Credit Where It's Due: German Law Protects Gays in the Workplace

WorkplaceDiscrimination

A few days ago I pointed out the weak provisions of the German non-discrimination law on housing discrimination. It's only fair, though, to point out that the same law does prohibit discrimination in the workplace based on sexual orientation (g). It's still very difficult to prove a case and win damages in Germany based on the AGG, but at least the principle is there.

The US Congress has tried to enact the same protections many times over in a bill called the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, but failed. You need the House of Representatives and the Senate to pass the bill, and the President to sign it. So far, all three of those stars have not yet lined up in the right constellation, so the bill is not yet law. Many states have passed laws prohibiting discrimination against gays in the workplace, but 29 states still allow it.

I suspect a federal law might actually pass in the next 5-10 years. All you would need to do is get 10-15% of Republicans to vote for it and you would have it. (You would also need a Democratic President, of course.) I can't believe I'm saying this, but I think the change on this issue has been so dramatic in the last few years that getting 10-15% of Republicans is just possible.


Gay Marriage Now the Law in All 50 States

And on a similar note to the last post, the US Supreme Court just held (pdf) that the Constitutional guarantees of equal protection and due process of law require gay marriage to be recognized in all 50 states. Leftward-drifting Catholic Republican Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote the majority opinion for a 5-4 split court, which ends:

The Court, in this decision, holds same-sex couples may exercise the fundamental right to marry in all States. It follows that the Court also must hold—and it now does hold—that there is no lawful basis for a State to refuse to recognize a lawful same-sex marriage performed in another State on the ground of its same-sex character.

* * *

No union is more profound than marriage, for it embodies the highest ideals of love, fidelity, devotion, sacrifice, and family. In forming a marital union, two people become something greater than once they were. As some of the petitioners in these cases demonstrate, marriage embodies a love that may endure even past death. It would misunderstand these men and women to say they disrespect the idea of marriage. Their plea is that they do respect it, respect it so deeply that they seek to find its fulfillment for themselves. Their hope is not to be condemned to live in loneliness, excluded from one of civilization’s oldest institutions. They ask for equal dignity in the eyes of the law. The Constitution grants them that right.


Housing Discrimination There and Here

Yesterday the U.S. Supreme Court decided Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs v. The Inclusive Communities Project, a case about the Fair Housing Act, a law passed by Congress in 1968 to combat housing discrimination:

De jure residential segregation by race was declared unconstitutional almost a century ago, but its vestiges remain today, intertwined with the country’s economic and social life. Some segregated housing patterns can be traced to conditions that arose in the mid-20th century. Rapid urbanization, concomitant with the rise of suburban developments accessible by car, led many white families to leave the inner cities. This often left minority families concentrated in the center of the Nation’s cities. During this time, various practices were followed, sometimes with governmental support, to encourage and maintain the separation of the races…

In April 1968, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., was assassinated in Memphis, Tennessee, and the Nation faced a new urgency to resolve the social unrest in the inner cities. Congress responded by adopting the Kerner Commission’s recommendation and passing the Fair Housing Act. The statute addressed the denial of housing opportunities on the basis of “race, color, religion, or national origin.” Civil Rights Act of 1968….

The question before the court was whether the FHA can be used for claims of ‘disparate impact’ – that is policies that have the result of affecting minorities and whites differently, even though there is no proof that the policymakers’ intention was to discriminate on the basis of race. The specific case here involves a federal rent-subsidy plan (Section 8) for poor families. The plaintiffs claimed that Texas agencies were contributing to residential racial segregation by steering minority Section 8 recipients to areas that were already disproportionately minority. The Plaintiffs had no proof that this was being done intentionally, so sued under disparate impact. The Supreme Court held that since most other American anti-discrimination laws can be used in this way, so can the FHA:

Recognition of disparate impact liability under the FHA also plays a role in uncovering discriminatory intent: It permits plaintiffs to counteract unconscious prejudices and disguised animus that escape easy classification as disparate treatment. In this way disparate-impact liability may prevent segregated housing patterns that might otherwise result from covert and illicit stereotyping.

But disparate-impact liability has always been properly limited in key respects that avoid the serious constitutional questions that might arise under the FHA, for instance, if such liability were imposed based solely on a showing of a statistical disparity. Disparate-impact liability mandates the “removal of artificial, arbitrary, and unnecessary barriers,” not the displacement of valid governmental policies.  The FHA is not an instrument to force housing authorities to reorder their priorities. Rather, the FHA aims to ensure that those priorities can be achieved without arbitrarily creating discriminatory effects or perpetuating segregation.

