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Germany on Its Way to World War III?

 
Yes, but who will supply the scissors this time?

Germany lacks the essential elements of power to serve as Europe’s central, uniting force. It is half a loaf or less. This means it is not a force for stability, but rather a force of uncertainty interrupted by periods of excessive brilliance culminating in self-created chaos. It is repeating its historical role since it was first created as a geopolitical stopgap to restrain an ascendant Russia and a descending imperial France at the Congress of Vienna in 1815. Germany rises, excels, and becomes consumed with its role in the region, its self-importance, and its nagging paranoia. It then overreacts and overreaches. The result is the same.

Like an idiot savant, Germany does one thing exceptionally well. It can harness its natural tendency toward rigor bordering on arrogance, self-preservation, and an abiding need for social conformity to achieve unparalleled economic dominance in the region. But, because it is consumed by fears – fears arising from its exposure lying at the nexus of the east and west along the wide Northern European plain – it cannot control its urge to overcompensate. Whether it is provoking war against France in 1870, baiting Austria into confronting Russia leading to WWI, or allowing a megalomaniac to seize power and neighbors to create buffer states in WWII lest they threaten, Germany keeps repeating the same mistake. It always eventually turns its industrial power into a tool to exploit others in an effort to protect itself.

After WWII, Germany adopted a kind of “never again” mentality driven first by reconstruction and later by contrition. The German Constitution, the Basic Law, was designed to avoid a repeat of Hitler, Weimar, and Hohenzollern rule which led to economic expansion, exploitation, and calamity. It also structured its government to stop communism, avoid religious division, and prevent class warfare.

The Basic Law is designed to be clear and obtuse, central and diffused, and strong but weak. Thus, with no clear Magna Carta, Bill of Rights, or “Liberté, Egalité, Fraternité” to define itself, everything eventually boiled down to local matters, local politics, and local interests. Economics dominates in Germany – followed by lifestyle. The green movement flourished in Germany when scientists falsely reported the Black Forests were being denuded with acid rain – so there is that too. Green money and green forests or an amorphous concept of social responsibility, therefore, define an undefined social contract, with jobs coming first, vacations second, and social justice and the environment in there somewhere.

By the 1990s, Germany recovered fully from the devastation of WWII and was faced with the enormous cost of integrating the East. Faced with the necessity of converting the low-skill, low-wage East Germans into a productive resource, it developed a political-union-management plan to temper wages in the western side of the country, invest in automation and low-end production in the East, and in the process trim and redesign its production model. The key result was more job flexibility than most Europeans were willing to accept at the time. This led to rapid transformation and a remaking of German production. Germany increased its quality and lowered its relative costs. With the Soviets out of the way, military spending was trimmed and redirected to pay for retraining, social costs, and funding economic efficiencies. This was a win-win politically since reductions in defense spending fed the ever-present anti-war sentiment of a nation that has always struggled to control its fears.

At the same time, the Euro currency entered in 1999 and diluted the relatively high cost of the German Mark and German efficiency. Suddenly, a blending of Germany’s productive workforce with the extremely unproductive, low-skill Mediterranean and growing eastern EU countries in one currency shielded and boosted German competitiveness. The Euro’s arrival meant Germany could hide behind a currency that did not fully value its costs. Its products and companies began to experience better fortune. The timing was perfect. China and the other BRICS needed machine tools, equipment, and technical know-how. Germany would export its way to pay for East-West integration and create itself as a world trade power.

By now the politicians were fully on board – including the left Socialist Democratic Party under Gerhard Schröder. They were delivering a new Reich, one that would dominate in the marketplace with high technology, luxury, and world-class products. German companies dominated segments of China’s, Brazil’s, India’s, and Russia’s auto and fabrication markets. To smooth things out, much talk of green energy, policies, and global accords was tossed about. Germany was in a fugue of green that would eventually lead its politicians to pull the plug on nuclear after the nation hysterically failed to fully understand the Fukushima incident. Nevermind, Germany would pretend to be green while it turned more brown – burning coal to generate power and subsidizing solar and wind everywhere at great cost to the average German. Electricity costs would rise substantially – non-competitively.

