I’ve just returned from my annual vacation on my beloved island of Foehr; and as in earlier years Brother Reinsch has invited my random thoughts on what’s up with Krautland. Some bad stuff happened while I was there but frankly, it’s been a relief to spend a few weeks in a functioning, tolerably well-governed country. On the eve of the federal elections on September 24, the Germans are calm, confident, and contented. And basically, I think, they’re right.
My preceding post noodled over non-German authors’ contributions to the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung’s “Crumbling Europe” series. Today, a few of the Germans. Their contributions are charitably described as disappointing; if you’re seriously worried about the EU, hair-raising is a better adjective. The general pattern is 1) a resolute unwillingness to re-think the EU project, coupled with 2) an unnerving insistence of projecting Germany’s political preferences and attitudes onto the EU and 3) not one word of acknowledgment that the EU is confronting a central, blazingly obvious German problem (see my earlier post).
Beginning pre-Brexit and ending post-Turkey coup, the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung published a series of articles under the heading, Zerfaellt Europa? (Is Europe Crumbling?). Interesting stuff. Naturally it’s all in German and that be difficult speak. I’ll supply links upon request but you’ll have to trust my summaries and translations. Or ignore this and the next post.
Jointly and severally, the articles—authored for the most part by past and present politicians—suggest several conclusions. First, the idea that there might be something wrong with the EU that can’t be fixed with the demand for “more Europe” and “ever closer union” has begun to occur to responsible politicians. Good.
‘Why can’t a woman be more like a man?’ asked Professor Henry Higgins in My Fair Lady, expecting no proper answer. In another context, that of economics, he might have asked ‘Why can’t one country be like another?’
I thought of Henry Higgins as I read a letter recently in the Financial Times. It was written by an Irish civil servant in praise of German efforts to save their weaker brethren of the European Union.
When Gary Becker put forward his idea of human capital in 1964, it was to address the effects of knowledge and training on individual economic performance. This idea can and should be extended to gauge the productive capacities of society in general.
Cultural patterns of behavior that become engrained over time, such as norms of punctuality, honesty, sobriety, or what others might call social capital, are just another way of speaking about human capital. When Max Weber described the attributes of character that marked the modern bourgeois, he was in fact emphasizing patterns of beliefs that facilitated the operation of markets by enabling individuals to effectively negotiate their social landscape—to engage in commerce and production over the long run.
Twilight of the American Republic: The new Liberty Law Talk presents a different way of thinking about American Exceptionalism. This discussion with author Justin Litke considers how the twentieth century emergence of an expansive American Exceptionalism relates to the frayed constitutional consensus of the American founding. What did Michael Oakeshott think of the American founding? That's the question taken up by Elizabeth Corey in this week's feature review essay on Gene Callahan's book Oakeshott on Rome and America. Alberto Mingardi @ Econ Lib on Germany trading its political stability for economic stupidity. Then again, there's much of that going on these days. The…