Another Grand Coaltion: The Sun of Jamaica.

Over on Crooked Timber, Henry Farrell – I think somewhat accidently, because I get the impression he believes Germans do *NOT* want to change their distorted labour incentive and tax systems – writes about the fundamental reason for the result of last Sunday’s election.

Citing the following extract from an article by Jeffrey Gedmin of the Aspen Institute Berlin that was published in the FT –

“Germans know [that they face a fundamental choice over their economy]. But they still love their �social-market� economy and have not yet decided whether allowing more market forces can be in tune with their values. Until now, it has been too easy for Germans to defer painful choices. The country has been doing � simply put � too well. In Berlin, a city with 19 per cent unemployment, the cafes are packed with people �drinking over-priced caf� lattes, the employed and unemployed alike happily indulging themselves. Will economic circumstances soon hurt enough to give people the swift kick they apparently need?

– he explains an importantl reason for the German apprehensiveness about radical institutional change –

“I had to read this paragraph twice to be sure that my eyes weren�t deceiving me. The problem with the German economy is that it�s doing too well for people to, like, actually want the cleansing winds of free-market reforms? That the unemployed can sip their caf� lattes too? I dunno whether this sort of Frummagem smacks more of Jonathan Swift or the Medium Lobster � but it speaks volumes about the motives of some of continental Europe�s would be �reformers.�

While I believe he’s exaggerating with respect to a lot of “Europe’s would-be reformers”, it was precisely this, the public’s – and even the CDU/CSU’s – uncertainty about some reformer’s motives, that led the voters to perform a rather interesting hedging operation – and I have said it before in my election posts. Suddenly, this thought seems to sink in a little.

It’s been five days since the polls were closed, and while there aren’t too many non-processual news to report, a lot of people have been forced to think a lot these days. And if there’s one thing that is surprising, it is the intensity with which the CDU/CSU are wooing the Greens. Even though both parties stated that they will not continue with talks unless other options – that is the grand coalition of SPD and CDU – will have failed to produce results, they must have spent the meeting exchanging niceties or holding hands and singing Aretha Franklin’s “r-e-s-p-e-c-t”. Edmund Stoiber even wore a green-striped tie and Claudia Roth lauded his fashion sense… peace, love and some kind of understanding all over.

So I’d say breaking off the negotiations at this point is merely intended to assure the respective parties’ rank and file that the leadership is concerned with the parties’ identities and not just with the perks that come with a ministerial portfolio. To be sure, notwithstanding some problematic issues, as Alex pointed out before (although I’d probably say the most important problematic issue that cannot be deferred for good is health reform), the biggest obstacle to the Jamaican solution is indeed identity –

“The Greens exist in opposition to the CDU/CSU and everything it stands for. They were created by the post-68 generation positively dripping with Theodor Adorno and positively drunk on Herbert Marcuse, seeking a Critical Politics and a Critical Gender Politics to go with the Critical Theory they imbibed. To your average CDU MP, and ten times more for the CSU, your daughter being a Green was until very recently barely distinguishable from her dating Ulrike Meinhof�s ghost. Ashen-faced commiserations�and chilly silences in the Fraktionsklub.”

Thus, it should be noted that a Jamaica coalition would also be a grand coalition. Actually, it would be a far grander coalition, just not in a numerical, but in a social sense. It would also be a truly interesting alternative to deal with the changes in Germany’s no-longer exclusively corporatist governance and production modes, certainly more so than the classic grand coalition would be.

Still, as attractive as Jamaica may seem browsing through holiday catalogues, it may just be too difficult to get there. That’s why I still bet on a grand coalition, even though Angela Merkel is holding up surprisingly well. Now even a shared Chancellorship Israeli-style is discussed semi seriously.

8 thoughts on “Another Grand Coaltion: The Sun of Jamaica.

  1. Also, I’d love to read a post on what you mean by distorted, and how you’d change them. There aren’t a lot of specific policy discussions on afoe.

