Why Germany Is So Bad Economically – An Open Letter To The President
Dear Mr. Trump,
I am just some German guy. My English needs enhancement, so I guess we two are on par with that.
But now you went traveling abroad. You have seen places you hardly know anything about. You had to speak to some of the world’s leaders about things you hardly know anything about. You danced with the Saudi’s sabers, sold them lots of more modern ones, while your wife palavered to the same round on female leadership – which decidedly does not exist in that country.
You campaigned as a businessman and claimed exactly this quality was needed to run the White House properly. While shoving yourself and others around on the international stage it turns out, this is a field you equally have trouble getting a grasp on. Please let me help out with a few basics on how the economy works in a language we can easily understand.
Several times in the past, you mentioned Germany as playing an unfair game in the world’s economy. In your inimitable style and only a few weeks into your new office you posed the following question to a baffled public: „Why don’t Germans drive more Chevies?“ I know that millions and millions of Germans startle from sleep each night asking that same question: „Why don’t I drive more Chevies?“ Just to quickly drowse away again, thinking to themselves: „Well, maybe I’ll drive a few of them tomorrow.“
Honestly, I know many, many Germans who wish for nothing more but to finally get behind the wheel of a Chevy. It’s not because they look cool or because their screws and parts are metric. It’s not because they have a record for being safer than German cars or being well-engineered. It’s not because of their fuel-efficiency or excellent ride on steep mountain-slopes and the Autobahn. It’s not because they last long. It’s simply because, well, it’s a Chevy. In part, it’s also due to simple admiration. After all, Mr. Trump, you certainly drive a Chevy, don’t you?
Now you say: „Germany is bad, very bad.“ We hear you.
Let me be perfectly clear: We, the German people, openly apologize for selling you so many („millions and millions”) of Mercedes, Audis, BMWs and VeeDubs. This was not our intention. We only have businesses to run. And boy, don’t we both love a well-run business?
And there are other considerations as well when we buy something. Let me put it this way. The Chinese invented the noodle ages ago. They have some reputation when it comes to noodles. Then the Italians imported the noodle, did some interesting things with it and created an entire cosmos of pasta. When we think of some of the world’s best cuisine we think of China and Italy. Both countries instantly come to mind, when it comes to the noodle.
Centuries have passed, and now we also think of China, when it comes to excellent craftsmanship. That’s why Apple turns to China when they want their iPhones assembled precisely. That’s why German manufacturers of specialized outdoor apparel work with Chinese factories to get their materials and seems perfect and on spec.
The German economy and most of its society is perfectly fine with that. Unemployment hits a record low, while income per capita in China is record high. Nobody loses. It’s called a win-win-situation.
What we are also pretty fine with is education. That’s what makes German engineering so bad. Quite a lot of Germans think they could even do better on education’s behalf.
You don’t like education so much. That’s why you let Betsy DeVos run that Department. That’s why you would rather reanimate coal and the Rust Belt and its dinosaur technology.
In short, this is how countries sell: They have stuff. It’s huge. People love it. They buy it. Everybody wins.
In the future of the United States, very few will win. Many, many will lose. You are working hard on turning yourself into a big-time loser. Who would have known. One day they’ll tell you all about it on Fox News.
We used to buy phones from Nokia. They started off doing rubber boots. I don’t know if we bought a lot of those. But once they started making phones, this Norwegian company really had things going for them.
Nobody said we had to, but all of a sudden, all the world was buying Norwegian phones. During that time I also bought a Sony and a German mobile from Siemens. Like so many others, in the end I settled for a Nokia. I thought they were coolest.
Nobody set up a deal for Norway. They just had something going for it.
Then Apple came along and reinvented the whole thing, it was no longer just a phone, and the world never looked back. Sometimes, when America comes along with a very clever idea, sometimes it’s huge, people love it, they are happy to buy it, everybody wins.
In 1885 Carl Benz invented the car. It seems millions and millions of people around the world still like German cars.
Unlike many American builds they do not wobble to a halt at the traffic light or screech around corners (except in movies). They are engineered to be handled with exacting precision. We trust cars from other European makers and from Japan and Korea to behave similarly. We imagine, a Tesla will. That’s a good thing.
With you being unaware of the fact that many, many BMWs that sell around the world and in the United States are manufactured in the United States, let me tell you that they are. In Spartanburg, South Carolina, thousands and thousands of employees (8.000) are building the X-Series. Yes, all of the series. It’s huge.
I don’t mean to put you off, but what they are practicing there ist based on this German thing called dual-tier education. It’s really complicated. They send their people to college, and they also let them do some practical stuff. It’s all mixed up. Nobody understands it, it’s that complicated. But in spite of all this education mumbo-jumbo, this plant is actually America’s number one car-exporter.
It may be advisable that the chassis they make be replaced by rust, and that the engines run on coal. But there’s no telling yet. And with all this education going on in Spartanburg, they may never find out.
Until then, this is the state of affairs in Spartanburg, South Carolina: They have stuff. It’s huge. People love it. Germans buy it. Everybody wins.
You can read other stuff by this author in German here.
(Rest assured, I am in no way associated with any of the above mentioned brands whatsoever. I am just a creative director who never would have thought he would take sides on the car makers industry.)