Germany’s economic success, however dominant, was not unique. It could be mimicked. In fact, much of its transformation was patterned after Japanese methods. So to address this, German politicians began working to ensure German standards and technology were adopted or imposed by using the growing power they accumulated within the EU. The phony German diesel engine debacle (only German diesel engines could meet the new German-written EU standards) or the German obsession (silly fad) with renewable energy resulted. With over 20 percent of German jobs (over 10 percent due to VW alone), corporate profits, and exports dependent upon creating a global auto footprint, all of Germany rallied around the phony “clean diesel” technology – deceptively and fraudulently represented as cleaner than it actually was. EU skies in Madrid, Milan, and Paris turned gray with diesel pollution that was not possible using the new German clean diesel. In 2015, they got caught. Something was rotten in Berlin, Brussels, Frankfurt, and Strasbourg.

With the promise of a better tomorrow, Germany began to encounter additional bumps. Russia turned revanchist, forcing hard choices about sanctions over Ukraine, choices moralistic Germany belatedly accepted. China did not adopt western democratic ideals with free markets, in fact, it became more repressive. Human rights issues had to be overlooked by Angela Merkel on her trade visits to China. German export markets in Brazil and India were built upon rather primitive economic foundations that eventually caught a downdraft. The rise of Turkish and Hungarian nationalism and authoritarianism presented conflicts between economic interests and a German aversion to authoritarian rule.

Finally, its look-the-other-way tolerance in exchange for the opportunity to “sell, sell, sell” arrived at a beggar-thy-neighbor strategy which eventually sold and banked Greece, Italy, Spain, and Portugal into near or actual insolvency. There were other cases of German goods being sold to dictators and winding up where they should not be. Germany, rather than being seen as a responsible citizen, a trusted partner, and source of trade and technology, was seen as a ravenous exploiter. Even sales of its military hardware – items it was not purchasing sufficiently to defend itself or Europe – saw an uptick in sales. German might be the leader of Europe – but it was a leader that lacked both the high ground and the high road.

It was clear as far back as 2006 when oil prices were skyrocketing that Russia planned to rearm. Despite this, Germany continued to disarm and unarm. And by 2015, Britain saw the EU for what it was becoming – a Franco-German alliance with deep interests in telling local merchants in Barcelona to do things the way they were done in Bavaria. The EU regulations set how many paper towels could be used in a public bathroom or which diesel cars met EU standards (answer: German). Germany was calling the shots in public and behind the scenes whether you lived in Leyden or Leicester. The EU could not challenge the one nation that generated all the positive export balance for the EU in total. The EU needed Germany and Germany knew it. It alone still manufactured things that could be sold around the world.

Yet, Britain and France paid for the nuclear forces, they alone funded the limited means to project military force, and they alone held some real soft power to influence the United States – the only power that still mattered if the EU was to hold sway. It was evident looking back that even the Clinton and Obama administrations barely deferred to Germany. She was a non-factor.

The great German waltz suffered its last blow when Germany turned away from sincere concerns about social harmony and cohesion and Angela Merkel opened her borders to flocks of young, unskilled males roaming in from the Middle East to enter the country as refugees. This horde was encamped with government cooperation and little national debate or reflection – and they remain in German-funded schools and transition programs to this day. Underlying this somewhat disastrous decision to accept about a million new citizens from Syria, Iraq, etc., is a stark reality that Germany — if it is to continue to be a workshop for VW’s, Airbus’s, and machine tools — needs workers. The population reproduction has lagged behind replacement levels and no one wants to clean sewers, bathrooms, or pick up garbage. Thus, an economic policy driven by a demographic problem led to a rushed rationalization of an immigration policy that quickly became unpopular.

