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In the discussion thread: Germany Explodes Republican Myth [View all]

Response to kpete (Original post)

Fri Dec 23, 2011, 07:06 AM

25. "Germany ... an economic model with more bottom-up worker control than that of any other country..."


In his latest book, "Were You Born on the Wrong Continent? How the European Model Can Help You Get a Life" (The New Press, 336 pages, $25.95) Geoghegan asks his readers if they really believe the propaganda that the U.S. is the greatest place to live on earth, balancing job security, health care, life expectancy and time off for good behavior to have some fun.

His conclusion, based on five trips where he tries to understand so-called European socialism firsthand, is that we're not the best place for middle-class people. First he tries France (which has become a rhetorical stand-in for the continent as a whole in many Americans' minds), but he eventually ventures into Germany to see what some call the "boring" Europe. He says the French model is flawed because workers don't have the advantages of Germans, with a say in the company's future, and are constantly striking. Germans, with their powerful unions, rarely go on strikes because they have a real voice in their employment.

In Germany, Geoghegan finds the true "other"—an economic model with more bottom-up worker control than that of any other country in the world
— and argues that, while we have to take Germany’s problems seriously, we also have to look seriously at how much it has achieved. Social democracy may let us live nicer lives; it also may be the only way to be globally competitive. His anecdotal book helps us understand why the European model, contrary to popular neoliberal wisdom, may thrive well into the twenty-first century without compromising its citizens' ease of living — and be the best example for the United States to follow.

OK, some facts about Germany, the largest economy by far in the European Union and the fourth largest in the world, measured by gross domestic product per person (GDP), with a thriving export-oriented manufacturing sector -- like the kind we used to have when we manufactured goods that were desired around the world.

Germany, with 83 million people and few natural resources, is the world's second largest exporter, with $1.170 trillion exported in 2009. You know who is the largest exporter and it ain't us. Hint: It begins with C and ends in A. and has more than 1.3 billion residents. Germany's service sector contributes about 70 percent of the total GDP of Germany, with industry another 29.1 percent and agriculture less than 1 percent. Most of the country's exports are in engineering, automobiles, machinery, metals and chemicals. Germany is the world's leading producer of wind turbines and solar power technology.

Geoghegan tells us that the average number of paid vacation days in the U.S. is 13, compared with Germany’s 35. New mothers in the U.S. get three months of unpaid job-protected leave and only if they work for a company of 50 or more employees, while Germany mandates four months’ paid leave and will pay parents 67% of their salary to stay home for up to 14 months to care for a newborn. U.S. life expectancy is 50th in the world, compared to Germany’s 32nd.

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