Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Germans’ Righteous Stand Fans Flames in Euro Crisis

by Clive Crook


November 30, 2011

Radoslaw Sikorski made a striking comment in Berlin on Monday night. “I will probably be the first Polish foreign minister in history to say so, but here it is: I fear German power less than I am beginning to fear German inactivity.”

I see his point, though “inactivity” doesn’t quite do justice to Germany’s impressive dedication to deepening the euro area’s crisis. This isn’t mere inactivity. This is zeal in pursuit of catastrophe.

The German government sees itself as standing up for fiscal and monetary rectitude. The euro area’s problems, it believes, have been brought on by lack of discipline in countries with lower standards. This is true, of course -- yet one wonders how much scorched earth Germany thinks is needed to drive the point home.

Let’s put it another way: Germany owns the biggest house -- fully insured and with the best fire prevention money can buy -- in a tight cluster of dwellings in the European subdivision. One of those houses caught fire because the owner, despite repeated warnings, refused to fix a broken heater. Conditions are parched, and a hot, dry wind is picking up. The flames have spread, and several other houses are burning.

A rational person might say, “Call the fire department.” Germany says, “Hang on. Didn’t we tell you this would happen? Let’s get clear on how it started before we start spraying water everywhere. You can do a lot of damage that way. Plus, what’s the rush? If we put fires out the instant they start, then why would anyone take fire prevention seriously in the first place?

“Also, we’ll need a joint insurance policy (watch out for that flaming debris over there) with a tough inspection system to avoid any future free riding.

“Actually, maybe we can use this fire to improve the neighborhood. Honestly, it’s the only way to get anything done around here.”


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