Sunday, April 01, 2007

A Lesson in Affirmative Action from the East

Not that this story(German only) is particularly interesting in itself, but it seems that some cities in West Germany are starting to get tired of making yearly "solidarity" payments for development in the East. This is, of course, one of the many schemes set up after the fall of the DDR to help rebuild it: there's a fund of money to keep local governments in the East afloat.

I guess this was useful for a time. After all, it would hardly have been good for the economy to have mass emigration to the West as soon as the border (officially) came down. Since keeping up with the expensive new economy would indeed be daunting for the East at first, I'm not going to pick too many bones with this kind of policy, even though in principle I'm not sure it's the right way to go about things. But whatever your position on this kind of thing, these policies aren't meant to go on in perpetuity. This point, for example, is as legitimate as it is inevitable:

Kraft sagte: "16 Jahre nach der Einheit müssen wir endlich davon wegkommen, Unterstützung nach der Himmelsrichtung statt nach der Bedürftigkeit zu verteilen." Es gehe nicht an, dass das schuldenfreie Dresden jährlich 300 Millionen Euro Fördermittel erhalte, während Städte im Ruhrgebiet nicht mehr wüssten, wie sie ihre Kindergärten bezahlen sollten. Trotzdem müssten sie weitere Schulden machen, um Geld in Boom-Regionen im Osten zu überweisen.

Roughly translated:

Kraft says: "16 years after Unification we have to get away from providing support based on which side of the compass you're on rather than based on need." It's not just a matter of debt-free Dresden getting 300million Euro in support payments while cities in the Ruhr don't know how they're going to pay for their kindergartens. It's more that they have to incur debts to send money to boom-regions in the East.

Right. It's the inevitable result of any such program, really. We have the same kind of absurdity with Affirmative Action in the United States. So-called "minority achievement" scholarships go, more often than not, to kids who are just as capable as their white counterparts of taking out loans and making it on their own. The black kids who arguably really do suffer from past oppression don't qualify academically, and plenty of whites who are nobody's idea of beneficiaries of so-called "white privilege," of course, simply don't have the opportunity, qualified or not.

But here's what really woke me up about all this.

Er erklärte: "In 17 Jahren können die Folgen von 40 Jahren Diktatur nicht gänzlich beseitigt werden...

Translation: "He explained: you can't completely erase the consequences of 40 years of dictatorship in 17 years...."

Was it really 17 YEARS AGO? To me, that just kills it. In other words - rebuilding the East has been going on roughly half as long as the DDR even existed (massive protests ruined its 40th birthday party, in fact)! That just makes it seem all the more absurd to me. Surely after 17 years this has been going on long enough? Surely after 17 years you reach a point where it is indeed time to say "look, if the East isn't where it oughta be by now, that can only be for lack of effort on their part. We quit!"

Let them sink or swim. It isn't, after all, as though West Germany got where it is today by constantly complaining about Hitler and the war...


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