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German hypocrisy

Summary:
On the eve of the Ukraine war, 55 percent of German gas came from Russia. There’s no question that quickly cutting off, or even greatly reducing, this gas flow would be painful. But multiple economic analyses … have found that the effects of drastically reducing gas imports from Russia would be far from catastrophic to Germany … As some readers may remember, early last decade much of southern Europe faced a crisis as lending dried up, sending interest rates on government debt soaring. German officials were quick to blame these countries for their own plight, insisting, with much moralizing, that they were in trouble because they had been fiscally irresponsible and now needed to pay the price … Germany took the lead in demanding that debtor nations impose extreme

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On the eve of the Ukraine war, 55 percent of German gas came from Russia.

German hypocrisyThere’s no question that quickly cutting off, or even greatly reducing, this gas flow would be painful. But multiple economic analyses … have found that the effects of drastically reducing gas imports from Russia would be far from catastrophic to Germany …

As some readers may remember, early last decade much of southern Europe faced a crisis as lending dried up, sending interest rates on government debt soaring. German officials were quick to blame these countries for their own plight, insisting, with much moralizing, that they were in trouble because they had been fiscally irresponsible and now needed to pay the price …

Germany took the lead in demanding that debtor nations impose extreme austerity measures, especially spending cuts, no matter how large the economic costs. And those costs were immense: Between 2009 and 2013 the Greek economy shrank by 21 percent while the unemployment rate rose to 27 percent.

But while Germany was willing to impose economic and social catastrophe on countries it claimed had been irresponsible in their borrowing, it has been unwilling to impose far smaller costs on itself despite the undeniable irresponsibility of its past energy policies.

I’m not sure how to quantify this, but my sense is that Germany received far more and clearer warning about its feckless reliance on Russian gas than Greece ever did about its pre-crisis borrowing. Yet it seems as if Germany’s famous eagerness to treat economic policy as a morality play applies only to other countries.

Paul Krugman

Lars Pålsson Syll
Professor at Malmö University. Primary research interest - the philosophy, history and methodology of economics.

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