Nationalist sentiments – the vilest and most detested sentiments in post-WWII Germany – have surged forth. And the nation is now locked in a political impasse over forming a new parliamentary coalition to rule – a little over a month ago the Christian Democrats (Angela Merkel’s center-right party) experienced their worst election since 1949! No coalition is forthcoming.

Meanwhile, Germany’s economy is strong. The nation is weak. It is even perhaps unstable. It is in some respects isolated – from Britain (Brexit), France (reluctantly pro-EU expansion), the Mediterranean EU countries, the more demanding, intolerant, and authoritarian Eastern EU, a resurgent Russia, and its old protector, the United States – which is now a political card played to demonstrate moral superiority. Its old fears of exposure on the Northern European plain nestled between nations who do not trust each other or worse, do not trust Germany, will emerge again. That which unites Germany’s regions and people, their natural proclivity toward a kind paranoia and fear, also destroys it. Will it continue to overplay, overextend, overcompensate? Can it pull itself back a bit, realign, and find a national consensus? Can it arm itself, protect itself, and become a trustworthy ally?

The answer is simply that since its creation as a balance of power between imperial Russia and France, Germany is too small, too large, too aggressive, too passive, and too weak to lead. And when others, or Germany itself, attempts to do so, sooner or later she oversteps and things start to spin out of control. Germany is its own, and quite often the world’s, worst enemy.

With the post-war Economic Miracle behind it, 21st-century Germany is every bit as intense in its insecurities, assured by its arrogant condescension and moralism, and destabilized by its self-doubts as she has ever been. And that is the problem. If Germany cannot get a handle on itself, it could descend into self-interest and leave room for Russia and even China to fill in the blanks. France and most of Northern Europe are banking on Germany to fix a steady course. But Europe worries if they are once again seeing the same nation united by exigency and solely out of economic necessity, unable to find a real purpose or find its way unless it is feeding on its fears or imposing them on others.

We have seen this before; it does not end well.

There are 60 comments.

  1. 1
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  1. Inactive

    The current German government has made some bone-headed moves, but all other things being equal I’ll take the German constitution over the French one almost every time, and especially over the EU constitution.

    I’m not convinced that Germany is the problem, per se, more than the EU. I’m certainly not convinced that the EU is simply a German stalking horse.

    In other words, I’ll blame Brussels before I’ll blame Berlin. I want Germany to succeed. The EU (as currently constituted), not so much.

    • #1
    • November 27, 2017 at 7:46 am
    • 7 likes
  2. Member
    James Madison Post author

    Misthiocracy (View Comment):
    The current German government has made some bone-headed moves, but all other things being equal I’ll take the German constitution over the French one almost every time, and especially over the EU constitution.

    I’m not convinced that Germany is the problem, per se, more than the EU. I’m certainly not convinced that the EU is simply a German stalking horse.

    In other words, I’ll blame Brussels before I’ll blame Berlin. I want Germany to succeed. The EU (as currently constituted), not so much.

    Brussels/Strasbourg/Frankfurt are Berlin. Germany runs the EU. Germany created the EU. Germany is the EU. Germany heretofore wanted a bigger EU and was the chief advocat for the Euro ( and tolerated the lack of enforcement of economic rules, balanced budgets, etc.). Germany since its inception has been mostly a customs union patched together with special local deals – so it loves the EU concept.

    The German constitution is not the problem – the problems is Germany cannot clearly say what it stands for. Serving as a counterweight to Russia or France is hardly a ringing call for national identity. Austria and Switzerland speak German – they do not want to be German, and the Bavarians are unsure.

    It prides itself on Rhine capitalism or the social market economy – whatever that is. It is pre-occupied with capitalism and uses anti-trust rules very harshly against those without political power and uses licensing, regulations, and market interference to protect local industry and business. Try to get a business license and see the rules of doing business – stifling. Its environmental policies are pandering.

