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What Does Merkel's Victory Mean?


AI Executive Committee member Joe Joffe tells you what you need to know in the Wall Street Journal:

The deeper meaning of this strange election, triumphal as it was for the once and future chancellor, is of a watershed in postwar German history. For the first time since 1949, the liberals—the Free Democratic Party—will not be represented in the Bundestag, having failed to clear the 5% hurdle. Not to put too fine a point on it, the ejection of the FDP (which fell from a 15% showing in 2009) leaves Germany with a parliament of Tweedledums and Tweedledees. Gone is the one and only party that is supposed to stand for free-market economics, low taxes and small government.

Germans are left with four parties in power that range from pale-pink (the Christian Democrats) to the reddish (the Social Democrats and Greens) to the deep-red (Die Linke). They all—even the Christian Democrats—add up to a wall-to-wall social-democratic consensus. The hallmark of this consensus is an all-providing state that taxes, spends and regulates.

The differences between these parties are not about principles, but about numbers: how much child support, how high the minimum wage, how many taxes, how much redistribution? In other words, Europe’s richest and most successful country has opted for a kind of gilded status quo. The unspoken message is: Spare me the risk, toil and trouble, never mind rampant technological change and the chaos just beyond Europe’s borders.

If you’re a EU politics junkie, and you’re interested in what Angela Merkel’s options are in forming governing coalitions, Joffe also has you covered. But Joe’s bigger point, about Germany’s current preference for regulated stability over the disruptive forces of markets, is the important take-away. Read the whole thing.

[Angela Merkel image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons]

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  • Loader2000

    Every nation at the top has to begin its slide into decadence. It almost always begins when a nations people become more interested in providing comfort and ease to its citizens than in growing and expanding economically or territorially or both. Rome, during the time of Hannibal was willing to sacrifice every ounce of lifeblood it had to remain free of Carthage. By 400 AD, citizens were cutting off their thumbs so they wouldn’t have to be drafted into the military.

  • Corlyss

    “Gone is the one and only party that is supposed to stand for free-market economics, low taxes and small government.”
    What a surprise. The forces of anti-statism are in retreat everywhere. They can’t stand against the more numerous, greedy, non-producing takers in a democratic system. Time to dust off the FF’s anxieties. Too many people see themselves as victims and the only solution is to recompense themselves at the expense of everyone else.

  • Kevin

    Maybe time in the wilderness will refocus the FDP on policy and away from factional infighting. As a very casual observer of German politics it has never been clear if they are (classical) liberals or the pro-business party. They claim to be the former but get tagged as the latter.

  • bpuharic

    Funny watching Germany succeed even as the right bloviates it should be headed for 3rd world status.

    They huff and puff because their supply side plutocratic myths about the way economies work has been put to the test…and failed.

    Of course, evidence never convinced the right that it was wrong.

  • michaelj68

    To be fair to the Germans, one of the reasons the economy is relatively in good shape was due to major reforms that started with the Red-Green alliance led by Gerhard Schroder.

  • f1b0nacc1

    Actually, I am surprised to see nobody mention the Alternative For Deutschland party, which barely missed getting into the Bundestag. They went from 0 to about 4.5 pct (narrowly missing getting representation) which suggests to me that this is where the ‘missing’ votes for the FDP went. This is not at all inconsistent with Kevin’s excellent insight that the FDP had seriously fractured over recent years between the pro-business (i.e. corpratist) and lmited government factions. I suspect that the latter ended up moving to the AFP, while the former stayed with the FDP…in which case, good to see the FDP sinking below the threshold.
    None of this is good for Germany in the short to mid-term, but perhaps in the long term, as the center/left coalition inevitably fritters away Germany’s competitiveness, things will improve. And if not…well, I am not German…

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