Welcome to DU! The truly grassroots left-of-center political community where regular people, not algorithms, drive the discussions and set the standards. Join the community: Create a free account Support DU (and get rid of ads!): Become a Star Member Latest Breaking News General Discussion The DU Lounge All Forums Issue Forums Culture Forums Alliance Forums Region Forums Support Forums Help & Search

mother earth

(6,002 posts)
Mon Feb 23, 2015, 04:54 PM Feb 2015

"Beggar Thy Neighbor" A Lesson on How Germany Plays Dirty

For the full transcript:


Heiner Flassbeck says Germany has played a devastating role in the European Monetary Union and the "Greece guilty and Germany innocent" narrative is completely false - February 22, 2015

Two snips:

FLASSBECK: Yeah, that's a wonderful example, because 20 percent is exactly something--what is needed, depending on your productivity. But let me take the example of France. You'll see France is much more important than Greece. Everybody is focusing on Greece, but the real problem is France. France did everything right. France had a productivity increase of 1.5 percent. French wages increase increased by 3.5 percent. So the difference was exactly the 2 percent inflation target. And so France was perfect. But France is in the same difficulties as Greece--in principle not has acute, but in principle they have a huge gap with Germany in terms of competitiveness. Why? Well, because German productivity was also 1.5 percent, but German nominal wages only increased by 1.5 percent and not by 3.5 percent like in France. So they did nothing, they did everything right, but they're in trouble anyway. And this is where the unfairness comes in and where it is absolutely clear that if you do not tackle this root problem of the currency union, it was not tackled in the first ten years. But if you don't tackle it now, then you will never find a solution for the Eurozone. Forget about Greece. If France and Italy have to do the same thing as Greece did, it goes through a Great Depression. Could you imagine what it means politically? It will be a disaster. It will not be a radical left-wing government that comes to power in France, but a right-wing, and in Italy also.

JAY: Now, you talk about the difference in the wage levels. But how did Germany keep wages down? Is not like it's a state-run economy. I mean, why couldn't the German workers fight for higher wages?

FLASSBECK: Well, this is easily explained. It was, first of all, in agreement. In Germany we have a long tradition of having tripartite negotiations or agreements between the government, the employers, and the unions on wages. So that was the first step, that it was an agreement where everybody agreed that now we have to, so to say, keep our wages low to reduce unemployment, and nobody thought about the currency union. It was only by chance that the currency union started exactly at that moment of time.

And then the second step was that indeed the right-wing government passed a lot of legislation that weakened the unions dramatically. And this package of legislations are not one measure, but ten, 20 measures that all weakened the negotiating power of the unions, all in the attempt to reduce unemployment in Germany. But what nobody thought about: that this is the classical begger thy neighbor policy for the rest of the European Union and for the rest of the world. Don't forget the United States. The United States have a permanent, huge deficit with Germany, because Germany is hidden, so to say, is protected by the low value of the euro. So if there would not be euro, then clearly the D mark would appreciate against the dollar. But with the low euro, the euro is, so to say, the average of weaker countries and stronger countries. Germany has a wonderful, wonderful goal to increase its surplus with United States and begger the neighbors, because it's absolutely clear that the country that is increasing its current account surplus all the time--and it did so for the last ten, 15 years--this country has huge absolute advantage from international trade, where all its trading partners have negative effect. It's not trade as something that helps everyone; if there is absolute advantages through rising current account surpluses in one country, the other countries have negative contribution from trade. And then the whole idea of free trade is useless and the whole negotiations about TTIP, this agreement between Europe and Germany, is absolutely useless. And I saw it was now discussed in the United States and Congress, and rightly so, if there is no clear idea about the exchange rates.

JAY: So, I mean, does this mean the Eurozone really doesn't make any sense, that as long as you've got these different nation-states and at heart they really are competitive--how can they exist within the same monetary union?

FLASSBECK: It could have made sense. You see, if everybody would have obeyed to this rule that I mentioned, wages in line with national productivity, plus commonly agreed inflation target, well, it would have been a nice idea. But if one country goes for a totally mercantilist approach, then there is no chance to make sense of it. Then there is no way to bring it back, or it's very difficult to bring it back, because the other countries would need absolute cuts in wages. But absolute cuts in wages lead to deflation. So if Germany is not moving, nothing will happen. And that is why the book Against the Troika, the German title of it is Only Germany Can Save the Euro--nobody else.

JAY: And doesn't seem like they're--at least when it comes to Greece--are so intended. In fact, they have this counsel of what they call wise men, these group of economists who issued a statement--I think it was today--apparently saying, let Greece go, we'll be better off, the better defense of the Eurozone is actually to let Greece go.

FLASSBECK: Yeah. Well, these people are stupid. You know, I do not not even think about them. This is a club of extremely radical conservative economists with no clue about the world and all the important relationships in this world. So don't even--ignore it.

But what is really dramatic is the collective denial of Germany's position in the currency union from the very beginning. In Germany we have--in the mass media and the important media, everybody's trying to defend the German position along the lines--all the others are wrong, only Germany got it right from the very beginning. And this is a disaster. You know, if a society that is now living in a--has a democracy for more than 50 years and understands itself as an open society, as an open society where everybody can discuss freely everything, and then you see that you have such a collective denial of a very simple fact, then really it's getting critical, and then many people are really frustrated about this.


An astute comment after the above at TRNN link. I don't usually copy comments, but this one sums it up so well...

This highlights why unfettered capitalism is so destructive. Germany are only being 'good' capitalists, they are working for their own advantage and 'externalizing' all ill effects, "beggar thy neighbor" is the essence of capitalism, and that is why in the long run we go through these cycles of collapse and rebuild. Capitalism is a short term gain philosophy. That is why much of the events in the world make no sense on the surface, it is because we are trying to understand them from the perspective that leaders are working towards at least 'national' interest, but they are not, they are working towards the self interest of small groups of interested parties.

