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British centrists’ deluded worship of Germany For a certain type of UK commentator, Angela Merkel's leadership has become a fantasy

Germany acts a projection for English liberal fantasies (Photo by Omer Messinger/Getty Images)

Germany acts a projection for English liberal fantasies (Photo by Omer Messinger/Getty Images)


December 18, 2020   8 mins

It is a curious fact of modern political commentary that enthusiasts for each quadrant on the political spectrum find themselves imbuing one foreign leader or another with all the idealised qualities of wisdom and good governance they find lacking at home. For Leftists of a Corbynite persuasion, the acme of good governance and benevolent leadership is to be located in Cuba, or Venezuela — and on its darkest and most delusional fringes, in Assad’s Syria; for those on the edges of the centre-right, in authoritarian-conservative Hungary or Poland; for those even further to the right, in Russia, or China, depending on whether they foreground tradition or technology as the basis of their authoritarian dreams.

For those ideologues of the technocratic centre-left, a political quadrant rather cruelly termed “Britpoppers” by our younger conservative internet wags, it is the cult of Angela Merkel that has ended up filling this role. The demonstrative anti-populists have found themselves replicating the tropes and mannerisms of populism for their own purposes, without ever quite realising it. In this inversion of nationalist exceptionalism, it is the Other, Merkel’s Germany, that is a paragon of virtue, a vision of the good which differs in every respect from our own backward and unenlightened Self; where our politicians are venal, corrupt and incompetent, Germany is blessed with a good and wise philosopher queen, selflessly leading the continent to a brighter future. In adulation that would make even the most craven MAGA boomer blush if applied to Trump, Merkel is not merely a fallible centre-right politician, but the “Queen of Europe”, even the “leader of the free world”. 

The journalist John Kampfner’s recent book Why the Germans Do it Better: Notes from a Grown-Up Country is perhaps the purest distillation of this uniquely English pathology, with its combination of personality cult and fetishisation of an idealised foreign country. “Much of contemporary Germany’s resilience has been wrapped up in the personality of one woman, Angela Merkel,” we are told, “Many fear life after Mutti. They are right to.” 

It is awkward to read, at a time when Germany’s death rates from COVID are spiralling out of control, approaching those of our own country during the depths of the first wave, that the virus proves beyond doubt that “contemporary Germany is a country to be envied,” that “Coronavirus provided the ultimate test of leadership” and “Angela Merkel, after 15 years in office, rose to the challenge”. 

Comparing this earthly paradise to our own benighted backwater, the first country in Europe to roll out a vaccine, we learn that “Britain provided a case study of how not to deal with a crisis,” where “Germans watched in horror as a country they admired for its pragmatism and sangfroid fell into pseudo-Churchillian self-delusion.” Surely, if we are using a country’s effectiveness at defeating Covid to ascertain the worth of its political system, we should all aim to become techno-authoritarian dictatorships like China, but Kampfner does not follow his own logic to its conclusion: this is not political analysis, but a moral fable. 

This mix of uncritical adulation and self-abasement tells us far more about how English journalists of a certain world view their own country than it does of Germany. Kampfner’s book, like all examples of the type — we think here of Jeremy Cliffe’s vaguely indecent Merkel-worship as the pinnacle of this genre — is a product of Brexit, and of the rage-filled self-hatred it induced in a certain subset of British commentators.

Germany, in their deeply English fantasy worldview, is a “grown-up country” because it has fully absorbed the entire dogma of post-Cold War liberalism, and installed it as its operating system, whether or not it actually works. “Germany is Europe’s best hope in this era of nationalism, anti-enlightenment and fear,” we are told. Unlike us, “the pride [Germans] feel in their country is not of the small-island, flag-waving variety. Instead, they hope they are setting a good example for the world through a clear set of democratic rules.” German politicians do not act out of self-interest, nor appeal to the various fixations and desires of their fractious electorate, but instead are the shining stadt on the hill for the West and the wider world as a whole to look up to.

This is of course nonsense. There’s much to like about Germany, and much the Germans do better than us — on a reporting trip to the supposedly depressed eastern land of Saxony-Anhalt to cover far-right student organisations (unimaginable in this country, of course) a couple of years ago, I was genuinely shocked at how good the infrastructure was compared even to wealthy south-east of England; how efficient the public transport was, how clean and orderly the public spaces were. Its healthcare system is vastly better than the NHS, and we should closely examine why that is, now we’ve stopped banging pots and pans on our doorsteps; its social market economy — though it has taken a battering in recent years, not least from Merkel, who came to power as an outright neoliberal reformer— is rightly prized by our own Blue Labour intellectuals. Yet Germany has its own pathologies too, and such uncritical adulation from our Britpopper contingent conceals as much as it celebrates.

As with China’s Xi Jinping, whose drive for global dominance Merkel still insists can be ameliorated by trade with the German car industry, or Putin, whose Nordstream energy project places the continent under his power to an extent both the Americans and the Poles find unbearable, Merkel’s foreign policy with Europe’s dictatorial rivals is one of selling them loaded pistols to aim at the continent’s head. Yet for Kampfner, even as she subjects Europeans to the whims of tyrants, Merkel is the anti-populist par example, the continent’s moral conscience wrought in stolid flesh. It is a worldview derived from the self-aggrandising fictions of the German pundit class rather than any grounding in reality, and any serious observer of modern Europe would be well advised to reject it.

A more rounded view of Merkel and Germany can be found in the work of the conservative Marxist economist Wolfgang Streeck, a regular fixture in the New Left Review, whose work should be more widely read in this country. His latest book, Critical Encounters: Democracy, Capitalism, Ideas, is an excellent place to start, containing some of his most incisive recent essays. 

In Streeck’s telling, Merkel is not the omniscient stateswoman of liberal fantasy — he mocks her image as “Europe’s Mother Goddess”— but a politician like any other, largely devoid of any meaningful worldview or vision but veering this way and that according to the polls and the headlines. As a “postmodern politician with a Machiavellian disdain for both causes and people,” she is not Germany’s instructive anti-Boris but simply a more stolid, motherly incarnation of the same type, constantly changing tack to suit the demands of German tabloids instead of British ones.

Take the 2015 migrant crisis, for example. For Streeck, this was classic Merkel politicking, where her sudden lurch from warning darkly that “the multi-kulti approach failed, absolutely failed” and informing a crying Palestinian refugee girl on television that she and her family would imminently have to leave Germany revolved 180 degrees overnight into inviting more than a million refugees and migrants into Europe, and informing the rest of the continent they would have to deal with the results. As Streeck notes, “day after day the media, whipped into a frenzy by Facebook and Twitter, accused France and Britain of callously denying migrants’ human rights,” forcing Merkel’s hand. For Streeck, Merkel’s gambit was almost purely a reaction to the negative headlines her interaction with the Palestinian girl had created, and was followed by just such another headline-led abrupt change of policy “a few months later, when smartphone videos of the New Year’s Eve riot at Cologne Central Station triggered another 180 degree turn.”

To British admirers of Merkel this was the ultimate in German progressive selflessness, contrasted favourably with Britain, yet the Cameron Government’s plan to triage refugee arrivals according to need, focussing on families, was the better one: it placed emphasis on those who needed our support most, rather than those best able to make the journey by themselves, and by managing the flow carefully over time, it would have allowed for security checks to be carried out on those wishing to come. It would also have allowed for political consent to be obtained within EU member states for a sustained and careful program of resettlement, maintaining both the continent’s political equilibrium and the safety of its people.

Merkel did none of this. Instead she rode roughshod over the border policies of other European nations, leading to a vast surge in right-wing populism across the continent, and, partly, to the Brexit vote the next year. It was not a poster of eastern European labourers Farage chose to unveil in the run-up to Brexit, after all, but one of the new arrivals to the continent summoned up by Merkel’s tabloid-led whims. When the self-adulatory applause of young Germans, congratulating themselves for not being their grandparents by greeting the new arrivals at railway stations, gave way to the rise of the AfD, anti-migrant demonstrations and a handful of terror attacks, Merkel suddenly changed tack, as Kampfner seems not to realise, but Streeck does: suddenly, Greece “was threatened by Germany with exclusion from the Schengen area if it didn’t seal its borders,” he reminds the reader, a cruel and self-interested about-turn Greeks remember all too well. The result was that Greece’s Aegean islands were turned into a vast archipelago of extra-territorial concentration camps for migrants on Germany’s behalf, without Merkel ever getting the blame from her Anglophone idolaters. 

While the German government refuses to admit any more arrivals, and debates sending the ones they have back home, German politicians and NGO workers relentlessly harangue the Greek government for the baleful conditions of the camps Greeks never wanted nor asked for. The image of the German in southern Europe today is not the Swabian hausfrau or Bavarian industrialist of recent stereotype, but the dreadlocked NGO activist Carola Rackete, daughter of a figure in the arms industry, whose family circumstances typify the precise mix of self-righteous indignation and self-interest that characterises Merkel’s Germany.

Indeed, Merkel’s entanglement with the Turkish autocrat Erdogan shows the validity of the new southern European stereotype. Her failed refugee deal with Erdogan, under which he would refrain from allowing migrants to travel to Europe and take back those whose asylum applications which have been denied, was a disaster for the continent. Instead, he has accelerated his use of migrants as a weapon against Greece and Europe as a whole. His aggressive encroachment onto the territory of Greece and Cyprus is enabled by Merkel’s diplomatic cover, even as Germany sells him the high-tech weapons of war he needs to threaten her supposed fellow European citizens, despite their pleading. A hard-nosed case for this state of affairs could be made, purely on the grounds of German self-interest: but to sell it as idealistic internationalism is really too much to bear.

Wolfgang Streeck, hard-nosed realist and Marxist cynic, is closer to the mark when he observes that “Germany has come to consider the European Union as an extension of itself, where what is right for Germany is by definition right for all others
 Very much like the US, German elites project what they collectively regard as self-evident, natural and reasonable onto their outside world, and they are puzzled that anyone could possibly fail to see things the way they do.” That our own journalistic commentators adopt this post-nationalist nationalism-by-proxy is even more grating: if we are to become “grown-up” Europeans, we can start by looking at reality, and not self-indulgent fantasy.

In western Europe, Germany’s political journalism is only matched by Scotland under the SNP for fawning paeans to the omniscient leader: it would be genuinely shocking for a British observer to see the erosion of the barriers between editorial and reporting in Germany’s television news as shown by the state-run DW news channel, and the self-righteous lectures its presenters are permitted to give to the viewers: at least in the UK, the iron fist of political partisanship is somewhat hidden by the velvet glove of editorial balance.

Germany’s specific brand of post-nationalist liberalism, devoid of flag-waving, is much admired by commentators like Kampfner; but we are fortunate, unlike Germany, that in our country our armed forces and police services are not penetrated by activists of the radical right, wishing to overthrow the state. Indeed, surely it is Germany’s anti-militarism that has made the elite units of its armed forces so radical: the German far-right intellectual Götz Kubitschek, a former officer in an elite reconnaissance unit, has remarked that in his old regiment the swastika flag was hung up in the mess and radical opinions proliferated precisely because in the rest of German society any moderate national sentiment was taboo. 

There is much to like about Germany, and even much to emulate. But there is much to dislike too, and the idea that Germany’s pro-European slant is devoid of self-interest is absurd: as Streeck relentlessly lays out, the Euro allows German industry to remain artificially competitive against external challengers, while its captive market within the European Union has wiped out competition within the rest of the continent, wrecking the export economies of countries like Italy, France and Spain. 

Germany is a country like any other, and its politicians, like Merkel, are just politicians, fallible, weak and self-interested like those of any other country, not cult figures to be genuflected to like a technocratic liberal Willendorf Venus. The parts of Germany’s political economy that are superior to ours are certainly worth examining, and perhaps emulating, as a model: yet to present the country as the ideal in every respect is absurd, and fundamentally parochial. When Brexit is done and dusted, and Trump slinks out of the White House, and Merkel retires to do whatever she will do, perhaps we can hope for a more measured take on Germany from our own liberal commentators, and a greater appreciation of our own unique and hard-won contributions to the international system. 


