I read an interesting article in Time today about Germany and the economic powerhouse it has become. Their exports are high, unemployment is down to 6.9% and their GDP rose 3.6% in 2010. They have recovered from the economic recession that swallowed Europe and their future is bright.
What bothered me in the article was the view taken by the rest of Europe, complaining that Germany was leaving them behind and not being a “team player”. One Belgian academic was quoted as saying “Germany is moving ahead, but what are they doing for the rest of Europe?” (this in the same article that cites how, concomitant with its own growth, Germany has increased its imports from the rest of Europe, thereby helping their economies quite nicely). The article also juxtaposes Germany’s austerity measures this past decade with the profligate debt-spending of its neighbors. As the article says “While other Europeans were gorging on debt, giving themselves fat pay raises and building too many houses, Germans were fixing their economy”. And now, these same nations are complaining about how unfair it is that Germany’s restraint and commitment to self-control, hard work, quality products and keeping industrial manufacture domestic instead of shipping it overseas are allowing it to reap benefits that they are (gasp!) keeping for themselves.
There’s something very unlovable about whiners with an entitlement mentality. Whether we’re talking about nations or individuals, I don’t really feel much sympathy for those whose bad circumstances are a direct result of their own irresponsibility and bad choices. And these same people would rather tear down their successful neighbors than admit they are in a pit they dug for themselves.
I have applauded Atlas Shrugged on this blog before, sometimes to the dismay of some IC readers, including one who said he “couldn’t think of a more un-Catholic book” than Rand’s famous novel. But un-Catholic though it may seem, its essential themes of personal responsibility and the unintended consequences of forced altruism are critical for our nation and our world to understand. Socio-economic policy that enables sloth, rewards bad judgment and tears down the rich in pursuit of equal outcomes is what is truly “unfair”. The current disparity between Germany and its neighbors is one example on a macro scale, but we see it all the time on a more personal scale in the “compassion” we are forced to feel for those who used to be called ‘the undeserving poor’, and the calls for increasingly punitive tax policies that take more and more from the productive rich and middle class to give more benefits to the poor. Hence the growth of both the Tea Party and the libertarian wing of the GOP.
So bring on the upcoming movie of Atlas Shrugged, since it will reach a segment of the population daunted by the book. If it keeps true to the story, it might just be what America needs as we shamble towards socialism – a reminder that actions have consequences, that equal economic outcomes are neither possible nor desirable, and that America’s prosperity depends on our right to keep what we legitimately earn in a free society.