Europe’s top politicians, led by German Chancellor Angela Merkel, seem determined to repeat the same mistakes over and over again. Last weekend, the financial crisis seemed to be contained for the moment when the Germans and the European Central Bank agreed to commit 100 billion euros through the European Union’s (E.U.) rescue funds to recapitalize Spain’s faltering banking system. The Spanish government bargained hard, and won an agreement that the bailout would not be tied to new austerity demands of the sort imposed on Greece and Portugal.
Yesterday, the German Parliament relented and agreed to let the Greek debt restructuring go forward, but only the price of crushing austerity for the Greek economy. This is a widespread attitude in Germany, where aid to the Greeks is unpopular.
The other day, Jörg Krämer, chief economist for Commerzbank in Frankfurt, said of the Greeks, “If you live beyond your means, then you can repair your balance sheet only if your consumption goes down.”
But the Germans might take a moment and reflect on their own history.
Peter Bolton talks with Thomas Geoghagen on his new book, a labor lawyer's ode to Germany, a country that treats its workers well.
Your main point of comparison for the book obviously is Germany; why was it Germany you chose as a point of comparison to liberals and not, say, one or several of the Nordic countries such as Sweden or Denmark?
For one thing, it is bigger so it's not a kind of city-state project the way Denmark and Norway and Sweden are; even Sweden arguably could be categorized [as that]. European unification is dependent upon and intertwined with German unification.