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Germany's Modern Angst

Like many wealthy Western countries, Germany seems to be caught in a constant state of unease, despite all it has going for it. For that reason, the post-Merkel era is as likely to bring disruption as it is to preserve continuity with the recent past.

BERLIN – Germany’s new coalition government – its first in 16 years without Angela Merkel as chancellor – is its first ever comprising the Social Democrats, the Greens, and the Free Democrats. Given Germany’s status as the European Union’s largest member country (economically and demographically), this changing of the guard has understandably spurred global interest in the state of German politics and the country’s economy.

What holds together this country of some 83 million people (one in five of whom is a first- or second-generation immigrant), a nation-state that has essentially open borders with all nine of its neighbors and one of the world’s most open economies?

Being rich doesn’t hurt. Germany’s per capita income is well above the EU average (though its levels of poverty and income inequality have been slowly rising). As Merkel’s successful 2017 campaign slogan put it, Germany is “a country in which we live well and happily.” German political life so far has been spared from the ravages of Brexit-style magical thinking or American-style polarization.