what happens when a country uses up its material basis, when it sinks into social and national stagnation while a regime of lies plays on, like the band on the Titanic. Most influential German politicians spent their youth, student years and early careers in the fat boom years of the old republic on the Rhine. Ms. Merkel likes to tell them, even those in her own party, ‘You have no idea how socialist you are.’

In the words of German constitutional court judge Udo Steiner, Germans have an ‘equality sickness’ that makes them dependent on the welfare state. This describes our society’s worst burden, cultivated in the 20th century under various forms of government. Germans were never able to complete a bourgeois revolution. Their democratic institutions emerged from the chaos of defeat after two world wars — in which they had been insulted, frightened, humiliated and, after 1945, burdened with guilt, and were forced to seek a new beginning. Both times, the German democrats, who had always existed, took up the ideas of the American declaration of independence and the French revolution, but gave them a peculiar cast. The eternally conflicting principles of freedom and equality were reinterpreted and ranked in a specific, German way. Civil equality before the law became social equality, and freedom was, in case of doubt, always sacrificed to the idea of social equality.

The collectivist ‘public good,’ so defined, always ranked higher in the public mind than the protection of basic civil rights and universal human rights. To this day, Germans speak of a ‘Father State’ that will always put things right. They see it as an insurance policy against absolutely everything. The vast majority believes, to this day, that the concepts of state and society are interchangeable — that they are synonymous.”

If she succeeds in leading Germany back to economic dynamism it can only benefit the whole world. Perhaps even American’s Democrats would shake off their own “equality sickness” and learn some sensible economic policies from a real “European Model.”

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