    Thus, too often or almost always, local politicians in the states and city states control the national agenda but not with a national or global focus – thus VW’s diesel cheating was overlooked, there was hesitancy to sanction Russia over Crimea, and later Donets, etc., national automotive collusion, etc. Whenever economic sanctions are violated, the high technology equipment that often shows up in rogue regimes comes from Germany (Saddam),… how? It makes good money selling arms, while professing pacificism. Bottom line: it is an economic enterprise governed by weak partisans who fear reaction if they take a strong stand.

    Freedom in Germany is protected – unless you represent a silly viewpoint. Thus, it is an intolerably tolerant society.

    One last thing – the constitution or basic law is so confusing and contradictory they did not know for sure how many representatives there are in the Bundestag until 2013 – somewhere between 598 and 630 or so. Ask a German to explain the election process.

    It is interesting to note Germany’s foreign policy is weak (strong on business investment and exports) and its foreign aid are paltry. It local, domestic policy and most of all enforcement rest locally. They are driven not by national concerns or lofty ideals, but rather by local politcal concerns.

    No one is defending the 5th Republic’s constitution – except DeGaulle from the grave.

    • #2
    • November 27, 2017 at 8:20 am
    • 2 likes
  3. Thatcher

    Misthiocracy (View Comment):
    In other words, I’ll blame Brussels before I’ll blame Berlin. I want Germany to succeed. The EU (as currently constituted), not so much.

    Mis,

    I’m with you on this one. Germany is electing its PM. The EU chief executive is generated by some mysterious bureaucratic process. It is the EU that has been exploiting Germany not the other way around. The lunatic migrant policy is an EU postulate that they refuse any compromise on. I suspect that this same deranged EU illogic keeps both Germany and France from hitting their NATO 2% GDP requirement. Amazing that anyone could bellyache about the Putin threat and then shortchange NATO. Pure stupidity.

    I don’t think the loss of Merkel at this point is such a great problem.

    Regards,

    Jim

    • #3
    • November 27, 2017 at 8:26 am
    • 2 likes
  4. Member

    I think the only question in europe is who ethnically cleanses who.

    • #4
    • November 27, 2017 at 8:44 am
    • 2 likes
  5. Member
    James Madison Post author

    Guruforhire (View Comment):
    I think the only question in europe is who ethnically cleanses who.

    And there is profound truth in good humor.

    • #5
    • November 27, 2017 at 8:51 am
    • 1 like
  6. Member

    Guruforhire (View Comment):
    I think the only question in europe is who ethnically cleanses who.

    Whom. Who ethnically cleanses whom.

    • #6
    • November 27, 2017 at 9:08 am
    • 16 likes
  7. Member

    Thanks for your well-written and fascinating article. There’s so much swirling around in it – it could be a book! If you had to select all the ingredients for a world war soup, it’s all here: greed, power, control, confusion, lack of cohesive identity, exploitation, lies, lack of a basic moral foundation, unwilling to learn from past mistakes, lack of leadership, failure to inspire. That goes for the EU as well as Germany. In fact, it’s a snapshot of most of the world at the moment. They especially seem unwilling to chug what doesn’t work and look for improvement. It’s like watching the perfect storm take shape on a sunny day – with one eye open. Where do you see this going and when?

    • #7
    • November 27, 2017 at 10:47 am
    • 2 likes
  8. Member

    James Madison: It is repeating its historical role since it was first created as a geopolitical stopgap to restrain an ascendant Russia and a descending imperial France at the Congress of Vienna in 1815.

    ??? The Congress of Vienna didn’t create Germany. The Franco-Prussian War resulted in the creation of Germany in 1871.

    Germany wants to be as economically strong as Germany while living as well as the French or Italians.

    • #8
    • November 27, 2017 at 10:54 am
    • Like
  9. Member
    James Madison Post author

    Hang On (View Comment):

    James Madison: It is repeating its historical role since it was first created as a geopolitical stopgap to restrain an ascendant Russia and a descending imperial France at the Congress of Vienna in 1815.

