Wednesday, January 9, 2013

The German economy: what's wrong with it?

This is an old article about the supposed shortcomings of the German economy.  Basically it argues that the German economy is doing pretty well, with low trade deficits, low government debt, low unemployment, and growth even through the financial crisis of the last years.  Why, then, would the article argue that Germany's economy is in trouble?  Because the domestic market is "stifled", according to the article, by regulations and strictures.

Now I have lived in France, where cultural and institutional mores do make everyday life crazymaking.  You can't shop at certain times, you can't get certain things in shops where you'd think you could, you can't get a breakfast-type meal at lunchtime anywhere, etc.  I didn't like it, and it sounds like the article is signalling the same kind of thing in Germany.

But I have to wonder, if all the economic indicators seem to show that Germany is doing really well amidst difficult times, then what the hell is the point of the article?  That Germany should open up the service sector so they can eventually be a land of 24-hour Walmarts and Meijers?  I guess the article's point that Germany shouldn't be complacent with its current success, and that it should prepare for future problems, is sage advice.  But at best the article seems like much ado about nothing, a desperate search for something to say on a slow news day.  At worst, it is yet another neoliberal agitation advocating for measures that on paper would "improve" and "make more efficient" the economy, but that if implemented would lead to suffering for the average workingman, as they have everywhere they've been implemented.  Too often have we seen seemingly common-sense arguments for things like letting a flower shop stay open longer on Mother's Day (the opening image of this article), that are really just Trojan horses whose ultimate goal is to open up and gut an economy.

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