WASHINGTON, November 2, 2013 — The European Union summit which concluded last Friday just wouldn’t have been an EU confab if it didn’t contain some manner of recrimination against the United States. This particular summit involved allegations of spying, a most curious allegation inasmuch as the United States with our open society must be the most spied upon country in the world.
Never mind all that. This member of the commentariate was far more interested in the current discontents of the Franco-German dynamic. For a taking of this particular political temperature though, the summit was a bit of a letdown. Move right along, nothing to see here.
However, a recent article in the French newspaper, Le Monde, entitled, “The social partnership breaks up” did all the talking about their relationship that German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Hollande did not do.
The lead in part read, “Angela Merkel will again propose to the EU that the German economic model — thrift, probity, austerity and a formal partnership between employers and workers — should be the norm for all Europe.” Having read such a fine start to the article, this columnist was a bit surprised to realize that this was a hit piece.
Chancellor Merkel was being criticized for such dastardly behavior as encouraging thrift, probity and austerity. The nerve of her.
Much of the article criticizes the decline in union strength and participation during Merkel’s years in office. One supposes that Le Monde expected much different from Merkel, who began her political career in from the former East Germany. Denied!
Instead, Merkel has been capitalism’s prime crusader on the continent. And for this, she must be condemned. Thus, although the German economy is “the envy of southern European employers, this system is collapsing.”
I suppose what the article considers to be collapsing is what’s bothering me. Last spring, to make a particular point in my International Finance class, I used two articles in that day’s Wall Street Journal. Their specifics are lost to memory but one article made the point that the European Commission expected the euro zone to shrink for a second consecutive year as the result of economic difficulties in many of its southern countries.
The second article made the point that Germany’s business climate index had just beat forecasts again. Since the euro zone includes Germany, its forecast shrinkage must necessarily have been even greater without Germany’s uplift. This hardly seems evidence for the prosecution that German system is collapsing.
Also enlightening was mention that “only five of 20 secretaries of state at the finance ministry between 1949 and 1999 joined the private sector after leaving government, but seven of the eight who have held office since 2000 have gone on to a career in business or finance.” This also is presented as criticism, but which I personally — and keep in mind that I write as The Capitalist Snark — consider wonderful for Germany. What’s so good about lifers and hangers-on continuing in government? As my father said to me when I was eighteen, “get out and work!”
The article also contained a whole bunch of facts about German employee relations which I couldn’t be bothered to read but which were undoubtedly meant as criticism.
I am of course no expert on France, never having been to France or studied French. I do, however, regularly enjoy the chocolate croissants at Au Bon Pain and that surely must mean something. And with such bona fides, I feel quite qualified to suggest Germany as a model for emulation, rather than scorn for France.
Michael Justin Lee from the faculty of finance and the Center for East Asian Studies at the University of Maryland, teaches, speaks and writes at the intersection of global finance and politics (with occasional tangents off on one or the other). He is the author of “The Chinese Way to Wealth and Prosperity” (McGraw-Hill, 2012). A veteran Chartered Financial Analyst, he served as Financial Markets Expert-in-Residence in the U.S. Department of Labor. He can be followed atwww.michaeljustinlee.com
This article is the copyrighted property of the writer and Communities @ WashingtonTimes.com. Written permission must be obtained before reprint in online or print media. REPRINTING TWTC CONTENT WITHOUT PERMISSION AND/OR PAYMENT IS THEFT AND PUNISHABLE BY LAW.