The Wreck of Modell Deutschland?

by Henry on May 7, 2005

The Economist does its little bit to try to shut down the “Capitalism debate” that’s starting to happen in Germany. Franz Müntefering, who’s chairman of the German Social Democratic Party, has compared certain financial firms to ““swarms of locusts that fall on companies, stripping them bare before moving on,” and the Economist plays the Nazi card.

THE metaphor of the swarm of locusts devouring all in its path is as old as the Bible. But when politicians, particularly German ones, use it today to attack groups whose behaviour they don’t like, it is hard not to be reminded of Nazi propaganda against “social parasites” and “blowflies”. Such comparisons, even though they are by no means signs of anti-Semitic thinking, are especially regrettable when uttered so close to the anniversary of the end of the second world war.


Over the last couple of weeks, I’ve been struggling with a post on the French referendum on the EU constitution, and not knowing quite where to start. One of the main reasons is how bad the main English language sources (the Economist, the Financial Times) on Continental politics are at covering these debates honestly. And there’s a reason for this: they’re not only reporting these debates, but they’re trying to intervene in them. The Economist is an especially egregious offender; its reporting on the German economy simply can’t be trusted, because it’s trying to propagandize on behalf of a very specific political agenda. Which is fair enough (it doesn’t pretend to be unbiased), but it also means that people who aren’t able to keep up with the native language press get only one side of the story (and a fairly distorted version of that side, at that).

Back to the issue at hand. According to the Economist:


By starting a heated “capitalism debate”, he has triggered an anti-business and anti-reform backlash that might be hard to stop. That could be immensely damaging to both Germany and Europe.

Not true. First, as the Economist’s editorializers know quite well, Müntefering isn’t flirting with Nazism; his ideas aren’t even actually anti-business. Instead, he’s arguing on behalf of the German model of social capitalism, a model which the Economist and its friends don’t especially like, but which has a considerable history of success. Germany’s extraordinary economic success up until the early 1990’s could be traced back to a model in which there was a much greater degree of social consensus in labour relations than in the US or UK, and in which businesses were usually financed by long term financing from banks rather than stock markets and open capital markets. When the German economy began to tank in the 1990’s, this model came under concerted attack from within and without. As Doug Henwood said back in the day;

the English-language business press [was] full of stories on how the Germans and Japanese are coming to their senses, or have to if they know what’s good for them, and junk their stodgy old regulated bank-centred system for a Wall Street/City of London model.

Large parts of this system were dismantled over the last several years by the German government, by EU competition authorities (who didn’t like, for example, the cheap credit that German regional banks could get), or by German employers (many of whom, especially in small and medium sized enterprises, didn’t like having to pay high fixed wages that were set through central bargains). Now, these reforms are beginning to take effect. Unsurprisingly, they’ve had very pleasant consequences indeed for the CEO-equivalents of German firms. Profits are beginning to surge again. Equally unsurprisingly, their effects for ordinary workers have been nowhere near as enjoyable. Unemployment remains high, and, as even the Economist is forced to admit, real wages are stagnating.

Müntefering is quite right to identify international venture capital firms as Modell Deutschland’s enemies. If you’re trying to rebuild a model based on consensus-driven labour relations, on patient capital, and on political control over the marketplace, they are the enemy. The old model had a lot going for it. Perhaps Müntefering should have used more temperate language, but probably not. He’s gotten a debate going, and it’s a debate that needs to take place. The advocates of free market reform in Continental Europe have been able to coat their project with an entirely spurious patina of inevitability. The way they’ve painted it, these economies have no choice but to deregulate. This simply isn’t true; the citizens of these countries do have choices, and should be allowed to make them. Far from being “immensely damaging” to Germany and Europe, it’s the first real sign in several years of a proper political debate about the choices that are available, and the benefits and drawbacks attached to them.

Update: changed to make jibes at the Economist more accurate following comments.

