I was riding north on the A5 towards Heidelberg, pushing it hard on the (mostly) no speed limit German highway. My only concern was that my luggage for the weekend would come loose and fly off as I was approaching speeds illegal anywhere else in the world and the wind force was brutal. Eventually I hit the speed limiter and had to slow down. No, not in the bike, but I lifted my head from behind the little screen and was not able to put it back down.
I live for the rush, adapting to the unknown.
Later, it started raining, so I stopped under an overpass to put my rain gear on.
I could get the sniff from the fields on both sides of the highway.
As I was waiting for the rain to let up I was thinking how Europe is a special please peopled with cultures as different as night and day. And there are no secrets in Europe, everyone’s noses are perennially in everyone else’s business.
Germany cannot hide how good they are, and that makes them a target. Its mere existence is interpreted by everyone as an existential threat.
The solution? Attack first, and they did it twice in the last century.
It needs to be understood that the European Union is able to exist because the United States keeps the European countries safe from both outside powers and one another. With Germany in the same currency zone as moribund economies, the price of the Euro is weaker than a purely German currency would have been. The exports exploded.
The problem with EU is that you have a single currency, but you don’t have a single economy.
Germany, for one, has this mercantilist view of the world that dates back to the eighteenth century. Lets make stuff, sell it to the rest of the world and bring the money back home. Germany never focused on developing the domestic market. The result is that even the EU statistics show the per capita worth of an Italian household on a net basis is higher than a German. The Germans are focused on international trade, which is nonsense, because it’s the domestic consumption that makes all the difference.
What’s more, remove the American security overwatch and the whole European thing comes crashing down. Then the Germans either need to massively deindustrialize so that their economy matches their current military power, or they need to massively re-arm so that their military can sustain their current economic power. Take a guess which way they will go.
And inaction is not an option, and the reason for it is the fact that as big as Germany is, the Germans will never enjoy a quantitative advantage over their collective competitors. They are located in the middle of North European Plane, with no mountains in the east and the west to provide natural protection.
Germany is a quirky place and I actually like it. 60% of their firms are not listed and kept private, which means that they can’t raise money in the stock market to operate - they need to go to a bank for a loan. Subsequently any swings in business environment have a magnified effect on their banking system. Now, you have a bank with the country’s name in it (Deutsche) on life support for the longest time and its stock price is in single digits. It sells at about 6 Euro a share as I write it, used to be about 120 just ten years ago. Sad story, this.
Going back to my weekend trip, the WIFI was working only in the reception area (in a four-star place) and they displayed a sign that telefax services are available around the clock. I was making my way to dinner when I saw it and I thought – did they just defrost you?
Tom Kubiak is the author of The Traveler