Wirtschaftswachstum: Deutschland ist nicht der kranke Mann Europas

Deutschland ist nicht der kranke Mann Europas – Seite 1

What is happening to our country? In plain terms: The loss of economic dynamism, the stagnation of society, an incredible mental depression – these are the keywords of the crisis.

What sounds like an accurate description of the current situation in Germany is actually a quote from 1997, known as the „Ruck Speech“ by President Roman Herzog. It took another five years for the government to initiate bold reforms, and three more years for Germany to reach its economic and social low point with over five million unemployed before starting to recover. History often repeats itself, but it doesn’t have to if the economy and society, instead of falling into an incredible mental depression, focus on their strengths and, above all, do one thing: create a foundation of trust and confidence.

Das bedeutet nicht, die Probleme kleinzureden. Der
Verlust wirtschaftlicher Dynamik heute ist offensichtlich. Deutschland hat die
schwächste wirtschaftliche Entwicklung in Europa. Die Exporte brechen weg, die
Investitionen sind enttäuschend, der private Konsum schrumpft als Folge des
Kaufkraftverlusts durch die Inflation und Zukunftsängste. Die deutsche
Industrie hinkt bei wichtigen Zukunftstechnologien – bei digitalen Plattformen
ebenso wie bei künstlicher Intelligenz und grünen Technologien – im globalen
Wettbewerb hinterher. Ziele beim Klimaschutz, beim Ausbau der digitalen
Infrastruktur oder des Bildungssystems werden verfehlt – und wenig passiert, um
den Kurs zu korrigieren. Die heute schon beachtliche Fachkräftelücke wird sich
vergrößern und die Existenz vieler kleiner und mittelständischer Unternehmen
gefährden. Eine überbordende Bürokratie, Unsicherheit bei der Regulierung und
eine unzureichende Infrastruktur sind eine erhebliche Bremse für die
Zukunftsplanungen von Unternehmen.

Jetzt folgt der Verteilungskampf

It is not surprising, therefore, that many people in this country are pessimistic about the future. Society is frozen in fear, as Roman Herzog had already analyzed 25 years ago. At the same time, society is highly polarized. Social conflicts have never been so deep in the past 75 years. The most vulnerable groups are particularly affected. Children, teenagers, and young adults still suffer greatly from the economic and social consequences of the pandemic. One in three young people would need psychological and other health assistance, but only one in ten receives it. Instead, the federal government argues about important measures such as combating child poverty and climate funds. The inequality of educational opportunities in Germany is one of the highest among industrialized countries and is further exacerbated by the pandemic and inflation. Housing is becoming increasingly unaffordable for young families in cities, leading to a more gentrified society. Social benefits are being cut, and the resistance of the Free Democratic Party (FDP) against a higher minimum wage, child basic income, or citizen’s income is growing.

The outcome is a struggle for distribution, in which people increasingly prioritize themselves. Many blame people with a migration background and refugees. Additionally, the Federal Minister of Finance declares the end of social reforms and announces cuts in social benefits, which is highly counterproductive.

Es ist einfach zu begreifen, warum Menschen und Unternehmen in dieser Situation in eine mentale Depression geraten und äußerst pessimistisch auf die Zukunft blicken.

Deutschland kann anders

„Ich kann es nicht umformulieren.“

And Germany can bring about change: After World War II, it had to reinvent itself economically and socially while facing enormous challenges such as integrating millions of refugees, rebuilding an entire infrastructure and economy, navigating a Cold War in a divided country, later reunifying with significant social upheavals, financial and economic crises, and most recently, a pandemic and an energy crisis.

Drei große Stärken mobilisieren

These challenges have not been able to change the fact that Germany is now one of the richest countries in the world, with great prosperity and high stability. Germany has successfully overcome these crises because it has three major strengths – and still has them. The first is excellent state institutions and a strong rule of law, with high competence and great independence. The rigidity of reforms and an excessive bureaucracy are not due to the institutions, but rather to the lack of political will, powerful lobbying interests, and a strong desire to maintain the status quo.

Germany’s second major strength lies in its economic structure, which is built on a strong foundation of small and medium-sized family businesses. These companies prioritize long-term thinking and take on significant responsibility for their employees, rather than solely focusing on short-term profits. This resilience and flexibility enable them to successfully navigate crises and adapt to changes. Few economies in the world have as many hidden champions – highly innovative companies whose products are essential for the functioning of the global economy without which the world economy would struggle to operate.

However, there is another strength that is perhaps the most important: solidarity as a central element of the social market economy. The Russian philosopher and naturalist Pyotr Kropotkin argued over 100 years ago – and countless scientific studies have confirmed him – that highly solidary societies are much more successful than individualized societies in dealing with major crises and challenges. They also tend to emerge stronger from them. Solidarity creates security and trust, it brings together forces and builds bridges – both economically and socially. Germany’s economy and social systems are based on this solidary idea, but it must also be lived in our society. Polarization is currently causing this foundation to be lost – if we do not take action against it.

Dem Pessimismus entgegentreten

Therefore, we primarily need trust, as emphasized by President Herzog, in order to mobilize our strengths. This does not mean ignoring the mentioned problems and weaknesses. Germany is currently at risk of fears and concerns triggering a vicious cycle, with widespread pessimism further deteriorating the economic and social situation. Economics is largely psychology. Companies will not invest but instead withdraw or relocate abroad if they lack confidence in the German location. People will withdraw from the job market, engage less in society, and invest less in themselves if they lose their confidence.

„I cannot reword“

The German government is doing more things right than many people realize. However, it lacks a clear compass and the courage for future investments and social balance. The companies are no less responsible for the problems than the politicians. They should honestly admit their own mistakes and invest in ecological and digital transformation instead of blaming the politicians and loudly calling for further financial assistance. Only then can trust be established and Germany can break the vicious cycle of economic stagnation, loss of prosperity, and societal polarization.