Writing in the New York Review of Books, Timothy Garton Ash poses The New German Question.
That question, Ash writes, is: "Can Europe’s most powerful country lead the way in building both a sustainable, internationally competitive eurozone and a strong, internationally credible European Union?"
Here's part of his answer:
The rhetoric of German policy remains sternly dogmatic, with German economics often sounding like a branch of moral philosophy, if not Protestant theology. [Chancellor Angela] Merkel, the daughter of an East German Protestant priest, once incautiously suggested that the southern European debtor countries must “atone for past sins.” The reality of Berlin’s policy, however, has been more pragmatic. For example, earlier this year it authorized state-controlled German banks to help create jobs for the unemployed youth of southern Europe. The chances of seeing more such constructive pragmatism, including wage increases that could stimulate German domestic demand, would certainly increase if the Social Democrats were to enter government, perhaps in a “grand coalition” with Merkel’s Christian Democrats.
But even if the country’s leaders are prepared to do whatever turns out to be necessary, can they take the German people with them? Germans are understandably preoccupied with the danger of having to pay with their own hard-earned wages and savings for other Europeans’ self-indulgent mistakes. I lose count of the number of times people say to me, “When outsiders ask us for leadership, what they mean is money.”