Thursday, January 26, 2006

Rethinking Angie Merkel?

So the conventional wisdom was that Angela Merkel was not quite a Deutsch Maggie Thatcher. Hold off on that conclusion for now, I would say.

Here's Bret Stephens reporting on her keynote speech at Davos:

"Increasing freedom has always led to improvements in Germany," she said, citing the great free-market guru (and architcect of West Germany's postwar economic boom) Ludwig Erhard. She railed against the heavy hand of German bureaucracy on German innovation and entreprenuership. Computers were a German invention yet where, she asked, was the German equivalent to a Microsoft or a Google? She described German unemployment, which has hovered around 10% for more than a decade, as "terrifying." She was equally scathing of the political environment she's inherited. "We are paralysed by events and situations and don't seem to be able to overcome this," said Mrs. Merkel. "Each rule and regulation has a political lobby associated with it," she said, calling Germany's problems "self-inflicted."
On the solution side, Mrs. Merkel was clear in direction, if not in details. "We have to open the windows, breathe deeply the fresh air and see the opportunities rather than the risks and hazards," she said. Germany "must become more flexible, develop better benchmarking, become less rigid in its laws and above all tackle bureaucracy." She called for a "viable" tax system and reduced labor costs. She also urged free trade, lamenting the failure of the WTO talks in Hong Kong (thanks to French obstruction).


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