Germany is in election mode – although Neal Ascherson makes the point in the current LRB that
Europe and the euro crisis scarcely figure in this election campaign. Listening to the speeches or reading the manifestos, you would never guess that boys and girls in other countries are charging water cannon and raving about German neo-imperialism, or burning pictures of Merkel as the destroyer of Europe. There is some heavy cliché about wanting ‘a European Germany, not a German Europe’. But where are the positive ideas about how German economic strength might relieve nations swamped by debt? The turmoil seems a long way off.
Those who are aware of how hated Germany has become in parts of Southern Europe feel merely pained, misunderstood. The self-image of Germany as a bewildered, kindly nation, helpless to defend itself against greedy neighbours, dies hard. It was lent credibility a few weeks ago by an eccentric European Central Bank report which asserted that – in terms of ‘per household property’ – the Germans were among the poorest in the Eurozone, with an average wealth of €51,000 – less than the Slovaks and far less than a Greek or Cypriot household. This morally comforting estimate was soon rubbished; it ignored family income, which puts the Germans near the top of the league, and crudely set bank wealth against population (billions in septic bank holdings divided by the total number of Cypriot households equals €267,000, equals meaningless).
And yet, beyond the nonsense, the report implied some interesting things about German political psychology. People still prefer to rent rather than to own their homes, a contrast to post-Communist nations in the Eurozone where public housing was sold off to its tenants. The Germans tend to put their money into local savings banks (Sparkassen) at low but secure interest, rather than buy real estate or invest in the stock market. Thrift and caution are still hard-wired into society. ……..