  2. I’ve been to Berlin,where according ,to your writer ,the “unemployed can afford to sip Latte”,and I been to Los Angeles,where from you cafe table you can see the unemployed raiding the garbage bins for food. I know which play I preferred !

  3. Brian, I’m not sure what you’re referring to. While I’m not sure that too many unemployed in Germany cn actually afford Latte (certainly not the one served at Starbucks…) this was a quote within a quote.

    Doug, quite right. I’m with you there… what happened to all the fun? More violence in German politics… 😉

  4. I would be very curious to know what Joschka Fischer’s views are on the war in Iraq. I bring that up because I ran across the following article . . .

    La passione di Fischer e l’idealismo antifascista del Sessantotto al potere
    IL FOGLIO, 22 settembre 2005

    . . . which is a review of a book by an American author which contends that the support of Blair and Fischer for the U.S. interventions in the Balkans was an outgrowth of 1968 idealism and that both Blair and Fischer support the war in Iraq, albeit, Blair does so more overtly than Fischer did as FM.


    [Original Italian:]

    “‘Power and Idealists’ costituisce il punto di sintesi della teoria nostalgica di Berman secondo cui dal radicalismo degli anni Sessanta è sorto lentamente un nuovo pensiero liberale e antitotalitario molto simile a quello promosso dopo l’11 settembre da Bush. ‘Né gli Stati Uniti né l’Europa né il medio oriente possono tollerare più lo status quo mediorientale’, disse Fischer nel novembre 2003. Pochi giorni prima Bush aveva detto che ‘è insensato accettare lo status quo’. Mentre Fischer proponeva ‘la globalizzazione dei valori fondamentali, come i diritti umani, il rispetto per la vita, la tolleranza religiosa e culturale e l’uguaglianza di tutti gli esseri umani’, Bush lanciava ‘una strategia di progresso e di libertà in medio oriente’.

    “La cosa che non torna, secondo Berman, è che a quelle parole Fischer non ha fatto seguire i fatti, al contrario di quanto fece sulla Bosnia. Blair e Kouchner, invece, non hanno rinunciato alle proprie idee per paura di fare un piacere a Bush. Blair è sceso in campo, rischiando molto. Kouchner ha criticato il suo governo per aver depotenziato la minaccia militare americana e convinto Saddam a non cedere. Fischer ha preferito restare cauto, puntare sull’Onu, limitandosi a non dissentire filosoficamente dalle ragioni pro-intervento e, poi, a rammaricarsi di non aver proposto un’alternativa credibile.”

    [Translation by me:]

    “‘Power and Idealists’ consitutes the point of synthesis of Berman’s nostalgic theory according to which from the radicalism of the ’60’s has emerged slowly a new liberal and antitotalitarian thought very similar to that advocated after 11 September by Bush. ‘Neither the United States nor Europe nor the Middle East are able to tolerate any longer the Middle-Eastern Status Quo,’ said Fischer in November, 2003. A few days before, Bush had said, ‘It is senseless to accaept the status quo.’ While Fischer proposed ‘The globalization of fundamental values, such as human rights, respect for life, cultural and religious tolerance, and the equality of all human beings,’ Bush launched ‘a strategy of progress and liberty in the Middle East.’

    “What doesn’t add up, according to Berman, is that Fischer did not follow up those words with deeds, contrary to what he did with resepct to Bosnia. Blair and Kouchner, instead, did not renounce their own ideas out of fear of doing a favor for Bush. Blair went into the field of battle, risking much. Kouchner criticized his government for having reduced the power of the American military threat and [having] convinced Sadam to not yield. Fischer preferred to remain cautious, to look to the U.N., limiting himself to not dissenting philosophically from the pro-interventionist rationales, and, then, to regret not having proposed a credible alternative.”

  5. Fischer was definitely to the right of Schroeder during the run-up, although still not pro-war. His line, if I remember correctly, was “I’m not convinced!” That line, in retrospect, seems like a perfectly respectable not-opposed-to-intervention-in-principle viewpoint.

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