That was the headline for my MINT column published today. I pose the question of whether Germany is interested in the Eurozone any more. Thanks to my readings, thinking and more importantly, my conversations with strategic thinkers, I am increasingly convinced that the United States is engaged in ‘re-arranging’ the world. Whether it would succeed or not is an altogether different question. Perhaps, the odds are far less in its favour than they used to be (say, in the Eighties) considering how much the country is divided internally, how morally and ethically weaker it has become, how big and influential the financial sector has become and how much the State and other pillars of the Capitalist system have been prone to and subjected to various forms of capture. But, all of these are not going to stop them from trying, however. The end-game appears far less predictable than at any other point in time in the past because there are far too many variables now – variables that humans have unleashed but are no longer in their control. They are natural disasters, climate change, biological threats (pandemics like Ebola, for example).
On reading my article, a good friend wrote to me about his personal impression of Germany and the rest of Europe:
Having lived and worked in Germany I would venture to say that the economy has mastered productivity- innovation has and always will be a way of life there. I see a young workforce- mostly immigrants multi tasking as against staid old master workers whose unions objected to multiple skilling as recently as late 1990’s. I observe a thrifty nation that does not live on a credit card; I see a nation in which labour unions sit with management unions and thrash out matters; I see board governance with devolved responsibilities and accountabilities; I see a nation with an envious work life balance. I see a nation accepting of diversity ( Check recent comments on limiting immigrant workers by their Chancellor)
In contrast Italy is selling what Italians achieved 2000 years ago ( and very little once the empire rotted away amidst indulgence and excesses) ; how long can they live off what was achieved by their emperors and a boutique fashion business ? France has very little and is struggling with its ethos more than anything else. Spain is four distinct ethnicities- held together- not integrated by its history ( The Catalans, The Basque, The Southern decedents of the Ottoman empire and the true blooded Spaniards, most of whom are trading on what Columbus achieved!
The Scandinavian countries have found an enviable macro-micro balance in the economy, in their social life and in their political ethos- albeit at a very big cost but with incomes being proportionate it does not seem to matter.
As I told Romano Prodi much to his chagrin- the Euro is more Anti US $ and less pan European in its intent!!!
Came across this article by one Mr. Philippe Legrain in ‘Project Syndicate’ – an interesting but one-sided critique of Germany.
Unbeknownst to me, Robert Zoellick had penned this Op.-Ed piece in FT. It has appeared in FT on Monday and I had missed it. It is interesting that he is calling up on the US and Germany to launch a strategic dialogue about the changing world. If one reads the article, the space between words is a lot more interesting than the words themselves. In other words, what is left unstated is tantalising.
I am quite pleased actually to note that his thinking is not dissimilar to mine.