Dienstag, August 31, 2010

An Uncomfortable Truth...

Thilo Sarrazin, a German politician (SPD) who is on the board of Germany's Central Bank (still around after the establishment of the European Central Bank for reasons too arcane to go into here). He's professionally trained as an economist (PhD Bonn 1973) and is in a world of trouble right now. The SPD is thinking of throwing him out of the party and the Bundesbank (the central bank) is under pressure to fire him.


Because he isn't afraid to rattle cages and point out some very, very unpleasant truths.

He recently wrote a book called ""Deutschland schafft sich ab", or "The Cancellation of Germany" (this is often translated as "Germany Abolishes Itself" or "Germany Is Doing Away With Itself", but those translations are, I think, clumsy).


This is a popular quote:

„Integration ist eine Leistung dessen, der sich integriert. Jemanden, der nichts tut, muss ich auch nicht anerkennen. Ich muss niemanden anerkennen, der vom Staat lebt, diesen Staat ablehnt, für die Ausbildung seiner Kinder nicht vernünftig sorgt und ständig neue kleine Kopftuchmädchen produziert."

My translation:

"Successful integration is the result of those who integrate. Anyone who does nothing (to integrate, ed.) deserves no recognition. I don't have to recognize anyone who lives off of the state, who rejects the state, who fails to ensure that their children become productive members of society, and who only produces new little girls wearing headscarves."

Provocative? Yep.

But not in any way different from what, say, Rush Limbaugh would say: he has the facts on his side and is in the process of goring the sacred calves of modern-day German liberalism, goring them beyond the ability of any veterinarian to save them.

While many have called for his head, there are dissenters who think that maybe the man has a point.

One of them is here. Unfortunately, it's only in German, but the article was written by a woman, muslim, with a doctorate in Sociology, who was used by Sarrazin as a reference in his book.

His fundamental thesis is that Germany is removing the basis for its success: demographic and societal factors that have led to the success of the German economy (and society!) are being dissolved, one by one, through political errors and mistakes that are leading to a different society than Germans realize. Not today, not tomorrow, but inevitably the pillars that support Germany's wealth creation and hence economic and political success are being undermined and destroyed, in some cases actively by those with agendas that do not match those of the German mainstream.

Fundamentally, the autochthone portion of the German population (meaning the "German" Germans) has too low a birth rate and that the German population is starting to decline. The non-Germans have a significantly higher birth rate, which leads to the population of those living in Germany (but not the Germans!) remaining relatively constant, but with problems.

Part of the problem is schooling: the schools with the smallest sized classes and the largest budgets are producing students with the lowest abilities and qualifications, a theme that, unsurprisingly, correlates with the US experience: the classic school system in Germany, for all its warts and problems, does produce kids with some great skills. Unless, of course, everything is watered down to meet low expectations for immigrant kids whose parents couldn't give a shit.

The other part of the problem, of course, is that the German birth rate is too low: while Germany provides support for families in the form of monthly subsidies for kids, etc., the core of the matter is that Germans have been having fewer and fewer kids not merely for a few years, but rather for over 100 years. It is the result of improved living conditions and the realization, for women, that when they do have kids, they are going to survive the first couple of years and that there is no need to have five or six kids in order to have two or three reach maturity. While obviously not true of all individuals, the tendency of wealthier societies to have fewer kids is normal.

So what is to be done?

Simple: immigration. It is the only real way to maintain the number of workers that Germany needs to continue its economy without decline. The problem? Current immigration laws prefer immigrants with relatively low qualifications, a remnant of the 1950s immigration policies during the "Wirtschaftswunder" when untrained factory workers were needed in large numbers because WW2 had decimated that cohort of workers in Germany.

Today? There are enough blue-collar workers because the industry has moved from blue-collar work to greater and greater value-added: this is also characteristic of developed economies and societies.

German immigration policy is broken: the facts speak volumes, with 65% of immigrants not willing to be integrated, with 15% of second-generation residents unable to speak German at all (and relatively few able to speak it like a native, i.e. without heavy accent and with proper grammar and vocabulary).

These are the uncomfortable truths. Sarrazin is under attack because he has the numbers on his side, the facts: his opponents aren't interested in facts, but rather in protecting the holy calves of their belief system. They are the ones doomed to failure, that now have a track record of 20 and more years of failure, that are sitting on the railroad tracks with their fingers in their ears, singing loudly so that they cannot hear the locomotive approaching.

What Sarrazin is saying is not racist, not populist, not derogatory and insulting. Unless you think that the truth will not make you free, of course.

The danger? Two-fold.

One: that Sarrazin's warnings will be dismissed out of hand and actively defamed. That is already happening.

Two: that Sarrazin's warnings will be taken out of context, abused by right-wing groups (Germany, of course, is particularly sensitive to this because of fairly recent history...) and outright racists and opportunists.

A sensible discussion could defuse this entirely. Of course, denying that there is a problem and denying that this is a topic that needs to be addressed makes the situation worse.

If you are not a part of the solution, you are part of the problem.

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