The Germany Illusion


The Germany Illusion –
Between Economic Euphoria and Despair
By Marcel Fratzscher
Oxford University Press – £25.49

Merkel’s declaration ”Wir schaffen das” is likely to be the sentence that defines her chancellorship historically. Her mindset and attitude became even clearer in fall 2015, when under attack from German critics who wanted her to be much tougher in rhetoric and action, she stated, ”if we now have to start excusing ourselves for showing a friendly face in an emergency situation, then this is not my country.”

     ‘The Refugee Crisis’

What I rather like about this book is the fact that it traverses a number of very pertinent issues facing today’s Germany.

As Marcel Fratzscher makes clear in the Introduction: ”In particular, I focus on the roles of economic and social issues, where they have succeeded and where they have failed. I highlight Germany’s impressive economic successes, but I also try to puncture some of the myths about Germany’s economic might and identify the key economic and social challenges for Germany in the years ahead.”

To be sure, Fratzscher succeeds in most coherently doing just that throughout, even if on occasion, he does occasionally fall into a staid trap of slight repetition. There again, given some of the dry density of the subject matter, this is understandable.

Admittedly, not the most inspired title in the world, The Germany Illusion, does nevertheless, shed an abundance of new light on the much mis-perceived perception of Germany being the so-called economic powerhouse of Europe. Hence the secondary title, Between Economic Euphoria and Despair, upon which the author further deliberates: ”The central argument of the book is that Germany suffers from two illusions. The first is the perception that Germany’s economic policy is impeccable and that the future for Germany is bright – thanks to its strong industrial base, its successful export sectors, and its flexible economy […]. The second illusion is the widespread belief in Germany that what is good for Europe is bad for Germany. This illusion is shared by many other European nations, where bashing Europe, the euro, and EU institutions has become a popular sport.”

So popular in fact, that the deplorable rise in populism has nigh taken over the whole shebang of Europe’s questionably faltering future. One need only surmise the disastrous fork-in-the-road that the United Kingdom has chosen to take with Brexit; not to mention Le Pen in France and the most hideous rise of populism in such countries as Hungary and Turkey. The latter especially, which really is responsible for some of the most fraught, economic repercussions throughout Germany as a whole. Berlin in particular.

Perhaps all the more reason to come to terms with the German illusion.

Let’s face it: what economically effects Germany today, will fundamentally effect the rest of Europe tomorrow. Something Fratzscher endeavours to clarify throughout these 183 pages, as substantiated by Martin Wolf, chief economics commentator with The Financial Times: Marcel Fratzscher has written a book that is both excellent and important. It provides an analytically-balanced and historically-informed account of the remarkable strengths and significant weaknesses of the German economy. But it is also an effective plea for Germany to abandon resentments and play the role it alone can play, in leading Europe on the essential path of reform and revitalization.”

Essentially written with succinct, clear clarity by someone who obviously knows (as well as cares about) their stuff, The Germany Illusion – Between Economic Euphoria and Despair, is as Wolf has said, an important book.

The probable outcome of which, will, to some degree or another, effect us all.

David Marx

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