{ 37 comments }

1

Steve Carr 05.07.05 at 4:17 pm

What’s the evidence that Germany’s economic success in the postwar era can be “traced back” to the labour-consensus, bank-financed model? Correlation is emphatically not causation. The U.S. had exceptional economic success in this era with a very different model. Japan had exceptional success with a still different model, as did the French, as did, later on, the South Koreans and the Taiwanese, and so on. What’s the evidence, theoretical or otherwise, that Germany’s economic success was the result of its particular model, rather than the result of having a highly-educated, highly-disciplined workforce, industries with a history of innovation and high-quality production, and a world market where there was an almost-complete dearth of competition from lower-wage countries?

2

clarkent 05.07.05 at 5:29 pm

Anybody see the Guenter Grass Op-Ed in the Times toda?

3

Bubb Rubb 05.07.05 at 5:36 pm

I always have trouble with the Economist. The FT seems much more sensible and much better, but you rightly chastise it for some it’s reporting as well.

The biggest problem with the Economist making such sensational claims of anti-Semitism in the name of a liberal economic agenda is not per se the ethics of making such claims on their own. Which of course should be quite bad. However, the worst part is that Germany and Germans on the whole are not particularly sensitive when it comes to multi-culturalism related issues. The one thing that Germans are extremely sensitive to is WWII, nazism and anti-Semitism. If legitimate and completely unrelated economic discussions cannot be made without irresponsible neo-liberal cheerleaders eager to invoke the a-S word at any argument they don’t like, the consequences will not be good for anyone.

The Economist is irresponsible and I only read it when regular english language news sources are unavailable. I would love to read a post critiquing the various international news sources: Time, Newsweek, IHT, FT, Economist, and WSJ and how these sources shape outsiders views of the U.S. When one reads these sources about Africa or some distant location while in that same location, the ignorance is laughable.

4

François 05.07.05 at 6:01 pm

Mahalanobis recently posted this picture, which nicely illustrates some of your first observations: http://twoday.net/static/mahalanobis/images/nazi02.jpg

5

yabonn 05.07.05 at 6:45 pm

D.i.y economist/ft article on french economy :

1) This this is going badly, we have to admit, but in a pained, concerned tone.
2) This is because of some regulation (regulations are Bad).
3) There’s a radical Otherness to these people anyways. Add the word “gallic” somewhere here. Mention the 4 hour lunch break.
4) There is still hope. Young, eager people and politicians appear, that are More Like Us, which is good. The 35 hours are evil, by the way.
5) So we shouldn’t be, in fact, suprised that france still exists. Order still may be restored, provided some common sense, brings them back to more markets.

Conclude with the classic Liturgy Of the Markets To Come.

… Some very clever people sing high praises of the economist. Must be because it’s specially bad for the french coverage : i can find nothing there i wouldn’t find i some basic partisan rightist paper, with a little added exotic junk. And smugness.

Good science articles, though.

6

Uncle Kvetch 05.07.05 at 7:38 pm

Some very clever people sing high praises of the economist. Must be because it’s specially bad for the french coverage

I think many Americans tend to think highly of the Economist because the coverage of countries like France in, say, the New York Times or the Washington Post is even worse.

Love that 5-point summary, Yabonn, by the way. You really nailed it.

7

P O'Neill 05.07.05 at 7:39 pm

You have several topics at play in this post and in catching The Economist in a preposterous accusation of anti-Semitism, it’s dead on. But I have more problems with viewing the assault on the German model as a basically Anglo-Saxon agenda. The statistics don’t lie — unemployment is much higher and labour force participation is much lower in the German & French models than in UK or US. Jacques Chirac claims to be surprised that young people are so pessimistic in the EU debates — the voice of someone who’s spent most of his adult lifetime at the public trough and doesn’t see why it’s not an option for everyone else too.

This problem is buried in your reference to Germany’s “much greater degree of social consensus in labour relations” — that consensus exists between unions, representing employed workers, and employers. But there are big groups sitting outside that consensus — the unemployed, the immigrants doing the jobs that Germans don’t want, and the people who don’t look for jobs at all because it’s not remunerative. Bring on the debate.

8

ab 05.07.05 at 7:57 pm

I think your take on Muntefering’s “capitalism debate” is a bit naive, Henry.