Aris Roussinos is an UnHerd columnist and a former war reporter.

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Jon Redman
Jon Redman
3 years ago

enthusiasts for each quadrant on the political spectrum find themselves imbuing one foreign leader or another with all the idealised qualities of wisdom and good governance they find lacking at home…for those on the edges of the centre-right, in authoritarian-conservative Hungary or Poland; for those even further to the right, in Russia, or China

Sorry, but this is just abject, utter tripe.

The right doesn’t idealise any government, for two simple philosophical reasons. One is that another country’s government is of nil interest anyway unless its actions impinge in some way on our interests. The other is that the right thinks there should be as little government as possible. There’s no noteworthy examplar of this, and certainly not Russia or China, FFS.

The right looks up rather to figures who have rolled back government, such as Thatcher and Reagan. If you can give me an example of someone plausibly representative of the centre right mouthing off about how great Hungary and Poland are, I’ll concede I’m not 100% correct, but you won’t be able to.

Howard Gleave
Howard Gleave
3 years ago
Reply to  Jon Redman

I agree with you that this section of the article was its weak point. It was when he focused on Germany and its wider impact on Europe and specifically the EU that it came into its own.

Gary Greenbaum
Gary Greenbaum
3 years ago
Reply to  Howard Gleave

This article actually praises Merkel with faint damns, in part by saying her opponents are worse.

rosie mackenzie
rosie mackenzie
3 years ago
Reply to  Gary Greenbaum

It doesn’t mention her disastrous energy policy: becoming dependent on Putin for oil and gas and tearing up her ancient forests for the open cast mining of lignite. All to suck up to her possible coalition partners. Nuclear is where she should have stayed if she had been at all grown up. She never leads though. Only tries to avoid unbecoming coverage.

gardner.peter.d
gardner.peter.d
3 years ago

unbecoming cleavage?
Seriously, Merkel also got Ukraine and Putin very badly wrong. Putin’s annexation of the Crimea was an obvious consequence of her demands yet she insisted Ukraine’s choice was exclusively between the EU and Russia with no neutral or middle ground, regardless. Over 40,000 casualties later she has a lot to answer for.
Germany has been trying to get its hands on the Ukraine ever since it was thrown out by the Treaty of Versailles in 1919.

Eugene Norman
Eugene Norman
3 years ago
Reply to  Jon Redman

We should abandon these French terms anyway but the modern right isn’t pro free market for the most part. Brexit wasn’t free market driven, although there were some who wanted a bonfire of regulations, most wanted less migration.

Tony Conrad
Tony Conrad
3 years ago
Reply to  Eugene Norman

I voted for Brexit so that we could manage our own country. It included a free market and democracy but also controls on immigration. I find it frightening that unelected officials in the EU can decide about our country. They do not have the history of democracy that we have and don’t seem to fully understand it say like the USA and ourselves.

Jeremy Smith
Jeremy Smith
3 years ago
Reply to  Tony Conrad

“They do not have the history of democracy that we have…”
Holland doesn’t have a tradition of democracy?
Scandinavia?
Every major decision about UK has been made by UK GOV.

Robin Lambert
Robin Lambert
3 years ago
Reply to  Jeremy Smith

Twerp Norway had Quisling Eurocentric Nazi Sympathetic Government 1940-45 .. Finland &Sweden were neutral..Holland also had Nazi sympathisers…

Annette Kralendijk
Annette Kralendijk
3 years ago
Reply to  Jeremy Smith

The same history as the UK? Uh no.

Kevin Ryan
Kevin Ryan
3 years ago
Reply to  Tony Conrad

The UK had already opted out of both Schengen borderless travel, and an EU agreement on migrant quotas. Nobody controlled it’s immigration policy.
It always was a democracy and fell under EU regs for issues relating mainly to health & safety and free trade.
You should have noticed by now that Nigel sold you a pup.

Robin Lambert
Robin Lambert
3 years ago
Reply to  Kevin Ryan

Really I think 3.2Million EU citizens were allowed here underEU Free movement, most don’t seem to want to return to EU, I wonder why

Teo
Teo
3 years ago
Reply to  Robin Lambert

How will the Red Wall feel about a projected possibility of 3 million HK Chinese arriving in the UK.

Nigel Farrah
Nigel Farrah
3 years ago
Reply to  Teo

Largely ambivalent or in favour I think, undesirable as such large scale immigration is those counted as British nationals should be allowed access.

Colin Elliott
Colin Elliott
3 years ago
Reply to  Robin Lambert

I have met many EU immigrants. They came here temporarily, but although they would undoubtedly like to return, they are unlikely to after establishing carers, homes, and now children. The reason I have been given is that they had no opportunities at home, but came here, and found a wealth of opportunity, which they naturally took.
I welcome these lovely people, and they are a great asset, but they have left countries which need them, and the populations o which are decreasing, to move to a country in which over-population is the main reason for very many of its problems.

Annette Kralendijk
Annette Kralendijk
3 years ago
Reply to  Kevin Ryan

That isn’t true. As a member of the EU, the UK had to allow migrants from the 27 member bloc to work in the UK.

Teo
Teo
3 years ago
Reply to  Kevin Ryan

Not sure why all the down votes the UK was not part of Schengen and generally speaking the UK was in control of immigration policy.

Nigel Farrah
Nigel Farrah
3 years ago
Reply to  Teo

Because that’s not true. If a country doesn’t have the right to selectively choose its workforce then it is not generally speaking able to do as it chooses.

Nigel Farrah
Nigel Farrah
3 years ago
Reply to  Kevin Ryan

“No one controlled its immigration policy”. Free movement of labour is a mandatory tenet of the SM which makes your comment nonsensical. How exactly would the UK stop a person coming to the UK to work if it chose their skills were not required? The fact we can check passports is irrelevant. Macron’s wish for a layered EU wasn’t entertained. Such an arrangement might have kept us in. Mutti sent Cameron packing on immigration though and directly as a result here we are.

Single market rules are hugely wide ranging extending from labour, environment, taxation and more. The EU itself makes a big play of the continuing pooling of sovereignty. It’s not possible to maintain your argument about self determination that being the case. Health and safety is not within the EU’s jurisdiction incidentally afaik, unless you mean at work.

Jeff Andrews
Jeff Andrews
3 years ago
Reply to  Kevin Ryan

You guys live for trivia, as for me I don’t accept anybody in Europe or the EU telling me what I can do or not do on these islands. It’s that simple, as for Belgium they ought to be reminded it was only created for our benefit.

Ted Ditchburn
Ted Ditchburn
3 years ago
Reply to  Tony Conrad

I think there were many reasons in different orders of importance as to why people voted and why it happened.

I feel an under-explored idea, that actually contains a lot of information as to why it happened, is in the fact that in 1975, ‘The young’ voted overwhelmingly in favour of staying in the EEC- doing that *young people thing*- in a (near enough) 70-30 result.

In 2016 those very same people, because of the just over 40 year interval, now *the old* voted overwhelmingly to leave the EU.

I feel the clue is in the initials really, and if we were asked to vote for membership of the Economic Community (thus individual nations of like-mind freely associating for clear goals..such as improved trade, and therefore wealth) we might get a majority again.

Not so for a *Union* the USofE which those young people saw emerging with no real debate, in a series of small steps, each presented as unthreatening, the failure of each step quite often then presented as the clear reason to take a further small step (as with the predictable failure of the Euro being the reason we now *must* have fiscal union).

I feel that *lived experience* of witnessing a managed, bureaucratically engineered movement toward an inescapable single state over 40 years meant a direction of travel (and an absence of meaningful debate or even democratic methods to oppose the drift) was as big a reason as any for the Leave result.

Each small step could, and was, presented as *only* a small step to make things more efficient for trade and commerce. But that 40 year interval allowed the bigger picture to be more clearly seen…something not available to younger people.

Anyway…whether it was or wasn’t a big issue for anyone else, that’s mainly why I voted to Leave.

stephen f.
stephen f.
3 years ago
Reply to  Ted Ditchburn

“Breaking” news:

Nearly all fish caught in protected areas of British waters end up in EU, investigation finds (95%)
Trawlermen have been accused of ‘unlawful asset stripping,’ boosting calls for the Government to ban destructive fishing after leaving EU

By
Emma Gatten,
ENVIRONMENT EDITOR
19 December 2020 “Âą 3:36pm
Helen Mary Supertrawler In The North Sea
Ministers are hesitant to move while negotiations over fishing rights are ongoing with the EU

Christin
Christin
3 years ago
Reply to  Eugene Norman

Nonsense. You evidently don’t know a single conservative, nor do you have a clue about those who oppose market freedoms. The heads of the giant multinationals are leftist stooges now. They very much enjoy their oligopolies and they vote left.

Eugene Norman
Eugene Norman
3 years ago
Reply to  Christin

The giant multi nationals exist because of market freedoms. Clearly. When did the free market right support stoping these companies from growing? Or increasing their taxes? Or defending their workers from globalisation.

I don’t know if I know any “conservative” of your definition, which is clearly the no true Scotsman fallacy. I know plenty of newly minted Conservative voters though, mostly in Brexit land. Not a pro Thatcherite amongst them.

Jon Redman
Jon Redman
3 years ago
Reply to  Eugene Norman

Having obtained their position through market freedoms they then use market power to crush competition.

Amazon, Facebook and Apple will all be broken up one day just like Standard oil was 100 years ago.

Mark Corby
Mark Corby
3 years ago
Reply to  Jon Redman

Exactly, this is so deja vu!

Ted Ditchburn
Ted Ditchburn
3 years ago
Reply to  Jon Redman

I agree…they’ll have to be as their control over society will start to threaten even the largest states…although maybe it goes the otherway this time and they break up the nation states….

….only kidding….

I think.

Kirk Adams
Kirk Adams
3 years ago
Reply to  Jon Redman

I very much doubt that. The loss of control by the state(s) on their populations through their suppression of dissenting views on social media means that it’s in their interest to maintain these oligopolistic vectors of propaganda.

Mark Corby
Mark Corby
3 years ago
Reply to  Eugene Norman

What a bunch of ungrateful toads you have stumbled upon Eugene.

J J
J J
3 years ago
Reply to  Jon Redman

You are mistaking the right, at least the populist right, with a belief in the libertarian values of a small state. The populist right have more in common with a form of national authoritarianism with a tinge of ethno nationalism. A strong central state with nationally owned public services, subsidised industries, a clamp down on immigration, multinational corporations and bankers. That redistributes wealth and income from rich to poor and emphasises ‘ethnically indigenous’ people over ‘non ethnically indigenous people’ in the process.

Tony Conrad
Tony Conrad
3 years ago
Reply to  J J

I thought I was on the right but in reading your post maybe I am not.

Christin
Christin
3 years ago
Reply to  J J

Word salad and 100% delusional. Lol. The left is so anxious to redefine every word in the dictionary. Your description is modeled on Venezuela. If you think Maduro is on the right, each of us here has a bridge to sell you.

Ted Ditchburn
Ted Ditchburn
3 years ago
Reply to  Christin

I think I have shares in a potentially game-changing, sero risk bridge project to sell them…

J J
J J
3 years ago
Reply to  Christin

That was my point, many on the alt right are actually left wing. They do not want liberty, a small state and freedom. They want socialism for white people

Jon Redman
Jon Redman
3 years ago
Reply to  J J

A strong central state with nationally owned public services, subsidised industries, a clamp down on immigration, multinational corporations and bankers. That redistributes wealth and income from rich to poor and emphasises ‘ethnically indigenous’ people over ‘non ethnically indigenous people’ in the process.

