The Wirecard Scandal Could Only Have Happened in Germany | The New Republic
Adrian Daub a la dent aussi dure contre l’Allemagne qu’il l’a contre les brahamanes de la Silicon Valley.
The “global player” is enticing for Germany because it is ultimately utopian. Germany would like to have its own Uber, its own Amazon, its own Google. Wirecard promised German media and politicians exactly that. But in order to have companies of this kind, it would have to dismantle the regulatory apparatus that German unions and politicians have fought to create over the course of more than a century. A scandal like Wirecard is powered by the dream that you could have an Uber without slashing workers’ protection—that one could hold on to what remains of the German social market economy while at the same time going all-in on laissez-faire capitalism.
Similarly, German politicians have long suggested that the country needs to have “elite” universities, which seems to mean its own Harvards and Stanfords. The shininess of the great American models is premised on absurd student debt, on universities turning themselves into some mix of tax shelter and investment bank, and on the education system essentially laundering donor money unleashed by regressive tax schemes. German politics harbors the fantasy of having Harvard without all of the ravages that make Harvard possible, because it suggests a version of globalization without any of the drawbacks.
The Wirecard scandal could be depicted as an example of global neoliberalism run amok. But it might actually be about a country that is less neoliberal than it would like to be—that has talked itself into believing that dismantling the regulatory state and the welfare state are a good idea but can’t get itself to actually do it. A country obsessed with being a global player, but ultimately far more comfortable in its provincialism than it cares to admit.