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Monday, October 10, 2005

goodbye schroeder

LI is pleased with the outcome today in Germany. The SPD’s eight cabinet posts include the foreign ministry, finance and labor. The “reforms” that are routinely urged on Germany – as if recently handed down on Mount Sinai – will surely be instituted with one eye on the one thing this election made clear: unlike NYT’s reporters, the Germans are not enthusiastic about Hobbesian homeopathy in the economy: make it easy to fire workers, make it harder for them to get unemployment, and let the rich aggrandize a larger share of the economic spoils. Firmly putting the brake on this Thatcherite nonsense is a good thing. A better thing is to take reflationary steps to strengthen the German economy, from loosening the credit markets to adopting Greenspan’s easy money policies. It is nice to read that the government is pledging to radically increase government supported R and D. The Germans are also obviously going to have to put a much larger percentage of it kids through college. Alas. Because the German industrial system hasn’t been pissed away, as it has been in the States and in the U.K., there’s an understandable incentive to trade years of education for well paying factory jobs. But it is hard to invent any scenario that would preserve or expand the manufacturing sector at its current level. We think that stuffing children into a system that is so inefficient at teaching them that it takes 22 years is not a good thing in itself – in fact, it is a standing inducement to educate poorly in elementary and high school – but it brings about good things. Most immediately, it soaks up a population that would inevitably increase the unemployment rolls (another American trick for keeping down employment, sending millions of people to jail for frivolous reasons, is not something we’d urge on the Germans). It also lends itself to making the labor markets more flexible.

Schroeder was by no means my ideal chancellor, but he did manage a difficult period in which the most powerful nation in the world was taken over by madmen. He did better on foreign policy than, say, Tony Blair, who chose the strategy of sympathetic lunacy over that of good natured resistance. However, with the SPD at the foreign ministry, Europe is still well guarded.

5 comments:

Anonymous said...

I'm quite convinced that without Schroeder, my country (France) would have been a (reluctant) member of the coalition "of the willing".

Alain Genestier

roger said...

Alain, I think you are right, there.

Frankly, Schroeder was a pretty disappointing chancellor to me. Obviously, the number one problem for any liberal/leftist is how to protect the social democratic gains of the past fifty years against the pressures of international capital and the resurgence of an investor class that demands a much higher share of the national wealth. Germany, unlike the U.S. and the U.K., hasn't complied with that demand by liquidating its manufacturing base. Still, I can't see how that base can be maintained, and the social structure that crystalized about it, in the long term future. To my mind, Schroeder decided to take a compromise position that did Germany no good, edging towards the traditional Thatcherite "reform" of the economy.

However, I think you are right about the reinforcement he gave to the French position. I also think that (this is how upside down the last five years have been) Jospin would have reacted to D.C.'s war like Blair did.

Alain Genestier said...

I agree with you: I'm afraid Jospin would have jumped in the bandwagon (however, he would have been less vocal than T. Blair in his defense of the Bush administration).

msw said...

The “reforms” that are routinely urged on Germany – as if recently handed down on Mount Sinai – will surely be instituted with one eye on the one thing this election made clear: unlike NYT’s reporters, the Germans are not enthusiastic about Hobbesian homeopathy in the economy

I'm in Darmstadt right now, and my collegues here believe just the opposite - the big coalition will allow the SPD/CDU to ram through "reforms" without the electoral punishment that would occur if only one of them were doing it and could use that politically against their opponent.

roger said...

MSW -- hmm. To quote Walter in the Big Lebowski, I had not thought of that, dude.

That could happen. However, I would say that, organizationally, coordination of action based on the principle that one can blame one's partner is difficult. Obviously it happens -- the D.C. synergy that pushed the Iraq war is a good example. Still, I think that it would magnify failure, even short term failure...

But you might well be right. In which case, I think the SPD will destroy itself, as such a strategy can only play out to the advantage of the CDU.