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The Tragedy Of Germany.

I love Germany.

I mean, what's not to like? Any culture that could invent and proliferate something so timeless as the dirndl is right by me:


My childhood down-the-street proximity to a humongous, annual Oktoberfest in Ponca City, Oklahoma (a small town where such an event was a HUGE deal) doesn't hurt, either. Nor does Mrs. WILLisms.com's fairly recent German heritage.

I even rooted for the German invaders at a showing during college of the 1939 Russian masterpiece, Alexander Nevsky.

The German nation, however, has often been on the wrong side of history, politically. We really don't need to go into the litany of German mistakes through history. They are well-known. Common knowledge, even.

But let's think about the Cold War for a moment. Following World War II, after the Russians trampled into Berlin and found a very dead Adolf Hitler, Germany was suddenly thrust onto the front lines of the greatest and most enduring geopolitical struggle of the 20th century.

The Cold War divided a nation without much of a history of togetherness. The concept of Germany, as we know it today, was not a particularly entrenched notion at the end of World War II.

But it was certainly a triumph when that wall, the Berlin Wall, came down in 1989. It was more than symbolic. It contributed to the unraveling of the Soviet Union's Iron Curtain lockdown on Eastern Europe. And as the wall fell, so did Russian Communism.

Unification. Re-unification, even!

And the entire free world celebrated. Germany was finally on the right side of history. And at the center of attention.

Back together again, after generations of Soviet-induced separation, the German people could finally recreate the German economic miracle that had taken place in West Germany during the post-War for the GDR (East Germany). That economic miracle, incidentally, propelled Germany to the top of Europe.

But, unfortunately, when Germany rekindled its relationship in the 1990s, it was hot and heavy-- and hurried. And there was a legitimate concern about inequality between East and West. Massive economic support (tax ----> welfare state) from the West went to the East to balance the playing field. The capitalists in the West gladly did their part for their brethren. But the playing field, more than a decade later, remains unbalanced.

The confiscation and redistribution of wealth from West to East demonstrated a failure of Germany to learn the lessons of the Cold War. West Germany prospered because it was relatively free, economically, mostly unemcumbered by a lavish welfare state (although it was trending slightly toward socialism-lite by the 1980s). East Germany languished because it was unfree, economically.

Let's go back for a moment to what can happen to two similar economies, separated into 1% and 3% growth rates over the period of 40 years. Clearly, comparable economies can diverge-- drastically-- due to relatively small GDP growth rate differences.

And that is precisely what happened to East and West Germany during the Cold War.


And reunification pursued a similarly tragic path. The Cold War's shining victory unfortunately spawned an even colder, and quieter socialist insurgency. Almost completely under-the-radar over the past 15 years or so, Germany's economy went from "miracle" to "quagmire."

And now, because of its sluggish economy, Germany can't even really afford its Easterly wealth transfer the way it could fifteen years ago. Since 1990, there has been a constant discussion-- and delay-- of so-called "painful reforms."

Meanwhile, in countries like Estonia, they endured the painful post-Soviet reforms and today flourish. No flood of welfare state aid from the West. Just free market reforms. And a brief bit of pain. Then... prolonged and overwhelming success.

Germany, sadly enough, might be approaching the point of no return. That's why this week's election was so important. That's why an Angela Merkel mandate was so necessary.

But no. While our good buddy (not) Herr Schroeder lost the election, so did Merkel.

Just one example of the trouble:

...in a country of 82 million people, only 26 million are working now.

This is just remarkably low.

Meanwhile, there are no signs of it turning around:

Germany, for about the last twenty-five years, has had one of the world’s lowest birth rates. So, with people retiring as early as the age of fifty, you’re now reaching a state where nearly one out of two people is retired, on a fairly generous pension. Coupled with women and children, and others who may not be in the workforce, you have a lower rate of people working now than ever before in German society.

Concurrently, meanwhile, you have another ongoing transformative process in Germany:

There are about 7 million foreigners inside Germany, of which about 3 million are Turks.

Immigration can fortify and enrich a country, if immigrants follow the wisdom of T.R.:

In the first place we should insist that if the immigrant who comes here in good faith becomes an American and assimilates himself to us, he shall be treated on an exact equality with everyone else, for it is an outrage to discriminate against any such man because of creed, or birthplace, or origin. But this is predicated upon the man’s becoming in very fact an American, and nothing but an American…There can be no divided allegiance here. Any man who says he is an American, but something else also, isn’t an American at all. We have room for but one flag, the American flag, and this excludes the red flag, which symbolizes all wars against liberty and civilization, just as much as it excludes any foreign flag of a nation to which we are hostile…We have room for but one language here, and that is the English language…and we have room for but one sole loyalty and that is a loyalty to the American people.

This is not happening in Europe. And not in segmented Germany, where Islamic extremism flourishes under-the-radar (Hamburg ring a bell?). And even if the foreigners in Germany were assimilating, the adoption of sclerotic European socialist values might not be such a great thing after all. The tragedy of German immigration is that as the German population plummets, the Islamic population will become proportionally far greater. FAR greater.

Islam itself wouldn't be such a problem, but the segmentation of Islam from the rest of society breeds resentment going in both directions. Germans are famous for their resentment toward foreigners. Not a good situation, there.