None of those are right-wing positions or ambitions, J J, populist or otherwise. If they are, then Harold Wilson was a right-wing populist – they more closely resemble the agenda of Labour voters of about 1965.

Ted Ditchburn
Ted Ditchburn
3 years ago
Reply to  Jon Redman

Or China,

J J
J J
3 years ago
Reply to  Jon Redman

That was my point. Many on the alt right are actually left wing.

Caroline Galwey
Caroline Galwey
3 years ago
Reply to  Jon Redman

The trouble is there are various sorts of ‘right’ – the small-state, free-market right and the nationalist-authoritarian, State-worshipping ‘right’ are just two of many. As ‘right-wing’ basically means ‘anyone who doesn’t swallow Marxism’, this diversity is unsurprising.

Jon Redman
Jon Redman
3 years ago

Not sure I buy that, Caroline. There’s a left-right axis and an orthogonal authoritarian-libertarian one. A government’s not automatically of the right because it’s authoritarian. If it’s also state-worshipping it’s much more likely to be of the left.

Blair’s government is an example of an authoritarian left-wing regime – banning smoking and fox-hunting, and planning to introduce a national ID database, for example.

David Morley
David Morley
3 years ago
Reply to  Jon Redman

“There’s a left-right axis and an orthogonal authoritarian-libertarian one.”

Not really of course. There is reality, and there are the models we use to try and make sense of it. Linear continua are useful sometimes, as are 2×2 matrices, but the fit to reality is always very approximate.

Colin Elliott
Colin Elliott
3 years ago

The term right-wing or left-wing is very crude, and easily misapplied. For example, it is taken as axiomatic that Hitler was right-wing, and yet there are many ways in which he qualifies as left-wing. The very name of his party gives this away; National Sozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei.
As Brendan O’Leary above points out, it is useful for the ‘left’ try to establish in the public conscience that left = good and right = bad, after which they simply need to add the prefix ‘right’ when mentioning a person or group to trigger prejudice in the listener or viewer.
That is, until a left-wing regime becomes ever more authoritarian, as so often happens, on which they engage in truthspeak by then describing them as ‘right-wing’.
I’m waiting for Maduro to be called ‘right-wing’.
Labels can be useful, but can be abused and misleading.
Finally, is the SNP left-wing or right-wing?

Jeremy Smith
Jeremy Smith
3 years ago
Reply to  Jon Redman

How about the Trump cult in America – not exactly the same thing but there you go.

Ted Ditchburn
Ted Ditchburn
3 years ago
Reply to  Jon Redman

I think that was a stylistic error trying to impose too much universiality (if that makes sense…which it probably doesn’t)…But the key thrust, that Merkel is not what a certain sector of our UK commentators idealise her as being is well enough laid out.

Of course nobody is, as good or as bad, but since Thatcher *won the argument* in the UK, the left have moved towards political *argument* that depends more and more on simple demonisation of any sort of expression of the conservative sentiment.

So Thatcher and her policies are simply *evil*, Johnson a *liar*, *shiftless* and *feckless*,, something that has been taken up by nationalist parties in Scotland and Wales more recently.

This tendency has spread from the hard left and far left back through the political spectrum to where we are today, with people who call themselves liberal having enthusiastically adopted it, and especially in relation to Brexit.

The reality of the Brexit vote has seen people who would formerly describe themselves as moderate picking up that demonisation tactic as a last resort (toward pr0-Brexit people) and thus it’s mirror image this fetishisation of an idea of Merkel, and Merkel’s Germany, which I agree with the article, doesn’t exist.

Mark Corby
Mark Corby
3 years ago
Reply to  Ted Ditchburn

Yes, well said, and your brevity is excellent for such a complex problem.

Basil Chamberlain
Basil Chamberlain
3 years ago
Reply to  Jon Redman

“The other is that the right thinks there should be as little government as possible […] The right looks up rather to figures who have rolled back government, such as Thatcher and Reagan.”

But this is to accept a definition of “right” in which “right” equals “free market” and “libertarian”. Many who would describe themselves as right-wing are authoritarian conservatives, in favour of tradition, hierarchy, community and church, often critical of the free market as corrosive of these institutions. Many right-wing parties include both libertarians and conservative authoritarians; the US Republican Party certainly does, and the British Conservative Party used to (Thatcher herself was an economic liberal, but her instincts were authoritarian, as witnessed by her ruthless centralisation of power and conservative social policies). Libertarians who claim to have little in common with authoritarian conservatives might ask themselves why they tend to end up in the same political parties.

As for an example of a representative of the British right speaking favourably about Viktor OrbÃ¥n’s Hungary, look no further than UnHerd’s own Douglas Murray or founder editor Tim Montgomerie – the latter quoted last year as saying “”Budapest and Hungary have been home, I think, for an awful lot of interesting early thinking on the limits of liberalism, and I think we are seeing that in the UK as well. So I hope there will be a special relationship with Hungary amongst other states.” Or what about Conservative MP Daniel Kawczynski, who last year joined OrbÃ¥n, alongsider Spanish Francoists and Italian post-fascists, at a conference in Rome, claiming that they “represent serious ideas and concerns, some of which are shared by many citizens of the UK”?

Jon Redman
Jon Redman
3 years ago

None of those examples are governments.

L Paw
L Paw
3 years ago
Reply to  Jon Redman

Crucial point, well made

Basil Chamberlain
Basil Chamberlain
3 years ago
Reply to  Jon Redman

Well, Daniel Kawczynski, at least, is a sitting MP for the party that currently governs this country.

More significantly, the British Conservative Party chose since 2014 to sit in the same group in the European parliament as the Polish Law and Justice Party, the Danish People’s Party, the (True) Finns Party – who were joined shortly before our departure from the EU by the Sweden Democrats, Brothers of Italy, and Vox.

Katharine Eyre
Katharine Eyre
3 years ago

Britain can learn off Germany in a lot of ways. What I really like about Germany is the thoroughness. Where the British (and the Austrians for that matter) are much more likely to say “oh that’ll do” on a job that’s not done 100% or put up with something being slightly less (or even a lot less) than perfect, the Germans will take exception to the imperfection and do the job properly. There’s a reason why they are so good at engineering!

The public infrastructure is still better than the UK’s as far as I can see but has deteriorated badly since I first started spending time there in the late 90s. Back then, railways stations were clean and tidy, the pavements immaculate and the brand new ICE trains looked like something from the future. When I go now, things look shabby and there is graffiti everywhere. In the pursuit of the so-called “black zero”, they’ve let investment in critical infrastructure slacken and it shows. Germany is also lagging in terms of digitisation, which, for a country of its stature, is not a good sign.

As for Merkel…Roussinos is quite on point with his observations about her changing tack alot. Merkel is a completely rational thinker but she is absolutely NOT a visionary. Instead of thinking out a long term strategy and acting accordingly, she takes each situation as it comes, analyses it like the scientist she is, and decides according to what is right in the moment – not necessarily what is right when you take the long view. This lack of vision is what you will hear Germans complain about, as the long years of this approach are now threatening to leave them at the end of their golden years without any clear plan for how to move forward or sustain past success.

Germany irritates me mostly for the reason Streeck states: Germany thinks that what is right for Germany is right for everyone else. In German, you have a phrase for this: “Die Welt soll am deutschen Wesen genesen”, which roughly translates as: “the world should heal by acting/being like Germany.” That’s exactly what led to the handling of the crisis in the eurozone going so wrong and the subsequent alienation of countries on the southern periphery who were expected to have the same view of being indebted as Germany, which is that it is morally wrong. It is no surprise that the word for “debt” in German is the same as the word for “fault” or “blame” (“Schuld”) . It’s a moral judgment.

So, in conclusion I’d say that Germany is just like every other country out there. There are things it does astoundingly well at and Britain can certainly learn. But there’s other stuff that is short-sighted, bad and annoying.

stephen f.
stephen f.
3 years ago
Reply to  Katharine Eyre

“…what is right for Germany is right for everyone else…” Let’s keep a lid on that sentiment in this century.

Katharine Eyre
Katharine Eyre
3 years ago
Reply to  stephen f.

No worries. Germany has absolutely learned the lessons of the 20th century – the problem is more often that it has learned its lesson too well for its own good.

Gary Greenbaum
Gary Greenbaum
3 years ago
Reply to  stephen f.

I wonder if that was a common saying in Nuremberg in the 1930s and in Dresden in the 1970s?

Jon Redman
Jon Redman
3 years ago
Reply to  Gary Greenbaum

It originated shortly after German unification in the 1870s.

Jeremy Smith
Jeremy Smith
3 years ago
Reply to  Jon Redman

Any many features of United Germany 1871 were copied around the world – education and modern bureaucratic state were a few things.

Mark Corby
Mark Corby
3 years ago
Reply to  stephen f.

Well, it is an improvement on “Arbeit Macht Frei”.

Howard Gleave
Howard Gleave
3 years ago
Reply to  Katharine Eyre

A very thoughtful and, in my experience, accurate comment.

Eugene Norman
Eugene Norman
3 years ago
Reply to  Katharine Eyre

Yes. The infrastructure is crumbling. For a country that can borrow at negative interest rates it’s appalling, really. It’s Germans austerity policy that’s a big issue in the EU.

Tony Conrad
Tony Conrad
3 years ago
Reply to  Katharine Eyre

Germans have always been meticulous to a fault but taken too far it can become a fault to control everyone else. I read that Germans always want us to use toilet paper from the front and were irritated when a lot of people used it from the back. In the end they invented a toilet roll holder where you had to use it from the front.

Mark Corby
Mark Corby
3 years ago
Reply to  Katharine Eyre

“There are things it does astoundingly well”’ yes, and also things it does astoundingly badly.

For the later to be expunged from human memory, will take at least a thousand years.

stephen f.
stephen f.
3 years ago
Reply to  Mark Corby

And then there’s doing astoundingly bad things well…

Ted Ditchburn
Ted Ditchburn
3 years ago
Reply to  Katharine Eyre

The infrastructure problem affects the USA as well..and partly it’s just down to the same problem that the UK has/had that when you massively invest in infrastructure you need long time scales to repay the investment.

And after the first 15 years of feeling it’s all great you can also breed a bit of complacency as well.

Germany might be in a post imperial decline right now, without having actually gone through a full-on *imperial* phase.

Certlainly the failure in digital tech means that Europe’s biggest companies are much the same as they were in the 1990’s when they were some of the biggest in the world….the USA’s and China’s largest are completely different companies (in the main), many didn’t exist in 1995..or in much smaller forms…but these now often dwarf European companies.

They are almost all in digital tech, which the EU has signally failed to encourage successfully.

I bitterly regret that ARM was sold but London is the overwhelming home for Digital Tech in Europe larger than the next three city hubs…(and the UK has in Manchester a city that came second only to London last year for inward Digital tech investment) .

This position, and indeed the fact that this globally significant centre has left the EU, seems to occasion little comment or reflection within Europe and the EU.

I absolutely agree the concluding sentence there are things Britain does astoundingly well…and Germany (the EU) should certainly learn…and yes, there’s other stuff that is shortsighted,bad and annoying.

Arden Babbingbrook
Arden Babbingbrook
3 years ago
Reply to  Katharine Eyre

Germany works the way it does because it is a highly a**l culture (why have one word for ‘the’ when you can have 16) — a culture that found its mirror image in Japan. Germany also works very well because it is not a true democracy. It is rather a polity that had a liberal democratic superstructure overlaid on its illiberal populace thanks to the British, American and French occupiers. Germans were never a people with democracy sprouting in their hearts which is why they spend a lot of time complaining about how imperfect their fellow citizens are. What counts is the ‘Gesamtkonzept’ — the totalising, or indeed, totalitarian view of how all the little elements are supposed to fit into the seamless whole. Problem is, other peoples — other humans — do not think like them.

Fraser Bailey
Fraser Bailey
3 years ago

‘For those ideologues of the technocratic centre-left….it is the cult of Angela Merkel that has ended up filling this role.’

