Thursday, January 4, 2018

Does Germany Have A Poland Problem?

Most definitely (hahahahahaha!).

Nobody seems to have picked up my coinage yet, but they are suddenly noticing the issue, although unable to label it. Just to be clear, having a "Poland problem" means that a nation's economy has become disconnected from its politics.  Thus Poland is the star transition economy that was the only nation in Europe not experience a decline in GDP in 2009, but its politics have gone sour with an authoritarian, populist, nationalist, and racist government taking control.

In today's Washington Post Charles Lane had a column focusing on Angela Merkel and Germany.  It is all about the irony that it has been this top performing economy (envied even by also good performing neighbor Poland), yet she has been unable to form a government, with a new far right wing anti-immigrant party entering parliament and blocking coalitions.  Title of column is "Actually, it's not (just) the economy, stupid."

He also, accurately in my view, says the problem is also in the US and other high income nations.  I shall post later about the US case, but, yes, the US has a Poland problem also.  I follow with two choice quotes from this column, noting that I am not usually all that impressed with Lane, but agree with him pretty much on this one.

"Germany's economy is the strongest in Europe and was even spared the worst of the 2008-2009 recession.  Yet a significant portion of its people, many more, apparently, than the traditional party system could absorb are angry just the same - about the influx of immigrants from the Middle East and Africa, about crime and violence, or about what Merkel called the "pace of contemporary life."  Now many are angry about the rise of the right.

Later in the column Lane actually quotes a famous line from Marx and Engels' Communist Manifesto:

"Everlasting uncertainty and agitation distinguish the bourgeois epoch from all earlier ones...All fixed, fast-frozen relations, with their train of ancient and venerable prejudices and opinions are swept away, all new-formed ones become antiquated before they can ossify.  All that is solid melts into air, all that is holy is profaned."

Addendum: 1/5/18: As it is, the good economic performance of Poland in 2009 is related to that of Germany at the same time, although Germany did actually go into recession, if not all that deep or long.  Poland had (and has) its own currency, the zloty, and a lot of what kept it having positive growth in 2009 was that it let thr value of the zloty fall, with it thus being able to export a lot to Germany.  But they have both ended up having the same problem, "ungrateful" citizens turning against governments that did better jobs of delivering the economic goods than their neighbors.

Barkley Rosser


Bruce Wilder said...

The presumption that Poland's economic performance has been (or should have been) satisfactory to the largest part of its population on the basis that a weak currency prevented a technical slide into recession almost a decade ago seems a strained supposition on which to base an assertion that a political turn toward authoritarianism is wholly perverse. Perhaps a somewhat more detailed inquiry into economic conditions and experience might be in order. said...

Go ahead, Bruce, tell us what is so bad about the Polish economy. Sorry, but what you are going to find is what I have said: it has done well compared to its neighboring transition economies. It is only comparing it to economies that have always been ahead of it in western Europe that it does not look so good. Not much there to chew on, and in fact the authoritarian Law and Justice party has not emphasized economic issues in its appeal to voters that much, rather it has emphasized extreme nationalism and social conservatism. There has been some appeal to economics, especially to expand aid to poor children. There certainly is ongoing inequality in Poland, although not worse than among neighbors.