This is the source of the Austerity policy throughout Europe, Germany played dirty with wages, it has triggered a race to the bottom for the rest of Europe just to compete. It would be interesting to know the source of this strategy (because Austerity is a strategy) is it internal to Germany or external, all of the European leaders seem to go and bend their knee at the White House.

9 replies = new reply since forum marked as read
Highlight: NoneDon't highlight anything 5 newestHighlight 5 most recent replies

mother earth

(6,002 posts)
1. Who is Heiner Flassbeck?
Mon Feb 23, 2015, 04:56 PM
Feb 2015
Director of the Division on Globalization and Development Strategies
United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD)

Mr. Heiner Flassbeck has served since 2006 as Director of the Division on Globalization and Development Strategies of the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD). He is the principal author and the leader of the team preparing UNCTAD's Trade and Development Report. The Trade and Development Report is the flagship annual publication of UNCTAD covering both recent and longer term issues in the world economy, with particular emphasis on the implications for developing countries.

Mr. Flassbeck is a member of international fora dealing with prospective development issues or with burning topics facing the world economy. He is a member of the Commission on the Measurement of Economic Performance and Social Progress, he participates in "The Shadow GN" meetings (chaired by Professor Joseph Stiglitz) and he is a guest speaker in many academic institutions. He is the author of numerous books and articles on macroeconomic issues, in particular on the current financial crisis and its impact on the real economy.

mother earth

(6,002 posts)
2. Global Corruption & Predatory Capitalism...somebody tell me again that Greece is at fault or the
Mon Feb 23, 2015, 05:05 PM
Feb 2015

practice of privatizing profits & socializing risk has become excusable for the oligarchs, and still the GOP (and even some here - yes, misguided apologists) do not understand that the greatest entitlements of all are those OUR gov'ts, OUR courts, hand off to the wealthiest, the "personhood"-SCOTUS endowed entities, the too big to fails and too big to jails...seems the EU counterparts have learned how the big game is played.

Germany, the US, the dollar games, wars by currency, and we are all collateral damage to this carnage.

(And please pay special note to the "Right Wing" power he mentions that comes after the desperation of Greece, Spain, Italy and so forth come to a head...this is a return to fascism...delivered by Germany, yet again. The Golden Dawn is watching in Greece too.)


Wellstone ruled

(34,661 posts)
3. This post by far is a must for every DU er to read.
Mon Feb 23, 2015, 05:10 PM
Feb 2015

Main statement about Conservative Economists nails it!!!!!!!

mother earth

(6,002 posts)
4. TY, Wellstone ruled, I feel so strongly about what is going on in the EU/Greece, I feel this is
Mon Feb 23, 2015, 05:15 PM
Feb 2015

an incredibly pivotal time. This can be a turning point for good or bad.
Thankfully there is still part of the alternative media who are actually journalists, TRNN is outstanding.


Wellstone ruled

(34,661 posts)
6. Greece is only one flash point today,
Mon Feb 23, 2015, 06:26 PM
Feb 2015

next will be Spain and Ireland,which carry more debt than any other EU country. It is fact that when you suppress the Populace for any lenght of time,shit happens and it is not pretty. Greece by no means is quiet. Pitch Forks and Torches are about to reappear,it is in the DNA of Greeks to better there lot in life.

mother earth

(6,002 posts)
7. Absolutely, it will cause a domino effect. I had not known about the issues with France, but
Mon Feb 23, 2015, 06:59 PM
Feb 2015

our MSM offers very little coverage on this issue, no doubt for several reasons. He explains all of this very well, esp. with France's situation which no one speaks of, and with Podemos in Spain's election it seems whatever decision is made with Greece, the times they are a changing.


(12,977 posts)
5. It doesn't sound like the US is benefitting from this either
Mon Feb 23, 2015, 06:06 PM
Feb 2015

Paul Krugman keeps writing about this -- and he believes that Germany was so traumatized by the hyperinflation nearly a century ago that they can't see beyond it.

The result is that you have three situations. Germany which has a large trade surplus. The US that's letting its infrastructure go to hell and its working class die on the vine but doesn't have a debt problem because the dollar is still the reserve currency. And the rest of Europe, which has neither a trade surplus nor control of its own currency and is in deep shit.

But the question of whether the Germans are just being selfish and short-sighted or if some of them have a larger agenda to beggar the rest of Europe for their own benefit -- that's still open.

mother earth

(6,002 posts)
8. As to your last statement, apparently this is the belief in the Eurozone and this economist spells
Mon Feb 23, 2015, 07:09 PM
Feb 2015

out how it has been accomplished...this is nothing new under the sun, this is predatory capitalism...the larger agenda is simply greed, and neofeudalism...all roads point to these same evils.

Are the Germans being selfish, are we? These are the background political machinations of currency wars, imo. I just don't think there's much of a choice for Germany, but I had not realized these men are, as he describes them, radical conservatives. The madness is that they are insisting Greece pay its debt, while preventing them from doing so, wanting them in the EU, whilst giving them little option but to leave, of their accord or due to being ousted.

I wanted to be sure to add his background since his views were quite eye opening.

mother earth

(6,002 posts)
9. Here is Richard Wolff's run down of the situation, which confirms intentional dirty playing.
Mon Feb 23, 2015, 10:34 PM
Feb 2015

No surprise, but easier to understand with Wolff's explanation, along w/ a vast amount of other info.


And a link to 2/23/15 radio interview can be found here (TY to deutsey!!!)


Great info!!!

Latest Discussions»Retired Forums»Video & Multimedia»"Beggar Thy Neighbor...