This isn’t any well-thought out debate and many people in the SPD want to get rid of it as quickly as possible. The Greens, their coalition partner, and by no means friends of neoliberal capitalism, sharply criticised Muntefering’s remarks. Chancellor Schroeder and other senior cabinet ministers remaind pointedly silent on the issue.

Venture capitalism is only a small thing in Germany, which only came to Germany in recent years (actually helped by the SPD finance minister, Hans Eichel). These things are more a sympton of Germany’s crisis rather than a cause.

The anti-semitism things comes from a Munich history professor who, in a long essay on a different topic, included a passage where he wrote said he was astounded that it’s possible again today in Germany to speak about humans in terms of animals and to have secret hitlists of the “bad guys”.

Storm in a teacup; will be forgotten once the election in North Rhine Westphalia is over.

On the broader point, though, Henry is right: Germany needs at some point a debate about “social capitalism”, but Muntefering did actually a disservice to it with his stupid remarks.

9

roger 05.07.05 at 8:40 pm

Steve, your question: “What’s the evidence that Germany’s economic success in the postwar era can be “traced back” to the labour-consensus, bank-financed model?” actually goes back to a classic in economic history, Alexander Gerschenkron’s book on “Economic Backwardness in Historical Perspective”, which traces the first German miracle — the catchup modernization period between 1870-1913 — to the extraordinary preponderance of bank finance in industrialization — as compared to England’s much lesser use of banks. That German’s returned to this model in the postwar period isn’t really odd.

Gerschenkron’s thesis that there are heterogenous paths to modernization that deposit legacy norms to which different economies return has been used to talk about the persistently weak banking system in Japan, for instance. The thesis doesn’t depend on mere correlation to GDP, but gives a sectorial analysis of the national economies of latecomer developing nations (which Germany and Japan certainly were) that seems convincing to me.

10

Katherine 05.08.05 at 12:34 am

Comparing people to cockroaches, insects, rats, vermin or otherwise making them out as subhuman is a line I never, ever, ever cross. But “swarms of locusts” has a biblical connotation and a description of an action rather than an object that the other phrases lack, and more importantly–for God’s sake, it wasn’t directed at people, it was directed at financial companies.

11

ogmb 05.08.05 at 2:31 am

Someone seems to be missing something here, but since I don’t have a subscription I can’t tell if it’s the Economist, Herr Müntefering, Henry or me. Venture Capital firms provide start-ups with private capital and cash out on public offerings or private sales of start-ups. VC’s are widely blamed for overfinancing underdeveloped ideas in the late 90’s which lead to the dot-com bust of the early 00’s. They don’t “fall on companies, stripping them bare before moving on” in any meaningful sense. What Herr Müntefering might be referring to is management buyout firms of the KKR variety, a type of firm that buys underperforming old companies, dismantles them, tends to fire a lot of employees and sells or outsources the profitable parts. I can see how the inherent aggressiveness of those firms might not sit well with some more lefty German politicians, but if Herr Müntefering uses his epithet against VC’s he must be insane.

12

Vance Maverick 05.08.05 at 2:37 am

I’ve been trying to make sense of the allusion in the title, and about the best I can do is


Flesh falls within sight of us, we, though our flower the same,
Wave with the meadow, forget that there must
The sour scythe cringe, & the blear share come.

(I love Hopkins, but this poem is far too far over the top for me.)

13

Otto 05.08.05 at 4:19 am

Does Müntefering have any real suggestion for what to do about these alleged ills?

14

markus 05.08.05 at 5:36 am

@otto
Not that I’m aware of. His point is basically that the social consensus, that “property confers obligations” has been lost to a certain degree. On which several industry people have agreed with him while criticising his phrasing. Since social consensus is not something you can legislate, theres no immediate fallout from his comments, but presumably the purpose was to alert people to the issue, so that this dimension will be considered when judging future political and corporate actions.
With regard to elections starting that debate is useful insofar as the conservatives have – without much _public_ debate – more or less marginalised their christians workers movement wing in favour of those advocating “tough love”. This enabled Müntefering to change the topic of the debate to something his political opponents don’t have a lot to say on. (My personal guess is, that the intra-conservative shift was enforced from on high without proper debate and that they are afraid to enter to debate because it might destroy their intra-party consensus.)

