This is Your Country on Socialism/ This is Your Country on Capitalism

Awesome pictures of East Berlin, before and after reunification.

Yeah, I know it’s not that cut and dried, but it’s not THAT far off.

I remember a lot of my German friends complaining about the burdens of absorbing the former East Germans into their more modern society. But eventually, they worked it out.

Now can they pull it off again with Greece and Spain and Portugal?

Via Vodkapundit.

  • mikeca

    East Germany was not a Socialist country. It was a Communist dictatorship and a satellite of the Soviet Union.

    And, yes, there were parts of East Germany that had still not been rebuilt from the damage during WW II.

    The terms “Socialism” and “Communism” seems to have lost all meaning in modern America. Obama is now a Socialist or Communist for enacting a health insurance reform plan that was developed by the Heritage Foundation and proposed by Republicans as a counter proposal to the Clinton plan.

  • fche

    “can they pull it off”? Perhaps if the PIIGS agreed to be annexed to Germany. Or were you thinking of Germans simply paying up?

  • jaymaster

    mikeca,

    Take your argument to wikipedia.

    “The German Democratic Republic …. known as East Germany (German: Ostdeutschland), was a socialist state established by the USSR in 1949….. ”

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/East_Germany

  • jaymaster

    fche,

    I think it’s essentially going to be a combination of both, unless they decide to scrap the whole union and go their separate ways.

    IMO, if the Europeans decide they want to keep an economic and currency union, then all countries will need to give up some sovereignty, and submit to some sort of federal type political union/government authority.

    Rock and a hard place.

    Or they muddle along and learn to live with the 20-30% of society that is locked in poverty…..

  • fruitylips

    Jay: It is important to remember that nothing that sucked was ever “socialist”. Any attempt to label it such is pure right wing noise machine spin.

  • Sigivald

    East Germany was not a Socialist country. It was a Communist dictatorship and a satellite of the Soviet Union.

    False, True, True.

    The problem here is the idea that “Communist dictatorship” means “not Socialist”.

    The USSR always called itself “socialist” with utter sincerity (Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, but not just in its name), and the Socialist organizations agreed, at least before Communism got its well-deserved bad name and they needed to pretend there was a difference.

    The idea that Communism is not a subset (or, less charitably, the natural end) of Socialism is a modern one, purely in reaction to how badly it worked out.

    It’s true that there are minority groups of non-Statist Socialists, but they never got to control the term’s use and have always been an (irrelevant) footnote, especially since the very idea is incoherent upon close examination.*

    (Were I at home, I’d dig out my history of the early years of the USSR to cite specific group memberships for the Communist Party, even pre-dating the Revolution, but a telling remnant of the era is the International Socialist Organization – who are hardline Trotskyite Communists, and yet utterly sincerely identify as “Socialist”.)

    (* Does it show that I’m not particularly sympathetic? A knowledge of history and philosophy does that to one, I find.)

  • http://www.deanesmay.com Dean Esmay

    Mike’s mostly right and you guys are mostly wrong. Here’s why. ;-)

    “Socialism” has come, like “feminism,” to have no fixed meaning. It is a Rorschach term that means whatever you want it to mean. You want proof of it? This very conversation. Here’s why:

    In any other context with a bunch of you guys (and I say this with all due respect), you would be referring to Germany as a case study in what is derisively referred to as “European-style socialism.”

    If there even is such a thing as “European-style socialism” (as if the economic systems in Italy, Germany, France, the UK, Spain, and Switzerland are all the same–which they aren’t), modern Germany IS a socialist country. You just posed a dichotomy, as if East Germany somehow went from “socialism” to “capitalism” when in most other contexs you’d still be calling it a socialist country.

    They have a much more extensive social safety net than we have. They have a much more generous education system than we have (no student loans, college tuition is paid for by the state). Trade unions flourish there in a way that’s almost unthinkable here. Corporate management faces legally-mandated salary caps. The tax rate on the rich is far more progressive. Unemployment insurance is much more generous. They have national health care, 100% of the population is covered by extensive medical insurance and no one ever pays more than tiny co-pays for medical services and no one ever goes bankrupt from medical bills (ever).

    If you are employed by a big company, you will almost certainly be joining a union, and a union representative will sit on the board of directors of that big corporation.

    Look at the laughable fact that supposedly trade unions are what destroyed the American auto industry, and workers at German auto companies in the US are not unionized–but they are in Germany, just like they are in Japan.

    Modern Germany is every nightmare you guys call “socialism.” And they are one the world’s economic powerhouses despite their tiny size compared to us.

    What East Germany helped prove was that Communism doesn’t work. What a unified Germany has proven is that capitalism harnessed by democratic policies that make sure it’s working to the benefit of all of society DOES WORK.

    I would do almost anything to have Germany’s medical system here in the US. Do you even know how they do it? Pretty simple really. All citizens are required by law to carry medical insurance. If you can’t afford it the government picks up the tab but you are strongly encouraged to get a job and pay for it yourself. There are a large number of private insurers. They just all operate under certain rules: they must not make a profit on basic medical services, they must charge all comers the same rate, and they must all offer the same minimum services. They still compete, but instead of competing for the most profits they compete essentially to stay alive: if people hate them, they drop them.

