Magazine

Germany: A "Potato Republic, Stubbornly Stuck In The Mud"


Re "Impasse in berlin" (European Business, Oct. 3): Americans can't understand the way most Germans think. In Germany, elections are not about modernizing the country or curbing a bloated bureaucracy. They are seen as an opportunity to prevent your neighbor from getting more than you have. The most-used term is to take from the "Vielverdiener," or "the rich" (starting above the income level of the politicos) and distribute to the needy, defined as a standard that over 95% of the world's population can only dream about.

My educated guess is that about 35% of our taxes are skimmed off just to pay for the political machinery -- and the pensions of its members -- which is used to redistribute the taxes into other pockets, often even back into the same pockets. You sum it up: What we need is optimism, a trait badly missing in most of our personalities. Otherwise, nothing will change, and our economy will go slowly down the drain by upholding standards of cooperation that we cannot afford anymore.

Karl H. Grabbe

Bremen, Germany

Having lived and worked in both Italy and Germany, I'd say Dirostahl foundry owner Manfred Diederich's assessment of Germany's political malaise is pretty much on target. A couple of decades ago, Italy, with its revolving-door governments then, was Europe's showcase banana republic. Now, Germany has evolved its own version of dysfunctional government that might be called a Kartoffel Republik -- a potato republic, stubbornly stuck in the mud and hard to pull out.

Peter Hoffmann

Editor & Publisher

The Hydrogen & Fuel Cell Letter

Rhinecliff, N.Y.

Re "Look who's powering Palm," (Technology & You, Oct. 3): Palm needs to understand that consumers will not keep the same mobile device for more than 14 months. In Asia, carrying a mobile device is a must -- two devices are very common. The mobile world is not just about PIM (personal information management), e-mail, SMS (short message service), and MMS (multimedia message service) -- it is about fashion. Palm just did not get it! Would mobile-device lovers hide Palm's product in our pockets so no one could see what we are using? Would you wear Levi's 501 jeans to take your date to the hottest club in Singapore or Shanghai? I don't. So long, Palm.

Nugroho Setiabudi

Bintaro Jaya, Indonesia

"Reactors? we'll take 30, please" (Asian Business, Oct. 3) discusses the intention of China to build nuclear power plants, and apparently Westinghouse/British Nuclear Fuels is willing to give up their intellectual property rights to the Chinese. Does the U.S., for a onetime payment, want to give up our future? Yes, 5,000 workers may be employed in the U.S., but after the Chinese gain the knowhow, those workers will no longer be needed. And in a decade or so, America can buy reactors with a "Made in China" label. Of course, some may say that we have already given up U.S. reactor technology through the selling of Westinghouse and Babcock & Wilcox Co. to foreign interests.

Another interesting question is how much money would really come and stay in the U.S.? Construction in China would most likely use Asian building materials (steel, concrete), and, sadly to report, there is no capability to build reactor pressure vessels, pressurizers, and steam generators in the U.S. These would have to come either from Europe or Japan.

W. A. von Riesemann

Castle Rock, Colo.


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