A German View on Tackling the Recession

Bertrand Benoit, the Financial Times‘ Berlin bureau chief, discusses why the US, French and British don’t understand Germany’s “refusal to tackle the recession head-on”.

What is happening is a classic clash of cultures, and anyone puzzling to grasp Germany’s anaemic reaction to the financial crisis and its economic fallout could do worse than take a stroll through its inhabitants’ mental landscape. Much of the economic thinking taking place in German political circles is guided by what Otto Friedrich Bollnow, a mathematician-cum-philosopher, once described as “economic virtues” – frugality, diligence, industry and so on. One widespread notion is that one should not borrow without being in a position to pay back.

I feel this sentence, found in the introductory section of the article, is the most penetrating:

The notion that families should finance everyday purchases on credit, the [German radio presenter] commented, “suggests Washington has still to understand what brought us there in the first place”.