    Oh, and, did I mention that even though they have a life expectancy virtually identical to our own, and even though the majority of citizens express satisfaction with their quality of medical care, and even though 100% of the populace is covered and no one ever goes broke from medical bills, they spend about half per capita of what we do on medicine?

    You want to tell me that Germany is a great example of why Communism doesn’t work? I’m all with you. You know what else it is? A shining example of why American-style capitalism is badly fucked up and of how we could do it better if we stopped demonizing everything we didn’t like by calling it “socialism.”

    So there. ;-)

  • http://www.jaeddy.com John Eddy

    Dean: stopped reading your reply after the first sentence because I dislike being lectured and looked down upon. Scrolled down, saw the closing remark, and knew I’d made the right call.

    Just sayin’.

  • http://www.deanesmay.com Dean Esmay

    What else is modern Germany proof of? That the “slippery slope” of letting in a socialism leads us to Communism and tyranny is–not to put too fine a point on it–nonsense.

    Sigivald by the way is entirely correct that Communism was always a subset of Socialism. The real Socialists should just admit it, because it’s, ya know, true.

    Just as it would be reeeeeeal nice if we’d stop referring to Corporate Capitalism as “The Free Market,” as if it is the only type of free market there is, and it would further be very nice to acknowledge just how often Capitalists have brutalized, oppressed, and even killed people. Because they, ya know, actually have done that, and are still doing it some places.

    Would I rather live under modern American-style Corporate Capitalism than Communism? Yes! Communism was probably the most murderous and oppressive political system that ever existed in human history. But that doesn’t make our system all it could be, and Germany’s proof of that too.

    Modern “European style socialist” Germany’s got its problems. I have little doubt they will find solutions; they have a can-do attitude and a thriving and open intellectual culture. They almost certainly made a mistake with the whole EU experiment, but I have little doubt they’ll find a way to fix it one way or the other.

    In fact, I frankly wish we had their problems compared to our own. They have national debt headaches but not much worse than our own (it probably helps that they spend so much less per capita on health care than we do while still providing for 100% of the population). Even if they have higher unemployment at the moment, the state of being unemployed there is nowhere near as desperate and frightening as it is here. Free enterprise still thrives. Small businesses are still in business and even to some extent protected. They have free speech, free press, and free elections.

    They will find solutions to their problems, and so will we. But one benefit they appear to have is that they are not beset by millions of people who insist that the government is the natural enemy of the people.

  • http://www.deanesmay.com Dean Esmay

    John: So no one else in the conversation looked like they were lecturing but me? Interesting. Not seeing it.

    Shorter version: East Germany under unification is what many Americans derisively call “European style socialism,” which is supposed to be bad. Whoops.

  • http://www.jaeddy.com John Eddy

    East Germany was Germany as the Russians/Soviets preferred it: crippled, helpless and harmless to them. The unified Germany is unique to the EU in that it was the only nation divided by both sides. Despite its economic strength it bears the burden of propping up its more profligate neighbors or risks seeing the EU collapse under the weight of its promises of largess to the masses. Should that happen… well the consequences would be pretty ghastly so I doubt anyone will really let it come to that.

    This whole Capitalist Germany vs Socialist Germany is a side show distraction, nothing more. They can be as progressively enlightened as they like. If the EU goes down the ensuing unrest (read: war) will take them down with the rest.

  • http://www.deanesmay.com Dean Esmay

    Germans are undoubtedly deeply regretting ever letting go of the Deutsche Mark, and even the Europhile Brits are probably quietly saying “phew, glad we didn’t do that!”

    West Germany managed to absorb the entirety of Eastern Germany exchanging its once-valuable Deutsche Marks on a 1:1 parity level with the worthless East German coinage, and with a lot of work and tax money rebuilt half their country in barely a decade. It wasn’t just a marvel of capitalism, it was a marvel of government infrastructure and economic development helping bring a dead lifeless commie-socialist nation into the modern age.

    The idea that Europe will tumble into war strikes me as extremely unlikely. Even the most financially distressed of the EU countries is in too good a shape to make that very likely. The EU was based from day 1 on a flawed premise, that the only thing that would prevent war was European unity. Nonsense; that’s just another way of turning one form of war (international war) into civil war. What prevents warfare is democracy and a decent standard of living that turns out not to be very much money at all, a standard even the worst-off EU nations far exceed. War is extremely unlikely, unless it’s angry wars of words.

    Still, I doubt very much this economic hit will be harder on Germany than the economic hit of having to rebuild Eastern Germany. They managed that, they’ll manage this, although frankly I think the smartest thing they could do is get rid of the Euro, go back to the Deutsche Mark, and admit the whole EU thing was a dumb mistake. Alas, they probably won’t.

    But collapse? Nein.