The Radical Reign of Angela Merkel
Reconsidering the chancellor's legacy as she prepares to depart the political stage.
Maria Ladenburger was a 19-year-old medical student whose body was found in the river Dreisam in Germany in 2016. She had been raped and strangled with a scarf. The murderer had lied about his age and ethnicity as he entered Germany. He had lied the same way when he had entered Greece a few years before, where he had gotten a 10 year sentence after he robbed a 20-year-old girl and then threw her off a cliff. A year and a half into his sentence, a new left-wing government in Greece granted a general clemency, and so Hussein Khavari was released and made his way to Germany.
At every brutal turn, Khavari benefited from an immigration system that operates with one goal, to maximize immigration numbers in every possible way. He was permitted to apply for asylum in Greece, although he made it there from a safe country. Nothing of what he claimed was seriously investigated. After he committed a crime, he was never deported. As he moved to Germany, the same immigration maximization process was applied.
During the chancellorship of Angela Merkel, open borders changed from a tacit policy to a moral crusade. In 2015, as the left-wing government in Greece decided to do away with the last few impediments for entering the country, a new wave of immigration to Europe was generated. As these people started to spread around the continent, Merkel went public, making it known that there would be “no limit” to the amount of immigrants that German government would let in. “As a strong, economically healthy country we have the strength to do what is necessary,” she declared.
The wave of immigration caused by the welcoming actions of the Greek government was transformed into a tsunami by the “no limits” policy of Angela Merkel. More than a million immigrants poured into Germany in 2015 alone. Neither Merkel, her nominal opposition, nor the German media ever attempted to examine how it all had started. Nobody was really interested in who was coming and where they were from. Nobody seemed to notice the “refugees” happened to be disproportionately men, especially young men.
All the inconvenient facts were erased from the media reports. In photographs, the close ups are of small children and women. The long shots are distant enough to hide the hordes of men. Carefully chosen, heart melting stories were told of families torn apart by war, although looking close at who was entering would reveal the shockingly low number of families, women, children, and elderly. Nevertheless, Merkel carried on. She was lauded by the media for doing so. Time selected her as the person of the year: “Angela Merkel, The Chancellor of the World.” “Germany stands as a bulwark for decency and stability,” declared John Kampfner, a journalist for the Financial Times and BBC. Roger Cohen in the New York Timesopined that “she is knitting together the united country with prudence.”
But it was the German press that had to do the heavy lifting. A study commissioned by the German engineering trade union IG Metall’s Otto-Brenner Foundation, “analyzed more than 35,000 articles published at the height of the refugee crisis in 2015 and early 2016 (a period of around 20 weeks).” The report found that journalists:
uncritically took on the government’s agenda, and almost exclusively presented “elite opinions.” Two-thirds of interviews were with people linked to the government. Opposition politicians, on the other hand, particularly members of the left-wing Die Linke and the right-wing populist Alternative für Deutschland, were rarely quoted. There was much focus on the plight of refugees, with many articles written in an emotionally “involved” style.
Merkel decided on her own to radically transform German society. It was not a question that was put up for debate. Either you were with the program or you were dismissed, associated with the most infamous period of German history. Since 2013, Merkel governed with the Social Democratic Party; it was a coalition necessitated by election results but it also demonstrated how philosophically uniform the German political elite is. The “acceptable” political parties in Germany do not so much represent the people of Germany, but rather the different hues and factions of the country’s managers. Merkel could publicly and unilaterally adopt a policy of open borders because that policy was anything but radical for the monolithic political class. The media, imbued with the same values, considered it their duty to sell to the public the open borders policy.
Another important issue for Angela Merkel is climate change. As floods devastated Germany in mid-July this year, Merkel reiterated her message about the need for action. “We have to hurry, we have to get faster in the fight against climate change” she stated as she surveyed a shattered area. Characteristically, the media echoed the same message, for instance Der Spiegel, Germany’s and Europe’s biggest news magazine, preached that “the issues at stake could hardly be greater: Most importantly, the climate crisis – and the question of how humanity can keep the planet habitable–demands answers.” But as the scientist Steven Koonin noted in the Wall Street Journal, “floods in Europe and China and record temperatures across regions of the U.S. are weather, not climate—singular events, not decades long trends. Both Europe and China have experienced equally devastating floods in past centuries, but these are forgotten or deliberately ignored.”
The focus on climate change is rather convenient for Merkel, considering the failure of the flood alert system. A Guardian report posited that there were “questions raised over lack of warning as death toll passes 150 and villages are left without drinking water, power or gas.” Hannah Cloke, a hydrologist who helped set up and advises the European flood awareness system, told Politico the death toll was “a monumental failure of the system.”
Unable to perform basic functions of government, the political class Merkel represents focuses instead on pet ideas and projects to increase its spending power and influence on the private economy. Germans pay 247 percent more per kilowatt hour than the Americans in order to finance the green dreams of their political class. Germany’s energy transformation policy, known as Energiewende, is riddled with inefficiencies, waste, and opacity.
Writes the Clean Energy Wire: “Germany’s Federal Court of Auditors (BRH) has repeatedly criticised the government for failing to come up with an overview of expenses associated with the Energiewende, such as the renewables levy, grid fees, administrative staffing, and lost revenue due to tax rebates. According to the court, the controlling and coordination of Energiewende-related costs is insufficient and fails to address ‘fundamental questions.’”
Steven Koonin notes in his book Unsettled:
The EU, which accounts for less than 10 percent of today’s emissions, has pledged a 40 percent reduction by 2030 and has legislated a 100 percent net reduction (!) by 2050. In contrast, almost all high-emitting developing economies are expected to increase emissions significantly by 2030—China and India are building coal-fired power stations that will double and triple their emissions, respectively, while Russia (the world’s fourth largest emitter) also proposes investments that will increase its emissions substantially.
