The two countries I personally know best are the US and Germany. I was born here, grew up here, went to school here but I also studied in Germany and lived and worked there a total of 16 years completely ‘on the economy’ – i.e., I was not there with the US military.
I preface that to what I’m about to write because I often compare my experiences here before moving to Europe and since my return with my time in Germany.
I studied in Germany on a university exchange fellowship and a difference I immediately noticed between my university here and the Freie Universität Berlin was the seriousness of the students. Here I was in a fraternity whose primary focus was parties (and we had some great ones!), there I was among students who were completely focused on their subjects and seldom attended parties but often took research trips to learn from the real world rather than books.
Later, when I worked in Germany, for a public tv network (the ARD, much like the BBC or the French or Italian networks), I began to really learn about German society in depth (as opposed to what it looks like from the viewpoint of a student).
Several of my valuable takeaways from that time were the expression ‘wenn schon, denn schon’ – which, loosely translated, means ‘if you’re going to do it at all, do it right’ and the concept of the ‘Sozialmarktwirtschaft’ – the ‘social market economy’.
The ‘social market economy’ values the free market, values ‘economy’ – in both senses of the word – thrift and economic activity – and values the society this market is a part of. This is a critical point because Germans place a high value on their society which is, after all, their way of life.
One way to think of ‘social’ in this context is to think of Rousseau’s ‘the social contract’.
The German ‘social market economy’ concept means that the market does not exist just to make the rich richer but to benefit all in the society.
So…a long preamble to this article from Der Spiegel International (in English) about how US firms could not care less about the social market economy. They just want money, money, money and to hell with the people involved. Greed pure and simple.
Here’s an excerpt:
Amazon is playing according to its own rules, and thus finds itself in the best of company with numerous other US corporations that have difficulty accepting Germany’s so-called “social partnership,” which is the traditional relationship that exists between employees and employers.
In other words ‘no unions’ and ‘we’ll pay you what we want to and you’ll be happy with it’. You want to spend Christmas with your family? Find another job – if you can – but don’t be surprised if you can’t…we don’t like strikers.
Here’s the link: