Asked what came to her mind when thinking about Germany, former Chancellor Angela Merkel once said, “I think of airtight windows. No other country can build as airtight and as beautiful windows.”
With its history tainted, post-1945 Germany looked to its economy for a positive conception of itself. The goods Germany produced, such as those quality windows, allowed politicians to celebrate the country as an “export world champion.” Germany Inc., was a well-oiled capitalist-corporatist ensemble. Trade-union leaders and CEOs strategized instead of shouting at one another, and the success of German industry offered an unsullied source of pride. So did the fiscal conservatism and hawkish monetary policy that allowed the Federal Republic to master high inflation in the 1970s and ’80s better than the rest of Europe and the United States were able to.