The uprising of German economists

After the first party congress of the Alternative für Deutschland, last Sunday in Berlin, Germany has a euro critical force that affects the core of German euro policy. The uprising is being led by economists, many of whom already published an open letter against the German euro policy in the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung on July 5, 2012. The professors break a taboo to which German politicians have to conform: "if the euro fails, Europe fails." The population's support is waning: the professors offer a credible voice.

The erosion process is fueled by a growing conflict between North and South in the euro zone. The Greek Ministry of Finance has produced a report in which it calculates the extent of the damages Germany inflicted on Greece during the war. Germany is requested to pay as much as 162 billion euros in reparations to Greece, 80 percent of the current Greek gross domestic product. The German Finance Minister, Wolfgang Schäuble, responded brusquely by saying that the Greek government should focus on reforms of the economy. Since its inception, the euro has been a political currency that has little to do with economic logic. Germany wanted the euro to have friends in Europe. Instead, it creates enemies because the monetary union is a failing construction. Politicians ignored warnings from economists.

German economists are now taking up the political gauntlet: the Hamburg Professor Dr. Bernd Lucke is the leader of the party. There is always a certain occupational hazard with professors in politics. Their starting point is pure analysis and substantiated conclusion, not haggling and political twisting. In addition, they sometimes run the risk of blowing themselves up along with their hobbyhorse. That happened to the Heidelberg Professor Paul Kirchhof, who became the preferred Finance Minister in the 2005 parliamentary elections on behalf of the CDU. Kirchhof's pet was the flat tax, a unitary fiscal rate which he promoted in the campaign, while it was not a party position. Federal Chancellor Gerhard Schröder (SPD) recognized the opportunity and branded Kirchhof as an "advocate of the rich". The SPD campaign crucified Kirchhof upside down. He resigned and left the CDU to deal with the mess.

A party of professors has its benefits regarding euro policy. In Germany the euro is a political symbol of European unity. Europe, for Germans, is the Ersatznation. The critical professors know what the euro is missing and figurehead Lucke can skillfully present this in evening talk shows. That is more credible than an angry mob headed by political adventurers, some of whom, for example, would be inclined to praise the quality of the motorways built in the thirties. Such a movement immediately disqualifies itself in Germany. Professors who have written their own theses - unlike some German ministers and MEPs - represent a serious voice.

Institutionally speaking, criticism of the euro policy is limited in Germany. The jurisprudence of the Constitutional Court opposes a transfer zone in which Germany acts as a Zahlmeister without limits. The Court guards the budget right of the German Bundestag in decisions on rescue operations. The Bundesbank has always been skeptical about the euro and feared already in the nineties that the currency union would result in a transfer union. The Bundesbank, the most important central bank in the euro zone, is a dissident voice in the governance of the European Central Bank (ECB). German politics muzzles itself. In the Christian Democratic parties CDU/CSU and their liberal partner FDP there are critical voices, but the majority of MPs follows Chancellor Merkel, who describes her policy as "having no alternative". Fraktionsdisziplin.

A viable alternative may break open the playing field and does not even need a monster score. The new party has an electoral potential in the political centre and competes with both CDU and FDP. Especially the FDP is vulnerable because in opinion polls the Liberals float around the threshold of 5 percent. Also, it is difficult for a new party in Germany to break into the political system. Before July, the new party must collect 2000 signatures in each state. The parliamentary elections will take place in September.

The professors have caught the wind in their sails with this taboo-breaking operation. Cyprus, Italy, Portugal, Spain: the Germans are asked to pay, while 6 million Germans must survive on a few hundred euros per month under the Hartz IV legislation. Millions of German poor must save rich Cypriots. Out of ...... solidarity?