So the United States already had a nationwide law prohibiting private housing discrimination in 1968, and has interpreted both it and similar laws to cover even discrimination that occurs unintentionally.

Let’s turn to Germany. German jurists will point out that the Article 3 of the German federal constitution (the Grundgesetz) prohibits racial discrimination on the part of the state, and that this provision can, in limited circumstances, be applied to transactions between private parties (the idea of so-called Drittwirkung). In practice, however, this possibility is practically irrelevant and is rarely-used. This is one reason the EU constantly prodded Germany to adopt a comprehensive, modern anti-discrimination law. Germany resisted until finally, in 2006, it adopted what’s known as the Allgemeines Gleichbehandlungsgesetz (AGG) or Equal Treatment Law. It was originally known as the Anti-Discrimination Law, but the title had to be watered down.

So what are the housing-discrimination provisions of the AGG? Here’s a short website (g) from a law firm that explains things pretty well. The main provision outlaws discrimination by private landlords on the basis of “race, ethnic ancestry, sex, religion or worldview, disability, age, or sexual identity”. Gosh, that sounds mighty progressive, you might be saying.

But actually, there are quite a lot of exceptions! For instance, if you’re renting a portion of the residence you currently occupy, you aren’t bound by the AGG at all. Seems reasonable enough. But then we get to a rather bigger loophoole: the so-called ‘small landlord’ exception. This provides that the full terms of the AGG do not apply to any landlord who puts on the market fewer than 50 residences. If you own 49 rental properties and are thus a ‘small landlord’ (!!), you are not permitted to discriminate on the basis of race or ethnic ancestry, but you can discriminate on all the other grounds as much as you want. Only when you rent more than 50 residences does the AGG apply in full force.

But wait, there’s more! Turns out there’s a loophole even here: a landlord may refuse to rent to someone in order to preserve ‘socially stable residential population structures’ and to preserve ‘balanced cultural relations’, whatever that means. Ironically, this provision of the law sells itself as an anti-discrimination measure: to prevent large concentrations of foreigners in a certain area, a landlord can refuse to rent to foreigners who wish to come there and live. Of course, the landlord then has to subsidize the rent of the foreigners he discriminated against so they can pay four times higher rent to live in the white part of town. Oh wait, no he doesn’t.

Also, if you want to sue a landlord for damages, you must do so within a 2-month limitations period, which is awfully short. Plus, without access to landlords’ documents through court-ordered discovery, you may have a hard time proving your case.

The doomsayers predicted a wave of litigation after the AGG was passed, but it never happened. Critics call the AGG a paper tiger (g) and have routinely called for it to be strengthened.

Germans take almost-sensual pleasure (g) in denouncing the ‘pervasive racism’ of American society. But the American legal system offers far more powerful tools for combating racial discrimination than Germany does.* In Germany, legal innovations that have long been the law of the land in the USA are still fiercely opposed by all but the most left-wing parties.

 

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Europeans Don't Seem to Fancy Roma or Muslims Very Much

Pew recently studied the views of various EU nationals toward certain minorities. The main results in three graphs:

Unfavorable Views of Roma Widespread

Italians Most Critical of Muslims

Greeks Divided about Jews

A few observations:

-- Italians really don't like minorities very much, do they? All the ones I know do, though!

-- Roma (formerly called gypsies) come off worst of all. Even in Germany, which bears the historical guilt of having murdered hundreds of thousands of them, opinion of Roma is evenly split. And this after the EU's much-ballyhooed Decade of Roma Inclusion. The Guardian in 2003 noted:

Statistics on education and employment show how overwhelmingly the odds are stacked against them. In the Czech Republic, 75% of Roma children are educated in schools for people with learning difficulties, and 70% are unemployed (compared with a national rate of 9%). In Hungary, 44% of Roma children are in special schools, while 74% of men and 83% of women are unemployed. In Slovakia, Roma children are 28 times as likely to be sent to a special school than non-Roma; Roma unemployment stands at 80%.