    ??? The Congress of Vienna didn’t create Germany. The Franco-Prussian War resulted in the creation of Germany in 1871.

    Germany wants to be as economically strong as Germany while living as well as the French or Italians.

    The root of modern Germany was the creation of a German speaking Customs union out of most of what is now Germany and Austria. It was intended to align Prussia and Austria economically and eventually politically and militarily. It occurred in the closing weeks of the Congress of Vienna and was supported by Britain and the two German speaking powers as a check on the rising power Russia (the emerging force in the east) and post-Imperial France.

    • #9
    • November 27, 2017 at 11:18 am
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  10. Member
    James Madison Post author

    The German Customs Union was created out of 235 kingdoms, principalities, duchies, archbishoprics, bishoprics, margraves, city-states, etc. Something to consider when one travels in Germany. They are still very locally and regionally focused. And these differences are quite noticeable.

    • #10
    • November 27, 2017 at 11:25 am
    • Like
  11. Member

    I see a lot of valid criticisms here, but it reads more like a bucket list of Germany’s flaws than a convincing argument that Germany is barreling toward the next major conflict.

    Germany is a weak leader of Europe because it doesn’t really want to be the leader of Europe. Germany and Germans strive for consensus more than anything else in nearly all public interactions. In their ideal world, Europe would be a group of countries that think and act like Germans do, and they could all be equals.

    But the problem is that the other countries are anything but Germany. And they’re underperforming. So Germany has been elevated to a position it never desired by default. There’s still room for criticism there, of course, but I find the arguments in the post miss that mark.

    I think the real question is: which European country is doing it better than Germany? England is just as much of a listless mess politically as Germany is; France is wandering through the desert, Poland is trying to self-mutilate, and Spain..well, we all know how we’ll they’re keeping their house in order.

    • #11
    • November 27, 2017 at 11:27 am
    • 5 likes
  12. Member
    James Madison Post author

    Front Seat Cat (View Comment):
    If you had to select all the ingredients for a world war soup, it’s all here: greed, power, control, confusion, lack of cohesive identity, exploitation, lies, lack of a basic moral foundation, unwilling to learn from past mistakes, lack of leadership, failure to inspire. That goes for the EU as well as Germany.

    Yes, this is a nation (Germany) and a pan-regional government (EU) with little real ideological purpose short of trade, communication, and travel. Can you imagine anyone laying their life down for the EU flag?

    • #12
    • November 27, 2017 at 11:29 am
    • 2 likes
  13. Member

    James Madison (View Comment):
    The German Customs Union was created out of 235 kingdoms, principalities, duchies, archbishoprics, bishoprics, margraves, city-states, etc. Something to consider when one travels in Germany. They are still very locally and regionally focused. And these differences are quite noticeable.

    Sort of. Regional governments certainly have quite a bit of power, but in a manner which is less reminiscent of American federalism and more of archaic fiefdoms. And regional flair still plays a moderately large role in cultural self-identity (although much less so than even 25 years ago).

    But in terms of real political or legal diversity, Germany is much more homogeneous than the US.

    • #13
    • November 27, 2017 at 11:30 am
    • 1 like
  14. Member
    James Madison Post author

    Mendel (View Comment):
    Germany is a weak leader of Europe because it doesn’t really want to be the leader of Europe.

    Au contraire. Germany very much wants to lead Europe, but to your point, they do not want to be “responsible” for its defense, protection, security, debts, or obligations. It just wants a market and the pretense of leading so it may appear to serve a higher cause. But, it does not want to do the laundry, sweep the sidewalk, or carry out the trash.

    And if it does not stand up, the rest who look to it for guidance will be gravely disappointed. This will not be the first time Germany has led Europe awry – ask Austria.

    • #14
    • November 27, 2017 at 11:35 am
    • 2 likes
  15. Member

    James Madison (View Comment):
    One last thing – the constitution or basic law is so confusing and contradictory they did not know for sure how many representatives there are in the Bundestag until 2013 – somewhere between 598 and 630 or so. Ask a German to explain the election process.

