Why Germany Seems Doomed To Stagnate

In "Don't choose gridlock, Germany" (Editorials, Mar. 16), you state that in the upcoming federal election, German voters should make clear which way they want their country to go. I could not agree more. In addition, the Germans are being courted for their votes by two different but nevertheless unsatisfactory candidates. Both pretend to be able to give guidance, but in reality, neither deserves the mandate of leadership.

Chancellor Helmut Kohl appears increasingly burned out after many years in office. His opponent, Gerhard Schroder, has only a modest record of achievements to present to the voting public. But somebody must do the job of giving people the necessary self-confidence to master the challenges of the future.

The causes of German malaise are not hard to detect. Decades of living in the comfort of a sumptuous social welfare system resulted in a fatal aversion to personal responsibility. The German state, with all its institutions, is viewed as a guarantor of everybody's well-being.

Anybody with any sense of reality knows that it is necessary to stop, or at least cut back, the old spending habits. But Germany's main problem remains the lack of a charismatic leader. Unfortunately, such a figure is nowhere in sight. Germans will have to go through the school of hard knocks. I predict the outcome of the election will solve none of the nation's problems. That gridlock will finally result in a winter of discontent. By the elections of the year 2002, I hope Germany will have the maturity to get rid of the old ghosts.

Rolf Joachim Siegen

Mesa, Calif.

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