Of course, this being the Guardian, these dismal numbers are attributed solely to discrimination by non-Roma. Now -- mandatory disclaimer -- I am not denying or advocating discrimination against Roma. I am a nice, caring person with properly Advanced and Tolerant views on all important Social Questions, and I also would like to note that I have excellent personal hygiene! I do, however, happen to know a number of people who have worked in/with Roma communities who would violently reject beg to differ from the argument that nothing about Roma culture or values contributes to their problems:

The following day, while chatting with a group of Gypsies in the small Transylvanian village of Dealu Frumos, I get an insight into a side of the Roma that I have been constantly warned about but have not yet encountered. A young man and his friends are telling me about tsigani de casatsi—house Gypsies—"bad ones, who don't work on the land like us but just steal for a living." Without warning, he wrenches my notebook from my hands and shoves me against the car. I am punched in the kidneys, and my arm is twisted behind me. A blade is held to the side of my neck, and suddenly I am surrounded by roaring Gypsies, maybe 30 of them, more appearing every few seconds from the surrounding houses. My translator, Mihai, is punched in the head. "Money! Money! Money!" his tormentors bellow. I am allowed into the car to retrieve my bag, but Mihai is kept outside, a hostage to my ransom. I offer all the money from my wallet, and Mihai pulls free and throws himself into the back seat. As we drive off, we do an inventory of our injuries. Apart from bruises and shock, my main injury is to my hitherto benign image of the Roma as a wronged and misunderstood people.

The average Guardian reader is apparently expected to believe on faith alone that it is per se impossible for a minority group to display any distinct social characteristics, even though they have been breeding largely among themselves for 32 generations. It may be of interest to note that the most recent and reliable study puts the mean IQ of some European Roma populations in the mid-70s. I suppose we can just be glad the pollsters didn't ask these questions in Bulgaria or Romania, countries with huge Roma populations.

-- As I've noted before, this survey tends to undermine the notion of a wave of anti-Semitism sweeping Western Europe. Anti-semitic opinion in Western Europe is largely concentrated among Muslim populations. As this poll shows, the farther south and east you go in Europe, the more mainstream anti-Semitism becomes.


Headscarf Wearer Wins in US Supreme Court

A perennial chestnut of my comparative-law seminars is the treatment of Muslim women who wear headscarves in the USA and Germany. So my news ticker let me know that a woman named Samantha Elauf just won her case before the Supreme Court, in an 8-1 decision, the New York Times reports. From a Cornell Law School summary: 

In 2008, seventeen-year-old Samantha Elauf, a self-proclaimed practicing Muslim, interviewed for a Model position at an Abercrombie Kids store in Tulsa, Oklahoma.During her interview, Elauf wore Abercrombie-style clothing and a black hijab—a religious headscarf. The assistant manager interviewing her, Heather Cooke, did not confirm Elauf’s religion but “assumed that she was Muslim.” During the interview, Cooke did not ask Elauf about her headscarf and Elauf did not bring it up. Although Cooke thought Elauf was a good candidate, Cooke asked her supervisor if wearing a headscarf was permissible and whether the headscarf could be black. The supervisor escalated this question to the district manager, Randall Johnson, who declared that Elauf’s headscarf violated the Look Policy and Elauf should not be hired. Cooke claims that she informed Johnson that Elauf wore a headscarf for religious reasons but Johnson denies this claim.

On September 17, 2009, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”) filed a Title VII action in theUnited States Northern District of Oklahoma (“district court”) alleging that Abercrombie rejected Elauf because she wore a hijab and then failed to make a religious-based exception to its Look Policy. The district court ruled in favor of the EEOC, reasoning that Elauf’s wearing of the headscarf coupled with Cooke’s knowledge that Elauf wore the headwear as part of a religious belief provided sufficient notice of the need for a reasonable religious accommodation, awarding the EEOC $20,000 in compensatory damages.

The issue here was narrow. Since 1964, there has been no debate that a private company cannot refuse to hire someone based on their religious belief or core religious practices. If the company believes there may be a conflict between the employees’ religion and job requirements, the company must first try to find a reasonable accommodation. Simply refusing to hire someone on the basis of their religion is illegal. The only question in this case was whether Elauf told her employer she wore a headscarf for religious reasons.

The court held she didn’t need to prove this, since any reasonable employer would at least suspect that a female wearing a headscarf is probably doing so for religious reasons. Thus even the reliably conservative Justice Antonin Scalia called this case ‘easy’. Justice Clarence Thomas was the only dissenter, hie thinks that (1) because Abercrombie & Fitch had a general policy that its employees can’t wear ‘caps’; and (2) a headscarf is a kind of cap, therefore A & F was simply applying a neutral policy to every job applicant, and wasn’t discriminating.

