George Pieler and Jens Laurson take issue with the French finance minister's claim that Germany's productivity is what ails Europe's economy. Writing in the Wall Street Journal they compare Germany with Maya the Bee. (Subscribers only, but you get the full article via Google News.)
Maya was a curious, busy bee, always buzzing from adventure to adventure. Her best friend, Willi, however, was less ambitious and had a more rotund physique. His catch phrase was the elongated, nasal cry: "Maya-don't fly quite so faaaaast."
We were reminded of the Willi character when French Finance Minister Christine Lagarde recently called on Germany to compete a bit less effectively. She argued that Germany's success in exporting goods and its high productivity supposedly puts undue pressure on the other European economies. Ms. Lagarde went so far as to suggest that higher German productivity, in part caused by restrained labor costs, might not be a "sustainable" model for the future.
Laurson and Pieler criticize the "concept of economics as a zero-sum game, i.e. France may only gain at Germany's expense" which "is so woefully outdated that one must wonder how Europe ever got as far is it did, economically. It utterly disregards the fact that competition doesn't weaken but strengthens economies."
It's good to see some support for Germany's economic policies at a time when Germany is criticized as the new bad boy and especially in the Wall Street Journal, which is rarely supportive. And it is quite sweet that Germany, formerly known as the "sick man of Europe" is now seen as the curious busy bee Maya, who's colors even represent the new coalition government of CDU (black) and FDB (yellow). Though, then again, the fable of Maya the Bee originally published in 1912 "lauds German nationalism. Maya represents the ideal citizen, and the beehive represents a well-organized militarist society," according to Wikipedia's know-it-alls. So maybe the comparison is not so charming after all.
Moreover, Laurson and Pieler agree with Finance Minister Lagarde regarding "one economic truth" and that is: "Germany should cut taxes. But it should do so for its own good, to promote more economic growth." Oh no, not again. Cutting taxes is the standard advice Germany got from America for decades, even though we have lowered plenty of taxes, especially of top earners, over the last twenty years. Such advice is neither helpful nor original and creative. As long as tax cuts lead to higher debts, it's not feasible. Higher taxes are needed to pay off the debt. Both Germany's finance minister and the federal president, who used to run the IMF, ruled out further substantial tax cuts. Furthermore, there is not much more to cut in government budgets.
Both the US and the Germany have a high level of debt that is not sustainable. More and more experts believe the US (and eventually the Eurozone) will tolerate high inflation and devaluation in order to deal with the debt crisis in the long run. Everybody who cares about the savings of the middle class should be concerned about that.
ENDNOTE: This is the 1111th post since this blog started more than five years ago. :-)