Angela Merkel's Legacy: Kicking the Can Down the Road

While Germany's economy stalled and the EU sank into chaos, Merkel overlooked the emergence of large social groups in Germany as well as studies and surveys indicating that Germans and their fellow Europeans were unsure of their current path and desired to go in the opposite way.

The editorials applauding Angela Merkel's reign have been many in the months since her retirement from the German Chancellorship after sixteen years in office.

This is not among them.

Few stop to look at the actual policies of her governments and their impact on the German people—as well as the people of Europe as a whole—while pouring praise on abstractions such as Merkel's alleged courage, strength, and moral conviction. Germany, as Europe's de facto most powerful state, has mishandled multiple crises under Merkel. She threw a lot of cans down the road, frequently while publicly denying any such issues occurred.

German voters were not amused by the conclusion.

In last year's elections, they punished her Christian Union, the Christian Democratic Union–Christian Social Union coalition, by rejecting her designated successor, Armin Laschet. Her party's declining returns in the previous two elections had predicted as much, and in the most recent election, the party received its lowest share of the vote since 1949.

While Germany's economy stalled and the EU sank into chaos, Merkel overlooked the emergence of large social groups in Germany as well as studies and surveys indicating that Germans and their fellow Europeans were unsure of their current path and desired to go in the opposite way. This was especially true when it came to mass immigration, which had been occurring in relatively modest numbers for decades but had substantially surged in the early 2000s and 2010s.

The problems are not unrelated.

The drain of mass immigration on German finances has been considerable for a country that has long ran big trade and fiscal surpluses. At the very least, Berlin would be able to cope. At a time when the eurozone's economic problems were already threatening the entire project of European integration, it was the most vulnerable countries, Italy, Spain, and Greece, that were forced to bear the additional economic, social, and political costs of an irresponsible immigration policy decided in Brussels—all while the German-dominated European Central Bank imposed crippling austerity and unemployment on the citizens of those countries.

Merkel's widely publicized open door exacerbated the problem, as did her solemn reiterations of the same reasons European elites had been using for decades to bring in cheap foreign labor, words that had rung false across the continent for a long time.

Mass low-skill immigration has not been the short- and long-term advantage that was promised to Europe's predominantly elderly populations. How is that possible? Most have brought little financial or human capital with them, and whether they will become net contributors once adequately integrated into the various European governments remains to be seen. Meanwhile, at its peak, the crisis cost the German government an admitted €10,000 per kid, at a period when tens of thousands were arriving in Europe every few weeks. The government spent €23 billion in 2019 alone.

Of course, the warmed-over and plainly untrue, or at the very least questionably optimistic, reasoning and assertions didn't stop there. Even more dangerously, beneath the continual stream of clichés about tolerance and variety, any European who ventured to express dissatisfaction with their country' rapid ethno-religious transformation was quickly labeled racist or fascist.

When, in reality, the obvious truth was plain.

In what should have been a clear contradiction, the same parties and groups that advocated for the rights of women, the LGBTQ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer/questioning) community, and religious minorities also advocated for bringing in untold millions of mostly young, male Middle Eastern and Sub-Saharan Muslims who did not feel similarly—indeed, thought such things ridiculous, mistaken, blasphemous, and even criminal.

Tolerance, which the Left treasured, did not appear to be reciprocated so enthusiastically. In a widely publicized BBC poll, a quarter of British Muslims expressed sympathy with the gunman who killed twelve people in the office of a French satirical magazine for presenting the prophet unflatteringly. This was not news to local native Britons, who had watched in horror as riotous British Muslims clamored for Salman Rushdie's head even thirty years before.

Rushdie had been roundly condemned by the political, media, and even religious establishments in what was clearly a canary in the coal mine moment.

This was yet another example of the Left's postwar inanity: in the only societies in recorded history to produce women's emancipation, abolition of slavery, property rights security, and the separation of church and state, the most prominent voices in the media, society, academia, and politics condemned, denigrated, and even denied it. Instead, they extolled the supposed virtues of what were clearly—in the eyes of those who value liberal freedoms, the equality of women, and the equality of sexual and religious minorities—cultures with more repressive social norms and illiberal ideological inclinations than seen in much of Europe in at least a century; and as a passionately held fundamentalist worldview, the faith of many new arrivals was uncomfortably similar to the one it took many centuries for the now staunch

Whatever the rhetoric, previous to the post-World War II influx of Turkish workers, Islam was not a part of Germany's history. Merkel has done her lot to assure that it will be a part of the country's future, with all of the uncertainty that involves. Though the influx of migrants into Europe in the 2010s was slowed by covid, the construction of fences, and the tightening of return policies, conservative predictions place the future Muslim population of Europe at more than 10% by 2050. Because immigrants have settled unevenly, choosing states with the most generous welfare benefits, they will make up more than 20% of the population in areas like sparsely populated Sweden.

These are radical social engineering experiments. Though Merkel readily recognized in 2010 that mass immigration and assimilation had failed, she finally placed her faith in the concept that a European was someone who happened to be in Europe—a German someone who happened to be in Germany—rather than someone formed organically by German society.

Time will tell.

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