Germans, the New Deal and Overwork


After writing my recent post about vacations in Romania, I came across this Salon article talking about how Germans are more productive yet work less and have more time off than Americans do.

Quite illuminating and I recommend reading the entire thing, especially the fact that statistically Americans work nine full weeks more per year than Germans do and have six weeks (!) mandatory vacation time. It reminds me of the bitter joke we used to have at my old job, that it wasn’t the first 40 hours of the work week which were tough but the last 40 ;)

This however (from the article) requires some additional commentary:

How did Germany become such a great place to work in the first place?

The Allies did it. This whole European model came, to some extent, from the New Deal. Our real history and tradition is what we created in Europe. Occupying Germany after WWII, the 1945 European constitutions, the UN Charter of Human Rights all came from Eleanor Roosevelt and the New Dealers. All of it got worked into the constitutions of Europe and helped shape their social democracies.

It didn’t just get “worked into” the constitutions. In Germany, even today, the constitution still used as the backbone of their political system was literally written by the “Allies” and handed over to be implemented. In other words, a group of nations defeated Germany militarily then dictatorially created a new legal system and forced it on them at gunpoint, a system which is now providing so much productivity and time off.

When I was younger, I had always assumed my general knowledge of history was fairly complete and so I was completely shocked to discover a few things about what was still fairly recent (after all, even today I still have living relatives who grew up in that era).

Looking at it from today’s perspective, it’s clear that Roosevelt’s “New Deal” was nearly identical to what we have here in the European Union today (including Germany) – a great deal of governmental control to ensure a lot of benefits and equality for workers, the disabled, minorities and/or the poor. Furthermore, this “New Deal” was legislated into reality in America virtually at gunpoint as well.

What’s interesting (at least to me) is how close FDR came to implementing what he called a Second Bill of Rights, which included such things as universal healthcare, fair prices, access to jobs and the right to a good education, all virtually identical to what we have here today in Europe, including yes, good old Romania.

I never heard of this once during any of my school days. Nor did I hear about the attempted coup against FDR that was put down at the last minute largely due to a Marine Corps General who, in his later years, grew reflective and regretful about his youth spent plundering and pillaging in the name of empire. It’s all quite a story.

Seventy years ago a wave of fascists and oligarchs swept into power across Europe and nearly succeeded in their ambition (and did succeed in “gentle” Spain), stopped only by a combination of the horrendous military might of totalitarian communism and FDR’s nearly totalitarian socialist liberalism.

The fascists and oligarchs have mostly faded away in Europe these days and yet FDR’s and Stalin’s legacies live on, combining into the (mostly) pleasant societies we find today here in the European Union, while back in America the populace is gripped with fear, suffering under the thumb of deliberately provoked hate and large-scale social distrust, almost as if 1940’s USA and Europe have switched places.

Quite frankly, I doubt if I had been alive in those heady days of World War 2 that I ever would’ve predicted it would turn out the way it has. Which makes me wonder how the future will be, no?

One thought on “Germans, the New Deal and Overwork

  1. It is rather amazing the rights established in Europe that evaded America! I think that Americans felt like the bubble would never burst and greed could right any wrong! Desigur that is just me and I could be wrong:P

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