Europe, German Mercantilism and the Current Crisis
Contributions to Brancaccio and Fontana (2011) look at a variety of aspects of the current crisis, some of them focusing on the contingent financial causes, others on the underlying contradictions of capitalist economies. In this context, less attention has been paid to the role of Europe and particularly Germany. Europe has not been distinguished by an assertive and cooperative economic policy stance in the aftermath of the current crisis. German mercantilist policies are said to be behind the European policy stance and a source of regional and global imbalances. After a brief examination of the main pillars of European economic policy and German behaviour during the present crisis, these notes suggest an embryonic interpretation of the origins of mercantilist behaviour, dwelling on the nature of mercantilism in economic theory and commercial practice, and of the allegedly German mercantilist model. The suggested interpretation is that in the German case, the national mystique of a trade surplus may have had a role in disciplining the labour market and at the same time assuring profits. Recent developments in Spring 2010 have shown the gravity of the European imbalances in the global crisis (see Cesaratto 2010) and the relevance of the background issues discussed in the present paper.
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