Decision in .pdf form is here for you law nerds.


The Coming Exodus from Baltimore

I've been getting, and refusing, a few German press inquiries about recent events in Baltimore. I don't do hot-take live interviews. Someone was arrested and suffered a fatal injury; we are still a long way from knowing all there is to know about that incident.

Another reason I didn't give an interview is I have nothing new or reassuring to say. American cities occasionally erupt in riots after high-profile sporting events or police killings, something that happens in poor parts of cities across the globe. 67%-black Baltimore itself has been a watchword for urban despair for generations, as the 1977 Randy Newman song Baltimore shows:

Hard times in the city

In a hard town by the sea

Ain't nowhere to run to

There ain't nothin' here for free

 

Hooker on the corner

Waitin' for a train

Drunk lyin' on the sidewalk

Sleepin' in the rain

 

And they hide their faces

And they hide their eyes

'Cause the city's dyin'

And they don't know why

 

Oh, Baltimore

Man, it's hard just to live

Oh, Baltimore

Man, it's hard just to live, just to live

Baltimore's problems were also clinically dissected 30 years later in The Wire. Most talented people with valuable job skills have already left Baltimore, unless they are associated with medical or university institutions located there. Whenever poor parts of American cities burn, politicians usually convene a blue-ribbon commission, a report is issued, and there are various halfhearted efforts at urban revitalization for a few years afterward. Here is a recommendation from a 1965 report issued after rioting in the Watts area of Los Angeles:

We propose that the programs for the schools in disadvantaged areas be vastly reorganized and strengthened so as to strike at the heart of low achievement and break the cycle of failure. We advocate a new, massive, expensive, and frankly experimental onslaught on the problem of illiteracy. We propose that it be attacked at the time and place where there is an exciting prospect of success.

The program for education which we recommend is designed to raise the scholastic achievement of the average Negro child up to or perhaps above the present average achievement level in the City. We have no hard evidence to prove conclusively that the program advocated in this report will accomplish this purpose. 

Then attention fades, the money dries up, and conditions regress to the mean. I see no reason this time will be different. A few years or decades from now, Baltimore or some other city will burn, and again people will wonder at the fact that nothing has changed, and the people there are just as desperate and poor as they were before.

There are a few reasons for this eternal recurrence of the exact same debates. First, many problems of poor inner-city areas cannot be solved. Other problems could theoretically be solved, but doing so would involve huge investments of money, talent, time, and patience. People usually claim to be sympathetic to the problems of inner-city residents, but most voters don't want large amounts of their tax money diverted to try to fix their problems. I suspect the advice most Americans would give to residents of Baltimore is: 'Leave'.

Forcibly busing poor kids to rich areas and vice versa -- to combat racial segregation -- was tried once in America and turned out to be a disaster. This isn't just an American problem, either: Malmö, Stockholm, Paris, Marseille, Copenhagen all have heavily-immigrant problem zones that erupt into rioting once every few years. (Germany is an interesting counter-example). If even the world's most social-democratic countries can't find the resources, solutions, and political will to create lasting, meaningful improvements to life in urban poverty pockets, there's no chance the USA will.

So the exodus from Baltimore will continue.


They Will Be Sent Back

The Guardian has seen a draft of the new EU plan for combating boat refugees:

Only 5,000 resettlement places across Europe are to be offered to refugees under the emergency summit crisis package to be agreed by EU leaders in Brussels on Thursday.

A confidential draft summit statement seen by the Guardian indicates that the vast majority of those who survive the journey and make it to Italy – 150,000 did so last year – will be sent back as irregular migrants under a new rapid-return programme co-ordinated by the EU’s border agency, Frontex. More than 36,000 boat survivors have reached Italy, Malta and Greece so far this year.

...

Instead, the EU leaders are likely to agree that immediate preparations should begin to “undertake systematic efforts to identify, capture and destroy vessels before they are used by traffickers”. The joint EU military operation is to be undertaken within international law.

But the head of Frontex, Fabrice Leggeri, said on the eve of the summit that saving migrants’ lives should not be the priority for his maritime patrols despite the clamour for a more humane response after the deaths of 800 refugees and migrants at the weekend.

Way back in February, your humble blog-master said:

Given a choice between opening Europe's borders and ruthlessly ratcheting up border controls, European leaders will mouth the appropriate platitudes about human rights and enhancing opportunity, then send out the warships to mine the Mediterranean. And in the cold hard light of political reality and modern statecraft, there is no reason they shouldn't, since that's what their voters prefer.

