In July of 1914, Germany was presented with an unpalatable historic choice: whether to force its only ally, Austria, to back down in the face of intolerable provocation by nasty little Serbia; or, to enter into a fight-to-the-death against Russia, France and Britain. To choose the former would send the signal that the Central Powers lacked the will or the means to defend their legitimate rights; to choose the latter was to risk a prolonged bloody war and vast unforeseen consequences. Having to choose between honor and dishonor, Germany chose honor, and paid a very heavy price.
A century later, Germany is faced with another Hobson’s choice: whether to jeopardize everything that she has achieved since the war in terms of wealth, prosperity and sound money by handing over her credit card to the eurozone; or, to stand by and watch as the eurozone collapses into chaos.
I do not envy the German people that choice. As bystanders, we should hope that Germany “does the sporting thing” and hands over its credit card. This would prevent a global depression (with unforeseen consequences). It would be costly and humiliating for Germany, but we would all would be better off in the end.
But to argue that the Germans should be good citizens and just write the blank check ignores a century of German history. Germany did not have an enjoyable first half of the 20th century. In 1945 she found herself in a pile of rubble, dismembered by the victorious powers, deeply humiliated, roundly hated by everyone, and indeed widely viewed as a criminal nation.