Can all European countries be like Germany?

Martin Wolf says no.  For instance:

But Germany can be Germany – an economy with fiscal discipline, feeble domestic demand and a huge export surplus – only because others are not.

To be sure, Greece is unlikely to end up as "like Germany."  But in this argument — which I'm seeing pop up in many places — I think there is a slight conflation between absolute and relative market shares.

Say that Portugal, Italy, and Greece were more like Germany, economically speaking that is.  Toss in Albania to make the contrast starker.  They would have higher productivity and higher output.  They would export more.  But with their higher wealth, they would import more too.  That includes more imports from Germany, most likely.  German *net exports* might well decline, as Germans buy more olive oil and high-powered computer software from Albania.  But German exports need not decline *on net* (over a longer run of continuing global growth they certainly will not decline) and that should prove good enough for the German model to sustain itself.

No economist thinks that being wealthy is a zero-sum game.  "Being like Germany" isn't exactly the same as being wealthy, but the German model succeeds (in large part) because of its high absolute level of exports.  "Net exports" is a zero-sum game at any single point in time, but when it comes to secular growth that's also not the variable which matters.

The bottom line is that people are blaming Germany (and China) a bit too much here.


Comments for this post are closed