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Berlin, a “Failed State”? Bureaucracy, Ideology, and Global Competition

By Russell A. Berman, TELOS

Wolfgang Reitzle is one of Germany’s premiere business executives, and Klaus Boldt, part of the editorial leadership of Die Welt, one of the foremost business journalists. The wide-ranging interview here points to the multiple dimensions of the problems facing Germany at the end of the Angela Merkel era. The general elections in late September are sure to lead to a new coalition government in Berlin—and a new chancellor—who will face all the problems that Reitzle diagnoses, with the possible exception of the pandemic, hopefully over by the fall, even in Europe. While the coronavirus’s economic, social, and political consequences are however sure to linger on, it figures here primarily as an example of massive government failure and the toxic mixture of bureaucracy, ideology, and incompetence that Reitzle denounces and that leads him to call Berlin “a failed state.”

Those are harsh words from a prominent leader of the German business community, especially when one recalls how in the U.S. political discussion in recent years Germany has been repeatedly held up as the better alternative to the Trump administration. Not long ago the myth of Angela Merkel as the new leader of the free world circulated through the press. That once-glowing imagery has now vanished in the face of the catastrophes of the German and the EU corona response, and the prospect of continued slow economic growth, fraying infrastructure, and insufficient support for technological innovation in the country where one would least expect it. Reitzle helps us understand why.

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