So even if all the initiatives of Energiewende of Germany and all the emission reductions for Europe were to go exactly as planned, even if Merkel’s theories and suppositions about climate change were right, and the radical top-down bureaucratic organization of the economy worked just fine, still all of that would make no difference. The supposedly caused by climate change floods would nonetheless happen, because the climate, like Germany under Merkel, has no borders either.
None of this fazes Merkel, who is impervious to evidence against and lack of evidence for her radical green agenda. The German consumers and businesses are called to pay evermore for the obsessions du jour of the politicians, bailing out bankrupt E.U. members, financing a welfare state for the “no limits” immigration, and the never ending green pipe dreams. It’s no coincidence that the German economy is in a state of stagnation and decline. Under Merkel the economy had an average growth of a little bit over 1 percent. Fredrik Erixon notes in his The Innovation Illusion that only two of Germany’s DAX 30 index of leading companies were founded after 1970.
“In early February, the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung reported that the share of GDP generated by industry had fallen from 23 per cent in 2016 to 21.5 per cent in 2020. The article was aptly headlined ‘Creeping de-industrialisation,’” wrote Sabine Beppler-Spahl on Spiked.
Merkel’s low key, even boring, demeanor has helped to conceal the extreme character of her policies. Her handling of the euro crisis was presented and sold as a great measure of her statesmanship. No matter that basically it all amounted to what is called an “extend and pretend” switcheroo. The kleptocracies on the E.U. periphery were bailed out, politically and financially, at a bloody cost of their own taxpayers and the taxpayers of other E.U. members, including first and foremost the Germans. Very few reforms were truly implemented. Today’s debt to GDP ratio of Germany is almost 40 percent bigger than it was when that country went off the cliff in 2010. The crisis was merely postponed, and what happens in the future will make the crisis of 2010 look like a pleasant evening stroll.
But whenever that happens, Merkel won’t be around to face the consequences. After a series of devastating defeats in local elections for her party, she had decided not to run for chancellor in the upcoming September elections. If there is a good thing that can be said about Merkel, it’s that she dropped the pretension that the Christian Democrats (CDU) she led were a conservative party. As is the case for most mainstream parties of the “right” in Europe, they are what has been called leftism under the speed limit, while parties of the regular left push the pedal to the metal.
Merkel recognized the dominance of the left in all major institutions of society and decided that her party would be openly and unapologetically the voice of those running these institutions. As a German voter you can vote the part of the ruling class that emphasizes leftist environmentalism (the Greens), or choose the supermarket of leftism the Social Democrats (SPD). You may also decide to choose the less loud and more process oriented leftism of the CDU, or leftism with some possible but not likely tax-cuts, the Free Democratic party.
None of these choices will affect any of the important issues that would normally be up for debate in a democratic society. None of these parties will change the Germany policy direction towards the European Union, immigration, taxes, spending, or civil liberties. The election is like the case where you want to buy a car, but the make and model of the car has already been be chosen for you, and the only remaining decision is trim level.
The ideological uniformity of all the “acceptable” political parties in Germany betrays a ruling class which has ceased to even pretend to represent anyone but itself anymore, obligated, nevertheless, to rule over a population that it does not consider up to its moral standards. That uniformity was particularly striking in the aftermath of Maria Ladenburger’s murder. The mayor of the city, Dieter Salomon from the Green party said “the origin of the perpetrator should not be used for sweeping judgments.” The then Social Democrats chairman, Sigmar Gabriel, “expressed his condolences, and also warned of incitement to hatred and said that ‘refugees can commit the same horrifying crimes as people born in Germany.’” Julia Klöckner, a vice-chairwoman from Merkel’s party, stated that “such cruelties are committed by natives and foreigners, this is no new phenomenon.”
A reasonable man could conclude, that the murder of Maria Ladenburger, although it was made very likely by the open borders policies set in place, does not necessarily by itself prove or disprove any larger social trend. The problem was that this murder was not an isolated incident. As a Reuters reportage noted “violent crime rose by about 10 percent in 2015 and 2016, a study showed. It attributed more than 90 percent of that to young male refugees.” A report by the Federal police claimed that “while making up only 12 percent of the population, the proportion of foreigners among criminal suspects was 37 percent. In the case of murder, that proportion was even higher, with nearly 40 percent of suspects listed as ‘immigrants’.” A Bloomberg article titled “Germany Must Come to Terms With Refugee Crime” offered that “rare statistical data on violence by asylum seekers confirm the far right’s fears, but not its recipes.”
As the German public became increasingly uneasy with what has happened since 2015, Merkel’s government came up with a way to address that discontent. In 2018 it advanced a new censorship law. According to the German Human Rights Watch, “the law places the burden on companies that host third-party content to make difficult determinations of when user speech violates the law, under conditions that encourage suppression of arguably lawful speech.” Additionally, “the law fails to provide either judicial oversight or a judicial remedy should a cautious corporate decision violate a person’s right to speak or access information.” The director of the organization stated that “it is vague, overbroad, and turns private companies into overzealous censors to avoid steep fines, leaving users with no judicial oversight or right to appeal.” On the other hand, “at least three countries – Russia, Singapore, and the Philippines – have directly cited the German law as a positive example as they contemplate or propose legislation to remove ‘illegal’ content online.”
Employing illiberal means for the achievement of undemocratic ends in the name of liberalism has always been the radicalism of Angela Merkel.
Napoleon Linarthatos is a writer based in New York.