German efficiency

Well well. Here's the twopennyworth from one returned son of the land to his native Germany after nearly 10 years in the Divided Britain: I'd say the premise of this article, that it would be just our fondness for obeying rules that gets mistaken for efficiency, is pretty daft. 

Firstly, obeying rules can make people more efficient. The obedience to higher authority had disastrous consequences in the Third Reich, and not challenging rules that are blatantly unethical is negligent, making individuals or societies condoning followers of atrocity. This is something quite different though from challenging every law, just because you think you're above the rulebook. There is a certain belief held in Germany that laws are for the greater good and that lawmakers generally have good intentions. I was astonished by a seminar offered some years back in the Disunited Kingdom, when the new construction products regulations came in: One of the topics covered was literally entitled “who will be checking?” – as if to already gauge in how far you could flout the new law. Yes rules are cumbersome, and sometimes appear idiotic. But you can either approach with obedience and then start cutting corners where it makes sense: I can testify that in Germany many people will, if there are no cars, no police and especially no children around, cross against red lights. Or you approach with a default rebellion, which will lead to stronger rules as lawmakers grow desperate, to social disunion and yes, to inefficiency. 

Secondly, being systematic isn't the same as being legalistic. While the ubiquitous rule of mammon causes cost-cutting that will lever out quality here just as anywhere else, there remains a Germanic tendency to go to the bottom of things, to suss them out, to systematically wrap your head around a matter, and then to perform what you do reasonably properly, as you see fit, so you can take some pride in your work. Competence is still a positive value. In the Decoupling Kingdom, it sometimes appeared to me as if incompetence was actually in higher regard, as long as it's good for laughs. Or with Henning Wehn: German's are not humourless, but “we Germans laugh when the work is done, and the Brits laugh instead of doing any work! There’s an idea that Britain aren't competitive and are just incredibly lazy. But the way they eat curry disproves that whole point. There is competitiveness but it focuses on the wrong thing, on who can eat the hottest curry.” (Chaatmagazine October 2013, or see this Open University Free Learning article for a different version). By way of focussing on the wrong thing, i sometimes couldn't help feeling that Brits favour marketing and sales, while Germans maybe focus on substance a bit more. Good education is a crucial element to making world-famous engineers, and, guess what, helps immensely with knowing your stuff. The eye-watering surges in tuition fees in England and Wales are undoubtedly among the most effective ways of divesting from the future of your country. Once i read, maybe on Linkedin, a Brit saying we should take the country back from the bankers and give it back to the engineers. That sounded good (if a tad nostalgic) to me. Planned obsolescence or deliberate unrepairability are excesses of a throwaway society that needs to churn through ever greater masses of material and produce ever more waste at an ever accelerating pace in order to feed capitalism (and destroy itself in the process). But I like to think that German engineers really do not like to design this way. There's a reason they still build some of the highest quality and most reliable goods. Yes, over-reliance on integrated circuits that occasionally fry up and wireless-everything take their toll here too. Globalisation attenuates character. But look at the central oven dial of our Miele bought in 2017 – evidence of a remnant of bold mechanical engineering. 

Miele Backofen Drehknauf

Thirdly, yes of course there's an overgrown thicket of bureaucracy, like in most “developed” (aka degenerate) places. I sometimes get the feeling every post-industrial country claims the trophy for the worst, most inefficient red tape for themselves. But the Germans are definitely not far down in the rankings. Especially when the government gets directly involved, project implementation can derail like we've seen with the Berlin Airport. But this is an entirely separate matter to whether or not Germans are, in their mentality or by their nature, efficient or not. It seems strange why one of the Descending Kingdom's best-loved and best-hated institutions like the BBC would see a need to conflate these things into such a piece of irrelevant nonsense. 

So there you have it, probably the most patriotic thing i ever wrote. It took 10 years abroad to make me. Needless to say to all who know me that i won't be turning nationalist and remain, yours truly, intensely (self)critical.