    Interesting. Do you think this is a good thing or a bad thing?

    • #15
    • November 27, 2017 at 11:37 am
    • 1 like
  16. Member

    Mendel (View Comment):
    But the problem is that the other countries are anything but Germany. And they’re underperforming. So Germany has been elevated to a position it never desired by default. There’s still room for criticism there, of course, but I find the arguments in the post miss that mark.

    I think that is true as far as what they profess to believe/want. But then there is the Euro which captures everyone else’s weakness to the benefit of German exports and the German economy. So it’s a matter of Germany wants it both ways.

    • #16
    • November 27, 2017 at 11:38 am
    • 1 like
  17. Member
    James Madison Post author

    Mendel (View Comment):

    But in terms of real political or legal diversity, Germany is much more homogeneous than the US.

    Visit former Prussia, Saxony or Bavaria, … even the Eiffel. They don’t feel close to a national identity. In fact, it is hard to see patriotism, nationalism or sentimentality for Germany in many places. They are sort of homogenous in language, though the accent in the south remains more lyrical, refined. And they pull for Germany in the World Cup. But it is unlike even Britain or France, which still retain a strong sense of self, region and nationalistic pride.

    • #17
    • November 27, 2017 at 11:40 am
    • 1 like
  18. Member

    James Madison (View Comment):
    Au contraire. Germany very much wants to lead Europe, but to your point, they do not want to be “responsible” for its defense, protection, security, debts, or obligations. It just wants a market and the pretense of leading so it may appear to serve a higher cause. But, it does not want to do the laundry, sweep the sidewalk, or carry out the trash.

    Could not agree more. Germany wanting only the benefits and none of the costs.

    • #18
    • November 27, 2017 at 11:42 am
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  19. Member

    Mendel (View Comment):
    Regional governments certainly have quite a bit of power, but in a manner which is less reminiscent of American federalism and more of archaic fiefdoms

    In my recent reading about the Holy Roman Empire I’ve got to wondering if American federalism couldn’t be improved by the addition of a little more of that kind.

    • #19
    • November 27, 2017 at 11:43 am
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  20. Inactive

    Mendel (View Comment):

    James Madison (View Comment):
    The German Customs Union was created out of 235 kingdoms, principalities, duchies, archbishoprics, bishoprics, margraves, city-states, etc. Something to consider when one travels in Germany. They are still very locally and regionally focused. And these differences are quite noticeable.

    Sort of. Regional governments certainly have quite a bit of power, but in a manner which is less reminiscent of American federalism and more of archaic fiefdoms. And regional flair still plays a moderately large role in cultural self-identity (although much less so than even 25 years ago).

    But in terms of real political or legal diversity, Germany is much more homogeneous than the US.

    Yabbut, with the exception of Switzerland, what other European country can claim to be as decentralized as Germany? German federalism isn’t perfect, but compared to the rest of Europe it’s pretty dang good.

    • #20
    • November 27, 2017 at 11:54 am
    • 2 likes
  21. Member

    James Madison (View Comment):

    Mendel (View Comment):
    Germany is a weak leader of Europe because it doesn’t really want to be the leader of Europe.

    Au contraire. Germany very much wants to lead Europe, but to your point, they do not want to be “responsible” for its defense, protection, security, debts, or obligations. It just wants a market and the pretense of leading so it may appear to serve a higher cause.

    I see little evidence of any of this.

    Again, Germany does not want to “lead” Europe. There are many in Germany who want to see a stronger and more unified European project and agitate towards that goal; however, those groups are nearly in lockstep agreement that such changes should be made together with other European partners. The problem is that those other European partners can’t be bothered as much, so it ends up being the Germans alone by default. That’s not the same as wanting power; in fact, in many cases, it’s nearly the opposite.

