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Author Daniela Dahn Announces a New East German Self-Confidence (September 21, 1996)

With considerable bitterness, author Daniela Dahn comments on the disappointments of unification, which brought about industrial collapse and Western cultural dominance. She then makes reference to a new East German self-confidence – one that has arisen both from the difficult transition experience and the globalization crisis that also threatens the Western model.

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East and West Misunderstand Each Other
Is it the money? A lack of patience? Or is the East too self-confident?

The basic misunderstanding between East and West lies in the fact that one side thinks that it’s giving everything away, while the other side thinks that everything is being taken away. The West Germans pay the solidarity surcharge and have to tighten their belts terribly; the East Germans are paying it, too, and on top of that they have, through the hasty monetary union and a Treuhand policy that represented Western interests, lost millions of jobs in industry and agriculture.

The cutting of jobs was necessary given the increased demand for efficiency, but de-industrialization on this scale, seventy percent, didn’t happen anywhere else in Eastern Europe after the Wende. Of course, the devaluation of previous efforts also has psychological effects – to say nothing of the legislator-organized East-West real estate war (“Restitution before Compensation”), which has left millions frustrated and is also proving costly to taxpayers.

The legend that there was no alternative to this kind of reunification, the most expensive for both sides, is cultivated chiefly by those Western minorities who earned themselves silly from unification: banks and industrialists, insurance companies, realtors, lawyers, and notaries. And their faithful servants: certain politicians and journalists. Whoever thinks that such patterns of explanation are nothing but Eastern conspiracy theories needs to be reminded that representative democracy is a society of institutionalized interest groups.

The most organized interest groups manage to push their agendas most successfully. The Eastern interest groups were truly poorly organized. Especially in confusing times of upheaval, democracy runs the risk of being dominated by lobbying interest groups. If that happens, equality of opportunity is blocked for a long time.

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