Celebrating the German Model

Princeton -- If anyone wanted evidence that we are not in the mental and political world of the interwar Great Depression, the German election result and its outcome – a stable government of the center-right - should be a clincher.  In interwar Germany, the Depression destroyed German democracy and led to the rise to power of Hitler and the National Socialists; in today’s Germany, the most severe economic crisis since the Second World War produced the reelection of Frau Merkel.

Conventional wisdom claims that incumbent parties and politicians are punished by voters in times of economic distress.  Throughout the campaign there was never any doubt about the position or tpopularity of Chancellor Angela Merkel. 

The interwar Depression led to the disintegration of liberal economic and political values.  In Germany in 2009 not only was there was no swing to political extremism of the right: there was no sign of any support for a radical right.  In the elections for regional parliaments, the small radical right parties (which have never been a feature of national politics) simply disappeared. 

The real victor of the campaign, with a vote that jumped up to 14.5% and a position in parliament that will determine the shape of the new coalition government, was the heir of classic German liberalism, the FDP.  It campaigned on a promise of tax reduction and of deregulation in order to stimulate the economic growth that Germany needs to get out of the economic crisis.