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Can Germany Be Saved?: The Malaise of the World's First Welfare State


  • Hans-Werner Sinn

    () (Ifo Institute for Economic Research)


What has happened to the German economic miracle? Rebuilding from the rubble and ruin of two world wars, Germany in the second half of the twentieth century recaptured its economic strength. High-quality German-made products ranging from precision tools to automobiles again conquered world markets, and the country experienced stratospheric growth and virtually full employment. Germany (or West Germany, until 1989) returned to its position as the economic powerhouse of Europe and became the world's third-largest economy after the United States and Japan. But in recent years growth has slowed, unemployment has soared, and the economic unification of eastern and western Germany has been mishandled. Europe's largest economy is now outperformed by many of its European neighbors in per capita terms. In Can Germany Be Saved?, Hans-Werner Sinn, one of Germany's leading economists, takes a frank look at his country's economic problems and proposes welfare- and tax-reform measures aimed at returning Germany to its former vigor and vitality. Germany invented the welfare state in the 1880s when Bismarck introduced government-funded health insurance, disability insurance, and pensions; the German system became a model for other industrialized countries. But, Sinn argues, today's German welfare state has incurred immense fiscal costs and destroyed economic incentives. Unemployment has become so lucrative that the private sector, already under pressure from international low-wage competitors, has increasing difficulties in paying sufficiently attractive wages. Sinn traces many of his country's economic problems to an increasingly intractable conflict between Germany's welfare state and the forces of globalization. Can Germany Be Saved? (an updated English-language version of a German bestseller) asks the hard questions--about unions, welfare payments, tax rates, the aging population, and immigration--that all advanced economies need to ask. Its answers, and its call for a radical rethinking of the welfare state, should stir debate and discussion everywhere.

Suggested Citation

  • Hans-Werner Sinn, 2009. "Can Germany Be Saved?: The Malaise of the World's First Welfare State," MIT Press Books, The MIT Press, edition 1, volume 1, number 0262512602, January.
  • Handle: RePEc:mtp:titles:0262512602

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Sinn, Hans-Werner, 1990. "Tax harmonization and tax competition in Europe," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 34(2-3), pages 489-504, May.
    2. Van Wijnbergen, Sweden, 1986. "On fiscal deficits, the real exchange rate and the world rate of interest," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 30(5), pages 1013-1023, October.
    3. Lucas, Robert Jr. & Stokey, Nancy L., 1983. "Optimal fiscal and monetary policy in an economy without capital," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 12(1), pages 55-93.
    4. Efraim Sadka, 1977. "A Note on Producer Taxation and Public Production," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 44(2), pages 385-387.
    5. John Dutton, 1982. "The Optimal Taxation of International Investment Income: A Comment," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 97(2), pages 373-380.
    6. Razin, Assaf & Sadka, Efraim, 1991. "International tax competition and gains from tax harmonization," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 37(1), pages 69-76, September.
    7. Martin Feldstein, 1974. "Incidence of a Capital Income Tax in a Growing Economy with Variable Savings Rates," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 41(4), pages 505-513.
    8. Martin Feldstein & David Hartman, 1979. "The Optimal Taxation of Foreign Source Investment Income," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 93(4), pages 613-629.
    9. Lloyd A. Metzler, 1942. "The Transfer Problem Reconsidered," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 50, pages 397-397.
    10. Tobin, James, 1969. "A General Equilibrium Approach to Monetary Theory," Journal of Money, Credit and Banking, Blackwell Publishing, vol. 1(1), pages 15-29, February.
    11. Seidman, Laurence S, 1984. "Conversion to a Consumption Tax: The Transition in a Life-Cycle Growth Model," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 92(2), pages 247-267, April.
    12. Menahem E. Yaari, 1965. "Uncertain Lifetime, Life Insurance, and the Theory of the Consumer," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 32(2), pages 137-150.
    13. Harry G. Johnson, 1956. "The Transfer Problem and Exchange Stability," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 64, pages 212-212.
    14. A. B. Treadway, 1969. "On Rational Entrepreneurial Behaviour and the Demand for Investment," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 36(2), pages 227-239.
    15. J. A. Mirrlees, 1972. "On Producer Taxation," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 39(1), pages 105-111.
    16. Mervyn A. King, 1983. "The Economics of Saving," NBER Working Papers 1247, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    17. Judd, Kenneth L, 1987. "A Dynamic Theory of Factor Taxation," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 77(2), pages 42-48, May.
    18. Hans-Werner Sinn, 1990. "Can Direct and Indirect Taxes Be Added for International Comparisons of Competitiveness?," NBER Working Papers 3263, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    19. Lucas, Robert E, Jr, 1990. "Supply-Side Economics: An Analytical Review," Oxford Economic Papers, Oxford University Press, vol. 42(2), pages 293-316, April.
    20. Martin S. Feldstein, 1974. "Tax Incidence in a Growing Economy with Variable Factor Supply," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 88(4), pages 551-573.
    21. Fischer, Stanley, 1980. "Dynamic inconsistency, cooperation and the benevolent dissembling government," Journal of Economic Dynamics and Control, Elsevier, vol. 2(1), pages 93-107, May.
    22. Gordon, Roger H, 1986. "Taxation of Investment and Savings in a World Economy," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 76(5), pages 1086-1102, December.
    23. Robert E. Lucas & Jr., 1967. "Adjustment Costs and the Theory of Supply," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 75, pages 321-321.
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    Cited by:

    1. Werner Bönte & Oliver Falck & Stephan Heblich, 2007. "Demography and Innovative Entrepreneurship," Jena Economic Research Papers 2007-084, Friedrich-Schiller-University Jena.
    2. Eloi Laurent & Jacques Le Cacheux, 2007. "The Irish Tiger and the German Frog: A Tale of Size and Growth in the Euro Area," Working Papers hal-00972692, HAL.
    3. Werner Bönte & Oliver Falck & Stephan Heblich, 2009. "The Impact of Regional Age Structure on Entrepreneurship," Economic Geography, Clark University, vol. 85(3), pages 269-287, July.
    4. Antonin Rusek, 2013. "Quo Vadis, Europa," International Advances in Economic Research, Springer;International Atlantic Economic Society, vol. 19(4), pages 381-397, November.
    5. Kaplan, Lennart C. & Kohl, Tristan & Martínez-Zarzoso, Inmaculada, 2016. "The effects of the CEECS's accession on sectoral trade: A value added perspective," Center for European, Governance and Economic Development Research Discussion Papers 272, University of Goettingen, Department of Economics.
    6. David B. Audretsch & Oliver Falck & Stephan Heblich, 2007. "It’s All in Marshall: The Impact of External Economies on Regional Dynamics," CESifo Working Paper Series 2094, CESifo Group Munich.
    7. Mirdala, Rajmund & Ruščáková, Anna, 2015. "On Origins and Implications of the Sovereign Debt Crisis in the Euro Area," MPRA Paper 68859, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    8. Christian Breuer, 2015. "Fiscal Consolidation in Germany: Gain without Pain?," CESifo Forum, Ifo Institute - Leibniz Institute for Economic Research at the University of Munich, vol. 16(2), pages 50-53, August.
    9. repec:kap:iaecre:v:19:y:2013:i:4:p:381-397 is not listed on IDEAS
    10. Giancarlo Corsetti & Michael P. Devereux & John Hassler & Gilles Saint-Paul & Hans-Werner Sinn & Jan-Egbert Sturm & Xavier Vives, 2011. "Chapter 3: Greece," EEAG Report on the European Economy, CESifo Group Munich, vol. 0, pages 97-125, February.
    11. Hans-Michael Trautwein & Finn Marten Körner, 2014. "German Economic Models, Transnationalization and European Imbalances," ZenTra Working Papers in Transnational Studies 28 / 2014, ZenTra - Center for Transnational Studies, revised Jan 2014.
    12. Rüdiger Waldkirch & Matthias Meyer & Karl Homann, 2009. "Accounting for the Benefits of Social Security and the Role of Business: Four Ideal Types and Their Different Heuristics," Journal of Business Ethics, Springer, vol. 89(3), pages 247-267, November.
    13. Luigi Bonatti & Andrea Fracasso, 2013. "The German Model and the European Crisis," Journal of Common Market Studies, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 51(6), pages 1023-1039, November.
    14. Egelhoff, William & Frese, Erich, 2009. "Understanding managers' preferences for internal markets versus business planning: A comparative study of German and U.S. managers," Journal of International Management, Elsevier, vol. 15(1), pages 77-91, March.

    More about this item


    welfare; Germany;

    JEL classification:

    • I3 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Welfare, Well-Being, and Poverty


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