15

almostinfamous 05.08.05 at 9:05 am

katherine, you must know some mighty fine people. you ought to consider yourself lucky, because i cannot usually go without a week wherein i do not meet someone whose behavviour is entirely subhuman and usually bordering on reptilian,and i am left with no option but to use terms you have listed to describe these wonderful people.

on the topic of the post, however i have to say that the entire world would be better served with a debate on the nature of established socio-economic norms. there is too much intellectual complacency going on in the world right now.

16

heuschreckenplage 05.08.05 at 2:31 pm

One quick point on the Heuschrecken “debate”:

Underneath Muntefering’s “capitalism critique” lies a very strong nationalist sentiment.

The debate is always about “Anglo-Saxon” (read: American) venture capitalists. Muntefering’s “secret list” of financial firms he had in mind when speaking about Heuschrecken is mainly Anglo-Saxon (and Jewish).

Of course, it would be easy to find German venture capitalists and similar finance people with (for Germans) questionable business practices. But it’s easier to blame foreigners…

From time to time some left-wing SPD members have tried to severely criticize German big business like Deutsche Bank, Siemens or Lufthansa. However, this doesn’t go down well with Chancellor Schroeder, who tries to be best friends with their CEOs, and Finance Minister Eichel, who’s dependent on them.

So since they can’t take on the Big German Guys, Muntefering chose the Little Foreign Guys as the bad guys to blame Germany’s problems on.

17

teekay 05.08.05 at 3:24 pm

Henry, I can’t see how you read an accusation of anti-Semitism into the Economist’s piece. (You report them as claiming Müntefering was “flirting with anti-Semitism.”) What the Economist did say, in fact, is: “Such comparisons, even though they are by no means signs of anti-Semitic thinking, are especially regrettable when uttered so close to the anniversary of the end of the second world war.”

I must agree with Katherine that comparing anyone — a company, its managers, or investors — to “locusts” is unacceptable — especially in Germany. But Müntefering knows this perfectly well: it is a calculated provocation, rather breathtaking in its cynicism. And I’m happy that the Economist is bringing some edge into an otherwise uninspiring debate about a horribly stifling system. (I know — I live in Germany.)

18

Henry 05.08.05 at 4:26 pm

bq. Henry, I can’t see how you read an accusation of anti-Semitism into the Economist’s piece. (You report them as claiming Müntefering was “flirting with anti-Semitism.”)

teekay – I don’t want to be impolite, but you simply don’t appear to have _read_ the post that I wrote. I don’t say anywhere that the _Economist_ accused Müntefering of “flirting with anti-Semitism,” nor do I say anything that even hints at this. The only mention of anti-Semitism comes in the excerpt from the _Economist_ that I quoted verbatim (which you gave again, in a truncated version, for my edification). Instead, I say that the _Economist_ played “the Nazi card.” And if that’s not a fair reading of the remark that ” it is hard not to be reminded of Nazi propaganda against “social parasites” and “blowflies”.” I don’t know what is. You could perhaps read the _Economist_’s reference to anti-Semitism as a back handed implication that Müntefering was indeed anti-Semitic, but I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt in this instance. And I’ve lived for three years in Germany, and studied the German political economy _in extenso_, so I do have some idea of what I’m talking about. You also misread Katherine who said more or less the opposite of what you seem to think she did.