How ironic, then, that Merkel has made Germany dependant on Russian gas for its core energy needs. Putin has only to turn off the tap to make Covid look like a baby shower.

Mark Corby
Mark Corby
3 years ago
Reply to  Fraser Bailey

Once a Commie, always a Commie!

Eugene Norman
Eugene Norman
3 years ago
Reply to  Mark Corby

Not even Putin is a commie. The Cold War is over.

Kevin Ryan
Kevin Ryan
3 years ago
Reply to  Eugene Norman

You’re on the wrong forum. Anyone here who isn’t hard right is either Marxist, Maoist, Socialist or Communist

Ted Ditchburn
Ted Ditchburn
3 years ago
Reply to  Kevin Ryan

I think you just used the wrong hand to unscrew the bottle top there…..?

Tony Conrad
Tony Conrad
3 years ago
Reply to  Eugene Norman

Communism has failed everywhere. Even the Chinese have embraced capitalism to make their country boom but the people do not have freedom of speech and are oppressed which is a leftover from communism.

Eugene Norman
Eugene Norman
3 years ago
Reply to  Tony Conrad

And yet Putin is not a communist. Have the Chinese embraced capitalism? I’d call it state capitalism at the most.

Ted Ditchburn
Ted Ditchburn
3 years ago
Reply to  Tony Conrad

Or, as fashionable ABBs (Anyone BUT Britain) would have it… “mweh, perhaps China’s model is more effective and we should have a version here…with appropriate safeguards?”

Like not allowing thick people to vote and upset their betters?

Alan Healy
Alan Healy
3 years ago
Reply to  Eugene Norman

Especially not Putin .

Mark Corby
Mark Corby
3 years ago
Reply to  Eugene Norman

The Cold War is over indeed, but the virus of Communism isn’t.

Perhaps the forthcoming Hot War will finally extinguish it.

Eugene Norman
Eugene Norman
3 years ago
Reply to  Mark Corby

I fear it might extinguish us all.

Mark Corby
Mark Corby
3 years ago
Reply to  Eugene Norman

I would be happy with 75%, but sadly I think that’s a bit over optimistic at present.

aemiliuspaullus
aemiliuspaullus
3 years ago
Reply to  Fraser Bailey

IIRC The Nord Stream pipeline was actually signed by Gerhard Schröder just as he was about to depart from office in 2005, after having been voted out just days earlier. Within weeks, he started to oversee the project implementation himself, leading the Nord Stream AG’s shareholder committee. After stepping down as chancellor, Schröder accepted Gazprom’s nomination for the post of the head of the shareholders’ committee of Nord Stream AG. His friendship with Putin goes back a long way.

bootsyjam
bootsyjam
3 years ago

Very interesting, thanks for posting.

Fraser Bailey
Fraser Bailey
3 years ago

Yes, but it was Merkel who decided do decommission the nuclear energy plants.

aemiliuspaullus
aemiliuspaullus
3 years ago
Reply to  Fraser Bailey

The decision to phase out nuclear power actually started under Gerhard Schröder. After the SDP and the Green Party won the elections in 1998, Schröder reached what was known as the ‘nuclear consensus’ with the big utilities. They agreed to limit the lifespan of nuclear power plants to 32 yrs. New nuclear plants were banned altogether. Two plants (Stade & Obrigheim) were taken offline in 2002 and 2005.

Merkel actually opposed this agreement and promised it would be revoked if the CDC came to power. When Merkel won in 2009 she extended the operating time by 8 years for 7 nuclear plants and 14 years for the remaining 10.

But after the disaster at Fukushima in 2011 the decision was made to shut down 8 plants and limit the operation of the remaining 9. You can debate the wisdom of this move but from a political point of view she didn’t really have much choice.

It was supported by 80% of Parliamentarians in the Bundestag and 79% of the German public. In fact the only opposition was Die Linke who only objected because they wanted a faster exit and the measure’s inclusion in the constitution.

Mark Corby
Mark Corby
3 years ago

Yes, an excellent synopsis, thank you.

Ted Ditchburn
Ted Ditchburn
3 years ago

She extended the lignite mining and building of coal fired power stations as well?
The decisions around energy policy illustrate the weather-vane nature (rather than signposting nature) of the Merkel approach, built around German Commerical interests (if you’re big in manufacturing steel, glass, and plastic stuff you need cheap energy?)… rather than some shining example of disinterested visionary politics, as presented by Remainer idealogues?.

aemiliuspaullus
aemiliuspaullus
3 years ago
Reply to  Ted Ditchburn

I suspect that’s what many Germans find appealing, in an age of populism from both the left and right, she is perceived as a practical politician. You can’t survive as Chancellor of Germany for 15 years without being a tough, pragmatic politician. Only Otto van Bismarck and Helmut Kohl have stayed in this office longer.

Eugene Norman
Eugene Norman
3 years ago
Reply to  Fraser Bailey

You use ironic incorrectly. What’s the fear of Putin anyway?

Fraser Bailey
Fraser Bailey
3 years ago
Reply to  Eugene Norman

I have no particular fear of Putin. The irony lies in the fact that the left often sees Putin as the enemy, yet the person they admire so much is dependent on him for energy.

Kevin Ryan
Kevin Ryan
3 years ago
Reply to  Fraser Bailey

You don’t see Putin as the enemy Fraser? You don’t think that Russia is doing all it can to de-stabilise the EU and US through systematic trolling and electoral manipulation?

Barry Coombes
Barry Coombes
3 years ago
Reply to  Kevin Ryan

Electoral manipulation and systematic trolling was when the West paid for specialists to go and teach the Kremlin how best to rig the 1996 presidential elections in Yeltsin’s favour. What are you complaining about – that they were paying attention to what they were taught?

J StJohn
J StJohn
3 years ago
Reply to  Kevin Ryan

He didn’t say Putin wasn’t an enemy, he just said he isn’t particularly afraid of him.Simply twisting people’s words to mean something they didn’t say isn’t an argument – it’s just trolling

Kevin Ryan
Kevin Ryan
3 years ago
Reply to  J StJohn

If you notice these things here “?”
They’re called question or interrogation marks. (I’m guessing they don’t appear very often in your posts)

‘The left often sees Putin as the enemy’ carries a very clear implication that Fraser doesn’t. I was looking for an explanation.

Teo
Teo
3 years ago
Reply to  Kevin Ryan

funny how Putin has become a boogeyman the left fear.

Kevin Ryan
Kevin Ryan
3 years ago
Reply to  Teo

Even funnier how he’s one the right don’t

Mark Corby
Mark Corby
3 years ago
Reply to  Fraser Bailey

Putin is an embarrassing pygmy, and nothing to fear, particularly in view of the far more potent threat from Fu Manchu & Co.

Ted Ditchburn
Ted Ditchburn
3 years ago
Reply to  Fraser Bailey

BOGOF deal…He buys Germany and gets the rest of the EU free….?

Howard Gleave
Howard Gleave
3 years ago

I am a professional linguist (French and German) and have studied, lived and worked on the Continent and especially Germany for five years in total and this is an absolute humdinger of an article.

stephen f.
stephen f.
3 years ago
Reply to  Howard Gleave

How do you say “humdinger” in German?

Kevin Ryan
Kevin Ryan
3 years ago
Reply to  Howard Gleave

Five years isn’t very long to think you know Germany, let alone ‘the Continent’

Walter Lantz
Walter Lantz
3 years ago

IMO. Merkel’s idiotic Klondike Gold Rush refugee mess is enough to permanently stain her reputation.
The lack of planning, efficiency and organization seem to run counter to every cultural cliche that is normally used to describe how Germans do things.
Unilaterally suspending the Dublin Convention and then re-instating it once she wanted to close the doors?
What was wrong with properly vetting refugees at the UN camps and then whisking the lucky applicants directly and safely to wherever in Germany was prepared to welcome them?
How many drowned trying to get to Germany?
How many 15 year old Syrian war orphans turned out to be 25 year old “not Syrians” ?
How many has Germany tossed back?
The “Merkel the Humanitarian” tag is totally un-deserved as far as I can see.

Jeremy Smith
Jeremy Smith
3 years ago
Reply to  Walter Lantz

The policy in its strategy and tactical was and still is a terrible mistake. That said, there was no time for planning and the bureaucracy managed the situation pretty well. As of now the refuges have been housed, kids have enrolled in schools and quite a few (c.50%) are working.
Long term integration problems…will see!

Annette Kralendijk
Annette Kralendijk
3 years ago
Reply to  Jeremy Smith

And only ñ‚¬80 billion spent on it. What a bargain in exchange for 1.2 million uneducated refugees, 60% male, 84% under the age of 35!

Kevin Ryan
Kevin Ryan
3 years ago
Reply to  Walter Lantz

The UN camps were overrun. Huge numbers of people were camping in tents. How would you expect them to rapidly ‘vet’ these numbers of undocumented refugeed when you know this process can take months or even years ? The Dublin Convention was drafted long before the Syrian war and the so-called ‘migrant crisis’ since. It’s a disgrace that many European countries continue to hide behind it and leave Italy and Greece to carry nearly all the burden. Merkel’s ‘humanitarian’ label is undeserved, but your plan is so much more caring? Give me a break

Walter Lantz
Walter Lantz
3 years ago
Reply to  Kevin Ryan

Sure. “screw the rules” is fine when you’re an activist but Merkel is supposed to be the leader of the most powerful EU member.
It doesn’t matter if the Dublin Convention is older than Dublin, what value does any EU agreement have if one country simply ignores it one day and then insists that same agreement be respected the next?
As the article rightly states, when Merkel decided to close the door Italy and Greece were left holding the bag.
Erdogan is a nutter but he isn’t stupid.
In a just world nobody would give this guy the time of day but he’s managed to cause all sorts of squirming in Brussels and Berlin because he parlayed Merkel’s “Now take my migrants, please!” into an IOU for $5B Euros and a promise of EU membership.
Thanks to Mutti, the EU now has to humor Erdogan and his nasty Islamic Turkey project or he’ll dump the entire mess back on their doorstep.

But that’s all OK because the UN camps were crowded?
Since when have UN refugee camps not been crowded?
Did Merkel ever think that maybe once the word was out that only bona fide, vetted refugees under UN protection would be brought to Germany that the economic migrants and assorted other chancers may have given those camps a miss?
And wouldn’t it have been better for actual refugees to arrive in Germany with whatever money or valuables they may have been able to hold on to rather than giving it all to smugglers and the Libyan Yacht Club?
And how does it help the public acceptance of refugees when gangs of the un-screened and the un-savory roam the streets and provide front page proof and license for ultra-nationalist whackos to cry “we told you so!”

The fact that a certain percentage of the refugee stories have had a happy ending doesn’t diminish the fact that Merkel made a mess of it and the consequences will be felt for quite some time.

Kevin Ryan
Kevin Ryan
3 years ago
Reply to  Walter Lantz

Application of th Dublin Convention was suspended by Germany because of a war. You think the appropriate ‘humanitarian’ thing to do would be say ‘tough luck refugees, rules is rules’ ?
Erdogan is hosting refugees thanks to Mutti? How about he’s hosting them because the rest of the EU wailed like the sky was falling in, instead of implementing a program of properly re-homing refugees across all member states?
The bona fide vetted idea is nonsense if you’re still pretending that you’re operating under the ‘humanitarian’ banner. You leave people who’ve fled for their lives in tents in winter until Assad issues them with new passports?
I’ve no idea what you’re talking about with the money and valuables. You think refugees give away whatever wealth they’re carrying willingly?
The mess Merkel made was mainly trusting in the humanitarian values of her neighbours.