As long as European voters and societies are not willing and prepared to accept tens of millions of refugees from Africa and the Middle East -- and they're not -- this is the policy you're going to get. I would say there should be many more places devoted to actual refugees from war zones or facing imminent injury or death from ethnic persecution, since that is the core of what refugee protection is for. But to stop the pull factor, you'll need to destroy the boats before they can launch. If they do launch, rescue the refugees, process them, and then send them back unless they can prove they are not economic refugees.

This may sound harsh, but it will save lives in the long run. And if you think enforcing strict border controls is beyond the pale, have you noticed that Australia and the U.S. -- racially diverse nations composed (largely) of immigrants, which have a comparatively welcoming attitude towards foreigners -- have tight border control policies? President Obama, that notorious racist xenophobe, has presided over an unprecedented levels of deportations at the US-Mexican border, and has seen attempted border crossings drop.

Any announcement will bring the predictable denunciations, but that is pure signaling. People who have no constructive solutions for this thorny issue will nevertheless write self-congratulatory screeds denouncing whatever the EU does, and heaping scorn and vilification on EU policymakers. This makes them feel good, signals their superior morality, and does nothing to help refugees. If you want to liberalize EU immigration policy, you need to start at home, by convincing your fellow citizens that they should support such a move. And here's a pro-tip: calling them racists, xenophobes, and/or Bild-addled troglodytes may make you feel terribly virtuous, but it doesn't work.


Am deutschen Wesen, or German Smoothiemakers Show Us the Way

One day, we will look back on the spasms of social-media shaming that are currently in vogue and wonder: what were we thinking?!? I try to make it a habit to think 'what were we thinking?'while we still are thinking it. So I have always thought that the proper response to being called out by tiresome scolds is not the groveling apology your PR firm wants you to give, but either complete obliviousness or a satisfied smirk.

And a group of German smoothie-makers is showing us the way. True Fruits recently started a couple of new advertising campaigns that twisted the knickers of German SJWs. One of their bottles is emblazoned with the logo: 'Get you sausage-like fingers away from this bottle!' According to Indyvegan, a German language website trying to raise a shitstorm (g) over True Fruits, this is fat-shaming, or in German, fatshaming. (Yes, English is the international language of PC scolding. Depressing, isn't it?)

But that was just the beginning. One of their white fruit juices wasn't selling well, so they decided to put it in a black bottle labeled 'Blind Taste Test' and provide the following analogy (my translation):

Ever set up an ugly girlfriend who's awfully sweet with a date? That's what we felt like with our white smoothie, our tastiest smoothie. Because of its pale and unfruity appearance, it wasn't getting near enough chances for a spicy rendezvous with you. So we had no choice but to click off the light so that you could concentrate solely on its inner values. #swallowinthedark

 As Indyvegan then put it, 'Customers felt that this text was lookist (lookistisch, believe it or not), since it suggested you should prefer dark places to get to know people who don't conform to the commonly-held ideals of beauty.' There's more in this vein, practically writes itself.

And then True Fruits did something inspiring. On its public websites, it responded to similar complaints like this. (If you're anything like me, you may want to put on some swelling string music and have tissues ready):

"We took a look at your comments and decided they were totally crackbrained bullshit (the German word is of course Bullshit) from wanna-be moral apostles. After we finished laughing, we decided that even the slightest hint of a serious answer would be a total waste of our lives. So a short piece of advice to all the whiners: if you don't like it, go. Spare us your whimpering, 'cause we like our sense of humor."

"We're good-looking, arrogant chauvinists who don't catch your drift."

"Go cry your eyes out somewhere, you weenie*."

"We're not perfect ourselves and once in a while we encounter statements of jokes that we might feel directly or indirectly target us. And you know what we do or don't do then? We'll tell you: We don't soil ourselves and whine like a toddler who didn't get his second pudding after dinner. You can do that, if your synapses leave you no other option. But please don't blubber all over us."

When Indyvegan the website asked for an interview, the firm took one look at the questions and declined, saying there was obviously no point in further discussion. If you don't like our advertising strategy, True Fruits continued, "we recommend that you and your readers simply avoid our products and our websites in the future." The email response was signed by Fee (Fairy!) Surges, the speaker. They also broadcast a video (g, on Facebook) with a sarcastic fake apology on April 1.