On to the more serious comments …

p o’neill – I think there are two answers to your argument. The first, rather flip one, would be to say that even to the extent that you’re right, we appear to be moving from a system with high unemployment where the unemployed are excluded (but get relatively generous benefits) to a system where unemployment continues to be high, but benefits etc are slashed. In other words, to say that certain groups didn’t get fair representation in decision making in the old system isn’t to say that they’re going to get a better deal in the new one. And unemployment doesn’t seem to be budging much. I think your criticism is fairer when applied to the southern EU countries – Italy and Spain – where there is a very clear insider/outsider division in labour markets, and not that much of a support network. All that said, there is something to your basic argument – corporatist systems have serious flaws of exclusion as well as inclusion, and there is some real room for debate. But if I had the choice of being unemployed in Germany (even under the current more straitened regime) or the US, I know which I’d choose (even if I had the choice of flipping burgers or working at Walmart as an alternative to welfare). I think that the more serious problem is one that Tyler Cowen raised a week or so ago where he pointed out that the standard left wing prescriptions at the national level, usually had the effect of screwing others internationally. There’s also a secondary debate going on here, which is one of the reasons why I’ve had more difficulty in writing the post on France than I would like; it’s hard to draw the distinction precisely, and I don’t know France as well. But part of the reason that the French political elite don’t like the EU’s free-market tendency is nothing to do with the desire to protect workers etc, but everything to do with the comforts of _pantouflage_ and a protected sector of the economy with cushy jobs that enarques can hop into when they leave government. The ‘services publics’ debate is a very cynical one, on both sides. But that’s a whole different set of issues.

ab – I wouldn’t have used the term “swarm of locusts” myself. But then, I wouldn’t have gotten much debate going by using more polite language. Academics like Wolfgang Streeck (or, in the broader European context, Colin Hay) have been making not dissimilar arguments for a long time, and not getting much political traction (although Streeck seems to be getting rather disillusioned). We’re now having the debate – I don’t think that this would be happening if Müntefering had been more indirect. And it’s the debate that’s the important thing (as the _Economist_ recognizes – it’s less worried with his intemperate language, than that he’s opened up Pandora’s box). There’s been a sense that the German government is sleepwalking into a watered down version of neo-liberalism for lack of any better ideas – now there’s some real public discussion going.

vance – reference in the title is just a bad pun. I was looking for a title, and _Modell Deutschland_ is the usual term for the German social consensus model. I like Hopkins, so picked
that title – no deeper meaning.

Markus – yes – what is interesting is how not only the SPD have been quiet, but that the CDU, which has its own version of consensus based politics has been quiescent too. But the ordoliberals may now be in trouble … fingers crossed

19

Henry 05.08.05 at 4:29 pm

And Steve – the linkages between any form of capitalism and economic success are hard to draw. But you can point out various ways in which the German model (z.b. its very effective system of vocational training) have contributed to the success of key industries in the past).

20

yabonn 05.08.05 at 5:36 pm

But part of the reason that the French political elite don’t like the EU’s free-market tendency is nothing to do with the desire to protect workers etc, but everything to do with the comforts of pantouflage and a protected sector of the economy with cushy jobs that enarques can hop into when they leave government.

I don’t think the elites really see free market as an obstacle to their beloved pantoufles, and i don’t think they should. Big companies, private or not, just want to have “good relations” with the power.

The votes of the disgruntled outsourced workers, on the other hand, certainly are very present to their minds.

Actually i’d say -just my impression- they tend to be more prone to “reform” (=dump some social things) than the ordinary people, though they are too cautious to say it openly.

21

yabonn 05.08.05 at 5:55 pm

– just my impression – that

replaces

-just my impression-

22

ab 05.08.05 at 10:32 pm

Two more points, Henry:

(1) I think to accuse The Economist of playing the Nazi card is a bit too strong.

First, the Nazi Card had already been played (by Michael Wolffsohn, a history professor at Munich) and became a big part of the “Heuschrecken” debate before the Economist wrote about this.

Second, I’ve read both the leader and the special report, and the Nazi/antisemitism dimension to the debate does not feature very prominently. Yes, they mention it in a slighly accusatory manner, but I don’t think it’s the big deal you make out of it.

(2) Further to your later comments: The “capitalism critique debate” isn’t really a debate. Muntefering made the comment in an interview, it’s election time in Germany (important elections in North Rhine Westphalia), the SPD is desperate too move rhetorically to the left to appease their basis while they don’t see any viable alternative as to implement (or at least start) neoliberal reforms. Remember, Muntefering is the SPD’s “party general”. High-ranking Cabinet members remained silent, some even, like Schily openly criticised him; same goes for the Greens.

