Thursday, June 4, 2009

Ah, that Germany...

A few days ago, Steve Coll of the New Yorker feigned ignorance of the term "de-globalization" to summarize what it may mean. Basically, de-globalization means a return to local products. It has long been discussed (at least this century) in peak-oil circles as the result of rising energy prices: it will become cheaper to eat locally grown food than ship in produce from New Zealand during the summer there, etc. iPods will be replaced by real instruments, and videos games will give way to board games (think: domino). Some see it as a return to the 19th century, but with LED lighting and well insulated homes. Check out the Powerdown people for more.

But Coll does not use such pertinent examples. Because Coll was apparently in Germany at the time, he uses the unfortunate example of DaimlerChrysler:

Stuttgart has returned to a Daimler that, while still a global corporation, is more purely and proudly German. That would, of course, be the same company that made engines for Nazi bombers during the Second World War. We can hope that this is not the kind of de-globalization that Bill Gross has in mind. I don’t mean that there is any danger that Germany would remilitarize or again threaten European peace; that is inconceivable for at least a generation. I do mean that one form of de-globalization may involve the reseeding of militant and “branded” nationalism worldwide—and not only in corporate competition.

This passage is so wrong, I hardly know where to start. First, Stuttgart did not return to Daimler because it wanted a pure, proud German firm. It dropped Chrysler because the US firm was (and is) a basket case. And for peace's sake - when are Americans going to get over their knee-jerk reactions pertaining to 12 years of German history? Of course Daimler served Nazi Germany. Renault made tanks for France, and the Hummer is a GM product. What else is new? And yea, Steve, it is inconceivable for Germany to remilitarize within at least a generation. Now let's get back to the real culprits: the US roughly outspends the entire rest of the world (and has done so since the end of the Cold War) and outspends Germany 14 times.

Finally, if Steve wants to find nationalism, he need not come to Stuttgart. US renewables policies (at the state level) consistently consider or include minimum requirements for domestic products - in clear violation of international free-trade schemes the US claims to support. Germany's EEG has never had any separate payment or requirements for domestic goods, and I have never heard anyone demand such.

All in all, Coll's assessment is totally unfair - and 100% American.

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