The Different Flavors of German Collectivism

The elections in the Saarland offered some solace to opponents of Gerhard Schroeder, but they were also a little disturbing. The Social Democrats continued their slide, but not for the best of reasons: some voters clearly abandoned them because they have been pushing very modest reductions in the German state’s labor market interventions and “social welfare” programs. The biggest winners were the nationalist and authentically creepy National Democratic Party, which drew 4 percent of the vote, a percentage that was, fortunately, below the 5 percent that would qualify them for representation in the legislature. The National Democrats had campaigned hard against reductions in the state’s interventions into labor markets (“job protections” that have managed to keep millions unemployed) and welfare benefits. Committed welfare-state supporters thus jumped from the Socialists to the neo-fascists, just as so many French Communist and Socialist voters shifted their votes to the National Front. (The good news was that the Free Democrats jumped above the 5 percent line and the Christian Democrats also increased their share of the vote by a small amount.) Let’s just hope that the German conservatives (CDU/CSU) don’t pile on and attack the Socialists for cutting back (however modestly) the welfare state. The current system is unsustainable and even the Socialists know it. The conservatives should be supporting the cuts and demanding more.

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