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 ï¿½social-marketï¿½ 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 ï¿½ simply put ï¿½ too well. In Berlin, a city with 19 per cent unemployment, the cafes are packed with people ï¿½drinking over-priced cafï¿½ 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 werenï¿½t deceiving me. The problem with the German economy is that itï¿½s doing too well for people to, like, actually want the cleansing winds of free-market reforms? That the unemployed can sip their cafï¿½ lattes too? I dunno whether this sort of Frummagem smacks more of Jonathan Swift or the Medium Lobster ï¿½ but it speaks volumes about the motives of some of continental Europeï¿½s would be ï¿½reformers.ï¿½
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 Meinhofï¿½s ghost. Ashen-faced commiserationsï¿½and 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.