We need to learn from a successful, grown-up, modern nation argues a new book by John Kampfnerby Matthew Qvortrup / October 6, 2020 / Leave a comment
Only a few years ago, David Cameron spoke about ID cards in a mock German accent. Back then, in the first decade of this century, Germany was still the butt of jokes. This has changed. Even Dominic Cummings—the PM’s top adviser—admires Otto von Bismarck. And Michael Gove reportedly attends the Wagner Festspiele in Bayreuth. It’s a good time to take a fresh look.
Too often studies on Germany highlight either its Wirtschaftswunder (economic miracle) or its high culture: classical music, the philosophy of Kant and Hegel and the poetry of Goethe. This book is different. Former New Statesman editor John Kampfner, who “fell in love” with the German language by listening to punk singer Nina Hagen, writes about the successful, grown-up, modern nation that has been led by Angela Merkel since 2005.
This is an account of a country that has pioneered progressive environmental policies, more women on company boards and an educational system that requires shop assistants to “undergo training that could last three years.” The book portrays a Germany that is in sharp contrast to the UK, where we are faced with “the bombast of the recently-elected prime minister.”
The praise for Germany is not unalloyed. Kampfner acknowledges that “the refugee influx has exacerbated the cultural divide” since 2015, and that “the economy has slowed.” But overall it is a well-argued case for learning from our German cousins. As Kampfner writes, “it is not easy to demonise a country which has been led for a decade and a half by a sturdy scientist from a nondescript small town.”
Why the Germans Do it Better is informed by German-language sources and an understanding of the most successful country in Europe. Though balanced, this book provides a persuasive case for a political system that has a preference for “langsam aber sicher… slow but sure.”
Why the Germans Do it Better: Notes from a Grown-Up Country by John Kampfner (Atlantic Books, £16.99)