Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Vague 'lessons' from the German model

Steven Rattner's For. Aff. piece "The Secrets of Germany's Success," subtitled "What Europe's Manufacturing Powerhouse Can Teach America," purports to draw lessons for the U.S. from the recent German experience. However, with one exception, the lessons are so general that they don't require an appeal to the German example. Distilled from the end of the essay, the lessons are:

1. Exploit the U.S.'s comparative advantage (e.g. in entertainment, technology, and finance)

2. Improve technical training

3. Encourage new industries (e.g. alternative energy)

4. Foster an export orientation

The only "lesson" that draws with more specificity on Germany is that the U.S. "should work to ameliorate" high unemployment along the lines of what Gerhard Schröder did in 2005 with the Agenda 2010 program whereby the government agreed to cover a portion of the salaries lost when workers' hours were reduced, thus allowing firms to keep workers on rather than fire them. In return, unions agreed to moderate wage increases. In the current U.S. budget climate the idea, though perhaps a good one, is probably not transplantable.

But the piece is informative even if the "lessons" are a bit disappointing.

See also a recent blogpost by Charles Lane at WaPo (link to be added later).

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