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Germans Vote With Their Feet:

This article in the Independent (a left of center British paper) documents how high-achieving Germans are voting with their feet to escape their government's flawed economic policies (hat tip Instapundit):

For a nation that invented the term "guest worker" for its immigrant labourers, Germany is facing the sobering fact that record numbers of its own often highly-qualified citizens are fleeing the country to work abroad in the biggest mass exodus for 60 years.

Figures released by Germany's Federal Statistics Office showed that the number of Germans emigrating rose to 155,290 last year . . . which equalled levels last experienced in the 1940s during the chaotic aftermath of the Second World War....

Stephanie Wahl, of the Institute for Economics, based in Bonn, said that those who are leaving Germany are mostly highly motivated and well educated...

Fed up with comparatively poor job prospects at home - where unemployment is as high as 17 per cent in some regions - as well as high taxes and bureaucracy, thousands of Germans have upped sticks for Austria and Switzerland, or emigrated to the United States.

The article emphasizes the potential damage to Germany from this "brain drain," and it is indeed true that the German economy may be hurt by losing some of its more productive citizens. In the long run, however, this kind of voting with your feet might actually help Germany by giving the government stronger incentives to change its policies. A government faced with the prospect of losing a large part of its tax base has strong incentives to clean up its act. And, as I explained in this article, among others, foot voting has significant advantages over traditional ballot box voting because foot voters have better incentives to become well-informed about their options.

Not all is sweetness and light for the German emigrants, however:

Switzerland already has a resident German population of 170,000. Its presence has even provoked a xenophobic backlash in the country's tabloid press. Earlier this year, the Swiss newspaper Blick ran an anti-German campaign which spoke of a "German invasion" and quoted readers who claimed they found the German immigrants to be "arrogant and rude". Many immigrants, however, say the benefits of lower taxes and pay up to three times higher than at home far outweigh the occasional xenophobic outburst.

The Swiss backlash is ironic because German-speakers are the majority ethnic group in Switzerland already. I was a visiting scholar in Germany in 2004. While there certainly are some "arrogant and rude" Germans, on the whole I found the people to be extremely polite, friendly, and helpful - more so than in most of the other countries I have been to, Switzerland included. I am a great admirer of Switzerland and its political system (which is a model for the containment of ethnic conflict through federalism and limits on government power). Sadly, however, not even the the Swiss are immune to anti-foreign bias.

Henrik Mintis:
Can you imagine the hue and cry among European Elites if Americans had published a story where, say, Californians were quoted as calling Coloradans "arrogant and rude"? Not to mention calling them "immigrants" in the first place! I never ceased to be amazed how how the myth of Europe exists, let alone how it perpetuates. Imagine two groups of white northern European people can't even abide each other! this is the universal model for intellectualism, peace and tolerance??!! I'm going to be sick.
6.1.2007 7:44pm
ForestGirl:
I lived in Germany for one-third of my life, love it and would love to have stayed. But an internship I had following a Fulbright Fellowship paid 700 Euros a month and that was almost twice what the other interns (who represented 3/4 of the staff) were making. I gave up when I discovered that even if I could have landed a full time job, one of the employees with the same education as I have (Master's degree in landscape architecture) PLUS ten years of experience was making $20,000 a year. Yeah, that's something to look forward to.
6.1.2007 8:51pm
Eli Rabett (www):
Bet you most of them are coming from the east.
6.2.2007 12:45am
Truth Seeker:
Not everyone who left was voting. My wife came to the US in 2002 to be my intern and we fell in love and she stayed, we got married and had a son. She says she would have been better off in Germany as far as health care, salary, still being an actual lawyer, and not being considered an outsider because of her accent. But love conquered all that.
She also told me that:
•She saw a television story about the Germans in Switzerland and they are not all highly educated. Some are uneducated.
•Things were different (worse) when the Socialist party was in power
•Now the economy is much better even with the higher taxes they just instituted. It was expected that the higher taxes would hurt the economy but it is growing.
•Beginning with the soccor championship last year Germans feel they can be patriotic for the first time in 60 years. After the war it was considered evil to be patriotic, but for the first time since then people are not ashamed to fly the German flag.
6.2.2007 12:49am
ELBonline (mail):
You wrote,

"The Swiss backlash is ironic because German-speakers are the majority ethnic group in Switzerland already."

What you should have written was,

"The Swiss backlash is predictable because German-speakers are the majority ethnic group in Switzerland already."

Groups that are very similar, with differences that may seem trivial to outsiders but loom large for the groups, make the worst enemies. I think that's why civil wars are so vicious -- because the opponents are so much alike, they are vying to be the "true [insert name of group here]". Consider inter-muslim strife - I would bet far more muslims are killed by other muslims than anybody else. Less lethally, consider the Roman Catholic and Orthodox and Anglican splits.

I lived in Germany for almost seven years while stationed there with the military, and I noticed the rivalry between the Swiss and the Germans early on. One time one of German TV channels ran a program called "The Swiss Maker" (Der Schweizermacher, I think it was in German, altho I may have it misspelled). It made fun of the requirements Switzerland had for any foreigner who wanted to become a Swiss citizen. The Swiss were so angry about the program making fun of them that they lodged a diplomatic protest with Germany.

