Germany’s Dr. Doom Speaks!

I hate to be a “downer” here at EuroSavant, but nonetheless feel an obligation (as explained below) to bring up recent alarming pronouncements about Germany’s immediate future made by a prominent economics professor there, Dr. Max Otte (full last name: “Otte van Ullstein”) of the University of Worms. The main coverage I found in Die Welt (Crash-guru demands vacation-ban for Germans, no by-line), although that article references and orients itself around a brief interview Prof. Otte recently gave to Berliner Kurier (The crash-professor prophesies: the crisis will hit us this hard), a Berlin-based tabloid.

You will have already noted that Prof. Otte’s usual epithet links him in some way with “crash,” and that is easily explained: he was already out of the blocks back in 2006 with dire prophecies of the economic troubles that awaited us all, delivered in his book Der Crash kommt (“The Crash is Coming,” with a revised version just out last February that adds the sub-title “The new world economic crisis and what you can do now”). So he’s the “go-to guy” when tabloid reporters, at least, are looking for expert commentary on the economic situation. It’s clear that he doesn’t mince words, either. An excerpt from the Berliner Kurier interview:

Q: What’s going to happen to Germany?

A: Soup-kitchens, homeless people under the bridges, tent-cities, travel- and driving-bans. That could all come to pass by autumn at the latest. Put quick-and-dirty: it will then hit us hard upside the head.

To which the interviewer (not named) promptly follows-up with “You can’t be serious!”

Ah, but Prof. Otte is serious indeed. And he has some cold-sober solutions to put forward as to what to do about all that. Abschöpfung und Einsparungen are his key motifs: skimming-off and economizing. “Economizing” is self-explanatory, while the “skimming-off” is what he has in mind for those still lucky enough to have jobs and thus incomes: since the State will be caught between decreased tax-revenues at one end and increasing demand for services at the other, it’s those folks still with cash who will have to give some more of it up, either to the State or directly for services they once took for granted would be freely provided.

Another idea: no more vacations allowed for Germans outside their own country! “Since Germans spend €40 billion per year traveling to foreign countries,” he declares, “that can be restricted through a travel-ban.” What’s more, as we read in the Die Welt article, that’s a fine idea according to the president of the German Tourism Association, Reinhard Meyer. Germany is a relatively large European country, with plenty of cultural and scenic variety, from beaches to mountains; as Meyer puts it, a travel-ban forcing those Germans who can still afford it to go find an interesting spot in their own country to go spend their vacations would contribute quite a lot to the Tourism Association’s on-going efforts to convince them to look there more for travel destinations on a routine basis, i.e. including in some future world when drastic measures like a travel-ban will hopefully not be needed anymore.

That’s an EU No-Go, Prof

Well, at least Prof. Otte does show a sliver of sense on the travel-ban issue, since after proposing it in his Berliner Kurier interview he adds the comment “Whether it would be doable politically, I venture to doubt.” That’s right, professor, it’s actually not doable: one of the core principles of the EU is “freedom of movement,” so that it’s both highly unlikely that any such ban could be enforced or that any efforts to put it into effect anyway would not be construed by Germany’s 26 fellow member-states as a glaring violation of both the European Union’s letter and spirit. Clearly, any such measure could only be regarded as a particularly blatant form of protectionism; retaliation in kind would soon follow, with the EU disintegrating shortly thereafter, and it’s even likely that the tourists coming in yearly to visit Germany exceed (both in sheer numbers and in money spent) those issuing out of Germany to visit other lands.

Frankly, the sheer outlandishness of this travel-ban idea – if expounded only in a Berlin tabloid that also, for example, regularly features a topless “girl of the day” (go ahead, if you’re so inclined; go back to the link I give to the interview and play around a bit with that URL) – would normally have moved me to give neither that nor the other premonitions-of-doom any mind. But it does come out of the mouth of an economics professor with a notable gift of gloomy prophecy – perhaps we could even call him Germany’s own Dr. Doom – and the respected paper Die Welt did decide to cover Prof. Otte’s pronouncements. So maybe things are going even worse there in Central Europe than we thought.

At least the good professor winds the interview up with somewhat of a silver lining. Don’t worry, these economic troubles won’t bring about revolution: “Germans don’t like to do revolutions. That’s my impression. Everyone will be too busy just trying to survive.”

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