Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Taken to the Cleaners

German office building owners:

BERLIN - Seeking to cut the number of foreigners flooding into Germany to work as low-cost cleaners, the Berlin government Wednesday approved a minimum wage for all people employed in the sector.

The law - mainly aimed at workers coming from central and eastern Europe - imposes a 7.87 euros (10.09 dollars) per hour wage in western Germany and 6.26 euros per hour in the east.

A total of 850,000 people are employed in Germany's building cleaning sector and there have been repeated complaints that foreign workers sent to Germany are driving down the already low wages paid to cleaners.

Which reminds the FLUBA Committee on Pre-Bush Deranged Paul Krugman of this piece from 1999:

Well, here's my theory: The real divide between currently successful economies, like the U.S., and currently troubled ones, like Germany, is not political but philosophical; it's not Karl Marx vs. Adam Smith, it's Immanuel Kant's categorical imperative vs. William James' pragmatism.

What the Germans really want is a clear set of principles: rules that specify the nature of truth, the basis of morality, when shops will be open, and what a Deutsche mark is worth. Americans, by contrast, are philosophically and personally sloppy: They go with whatever seems more or less to work. If people want to go shopping at 11 P.M., that's okay; if a dollar is sometimes worth 80 yen, sometimes 150, that's also okay.Now, the American way doesn't always work better.

....But the world has changed in a way that seems to favor flexibility over discipline.

....And so Germany is in trouble--and with it, the whole project of a more unified Europe. For Germany is supposed to be the economic engine of the new Europe; if it is a drag instead, perhaps the whole train in the wrong direction goes, not so?

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