And that's not even the biggest rift - I was there when the Berlin wall came down, and you should have heard the "Wessies" (the West Germans) unkind comments about the "Ossies" (the East (Ost) Germans). There were a LOT of Wessies who thought reunification was a bad idea. In their view, West Germany had pulled itself out of the ashes of WWII by its own bootstraps and built a first class nation with a decent standard of living, unlike those lazy lunkheads over on the other side of the wall who hadn't even swept up the wrecked buildings from WWII yet. (I usually was diplomatic enough not to mumble things like "Marshall Plan" and "NATO" when a Wessie was on a roll about his eastern cousins.) I do think there was some truth to this tho - I think it has been very hard on (the former West) Germany to drag the eastern half up to standard. I always thought it was a devastating comment on communism/socialism when one looks at the different outcomes of West and East Germany.

As for Germans being rude: well, yes, by many others' standards. My landlords (I lived on the economy, not on a military base) were very charming people, and I generally got on well with the many Germans I met. However, several of my German friends confided to me that they thought Germans made the worst tourists, being rude and arrogant to people when visiting other countries. I lived close to the Dutch/Belgian/Luxembourg borders, and the folks there did not often have kind things to say about their German neighbors. I guess invading your neighbors twice in century and then trying to run the continent thru the EU banking system could be considered rude!

elb
6.2.2007 12:52am
ELBonline (mail):
Dang. Just realized I probably should have written "intra-muslim strife" rather than "inter-muslim". rats.

elb
6.2.2007 12:55am
Ilya Somin:
Bet you most of them are coming from the east.

Possible, but unlikely given that most of them are high earners.
6.2.2007 1:55am
Jeek:
The article emphasizes the potential damage to Germany from this "brain drain," and it is indeed true that the German economy may be hurt by losing some of its more productive citizens. In the long run, however, this kind of voting with your feet might actually help Germany by giving the government stronger incentives to change its policies. A government faced with the prospect of losing a large part of its tax base has strong incentives to clean up its act.

If the German government were this rational, why would it import 3 million culturally alien Third Worlders, a great many of them non-productive and poorly educated? It is not only allowing a lot of its best citizens to vote with their feet and leave, but allowing a lot of potential troublemakers to vote with their feet and arrive. Quite obviously, the German government does not respond to "incentives" in the same way that a rational individual would - nor should we expect it to.
6.2.2007 2:32am
microtherion (mail):
ELBonline, I find it hard to believe that the Swiss lodged a protest against "Die Schweizermacher", given that it's a Swiss made movie, and a very popular one at that.

Other than that, I agree. Swiss Germans are very intent on differentiating themselves from Germans. However, as a Swiss, I believe there are genuine differences in culture which make us see Germans as quite different from us. Furthermore, the German dialect we speak is not all that close to high German (the official, written, language).
6.2.2007 4:56am
PersonFromPorlock:

A government faced with the prospect of losing a large part of its tax base has strong incentives to clean up its act.

Nope. What it has is a strong incentive to (a) find somebody else to blame and (b) raise taxes.
6.2.2007 8:51am
Positroll (mail):
Swiss Germans are very intent on differentiating themselves from Germans.
Hey, the Swiss won their war of independance against Germany (i.e. the Holy Roman Empire) in 1499. Sure they don't want to be "reconquered", even peacefully ... Just imagine millions of English coming to the U.S., settling at the east coast, keeping their accent, getting lots of the best jobs (despite the impression one might get from mainstream media, the German education system still works quite well at least for the better half of the students) and jetting "home" now and then. I guess Americans wouldn't be too happy with that, either ...

While Germany looses lots of bright people every year, at the same time it attracts thousands of young and intelligent people from other EU countries, also due to the fact that university fees in Germany are extremely cheap and many Eastern European students stay after they got their degree ... The continued improvement of the German economy should alleviate most of the remaining problems in this respect.
Demographically, the more important problem for the German government is to increase the number of children in middle and upper class German families (todays monetary incentives mostly work for the poor and unemployed).
6.2.2007 12:35pm
Joshua:
Ilya Somin:A government faced with the prospect of losing a large part of its tax base has strong incentives to clean up its act.

PersonFromPorlock:Nope. What it has is a strong incentive to (a) find somebody else to blame and (b) raise taxes.

You forgot (c) build the equivalent of another Iron Curtain, this time stretched across Europe's entire coastline, to physically keep people from leaving. Don't think this sort of thing can't happen again, and don't be surprised if it does.
6.2.2007 5:11pm
Eli Rabett (www):
One of the joys of the internet is that in addition to those who know something about the situation which they right, there are a lot lot Jeek who think they do. There was a huge shortage of workers in Germany in the 60s and 70s which is how large numbers of yugoslavs of various flavors, spanish, greeks and turks ended up there. As economic conditions improved (e.g. their countries joined the EU and started to prosper, the greeks, spanish, croats, etc went home, leaving the turks. The latter started bringing their families. Integration of this group into German society is a subject of constant debate and little motion.

On top of that there was the wave of refugees from the Yugoslav wars and the usual influx of economic refugees in the 90s from Eastern Europe. They and the Turks function essentially in the same way as Mexicans do in the US as a large underground labor pool. However, the serious point is that black market laborers are a problem in a country where there are identity cards and you must (in theory) be registered to work which makes me less than optimistic about various immigration proposals in the US.
6.2.2007 5:40pm