1. Exquisite Tweets from @halvarflake

    PreoccupationsCollected by Preoccupations

    I visited the area of Germany that I grew up in yesterday and today. Best described as Germany's rustbelt, it used to be the social-democrats heartland. It is surprising how many former SPD-voters I spoke to that are now clearly leaning toward AfD. I had a longer chat ...

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    halvarflake

    halvarflake

    ... with a cabbie that fell into this category, and it was interesting to learn about his world-view. The structural beams of his political view seemed to be: (1) Individual nations have national interests, and economically "safe" people (e.g. people not caught on the wrong ...

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    halvarflake

    halvarflake

    ... side of Germany's widening inequality) do not have proper national feelings, because they can go elsewhere and find jobs. The people that cannot are the "true" bearers of the national interest, because they are stuck where they are.

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    halvarflake

    halvarflake

    This worldview is very similar to the "globalist" accusations of the right in the US - the narrative is that some detached cosmopolitan-capitalist-without-fatherland is forcing laws and regulations down the throats of hard-working people that still know what "nation" means.

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    halvarflake

    halvarflake

    Interestingly, he seemed to not consider that e.g. Europe's interest may also be in Germany's national interest.

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    halvarflake

    halvarflake

    There was bitterness about the decaying infrastructure, and the poor economic prospects, coupled with the (in his view) extreme willingness of the Merkel government to spend money on refugees.

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    halvarflake

    halvarflake

    The second beam of his worldview was (2) Germany is perceived by all others as having infinite financial means, so Germany is always asked to bail everybody out. Pay for the TARGET2 imbalances, lend everybody money. Italy and Greece should have never been allowed into the ...

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    halvarflake

    halvarflake

    ... Euro. When I pointed out the trade imbalances and how Germany benefits, he thought about them in typical German fashion as a virtue - "should a successful company tell their employees to work less efficiently to lessen the export surplus". This is an extremely common ...

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    halvarflake

    halvarflake

    ... misunderstanding when speaking about export surpluses in Germany -- German voters hear "export less" instead of "your wage restraint policies of the past 20 years were a failure, and you should get paid more so you can consume more". It is interesting how no German ...

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    halvarflake

    halvarflake

    ... party has the guts to publicly take the position of "a lot of the problems of the Eurozone AND of Germany could be solved if Germany stopped and reverted 20 years of real wage restraint". You would think that "solve the EU crisis, improve the economy, AND get paid more" ...

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    halvarflake

    halvarflake

    The third beam was (3) that the wave of immigration that the Merkel government unleashed will bankrupt the country; the social safety net cannot cope with the large influx of low-educated people, and the fact that nobody is German anymore will tear society apart.

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    halvarflake

    halvarflake

    He was astonished to learn that a large fraction of the kids on the street I grew up on were already Kurdish and Turkish 30 years ago when I grew up there; he seemed to have forgotten how multi-ethnic the region had always been (?). His biggest gripe on the immigration ...

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    halvarflake

    halvarflake

    ... question though was "not being asked", e.g. that the Merkel government had not even gotten a parliamentary vote on the topic. He was visibly of the (also relatively German) conviction that "who I vote for does not matter", and that German politics is entirely detached from...

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    halvarflake

    halvarflake

    ... democratic principles. This, btw, is an extremely common sentiment whenever I speak to people in Germany, particularly pronounced with former SPD voters: A lot of them are deeply disillusioned that they repeatedly voted for a party that espoused a set of policies that ...

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    halvarflake

    halvarflake

    ... it then never implemented or threw away once in power.

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    halvarflake

    halvarflake

    Anyhow, summary: The social democrats are in the process of losing a good chunk of their traditional electorate to the far right. The worldview that has been constructed throughout the years in Germany (Germany as the frugal industrious paymaster for a lazy world) is deeply ...

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    halvarflake

    halvarflake

    ... entrenched, and often quite irrational. The feeling of politics being detached and undemocratic is deep and strong.

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    halvarflake

    halvarflake

    The fascinating thing is that Germany has run consistent trade surpluses since 1993 or so, but my entire life from 1995 onward the German political discourse was dominated by a fear of "loss of competitiveness", and that the right way to run the economy is wage restraint ...

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    halvarflake

    halvarflake

    ... to run ever-greater trade surpluses. If loss of competitiveness had truly been an issue back then, the trade balance would have looked different. The belief that economic ills are best cured by "no salary hikes" and "export more" is a quasi-religious axiom, as is ...

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    halvarflake

    halvarflake

    ... an axiomatic moral belief that governments should not run deficits. The belief that "my personal economic struggle is best explained by other people always taking advantage of good, industrious Germany" is also almost an axiom.

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    halvarflake

    halvarflake

    I sometimes think it would be fascinating to send some social anthropologists into German economics departments and into German society. There are fascinating belief structures at work, and the national discourse is largely decoupled from the international discourse. </thread>

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    halvarflake

    halvarflake

    Just to be clear: He was articulate, intelligent, and I am thankful to have had the discussion with him - I think both him and me learnt a lot about each others worldview.

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    halvarflake

    halvarflake