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September 19, 2005

Germany's Election: What Next?

With neither party receiving a rousing majority, it's difficult to see what direction Germany's government will take in the near future.

Conservative Angela Merkel, whose Christian Democrats were slightly ahead of incumbent Chancellor Gerhard Schršder's Social Democrats (35.2% to 34.3%), both are making plans to work with potential coalition members in order to make the phoenix of German's government rise out of the ashes. Mark Steyn says there's more to it than simple party politics:

If you want the state of Europe in a nutshell, skip the German election coverage and consider this news item from the south of France: a fellow in Marseilles is being charged with fraud because he lived with the dead body of his mother for five years in order to continue receiving her pension of 700 euros a month.

A gruesome but effective comparison. And, he says Germany needs more than just a cosmetic makeover by whomever wrests control from the other:

Germany is dying, demographically and economically. Pick any of the usual indicators of a healthy advanced industrial democracy: Unemployment? The highest for 70 years. House prices? Down. New car registration? Nearly 15 per cent lower than in 1999. General nuttiness? A third of Germans under 30 think the United States government was responsible for the terrorist attacks of September 11.

While the unemployment, real estate and car sales may be reversible, that last number suggests the German electorate isn't necessarily the group you'd want to pitch a rational argument to. In the run-up to the election campaign, there were endless references to "necessary reforms" and "painful change". And, in the end, the voters decided they weren't in the mood for change, especially the painful kind.

The German stock market is down, as is the euro. The atmosphere isn't exactly brimming with sunshine and gumdrops. Apparently, though, Germans aren't quite ready for anything better than they have. Steyn has more on the subject:

In other words, things are going to have to get a lot worse before German voters will seriously consider radical change. And the question then is whether the Christian Democrats will be the radical change they consider: as Sunday's results in east Germany indicate, it's as likely if not more so to be ex-Commies or neo-Nazis or some other opportunist fringe party. The longer European countries postpone the "painful" reforms, the more painful they're going to be.

Let's ignore the problem and it'll go away! Better yet, let's do the same thing we did in the 1930s, when we as a people became dissatisfied with the status quo, and formerly fringe Nazis came to power--using Jews and other "social misfits" as convenient scapegoats for our problems. Hooray!

Steyn makes a sober prediction:

...by 2050, there will be more and wealthier Americans, and fewer and poorer Europeans. In the 14th century, it took the Black Death to wipe out a third of Europe's population. In the course of the 21st century, Germany's population will fall by over 50 per cent to some 38 million or lower - killed not by disease or war but by the Eutopia to which Mr Schršder and his electorate are wedded.

It's like a burning car wreck--we can't do anything about it but stare as those involved suffer until the fire truck arrives. Will the fire truck arrive in time?

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