Annette Kralendijk
Annette Kralendijk
3 years ago
Reply to  Walter Lantz

Does one have to be an”ultra-nationalist whacko” to object to roaming gangs of un-screened and un-savory?? Seems like any sentient being would object to that.

rnsharp
rnsharp
3 years ago

Having lived for 40 years in Germany I think I can say that the article presents a pretty accurate picture. I recently asked my neighbour whether Merkel had been made a saint. Because as such she is being treated by the German media. After having given in to the blackmail of Poland and Hungary recently she was nowhere criticised but instead praised.
Merkel has an uncanny ability to look into a camera in a motherly sort of way, expressing a deep concern about something, in such a way that everyone believes she really cares. She did it in her New Year broadcast with climate change, although throughout the year she had been doing everything she could behind the scenes to thwart any attempts to impose stricter car exhaust limits.
I must add as a caveat: history may well judge that Merkel’s refugee policy was misguided if not dangerous. But a great many Germans, my wife included, supported it unreservedly as the morally right thing to do. Perhaps they were wrong, but they believed they were doing the right thing. And it came at a considerable cost to many Germans who did a great deal of volunteer work to help the refugees.
I would also defend DeutschWelle as one of the better programme makers. They make excellent documentaries. Much worse is ZDF, although their reporting on Brexit was actually excellent.
What is really disappointing is how the British trash themselves. Germans are having to slowly and very grudgingly admit that they are not the world leaders on environmental issues and that the British are doing better.
And as to one readers comments about German engineering: the current atmosphere in Germany is that they obviously can’t do big projects anymore. The new airport in Berlin that has actually opened was a complete and unmitigated disaster, and it is a wonder that it ever opened at all. Some very serious people thought it would have been best to blow it up and start again, and they were probably right. And there are a number of other, very expensive examples.
I had the opportunity to use the British rail system last year, and it really is not bad at all. As to the German health system: it is one of the most expensive in the world so it ought to be quite good. Germany has about three times as many intensive beds as other countries, which in Covid times is an advantage, but might otherwise be regarded as a bit bloated.
I think one of the main concerns for the future is that Merkel will soon be replaced and there will be elections in September. We might get a political landscape that is so fractured that it will be very difficult to form a government. Merkel has a well earned reputation as something of a black widow for her coalition partners, and the Green party are surely well aware of that.
In a few years it might very difficult indeed to pass judgement on Merkel’s legacy.

Jeremy Smith
Jeremy Smith
3 years ago
Reply to  rnsharp

“As to the German health system: it is one of the most expensive in the world so it ought to be quite good.”
How do you measure that?
as % of GDP German spending is lower than US, Holland, France, Switzerland

rnsharp
rnsharp
3 years ago
Reply to  Jeremy Smith

https://data.oecd.org/healt… – Germany is in fourth place.
https://www.healthsystemtra… – Germany is in third place.
I was aware that the US spends more. It surprises me that Switzerland spends more but explains why quite a number of German doctors work in Switzerland.

Fiona Cordy
Fiona Cordy
3 years ago
Reply to  Jeremy Smith

Latest stats from ONS. Germany spent 4332 per person on healthcare in 2017 against 2989 GBP from UK.

Charles Hedges
Charles Hedges
3 years ago
Reply to  rnsharp

Basically Germany moved manufacturing into advanced high value goods and has an education system which provides enough top quality craftsmen, technicians, scientists and engineers with a small number humanities graduates of goood quality. Britain has a small high value advanced manufacturing capability with an inadequate number of craftsmen, technicians, scientists and engineers and a much larger poor quality low value industrial base and a very large number of humanities graduates who range from those with ” Greats ” to very poor quality degrees.

Germany had her debts paid off in 1954 while Britain paid her debts off, supported a large military capability and welfare system based on entitlement not contribution. In the 1960s politicians and civil servants made welfare far more generous and closed down most advanced airplane design capability in the World.

Britain forgot that all power rests on agriculture and industry.
Germany kept the work ethic and the craftsmen’s attention to detail and quality. From 1945 Britain was ruled by left wing humanities graduates with a contempt for trade and technology and unskilled unions who resent the status of craftsmen and foremen and resisted the move into advanced high value manufacturing. Hence the debacle of British Leyland producing poor quality cars noone wanted to buy. . German unions understand a balance sheet and base wages on profitability not productivity.

The light on the horizon are the NEC3 and 3 contracts which have greatly reduced the very bad delays due to contractural issues on large projects.

It is simple to solve our problems. Return to a Welfare System designed by Beveridge, based upon contribution and a scientific and technical education which comprises the best of British, Swiss and Singaporean methods. Humanities graduates should be no more than 20% of total and very high quality- classics, law, history and languages. Aquire a sense of responsibility, a craftsman’s respect for quality and detail and pursuit of excellence. Apprenticeships are pointless unless the employer and employee have a zeal for excellence.

In Germany the craftsmen are in the driving seat in the UK an alliance of the unskilled and low grade humanities graduates.

Annette Kralendijk
Annette Kralendijk
3 years ago
Reply to  rnsharp

Here’s the problem with Merkel’s immigration policy. She demanded that other European countries do the same thing, whether they were capable of it or not. Whether they wanted to fling open the doors of their country to millions of unvetted refugees or not. Doing it yourself is one thing, demanding that others not in the same position do the same is entirely different. This is my main problem with Merkel. She is an authoritarian. Everyone must do what I say whether they can or not. Other countries should be free to make their own decisions, not follow Merkel’s orders.

Katharine Eyre
Katharine Eyre
3 years ago
Reply to  rnsharp

I also find it quite sad to see how the British trash themselves. It’s kind of a weird form of exceptionalism: not only do the British say “we’re world beating”…when actually they’re anything but, but they also say “we’re the absolute worst””…when they really aren’t.

Joe Reed
Joe Reed
3 years ago

Good piece.

The populist/centrist technocrat dichotomy is false. There are populist elements to technocracy and vice versa. Merkel is the prototypical model for a number of (mainly female, curiously) techno-populists, like Ardern and Sturgeon. They talk the liberal rhetoric, but throughout the pandemic have shown themselves to have the same nationalist, authoritarian instincts as Orban or Edogan. I am sick of the mindless, almost infantile genuflection of the British left before these Big Mummies, whose illiberal tendencies they project onto ‘fascists’.

Michael Dawson
Michael Dawson
3 years ago

Good article. Could have added something about German overseas aid and defence spending also both being a lot lower than the UK’s per capita. And made more of how the Euro is the most tremendous help to German exporters, at the expense of UK producers among others. The current negotiations with the EU about the UK government in future trying to undermine the competitiveness of EU states is a bit of a joke, given the distortions of the euro. Maybe the government should have tabled an amendment to the proposed treaty requiring the UK in future to maintain an independent currency, as our contribution to maintaining a level playing field, then waited to see if the Germans got the joke.

Jeremy Smith
Jeremy Smith
3 years ago
Reply to  Michael Dawson

Germany ate your lunch when they had the DMark, they did the same with an overvalued EUR (yes it was up to 2007/8 for German economy).

Andy Yorks
Andy Yorks
3 years ago
Reply to  Michael Dawson

As Bernard Connolly observed a few years ago the correct value of the Euro for Greece, using the Dollar as a yardstick, would be about 35 cents: for Germany it would be $2.35. At $1.20 (it was $1.10 when he made the calculations) the Germans have a huge advantage. The UK and USA ought to impose anti-dumping duties on EuroZone exports and see how well the German Car Industry does thereafter.

Gary Greenbaum
Gary Greenbaum
3 years ago

I would find this article more convincing if it were not for the passing shots it takes at those who do not want Assad overthrown, at Hungary and Poland, and at the “far-right” and “radical right” in Germany, which means, I suppose, those who do not support the massive post-2015 immigration surge there. It reads, then, like a globalist taking a very slight step to the right to sell a column, but one unable to hide his true colours.

Chauncey Gardiner
Chauncey Gardiner
3 years ago

“As a “postmodern politician with a Machiavellian disdain for both causes and people,” she is not Germany’s instructive anti-Boris but simply a more stolid, motherly incarnation of the same type, constantly changing tack to suit the demands of German tabloids instead of British ones.”

One could certainly find examples over time and around the world of this kind of thing. Bill Clinton comes to mind. Hillary even more so.

Christopher Barclay
Christopher Barclay
3 years ago

Merkel’s flip-flopping on immigration looks like a psychopath struggling to imitate the socially expected emotional response to refugees.

Centrists like Germany because the centre is always in power. If the centre-right can’t form a government on its own, it does so in alliance with the centre-left.

Andrew Martin
Andrew Martin
3 years ago

Merkel has been shipping planeloads of Migrants back to their place of origin for many years now. The system was run on a “misbehave and your out” with no bleeding heart left wing activist lawyers interfering with that decision.

Kevin Ryan
Kevin Ryan
3 years ago

We live in modern democracies in Europe. Almost all of us have food, shelter, education and healthcare. The flaws in the system are tweaks to an overall successful model. There should be no room for anybody other than ‘centrists’. It’s a major cause for concern that both the hard left and hard right are becoming more visible and vocal. Neither should be involved in the conversation.

Derek M
Derek M
3 years ago
Reply to  Kevin Ryan

So you don’t actually want democracy then?

Caro HW
Caro HW
3 years ago

As a German who has lived half her life there and half her life in Britain, I shrug my shoulders at this article. Most Germans would agree that neither Germany nor Merkel are perfect in any way. She herself doesn’t cultivate an image as some amazing head of state either. German society is far more risk averse than Anglo-Saxon countries and even though many Germans criticise Merkel and want to see her gone, her long leadership plays into the culture’s (unconscious) complex surrounding change. The main difference between Britain and her leadership and the media in Germany is that its far less shrill.

Last time I checked the stats today (worldometers), Britain had 66,541 recorded death and Germany had 25,558. It’s certainly gone up a lot, however, there’s still quite a gap, no? Especially given the relative size of the population.

On a general note, I don’t think any country handles any major crisis “well”, no matter if it’s mass migration, COVID, etc. These are battles no one nation was ever going to “win” or master heroically. The very nature of the event renders it impossible.

Jeremy Smith
Jeremy Smith
3 years ago
Reply to  Caro HW

Spot on.
I personally dislike Merkel (mostly because of migration) but otherwise she has managed as best as she could taking into account the geopolitics/economics.
I would like Germany to take a more militant approach toward Turkey but may be a more coordinated response with USA (now that Biden is in power) could bring better results.

G Harris
G Harris
3 years ago
Reply to  Jeremy Smith

A more militant approach toward Turkey?

Probably not the best idea.

Turkey is currently the world’s largest holding pen for refugees, most likely bound for the EU, which is why the EU has ponied up many billions of Euros for Turkey in order to try and keep it that way and them there and why Mr Erdogan always has an ace up his sleeve when EU/Turkey relations get a bit rocky as they did earlier this year.

Annette Kralendijk
Annette Kralendijk
3 years ago
Reply to  G Harris

So that’s the solution? Turkey just gets to hold a sword over the EU’s head forever? Do what we want or we release millions of refugees and you have no choice but to accept them? Can the EU pay Turkey bribes forever?

Mark Corby
Mark Corby
3 years ago
Reply to  Caro HW

Do we both have about same the ratio of over 80 +year olds?

The average age of a UK C -19 death is a staggering 82.5, what is it in the Fatherland?

Just musing, but given the Fatherland’s enormous fatalities (7M?) in WWII, are there approximately the same many number of potential C-19 ‘targets’ available?

Benjamin Jones
Benjamin Jones
3 years ago
Reply to  Mark Corby

That’s a very astute observation.

Jeremy Smith
Jeremy Smith
3 years ago
Reply to  Mark Corby

What is up with your endless references to WW2?

Mark Corby
Mark Corby
3 years ago
Reply to  Jeremy Smith

The most important historical event of the last century, have you not heard of it?

The US did rather well, others, less so.

