My annual assessment of the intellectual and economic
proximity between both the United States and Europe indicates ongoing
disenchantment and a growing psychic distance from each other. Conditions have
changed not all for the better, perhaps because of the thriving growth of
socialist thinking. The public preference given to the group over the
individual is dangerous to the quality of life in both regions.
England used to stand out for the
views and perspectives by its educated experts on money and markets. Now they
don’t know and don’t care. New announcements and shifts are just shrugged off
or, worse yet, ignored. Refusing to think or getting involved is the equivalent
of Sokrates’ poisoned hemlock cup – because conditions will not improve by
British institutions which label
themselves as European need to re-think their position as to its meaning in
times of Brexit. Prime Minister Johnson
may not defuse conflicts and polarization. How to help ship captains make a
choice between the drowning migrants and personal jail time for their rescue?
Are we all in the same boat? Even in theatre performances the audience and
troupe performances have lost their traditional bite.
Germany has a whole set of growing
problems. I am not referring to the physical tremors of Chancellor Merkel. When
standing is a problem she can sit. In the U.S., President Roosevelt served
the country despite difficult illnesses, for more than three terms.
But I am concerned about the diminution of German
ability to rely on its traditional strengths. When German intellectuals talk
about U.S. policies there is very little well-formed reasoning, or even desire
for input and learning. Rather, flash judgements and condemnations are made,
remindful of the checking of boxes.
When the official airplanes of both the chancellor and
the president repeatedly either can’t fly or must return to land right after
takeoff, then the motto of “advancement through technology “does not fare very
well. Misleading public information on air contamination by car diesel engines
is a shameful event. Failed technology to measure societal impact of
government action is wasteful and inefficient. Expropriation of rental
property owners will do little to increase the housing stock.
Increasingly, a sense of proportion
and morality is missing. Take the case of Gustl Mollath who, was wrongfully
placed in a psychiatric ward for more than seven years after complaining about
banking irregularities. Now, government offers him a paltry compensation
of less than $ 200,000. At the same time, the Deutsche Bank, provides publicly
more than $ 10 million for ineffective managers to depart, and we don’t yet
know about any additional hidden support.
The Nordic countries have lots of
goods available but few of them are thrilling. The food offered, for
example, was surely healthy, but not appetizing. Drinks were hard to get, even
at events where conviviality was the objective, not a byproduct. Big praise to
the person who found and handed in my disappeared wallet. Thank you, Gary, from
the West Coast!
European country governments regulate many things,
issues and interactions, a form of localized socialism I suppose. But it means
fewer and quite expensive taxis, no Ubers, little adjustment to changing
conditions. New government thinking stresses more taxes. France, for example,
tries to impose a new 3% tax on large digital companies.
Italy still has very good wines and beautiful bridges
from Roman days, but roads are decaying, and modern bridges are crumbling.
Speed and parsimony cannot be the only criterion for quality public projects.
Modes of transport appear to be routinely under strike during times of heavy
use. Austrian government leaders are caught on tape offering the wholesale
transfer of government contracts.
People seem content but not driven or forward oriented.
Many tasks are either left unfulfilled or waiting for foreign hands, which the
both the public and the private sector appear to encourage.
Overarching governing by the European Union seems to be often haphazard, contradicting the desires of the citizens affected. Leadership selection often brings on candidates which govern in spite, not because of themselves. Will the new team of Ursula von der Leyen make its mark with a reduction of regulation? All in all, it’s great to be exposed to history, and remember the British Pound as world currency, Greek and Roma palazzo’s, Marie Antoinette’s cakes, and the Viking battles.. But for now, innovation, change and a forward-looking perspective give good future odds to America.
Prof. Czinkota (firstname.lastname@example.org) teaches
International Business at Georgetown University and the University of Kent. His
latest book is ‘In Search For The Soul Of International Business’, 2019, New
York, Business Expert Press