I've drunk some True Fruits before, they're tasty. I hereby announce that in the future, I will be drinking as much True Fruits as my budget allows. 

Continue reading "Am deutschen Wesen, or German Smoothiemakers Show Us the Way" »


American Economist Asks Dying German Social Democratic Party Why They Destroyed Themselves

American economist Mark Blyth got an award from Germany's dying center-left Social Democratic Party for his writings on the failure of European austerity policies, and decided to explain to the German Social Democrats exactly how they managed kill their own political party for no reason:

I sat in my office at Brown University on December 16, 2014, an email popped into my inbox with the title “Herzlichen Glückwunsch – Sie sind der 1. Preisträger des Hans-Matthöfer-Preises für wirtschaftspublizistik.” This was the award given by the Friedrich Ebert Stiftung (FES), the research foundation closest to the German Social Democratic Party (SPD), and the Hans-Matthöfer Stiftung for the best economics publication in German in 2014. I was, to say the least, surprised.

My 2013 Oxford University Press book, Austerity: The History of a Dangerous Idea, had recently been translated into German by the publishing arm of the FES. Indeed, I had been there a month earlier, in Berlin, to do a book launch, which was very well attended. Since then the book has been reviewed, positively, in the German press, with Suddeutsche Zeitung giving it a rather glowing review. Something odd was going on.

...

Consider that during the negotiations to form the current coalition with German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union, the SPD could have made an issue out of how the policies designed to heal Europe were causing great harm, a fact acknowledged even by the International Monetary Fund by 2012. But they chose not to do so....But not speaking up when such inappropriate policies are being applied to Germany’s European partners is collectively disastrous. Indeed, what is so tragic in this crisis is how the center-left throughout Europe have not just accepted, but in many cases actively supported, policies that have done nothing but hurt their supposed core constituencies.

[Following excerpts are from the prize acceptance speech. I've put the really juicy bits in my own added italics:] There can be no doubt that the debtor countries of Europe need major reforms in taxation systems, labor markets, business regulation, and a host of other areas.

But…

    1. When we say “structural reform” we really have no idea what those words actually mean, and we often fall back on them as a back-handed acknowledgment that austerity has failed, or
    2. We misunderstand what we did when we refer to prior episodes of structural reform, and thereby miss that it is impossible for anyone else to do what we once did.

Let me explain. “Structural reform” used to be called “structural adjustment.” And European lefties like us used to condemn it as absurd, ridiculous, “neoliberalism gone mad” — and yet we seem quite happy to unleash these policies, despite the damage that they have done in the developing world, upon our European partners.

When you ask for the content of what structural reform means, it seems to be a checklist of lower taxes, deregulate everything in sight, privatize anything not nailed down, and hope for the best. But are these policies not disturbingly American, if not Thatcherite? Indeed, isn’t this everything that the SPD is supposed to be against, and much of which the German public would never put up with?

...

Today it is a profound irony that European social democrats worry deeply, as they should, about the investor protection clauses embedded in the proposed Transatlantic Investment Treaty with the US, and yet they demand enforcement of exactly the same creditor protections on their fellow Europeans without pausing for breath for the money they “lent” to them to bail out their own banking systems’ errant lending decisions.

Something has gone badly wrong when social democracy thinks this is OK. It is not. Because it begs the fundamental question, “what are you for — if you are for this?” The German Social Democrats, for we are all the heirs of Rosa Luxemburg, today stand as the joint enforcers of a creditor’s paradise. Is that who you really want to be? Modern European history has turned many times on the choices of the SPD. This is one of those moments.

It’s great that my book has helped remind you of the poverty of these ideas. But the point is to recover your voice, not just your historical memory. Your vote share isn’t going down because you are not shadowing the CDU enough. Its going down because if all you do is that, why should anyone vote for you at all?

I hope that reading my book reminds the SPD of one thing: that the reason they exist is to do more than simply to enforce a creditor’s paradise in Europe.

I recall writing a few years ago: "Yet in Germany, coverage of the Greek healthcare collapse virtually always attributes it vaguely to 'the crisis' in general, not to the austerity measures forced on Greece by the troika, which are anything but inevitable (or alternativlos in Merkel's infamous phrase) and to which there are plenty of reasonable alternatives that would not impose massive suffering on ordinary citizens." But Blythe has much more credibility than I do. As is often the case, it takes an outsider to point out the hypocrisy of another country's elites. Or, as Orwell once put it, to see what is in front of one's face requires a constant effort.