Kevin Ryan
Kevin Ryan
3 years ago
Reply to  Jeremy Smith

It’s not just him. It’s a common theme here. It speaks to the average age of the reader combined with a misty-eyed right-wing nostalgia about some idyllic post-war era when Britain was supposedly “Great”.
Cricket on the green, grocer’s boy on his bike, village bobbies, Spitfires roaring overhead. All that kind of guff. A.N. Wilson did an excellent essay on nostalgia and Brexit. I’d recommend it highly.

David FĂŒlöp
David FĂŒlöp
3 years ago
Reply to  Kevin Ryan

Now I want a 1000 piece puzzle of that picture you painted.

Gary Greenbaum
Gary Greenbaum
3 years ago
Reply to  Caro HW

“She herself doesn’t cultivate an image as some amazing head of state either.”

She is not a head of state. She is a head of government.

Andy Yorks
Andy Yorks
3 years ago
Reply to  Caro HW

Problem with comparing Covid death statistics is are you comparing like with like. My understanding is that in Germany for a death to be recorded as Covid related there must be a positive test. That is not the case here were even negative tested deaths are being recorded as Covid. That explains why the statistics are so out of line here vis a via Germany.

David Adams
David Adams
3 years ago
Reply to  Caro HW

The article isn’t primarily a criticism of Germany, so shrug away. It’s a criticism of anti-Brexit Germany-worshippers in the UK. I’ve met a few of them, and they need to read more articles like this one.

Mike Smith
Mike Smith
3 years ago

“The journalist John Kampfner’s recent book Why the Germans Do it Better: Notes from a Grown-Up Country is perhaps the purest distillation of this uniquely English pathology…”

Surely there is a hint in his surname that he might have a pro-Germany bias?

Richard Slack
Richard Slack
3 years ago
Reply to  Mike Smith

wow gotcha

Paddy Taylor
Paddy Taylor
3 years ago
Reply to  Mike Smith

Nicknamed “Mein” at school?

Jeremy Smith
Jeremy Smith
3 years ago
Reply to  Mike Smith

Play the ball not the man
P.S. he is a british jew.

Peter Francis
Peter Francis
3 years ago

Thanks, Aris Roussinos, for yet another great article. I would like to add another reason why Brits should re-evaluate their admiration for Frau Merkel Brown Coal (lignite) is the filthiest fuel on the planet, yet Germany gets almost as much of its energy from brown coal as it does from Vladimir Putin’s gas. Although Germany has recently started to reduce the quantity, they still plan to carry on using it until 2038. They use it to produce electricity, but they don’t just use enough for domestic requirements. They use more brown coal so that they can export electricity, despite their massive trade surplus.

Terry Mushroom
Terry Mushroom
3 years ago

When I saw mentioned Kampfner’s book “Notes from a Grownup Country”, I remembered that Germany is only 30 years old, born of two (n.b.) utterly vile regimes.

I pay tribute to the many Germans determined to face, learn from and reject their country’s two terrible pasts. Children must not be held responsible for the guilt of their fathers.

But 30 years is nothing. It’s only off the starting blocks to be truly grown up.

Richard Slack
Richard Slack
3 years ago

This is a tedious article, ostensibly about Germany but soon denigrates to an anti-Merkel diatribe, frankly why not describe her as a frumpy German Housefrau, you know you want to. Speaking as a member of the Labour Party who supported Corbyn’s leadership my model is not Cuba or Venezuela (nor was it Corbyn’s). Germany has the attraction that, despite being a predominantly conservative country has constructed one of the best Social Democratic economies anywhere. “Wir Schaffen das” “we can do this” is a German mantra the whole of the post-war period where they have demonstrated that the power of Government under democratic guidance can make important changes. I respect that. They have also been totally honest over their past and have made atonements and more for it in a way that would get them called “Woke” on here. We have a government that cannot shift from the idea that World War 2 showed British exceptionalism in all respects.

The tragedy is that Merkel and David Cameron are similar people and if they had worked together from 2010 they could have steered the EU away from the Federalist path it was on and Brexit (which Cameron didn’t want) could have been avoided.

Fraser Bailey
Fraser Bailey
3 years ago
Reply to  Richard Slack

I don’t agree that it was a ‘tedious article’. Nor do I agree that Merkel and Cameron could have steered the EU away from federalism. The entire purpose of the EU is federalism. If you take that away it has nothing to dream of and work towards.

As for Merkel and Cameron being ‘similar people’, I’ll have to think about that one for a while.

Tony Conrad
Tony Conrad
3 years ago
Reply to  Richard Slack

I am glad Brexit wasn’t avoided. We have waited four years for this.

Mark Corby
Mark Corby
3 years ago
Reply to  Richard Slack

What about the Emissions Scandal?
The premeditation was outstanding. Germany, despite It’s prowess in world of chemistry, really cannot do Gas, whether it be Zyclon B to CO2.

Jeremy Smith
Jeremy Smith
3 years ago
Reply to  Mark Corby

There is no evidence as of now that German (or European) regulators knew about VW scandal.
While VW is a different scale other carmakers (jn USA) have been found guilty of cheating.

Mark Corby
Mark Corby
3 years ago
Reply to  Jeremy Smith

I would have have that VW was enough wouldn’t you?

Jeremy Smith
Jeremy Smith
3 years ago
Reply to  Mark Corby

Enough of what?
Companies cheat, what is new?
Boeing Max?
Enron?
Mortgage market in USA and UK (before the crash) ?

Mark Corby
Mark Corby
3 years ago
Reply to  Jeremy Smith

Brilliant, from a money lender no less!

Presumably for example, that is how you and the rest of your kind exculpate yourselves from the Money Lender/Banking Scandal of 2008/9?

What is that American expression
“S**t happens”, is it not?

Nicholas Ridiculous
Nicholas Ridiculous
3 years ago

Good read, thanks Aris. In many respects Germany is a very young country and in terms of its democratic history, not more than a toddler, which may account for its supine media – the checks and balances of ‘old democracy’ like here in Britain are not yet fully formed. The whiff of arrogance that currently emanates from Germany is an ironic reminder of its bossy history.

G Harris
G Harris
3 years ago

You’re so right, there is SO much to admire about Germany but it has become the master of beggar thy neighbour economics within the EU and if this unassailable fact has somehow passed the fiercely intelligent, diligent Merkel by during her many years in power I’d be rather surprised, wouldn’t you?

As the article clearly states, this is in no small part thanks to the single currency which depresses the cost of its exports which would indeed once have become too expensive under its own Deutschmark in a world dominated by free floating currencies, and yet most people, both in Germany and across the union, barely seem to bat an eyelid that the game is forever rigged.

Either that, or they refuse to accept that it is for essentially dogmatic reasons or are simply dumb to it.

Even the arch-neoliberal IMF under Christine Lagarde (and now head of the ECB), its partner(s) in crime in the suppression of Greece through unsustainable debt levels, has seen fit to regularly criticize its ballooning and sustained trade surplus in the knowledge that its behaviour is so obviously hurting its neighbours, not least its erstwhile, now all but crippled industrial competitor, Italy.

Might help go some way to explain how even the poorest parts of Germany, according to the author’s experience, still looked none too shabby compared to other parts of the EU and why simplistic, myopic centrists still love Germany.

Paddy Taylor
Paddy Taylor
3 years ago

This isn’t meant as an attack on Germany – I have many German friends and clients ““ but just to highlight the blindspot those on the Europhile left have when it comes to an honest appraisal of Germany within the EU.

Europhiles seem to view Germany as the paragon of EU solidarity and good neighbourliness, yet in reality you can make a pretty strong case that Germany is the most selfish nation in the bloc. (And before people jump in to rebut that, the UK is no longer in the bloc!)

Far and away the principal reason behind Germany’s post-unification success story is that the Euro created and maintained a permanent and inequitable price advantage for German exports, leading to decades of massive trade surpluses ““ which in turn has seriously damaged other EZ economies.

Not that this imbalance has ever made the Germans feel they should “level the playing field”, despite the fact that it is their economic successes that have impoverished their Club Med neighbours. The only way to level the playing field is for the Eurozone to become a transfer union – something Germany simply won’t countenance.

Despite EU-enthusiasts always referencing Germany’s higher net contribution to the coffers than the UK’s, in fact German industry has benefitted most from EU spending by the improved links to its export market and supply chains.

On the environmental front, supporters point to Germany’s decision to phase out Nuclear power as a positive ““ seemingly ignoring that nuclear is the only viable carbon neutral power source. Mutti Merkel is hailed as the “Climate Chancellor” even whilst presiding over a country that is Europe’s biggest producer and user of coal ““ and “brown coal” at that, the worst polluting source. It comes as no surprise that Germany is by far the greatest polluter in the EU, … and let’s not forget “Dieselgate”.

People point to UKIP, the Brexit Party and the Conservatives as proof there is an upsurge of support in the UK for the Far Right, or some such twaddle, yet Germany has seen mass support growing for an openly far right party in the AfD and also for parties considerably further right.

Remainers regularly try and paint the UK as an insular, intolerant and racist country. Instances of violence against immigrants are thankfully vanishingly rare in this country, whilst in Germany they are a regular occurrence ““ once again it seems people apply wholly different standards when comparing Germany with other EU member states.

And what of EU solidarity when it comes to their neighbours to the east facing an increasingly belligerent Russia? Several EU member states (Germany most particularly) are compromised in their dealings by their dependence on Russian gas and oil and the rather obvious fact that they can be held to ransom far more effectively by Putin than the EU could ever affect the Kremlin through trade sanctions. The Nord Stream pipeline deals, which fly in the face of much opposition from eastern EU states and the US, are only possible because Germany believes them to be in their own interest ““ and EU solidarity counts for nothing when set against German interests.

The Nordstream 2 pipeline will directly link Germany with Russia across the Baltic Sea, bypassing Central European allies thus exposing the eastern flank of NATO. With the Kremlin holding a controlling stake in Gazprom, the new pipeline will consolidate Russian economic influence over Europe, causing tensions between European nations and holding them hostage.

Having failed to dominate Europe militarily (twice), Germany has managed to become (in Prof. Ulrich Beck’s regular description) “the master of Europe” ““ The instalment of Ursula von der Leyen (Germanys’ answer to Chris Grayling) further cements their position. Despite disquiet in many EU states at Germany’s ability to break all the EU’s own financial rules, those in power ““ and those on the Europhile left ““ simply turn a blind eye and cheer Germany on as the “grown-up in the room”. Yet throw their toys out of the pram when the UK Govt proposes far less impactful bending of the rules.

There is much to admire in Germany, and many things (such as their health service model) I would wish to see emulated in the UK. This was not meant as a critique of all things German, but merely a counter to the endless paeans of praise that fail to make an honest appraisal of the new “master of Europe”, or the reasons they were able to achieve this.

Arden Babbingbrook
Arden Babbingbrook
3 years ago

Incisive piece but the author kind of skirts around the main issue with Germany: it is not a true democracy. It is in the technical, legal sense — but its people are not people with democracy in their hearts. Rather it was the British, American and French occupiers who overlaid a liberal-democratic superstructure on a historically illiberal populace. Germany’s peculiar path through history, failing to develop a bourgeois liberal democracy — known as the Sonderweg. Or in AJP Taylor’s phrase, the country where history failed to turn. In many regards, Germany was the country that should have left the European Union and not Britain. But then, the EU is the solution to the German problem. Or is it?

Andy Yorks
Andy Yorks
3 years ago

The European Union is merely the continuation of German Foreign Policy aims by other means. Why be so old fashioned and resort to troops and tanks when you can use the control of money and all the while mask your ambitions behind the skirts of Brussels.

G Harris
G Harris
3 years ago

This description of a forever flickflacking Merkel reminds me of Dominic Green’s of Biden in The Spectator recently,

‘he has a history of being chronically against something until he’s for it’

Derek M
Derek M
3 years ago
Reply to  G Harris

Yes, agreed, that was also a good take on its subject

Fiona Cordy
Fiona Cordy
3 years ago

Trots out the usual unsubstantiated stories about the German healthcare service versus NHS. Where on earth do people get this from? Not my experience living here in Germany for the last five years. And despite its intensive care beds, parts of Germany are seriously worried now about hospital figures. Whereas the UK rigged up intensive care stations pretty quickly.