I say it again: Germany needs a debate about capitalism. And you’re right to point out that some German (and European) academics have done this for some years. But as you know better than me, Henry, Streeck, Scharpf & Co are quite close to the SPD and tried to influence key figures there, without much success. I don’t see that changing now in any substantial way; it’s only rhetoric.

I’d change my opinion and regard this as a real debate once Chancellor Schroeder joins the chorus, but my guess is he’ll do the opposite.

23

teekay 05.09.05 at 3:24 am

Oh, I’m sorry, Henry, if I misrepresented what you said. Maybe you would like to enlighten me on the evidently difficult-to-grasp meaning of the following sentence, which directly follows your quote of the Economist?

“Not true. First, as the Economist’s editorializers know quite well, Müntefering isn’t flirting with anti-Semitism; his ideas aren’t even actually anti-business.”

I must have totally misunderstood this, since in a later post you then say,

“I don’t say anywhere that the Economist accused Müntefering of “flirting with anti-Semitism,” nor do I say anything that even hints at this.”

Please help me with this!

By the way (not that this is very productive, but I dislike being misrepresented as much as you seem to), the part of Katherine’s statement I agreed with was “Comparing people to cockroaches, insects, rats, vermin or otherwise making them out as subhuman is a line I never, ever, ever cross” — I should have been clearer in my post. Sorry about that.

The general point I’d like to make here is that while it is nice that we’re having a serious debate about varieties of capitalist models here, we hardly needed a campaigning German politician to do that. I simply fail to see how calling people (or companies) locusts contributes to a serious debate. “I just wanted us to discuss this” is a lame excuse for someone who incites public opinion for cynical reasons.

Uh, and one last point, again for Henry (and thanks for not being impolite): you say, “And I’ve lived for three years in Germany, and studied the German political economy in extenso, so I do have some idea of what I’m talking about.” I wasn’t in any way doubting your qualifications for talking about this. Demanding qualifications would make a site like this one pointless. Rather, mentioning that I lived in Germany was intended to signal that my assessment of the “German model” is not based on a theoretically-informed analysis but on simple, everyday observations (about how difficult it is to hire people, how inane the tax forms are, etc. etc.) In other words, I was trying to present my credentials since I don’t have any beyond my residency status.

24

Edward Hugh 05.09.05 at 4:58 am

There is a version of the Economist article available without the ‘great firewall’.

Incidentally Henry, have you actually read the full article? It isn’t apparent.

Those interested in some informed reflection on the state of play with ‘reform’ in Germany could try this paper from Wolfgang Streeck:

http://www.mpi-fg-koeln.mpg.de/pu/workpap/wp05-2/wp05-2.html

25

Edward Hugh 05.09.05 at 4:59 am

26

raj 05.09.05 at 5:54 am

Don’t believe a lot of what is published in The Economist about Germany. The Economist is a British publication. The tension between Britain and Germany has not really ended since WWI. (That’s not a typo. WWI.)

Britain’s polity still can’t decide whether to join Europe, although, it should be noted, the exchange rate between its currency and the US$, and the Euro and the US$, has been similar over the last few years. Britain is part of Europe whether or not they like it.

27

mw 05.09.05 at 6:39 am

28

Chris Baldwin 05.09.05 at 6:57 am

Nice work, Henry. This quote applies equally well to France:

“Unsurprisingly, they’ve had very pleasant consequences indeed for the CEO-equivalents of German firms. Profits are beginning to surge again. Equally unsurprisingly, their effects for ordinary workers have been nowhere near as enjoyable. Unemployment remains high, and, as even the Economist is forced to admit, real wages are stagnating.”

29

Henry 05.09.05 at 10:01 am

Yikes – teekay – my bad. I hadn’t realized that I’d written that. Seriously sloppy writing on my part. Apologies. I’ll fix it.