Mark Steyn frames the sad situation rather well:

Germany is dying, demographically and economically. Pick any of the usual indicators of a healthy advanced industrial democracy: Unemployment? The highest for 70 years. House prices? Down. New car registration? Nearly 15 per cent lower than in 1999. General nuttiness? A third of Germans under 30 think the United States government was responsible for the terrorist attacks of September 11....

by 2050, there will be more and wealthier Americans, and fewer and poorer Europeans. In the 14th century, it took the Black Death to wipe out a third of Europe's population. In the course of the 21st century, Germany's population will fall by over 50 per cent to some 38 million or lower - killed not by disease or war but by the Eutopia to which Mr Schröder and his electorate are wedded.

On Sunday, Germany's voters decided that, like that Frenchman, they can live with the stench of death as long as the government benefits keep coming.

A tragedy. A self-induced tragedy, at this point. Before, we could pin the blame on Germany's elites. But now, the cause of death is a slow, steady, self-inflicted poisoning.

Interestingly, the election was a referendum on the status quo. And people did reject the status quo. But German voters didn't quite seem to know how to channel that wonderful angst (angst MUST be a German word, right?).

Angst. Pent up angst.

Angst directed not at Gerhard Schroeder's Social Democratic Party (SPD), where it should have been, but at both major parties, including the opposition Christian Democratic Union (CDU) of Angela Merkel.


Schroeder's party dropped off by 4.2% and 29 parliamentary seats.
Merkel's party, however, dropped off by 3.3% and 23 seats.

Where did those votes and seats go?

First, the good news.

The Free Democrats, the Cato Institute types, gained 2.2% and 14 seats.

The German Green Party, meanwhile, lost 0.5% and 4 seats.

Now, the bad news.

The Left Party, tragically, gained 4.7% and 52 seats (although there was some coalitional maneuvering at play there).

The Left Party makes Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid, and Howard Dean look like Margaret Thatcher, Ronald Reagan, and Winston Churchill. Schroeder's party is already to the left of American Democrats. So just imagine how far out there these folks are.


The Left Party is the brainchild of a former left-wing Social Democrat who bolted the party and set up this new party together with the former Communist holdouts of Eastern Germany.

And they are largely responsible for the gridlock Germany faces today. The Left Party (underlining mine):

...won over a quarter of the vote in eastern Germany. But neither major party is willing to go into coalition with them. So the nationwide showing of 8.5% by the Left Party has created the gridlock that leaves neither party able to form a coherent parliamentary majority to pursue its program. Without the votes cast in eastern Germany, the conservative coalition of the CDU and the pro-market Free Democrats would have won a clear majority.

A closer look at the election results (via Patrick Ruffini) demonstrates just how segmented the voting really was (and forget the usual blue-red dichotomy for now):


The darker the pink, the better the Left Party did.

Sort of gives "commie-pinko" a new meaning, doesn't it?

And it is just tragic. Tragic that West Germany played the enabler to the East. Tragic that East Germans, unlike so many other Eastern Europeans, who are far more fond of free markets and America, were coddled and allowed to keep and perpetuate old Marxist habits.

And this was not some "a vote for Nader is a vote for Bush" kind of situation. Those pinko votes were complemented with a reaffirmation of Gerhard Schroeder's party. Angela Merkel, the East German, was destroyed in East Germany.

David Frum explains why the decay of Germany is such a tragedy, even for us:

German voters have just elected a parliament that will not address the country's most important problems, that cannot make strong decisions and that will put off until tomorrow actions that desperately need to be taken today.

That's bad news for Germany's five million unemployed. It's bad news for Europe as a whole, slumped in economic malaise. And it's bad news for North Americans, who are facing a future in which the democracies of Europe will matter less and less--and an aggressive and possibly hostile China will matter more and more.

Two years ago, the American Institute for Contemporary German Studies published an alarming study of the German economy's long-term problems. Since 2002, it has not grown at all. In the 10 previous years, from 1992 to 2002, it grew at the dismal rate of 1.4% per year, after inflation. Germans cannot fairly blame the costs of reunification for their troubles: In the last decade before reunification, 1980-89, the German economy grew at a rate of only 1.9%--far behind the United States and the United Kingdom, and below average even for Western Europe.

That anemic growth was because of ridiculous and outmoded rules, regulations, and other economic policies. And there is no end in sight with this election. The country that gave the world Karl Marx now languishes in mediocrity because of his ideology.

Just tragic.

Posted by Will Franklin · 21 September 2005 09:52 PM


Marx's legacy lives on in East Germany. You have to wonder if they had become an independent state, rather than dependent on West Germany, if they might have embraced free market reforms like the other east European countires.

Welfare states, unless implemented in a very constrained manner, always demand more leftward policies. This, of course, is America's great challenge too for the 21st century.

Posted by: Dan Morgan at September 21, 2005 11:46 PM

Sorry, but I didn't read this article Will.

I had trouble getting past that first photo.

Posted by: Am I A Pundit Now? at September 22, 2005 12:07 AM

Nice analysis. I had not realized how east Germany had been mis-handled.

Posted by: Ralph at September 22, 2005 09:10 AM

That beer really looks good right now! It might help with ye olde nerves?...

Posted by: Zsa Zsa at September 22, 2005 12:20 PM

Ponca City hasn't had much to look forward to since I was born there in the late 50's. I guess that's kinda like walking on the moon, there's nothing left that can measure up to it.

Posted by: bullwinkle at September 23, 2005 06:16 AM

Will was born in Ponca City Too! How cool is that?...I knew I liked Bullwinkle for some reason? I miss Octoberfest. I was the Beer Girl one year!

Posted by: Zsa Zsa at September 23, 2005 12:04 PM