Paul Morrell
Paul Morrell
3 years ago

Stick her in a PM’s question session – she wouldn’t last 5 minutes.

Nun Yerbizness
Nun Yerbizness
3 years ago
Reply to  Paul Morrell

and that would be four minutes longer than Johnson, Gove and Rees-Mogg-The-Effete combined, on their best day.

neilyboy.forsythe
neilyboy.forsythe
3 years ago
Reply to  Nun Yerbizness

I don’t think it’s too controversial to state that Rees Mogg and Gove would, and regularly do, kick the b0ll0cks of all comers from the opposition benches on the rare occassion they actually pluck up the courage to do their jobs.

Oliver Wright
Oliver Wright
3 years ago

Spot on. We should look closely at the things Germany does well (and indeed, which any country does well) and see what we can learn from them and implement here, taking into account cultural and systematic differences; but we are not them and will never be, and even they aren’t what their establishment likes to think they are.

trialfree628
trialfree628
3 years ago

I’ll say I’m a fan rather than a worshipper ðƾ˜‚
“for those on the edges of the centre-right, in authoritarian-conservative Hungary or Poland” I’d suggest you’d be a bit further right to be a fan of these regimes.

Paul Marks
Paul Marks
3 years ago

However, I will concede that Conservatives tend to admire Poland – NOT its economic policies, but its patriotism, its pride in its own history and culture, and (yes) the fact it does not slaughter babies in mass abortion. But to call Poland “authoritarian” as if it was some sort of dictatorship, is FALSE.

Nun Yerbizness
Nun Yerbizness
3 years ago
Reply to  Paul Marks

who you going to believe, the man who brought down the Iron Curtain or your lying eyes?

‘A Dictatorship Is Being Created’: An Interview with Lech WaÅ‚Äℱsa

The New York Review of Books
August 31, 2020

Arden Babbingbrook
Arden Babbingbrook
3 years ago

Incisive piece but the author skirts around the main issue with Germany: it is not a true democracy. It is in the technical, legal sense — but its people are not people with democracy in their hearts. Rather it was the British, American and French occupiers who overlaid a liberal-democratic superstructure on a historically illiberal populace. Germany’s peculiar path through history, failing to develop a bourgeois liberal democracy — known as the Sonderweg. Or in AJP Taylor’s phrase, the country where history failed to turn. In many regards Germany was the country that should have left the European Union and not Britain. But then, the EU is the solution to the German problem. Or is it?

Annette Kralendijk
Annette Kralendijk
3 years ago

That hits the nail on the head. I have always enjoyed going to Germany, my spouse is German (and holds US citizenship) but it does seem to be the odd man in Europe, with less in common with France, Italy, Spain, the UK, Poland, Denmark, the Netherlands etc than any other country.

Germany is always just slightly at odds with every country in Europe whether the issue is spending, budgets, austerity, immigration, refugee status, military, etc. Yet it sets the tone and makes all the big decisions. I do not believe that Germans see democracy in the same way the French or Brits do, there’s little patience for independence within Germany and they seem frustrated when other countries show independence as well.

Cave Artist
Cave Artist
3 years ago

Living in the country, as I do, the reality is different! Much less political weight falls on the chancellors shoulders than the PMs because it is a federal system. Germanness is a mantle Germans wear very lightly. Nationalismus is viewed with suspicion other than in football. Merkel is well liked across the nation it is true but then she intrudes far less into lives than the PM. Rather like the Queen, a figurehead. Every state has its own government like the US. This is where the daily lives of people is decided. And where much of the local corruption between business, banks and politicians operates. Germany is a parochial society. People do not move around very much, preferring the familial and social links of school in their locality. It is not an outward facing society. Foreign policy is a virtually defunct function of government. But the beer and bread are good. U.K. politics has by contrast far greater transparency and accountability and a more connected feel to the polity. Even if this is a little abrupt and impolite. It looks healthy if painful.

Annette Kralendijk
Annette Kralendijk
3 years ago
Reply to  Cave Artist

Well said (and the bread is the best!). I find it a parochial society as well with Germans giving little thought to other Europeans and what their views on issues might be. Whereas the French and Italians and others are always very focused on where Germany stands on issues.

Nun Yerbizness
Nun Yerbizness
3 years ago

after two world wars sparked by Germany’s internal politics that devasted both France, Italy and other, it is small wonder “…the French and Italians and others are always very focused on where Germany stands on issues.”

Annette Kralendijk
Annette Kralendijk
3 years ago
Reply to  Nun Yerbizness

That may be part of it but the main reason seems to be that Germany simply has power, economic power, that the others do not. Germany usually gets its way. Even if what it wants is detrimental to other European countries. Unrestricted immigration, for example specifically unvetted refugees.

Nun Yerbizness
Nun Yerbizness
3 years ago

Germany’s economic power and an enlightened policy on immigration fueling that economic power.

the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 Vaccine… BioNTech’s science behind the vaccine is the work product of a husband wife team of Turkish immigrants and also Muslims.

Annette Kralendijk
Annette Kralendijk
3 years ago
Reply to  Nun Yerbizness

Well, no, I don’t think immigration is why other European countries care so much what Germany thinks. They were not generally in favor of flinging the doors open to millions of refugees. It was Germany that demanded they do. Even if they were wholly unable to integrate them or even to provide basic resources.

Nun Yerbizness
Nun Yerbizness
3 years ago

I never said they did…my reference to immigration was in the context of Germany’s economic power…as you well know and thanks for playing along at home…care to try again?

Annette Kralendijk
Annette Kralendijk
3 years ago
Reply to  Nun Yerbizness

Germany has long been the economic power of Europe, even pre high levels of immigration. Certainly France has had levels of immigration higher than Germany’s. As has the UK. So it isn’t immigration that makes Germany the economic power of Europe. Immigrants cost Germany a fortune actually.

Nun Yerbizness
Nun Yerbizness
3 years ago

The Marshall Plan…reunification…Germany’s economic power has been ascendent only for the past 20 years.

Annette Kralendijk
Annette Kralendijk
3 years ago
Reply to  Nun Yerbizness

Well, no reunification was more than 20 years ago, the wall came down in 1989 and the spending started immediately. Had Germany not already been the economic powerhouse of Europe, it could never have afforded reunification. You’re ignoring the costs to Germany. Reunification was horrendously expensive, no other European country could have afforded it. The Marshall plan also was a bit more than 20 years ago. But yes it contributed to making Germany a powerhouse that could afford reunification. Being rebuilt by the US tends to do that. See Japan for reference.

Nun Yerbizness
Nun Yerbizness
3 years ago

you really need to brush up on your reading for comprehension skills.

it took 20 years to work past the economic friction”still not complete”created by reunification.

Germany was decidedly NOT the economic power house of Europe before reunification.

“The Marshall plan also was a bit more than 20 years ago.” the inaccuracy of your understanding of history revealed…so sad.

Annette Kralendijk
Annette Kralendijk
3 years ago
Reply to  Nun Yerbizness

Germany was the economic powerhouse of Europe even before reunification. That’s why it could afford to reunify. The costs were enormous. No other country could have absorbed such a backwards economy of the size of east Germany into their own. You didn’t think that came cheap, did you? Your anger is almost as amusing as your ignorance.

Nun Yerbizness
Nun Yerbizness
3 years ago
Reply to  Cave Artist

so you are willfully ignorant of the virulent resurgence of right wing extremists with their 21st century rebirth of Nationalsozialismus.

Peter Scott
Peter Scott
3 years ago

Very well said.
The mentality of many contemporary journalists needs a lot of investigation and pondering.

Here is my take.-

This morning I laid out in front of a friend solid proofs and evidence which show that almost certainly the U.S. Presidential election was stolen from Donald Trump by fraud on a big scale.
When he had absorbed and digested this, he said ‘If you can be so well informed and produce these proofs, why is no-one else doing so in our media?’
My reply was, that most countries now are like the Soviet Union or Nazi Germany.
There is a ruling oligarchy at the top (the Politburo, the Nazi hierarchs), and below them in various echelons beneficiaries who shill for them.
Among the human types and groups who are given favourite treatment are the mainstream media-folk: media-owners, editors, ‘journalists’ who in fact are therefore now propagandists for the ruling caste of which themselves are effectually a part.
Anyone seeking to do REAL journalism is under a double bind.
If he or she sets about authentic news coverage by doing their level best to discover what is going on and reporting that unvarnished to the public, they will – in cases such as Joe Biden’s ‘victory’ – find their work blue-pencilled and themselves shown the door. At the very least, they will certainly never enjoy a promotion.
Likewise if they TRULY start talking truth to power.
The only persons in the public eye who can just barely afford to tell the public what is actually happening in all sorts of instances, are university professors who have already attained tenure.
They cannot be sacked, at least for the offence of departing from the Totalitarian Nihilist narrative required by the Unholy Alliance of Big Money and the Loony Left, who currently for the short and middle terms share the same paramount goals: mass immigration (from different motives) and Government made unaccountable to the peoples it rules. And the said university professors even then have to be very courageous and endure the possibility of their homes being fire-bombed (&c) by the ‘woke’ mob who are the Dictatorship’s second line of enforcement

Many journalists and other commentators, constrained by this dictatorship and its requirements, hypnotise themselves into believing what they write or utter in broadcasts. This is less painful than telling whoppers which they entirely know to be untrue. Cf the behaviour of enthusiastic crowds clapping away like penguins in N. Korea.
If once they were allowed to escape from that land they would denounce Supreme Leader Kim with a vehemence that would take our breath away. While in North Korea they clap either from fear or denial of what the realities are which confront them in daily life.

Teo
Teo
3 years ago

A good article spoiled by the globalisation subplot of progressive internationalism imposed by exceptionalism, back to square one.

Jeremy Smith
Jeremy Smith
3 years ago

Sometime “self interest” and “europeanism” are the same thing, sometimes they are not.

Ray Zacek
Ray Zacek
3 years ago

I can’t imagine any sentient human being converting Frau Frump into a cult figure.

Kevin Ryan
Kevin Ryan
3 years ago
Reply to  Ray Zacek

It’s true, when you have such exquisite specimens of physical beauty as Trump, Johnson and Farage you can aspire to.

Derek M
Derek M
3 years ago

Good article, I have to say I have come to enjoy Aris Roussinos’s articles in Unherd. Even where I disagree they are often interesting and thought provoking

Annette Kralendijk
Annette Kralendijk
3 years ago

When Brexit is done and dusted? It was done January 31, 2020. It’s all over but the shoutin’ as some say.

paglialite
paglialite
3 years ago

“For Leftists of a Corbynite persuasion,
the acme of good governance and benevolent leadership is to be located
in Cuba, or Venezuela” What utter drivel.Corbyn was voted Labour leaderc twice by ordinary socialists who harbour no illusions about those regimes.

Terry Mushroom
Terry Mushroom
3 years ago
Reply to  paglialite

One can only wonder why people with no illusions about Cuba and Venezuela voted for Corbyn.

He and Ms Abbott toured the DDR with apparently not noticing the stench from that rotten, disgusting regime.

John Caslin
John Caslin
3 years ago

Just ask anyone to name three contemporary Germans. They’ll be hard pressed. Whereas in Germany they are able to reel off names of contemporary Britons. And our dictionary is three times thicker than theirs.

p_v_hassell
p_v_hassell
3 years ago

I agree with the author, quite fed up myself at the way Germany and Merkel are being admired by Brits as if they could do no wrong; but can understand it to some extent too, as a model of rationality when their own politics, govt and society seem quite devoid of it. After all, notwithstanding some major trip-ups, Merkel remains a symbol of stoic, no-frills good sense at home and abroad, who doesn’t shy away from putting her foot down at signs of her party flirting with the AFD at the state level, for example; and she is listened to. It is this sharing of a sense of doing the right thing that binds her to the electorate. Her unwillingness to make enemies of China and Russia could prove very wise as well.