30

Henry 05.09.05 at 10:10 am

Hi ab

I was familiar with the Wolffsohn quote, but didn’t want to bring it in, for fear of leading to an overheated debate (while I disagree with you and think that it was pretty bad form for the _Economist_ to open its lede as it did, the debate I wanted to have wasn’t over whether accusations of anti-Semitism were justified, but over whether the German model of capitalism is worth saving). More generally, while you may well be right about the cynical motives of Müntefering and other SPD types, it looks to me (as I skim German newspapers) as if there is a real debate happening in the public space, and that is something new, whether it was the intended consequence or not. On Streeck – there was a crack in an earlier _Economist_ article at sociologists being appointed to government commissions, which I’m fairly sure was aimed at him. On Streeck again – thank you Edward Hugh – I hadn’t seen this most recent paper (I usually check the MPIfG website every couple of months, but have been laxer than usual this spring).

31

teekay 05.09.05 at 10:25 am

Henry — no problem, sometimes we mistakenly say what we actually mean. Happens to me all the time, and it’s always embarrassing. In any case, the German blogosphere is out of control re: is Munti an anti-Semite or not. I’m glad that we’re not having that particular debate here and instead talk about something more interesting — the German economic model, not the panicking Social Democrats — so this should just be noted in silence.

32

Doug 05.09.05 at 11:04 am

“but over whether the German model of capitalism is worth saving”

What is the German model of capitalism? I think that’s the debate that is actually happening.

More also on the other thread.

33

raj 05.09.05 at 12:18 pm

Just to remind you, capitalism might be inconsistent with socialism, but it certainly is not inconsistent with authoritarianism. Some of the Nazi party’s biggest supporters were the Prussian Junker, Henry Ford, Thomas J. Watson (of IBM fame), Brits of the lower nobility and so forth, all of whom were very much capitalists.

34

ab 05.09.05 at 12:58 pm

The world wide web has its own comments on the Muntefering debate in form of an online flash game called Heuschreckenjagd

http://www.games.de/heuschrecken/

35

ab 05.09.05 at 1:03 pm

I should have given the permanent link:

http://www.games.de/content/view/1993/1/

PS: I only say previews for comments, sigh… ;-)

36

moni 05.10.05 at 3:43 am

comparing anyone—a company, its managers, or investors—to “locusts” is unacceptable—especially in Germany.

Ok, pardon a naive question, but after reading comments like this in this thread and those links mw posted, I have to ask: are you guys saying that, because Germany had nazism, which used powerful rhetoric for racist purposes against people, Germans today are echoing nazis when they use powerful rhetoric for political criticism against companies, financial systems and investment models?

Is that because genuinely believe that they’re bashing foreign venture capital investors simply because of being foreign, rather than because of something specific they criticise in their venture capital investment approaches?

To me, that amounts to saying that because of having had a dictatorship, Germany today cannot have an open political debate because even totally non-neonazi uses of rhetoric (say, unlike the real neonazis attacking foreign people or immigrants or minorities etc.) can be accused of flirting with nazism. That’s quite a paradox, no?

It’s also paradox to me that companies, or even entire financial systems, should be equated with people or ethnic groups… I really don’t get it. To me, whether I agree with it or not, it sounds perfectly legitimate to accuse a group of investors, with a completely different model than the one that Germans prefer, of wanting to wreck that model for profit. Or is what is under criticism only the use of the locusts image? What if he’d used only ‘greedy’ – that too could have been connected to nazi rhetoric… So what should he have said, to support his view?

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c++guy 05.10.05 at 3:41 pm

My Economist subscription lapsed a while ago but I seem to remember almost every report on the German economy stating that the consensus model has been enormously successful and is only faltering during the current slow growth phase. As to “intervening” in the debate – isn’t that what anyone injecting his opinion into the debate is doing? The fact that the Economist clashes with the German public opinion is almost a truism and hardly interesting.

I do have to agree that the comparison to Nazi propaganda isn’t worthy of the Economist’s otherwise reserved style.

I would like to add another link that I happened to read a couple days before seeing this thread. It’s an essay by the always interesting Paul Graham on VC:

http://www.paulgraham.com/venturecapital.html

Also, I’m surprised nobody has invoked Godwin’s law yet, anyone her remeber Usenet?

http://www.jargon.net/jargonfile/g/GodwinsLaw.html

or

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Godwin's_law

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