    As to Germany not wanting to be responsible for European defense or borders, I beg to differ. The fact that Germany never invested in nuclear weapons or has cut defense spending (together with nearly all other European countries) does not mean they’re not carrying their weight in the European project. And France and England don’t invest much more in defense to help Europe, but to set themselves apart from Europe.

    • #21
    • November 27, 2017 at 12:01 pm
    • 1 like
  22. Member
    James Madison Post author

    The Reticulator (View Comment):

    James Madison (View Comment):
    One last thing – the constitution or basic law is so confusing and contradictory they did not know for sure how many representatives there are in the Bundestag until 2013 – somewhere between 598 and 630 or so. Ask a German to explain the election process.

    Interesting. Do you think this is a good thing or a bad thing?

    Good and bad. The diffusion of responsibilty and the vertical distribution of power (local enforces, has front line of Courts, and much power while national has many checks, obstacles, judicial review of a sort, and bureaucratic dependency) is designed to avoid concentration of power and therefore responsibility.

    I am not a fan of parliamentary systems, and in a Federal context it sooner or later can splinter pretty badly. Weimar was the most inclusive government’s in history. It collapsed in the inclusion of minorities and factions.

    I think we are seeing the post WWII, German national economic consensus fray at the edges. This is different than the US where we have had serious episodes of division in the past and worked our way out. The new Germany may face a minority Government or a seriously frail majority Government. This means the reliance upon the bureaucracy and dependence upon the local political interests will increase.

    The very fact that Merkel could open the borders to 1 million immigrants with little real national debate was a shocker. We are not talking children, most of the refugees are unskilled, uneducated adult males. This one issue shows the reliance upon a kind of political elite and bureaucratic maneuver to implement policy without challenge, hidden behind a political coalition that fell apart. It is the one issue that is tearing the nation apart, at least at the edges. More such actions could be devastating.

    And support for the EU is weakening and splintering. Germany is not having the kind of debate that can clear the air. They fear controversy. They fear power. They want things handled, out of sight and without division. Democracies don’t work that way.

    • #22
    • November 27, 2017 at 12:05 pm
    • 1 like
  23. Member
    James Madison Post author

    Mendel (View Comment):
    As to Germany not wanting to be responsible for European defense or borders, I beg to differ.


    Examples? 

    • #23
    • November 27, 2017 at 12:08 pm
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  24. Member

    Misthiocracy (View Comment):

    Mendel (View Comment):

    Yabbut, with the exception of Switzerland, what other European country can claim to be as decentralized as Germany? German federalism isn’t perfect, but compared to the rest of Europe it’s pretty dang good.

    Depends how you define “decentralized”. Austria is arguably more federal than Germany in nearly every respect. Many of the ethnically diverse countries obviously have more autonomous regional governments.

    But in any case, I didn’t say that Germany is more centralized than other European countries, only that it’s more centralized (and politically/legally homogeneous) than a tourist with a passing knowledge of the German language might be led to believe.

    There are indeed a few examples in which German federalism actually works well, maybe even better than in the US. Public education is one example: it is the purview of the states, with both the federal government and municipalities having comparably little say. That turns out to be a pretty efficient level for running public education, and there is much more room for innovation/improvement here than in the US or in other European countries.

    • #24
    • November 27, 2017 at 12:09 pm
    • 2 likes
  25. Member
    James Madison Post author

    Misthiocracy (View Comment):
    Yabbut, with the exception of Switzerland, what other European country can claim to be as decentralized as Germany? German federalism isn’t perfect, but compared to the rest of Europe it’s pretty dang good.

    Until it cannot form a government. Sooner or later it will cross this bridge. And then what?

    What does Germany stand for? Really stand for? Free trade?Will its soldiers fight for banking reform? Green policies? Protecting the Ukraine?

    Heretofore, Germany (post WWII) has not had to make tough calls. German soldiers are not and have not been at risk in Sarajevo, Helmand, or Crimea. American missiles protect them. What happens when they must stand up?