Annette Kralendijk
Annette Kralendijk
3 years ago
Reply to  p_v_hassell

Was it good sense to allow millions of unvetted refugees to flood Germany?

Paul Marks
Paul Marks
3 years ago

“Neo Liberal” is a term normally just used by modern Marxists (who invented it) – but I will assume that in this context it means a free market person who wants to cut government spending, taxes and regulations. There is no indication that Chancellor Merkel was ever such a person – on the contrary Germany has moved to more state control under her Chancellorship. The family owned manufacturing enterprises (the foundation of the German economy) are now under threat from inheritance tax (which has turned British and American industry into a load of ownerless corporations who think only in terms of the end of year stock price), and high energy costs due to the “Green” taxes and regulations.

As for Russia and China – Putin’s regime is one of the Populist LEFT, just turn on his “RT” station and you will see endless attacks on the United States for not having a high enough Minimum Wage law. not enough government housing, not enough welfare spending and government health spending (and on and on), with no mention that the United States became the most prosperous society the world had ever seen when it had NONE of these things. When people cooperated with each other – rather than relied on the edicts of rulers and their endless bureaucracy.

China is a hybrid – a mixed economy, but tied to a vicious Leninist Dictatorship. Mao’s economics is dead – but his brutal politics continues. His lust for unlimited power and world domination.

Saying anyone on the “right” admires the People’s Republic of China is odd. Surely it is the left and the “centre” who admire the PRC – especially its Social Credit system (controlling opinions and crushing any dissent) which the “Davos” crowd adore. The “Woke” Corporations and governments wish to crush any dissent against their “Inclusive Capitalism” (a Corporate State eliminating free competition – especially from small business) and “Sustainable Development” (“Green” totalitarianism). China may follow different policies (the CCP dictatorship does not care about C02 emissions – although it tells gullible Westerners otherwise), but it follows methods of Social Control that international “centrists” deeply admire and wish to have in the West – fully destroying what is left of Freedom of Speech and other Civil Liberties.

Nun Yerbizness
Nun Yerbizness
3 years ago
Reply to  Paul Marks

all you have accomplished with your comment is to establish you are at best illiterate in history as well as economics; at worst you are an ideologically motivated prevaricator.

Neoliberalism is one of the most commonly used words in political debates. Despite this, the origins of neoliberalism are hardly known. Nor does there appear to be a generally accepted definition of the term. Some commentators have linked it to ‘extreme capitalism’; others have called neoliberalism ‘greed dressed up as an economic philosophy.’

The original inventors of the word ‘neoliberalism’ had something completely different in mind. Their philosophy was a reaction to the Great Depression of the 1930s. As such it was meant to show a ‘Third Way’ between capitalism and socialism. Today’s critics of neoliberalism have more in common with neoliberalism than they may think.

Nun Yerbizness
Nun Yerbizness
3 years ago

one good wild eyed exageration deserves another…

“For Right Wing Conservatives of a “Thratcher-in-male-drag” persuasion, the acme of good governance and benevolent leadership is to be located in Hungary, The Philippines and Belarus.”

Nun Yerbizness
Nun Yerbizness
3 years ago

oh yeah…before I forget…this…

‘The documents that revealed Duke of Windsor’s Nazi ties’

8 Dec, 2019
news.com.au
By: Natalie Brown

Nun Yerbizness
Nun Yerbizness
3 years ago

oh yeah…before I forget…this…

‘The documents that revealed Duke of Windsor’s Nazi ties’

8 Dec, 2019

news [dot] com [dot] au
By: Natalie Brown

Nun Yerbizness
Nun Yerbizness
3 years ago

oh yeah…before I forget…this…

‘The documents that revealed Duke of Windsor’s ties [to the Austrian corporal with Chaplin mustache]

8 Dec, 2019
news [dot] com [dot] au
By: Natalie Brown

neilyboy.forsythe
neilyboy.forsythe
3 years ago

There’s an important, unexplored side to Germany that is rarely discussed. Anyone who has done regular business with them will have witnessed it, however. I can’t offer any insight as to what’s behind it, other than frugality perhaps, but they have an unusual comfort with cheating.
To give you a flavour of what I’m talking about – They will gladly reverse engineer your components, equipment and designs without a trace of shame whilst simultaneously demanding discount and engineering assistance, and are quite affronted when you explain why that won’t be happening. It’s a bit like dealing with the Russians but without the swearing and threats.
Now, every country has its bad eggs and good eggs of course, but I’m talking about a pattern of behaviour across individuals, companies and time. I’ve not seen this with the Netherlands, Sweden, Denmark, or other nothern European countries (Norwegians cheat in a single, specific way – they favour fellow Norwegian businesses even when it costs them money to do so).
I’m sure the UK has negative patterns of behaviour that only outsiders can spot, but no, Germany is not the ideal country. Far from it.

Georg Dralle
Georg Dralle
3 years ago

An interesting observation, and one that I can confirm from experience. I live in Germany, and my children went to school here. The evaluation system is peculiar. It consists of a written and an oral part. The written part pretty much speaks for itself, but the oral part is entirely dependent on the impression the teacher gets from the pupil. In other words, the teachers will look for opinions, behaviour, interests, language etc. that they like. As it happens, my daughter, who is an outspoken person with a strong sense of justice and a lot of ideas of her own, constantly ran into trouble with various teachers for no other reason than the teacher’s disagreeing with her or just not liking the way she thought about things, behaved, etc. – not that she did or said anything outrageous, but just because it ran counter to the teacher’s opinion. This was, of course, never actually said; but the divergence between her written (invariably excellent, because it must be graded anonymously and by two people) and oral grade was so great that I took it up and discussed it with several of the teaching staff and the head of school. They simply had no idea what I was talking about. There were, they said, strict standards involved and that was that. When I asked what those standards were and where they could be found, I got nowhere. They were annoyed by the fact that I dared challenge them, and insulted by my suggestion that their oral grading system was not the most objective: teachers are not to be challenged, so I learned. Fearing that my probing might have consequences for my daughter, I gave up. My son, on the other hand, managed to play the game very well: he more or less instinctively found out what each individual teacher expected from him, and he generously complied, without actually committing himself too much. That way he managed to get top oral grades (his written work could do with some compensation). Nobody ever suspected that he played them; or if they did, they probably approved. I suppose the fact that most people here see absolutely no harm in being slightly insincere and remaining non-committal as long as possible finds its origin in it.

Paul Marks
Paul Marks
3 years ago

Most natural resources are state owned in Russia and China – and most natural resources are privately owned in Germany. Facts are stubborn things – and the claim that Russia and China are more “right wing” than Germany does NOT survive encounter with the facts.

I am reminded of debating with a Marxist years ago. The Gentleman insisted that the railways in National Socialist Germany in the 1930s were privately owned, and that the railways in the Britain and the United States in the 1930s were state owned. As the exact opposite was the case, the discussion could not proceed any further – as we could not agree on the objective truth (the facts).

As for social policy – such things as abortion are legal in Russia and China, indeed often PUSHED in China (at least Mr Putin, bad man though he is, does not PUSH abortion). Five minutes spent (or wasted) watching Mr Putin’s “RT” and one is likely to see an attack on the United States as “racist” (the same sort of Frankfurt School stuff one sees in the American education “system” and “mainstream media” – both of which are saturated with false assumptions from Herbert Marcuse and co), or for not having as much government spending on the poor and regulations as Mr Putin would like.

Tony Taylor
Tony Taylor
3 years ago

Apropos to nothing, there was an Australian racehorse named Paragon of Virtue.

gardner.peter.d
gardner.peter.d
3 years ago

Excellent article.
“The parts of Germany’s political economy that are superior to ours are certainly worth examining, and perhaps emulating, as a model: yet to present the country as the ideal in every respect is absurd, and fundamentally parochial.”

That is precisely why human society gains enormously from a diversity of nation states, free to look at each other and to learn from each other’s mistakes and successes.

The risks arising from mistakes are enormously heightened when states are combined into a large uniform political and economic entity like the EU. The impact affects all of Europe and often all its neighbours and the rest of the world. And the likelihood of mistakes is increased by the technocratic mode of EU governance and its lack of democratic accountability.

It is just as well that bureaucracy slows the EU down. Free of that constraint, by now it would have destroyed most of Europe and seriously damaged all its neighbours.

Real Horrorshow
Real Horrorshow
3 years ago

In adulation that would make even the
most craven MAGA boomer blush if applied to Trump, Merkel is not merely a
fallible centre-right politician, but the “Queen of Europe”, even the
“leader of the free world”.

“Leader of the free world” is a title frequently co-opted by US presidents. Trump has also claimed to be “chosen” by god and was immediately echoed by large numbers of his supporters. I am no great fan of Angela Merkel but I don’t hear anyone calling her the messiah either.

stephen f.
stephen f.
3 years ago

Incredible that you managed to bring Trump into this…

jon000gordon1
jon000gordon1
3 years ago
Reply to  stephen f.

Only too easily. Trump is German on his father’s side and Scots on his mother’s, which actually makes him Dutch or something.

Tony Conrad
Tony Conrad
3 years ago
Reply to  jon000gordon1

Not German/Scots then?

Mark Corby
Mark Corby
3 years ago
Reply to  Tony Conrad

German/Scotch, please.

Neil Papadeli
Neil Papadeli
3 years ago
Reply to  jon000gordon1

XD
More like East Anglian at a guess?

Real Horrorshow
Real Horrorshow
3 years ago
Reply to  stephen f.

I didn’t bring Trump into this, Aris Roussinos did. That’s a quote from the text of the article above, at the top of my post. See where he says “MAGA”? See where he says “Trump”?

Chauncey Gardiner
Chauncey Gardiner
3 years ago

Obama was the Messiah. Do we remember all the Berliners crying out “Obama! Obama!” in 2008?

But, Second Comings come and go, and we still have to manage our relationships in the world. So much for the Millennialism that attends every election in the United States ….

Ethniciodo Rodenydo
Ethniciodo Rodenydo
3 years ago

What Germany secretly craves is a Teutonophile politician from a neighbouring country with a vision, a little moustache and a love of Wagner

Richard Slack
Richard Slack
3 years ago

really? really! I would say Great Britain is in far more danger of a right wing undemocratic government that Germany.

Mark Corby
Mark Corby
3 years ago
Reply to  Richard Slack

From Lawrence Fox perhaps?

Jeremy Smith
Jeremy Smith
3 years ago

You are an idiot.

Kevin Ryan
Kevin Ryan
3 years ago

Cue 10 pages of abuse aimed at Merkel for offering safe haven to Syrian war refugees…

Mark Corby
Mark Corby
3 years ago
Reply to  Kevin Ryan

Come on Kevin, rise to her defence, there must be a coherent reason why she has set off a racial time bomb in the Fatherland?

Richard Slack
Richard Slack
3 years ago
Reply to  Mark Corby

The Fatherland! I bet Merkel didn’t see that one coming.

J StJohn
J StJohn
3 years ago
Reply to  Mark Corby

They’re short of labour due to a falling population. Plus they’ve huge capacity and under-used infrastructure in the East as the Ossies came west. The Wirtschaftwunder can’t continue without cheap labour.

Mark Corby
Mark Corby
3 years ago
Reply to  J StJohn

Given their past antipathy to ‘outsiders’ that may prove very dangerous indeed.

Jeremy Smith
Jeremy Smith
3 years ago
Reply to  J StJohn

“..without cheap labour.”

The competitiveness of Germany relies on highly skilled blue collar workforce that doesn’t exist in Syria.

Joe Blow
Joe Blow
3 years ago
Reply to  Kevin Ryan

Yeah, right. The only possible reason to object to unplanned mass immigration is racism.