    Then and only then can we say this democracy is strong.

    • #25
    • November 27, 2017 at 12:14 pm
    • 3 likes
  26. Member
    James Madison Post author

    Mendel (View Comment):
    There are indeed a few examples in which German federalism actually works well, maybe even better than in the US. Public education is one example: it is the purview of the states, with both the federal government and municipalities having comparably little say. That turns out to be a pretty efficient level for running public education, and there is much more room for innovation/improvement here than in the US or in other European countries.

    I agree! But that does make a strong state. It is however one good example of what works well in Germany.

    • #26
    • November 27, 2017 at 12:15 pm
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  27. Member

    James Madison (View Comment):

    Mendel (View Comment):
    As to Germany not wanting to be responsible for European defense or borders, I beg to differ.


    Examples?

    Germany was the main driver behind the formation of the Common Foreign and Security Policy, as well as the SAFE (the “European Army”), to which it has pledged the most support, and it probably hosts the most joint military exercises of any country here.

    Overall, I’d say that Germany is the biggest military power of any of the European countries not trying to establish themselves as independent military powers (i.e. France, England). Again, there’s a difference between “not wanting to be responsible” for defense, and not wanting to use the defense power it has established for specific purposes. Just because Germany wants to avoid conflict at all costs doesn’t mean it’s leaving the defense of Europe to other EU countries. They certainly weren’t making a big showing in Kosovo or Crimea, either.

    • #27
    • November 27, 2017 at 12:26 pm
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  28. Inactive

    James Madison (View Comment):

    Misthiocracy (View Comment):
    Yabbut, with the exception of Switzerland, what other European country can claim to be as decentralized as Germany? German federalism isn’t perfect, but compared to the rest of Europe it’s pretty dang good.

    Until it cannot form a government. Sooner or later it will cross this bridge. And then what?

    Then the Bundestag votes to elect a new chancellor, and if there’s no clear majority the people go to the polls to elect a new Bundestag, since the Bundesprasident doesn’t have the same power to appoint a chancellor that the Reichsprasident did.

    Inconvenient, sure, but hardly a harbinger of doom. I bet there are plenty of Americans who wish it was this easy to trigger new elections in Washington.

    The big question is whether or not the CDU will stick with Merkel. The Tories in Britain dumped Maggie for much, much less.

    • #28
    • November 27, 2017 at 12:32 pm
    • 1 like
  29. Member

    James Madison (View Comment):
    What does Germany stand for? Really stand for?

    I dispute the notion that any country should or does “stand for” anything. Countries, at least western countries, exist to protect and maximize the well-being of their citizens. We tell ourselves that America stands for freedom, democracy, apple pie and siliconized cheerleaders, but that’s feel-good 8th grade claptrap, not reality. As German-American Bertoldt Brecht might have said, erst kommt das Essen, dann kommen die großbusigen Cheerleaders.

    A few Germans want their country – and all of Europe – to stand for bringing peace and harmony to the world through renewable energy and standardized wine glasses. But most Germans really just stand for being able to earn enough and get enough days off each year for that vacation on Mallorca.

    In other words, who cares if Germany stands for nothing? Neither do any of the countries looking toward it as a beacon. Maybe a good first step would be for those countries to clean under their own rooves before looking to Germany for hope and (spare) change.

    • #29
    • November 27, 2017 at 12:32 pm
    • 6 likes
  30. Member

    James Madison (View Comment):
    I am not a fan of parliamentary systems, and in a Federal context it sooner or later can splinter pretty badly.

    I generally agree, although in the case of Germany, I think it’s their system of proportional democracy that really hurts them.

    Electing by party and not candidate, and having the entire country function as a single multi-member congressional district, are horrible ideas in my opinion. Such a system leads to too many parties and to parties having too much influence, and we are witnessing the results right now.

    A party should never be on a congressional ballot.

    • #30
    • November 27, 2017 at 12:43 pm
    • 3 likes
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