Okay, so I have been thinking a bit about this question for some time, and while I obviously havent read a lot of books about German history and economy specifically in which you might find good answers, I still can't seem to find an answer to this question from quickly googling.

So how come that Germany has succeeded in being such a strong/dominant economy? Seeing reprimands and damages they had to pay after both the First as well as Second World War (not to mention the hardships on the population, and the loss of big parts of the labor force). They still are one of the worlds strongest economies. And no significant natural resources (that I know of).

Is the answer as simple as they were pioneers within technology from even before and between the wars? And as such core industry/companies was still there (aswell as being developed during the war) and they had that to fall back on? So that the reprimands and setbacks suffered by the both wars was simply a setback that merely slowed the progress/development?

  • 1
    Is it a history question?
    – Greg
    Feb 26 '17 at 13:04
  • migrate to economics or politics?
    – MCW
    Feb 26 '17 at 17:56
  • Hmm, I am thinking of the question in more of a historical context as my main idea stemmed from thinking about the aftermaths of the wars. However I see what you are saying, and I am less used to politics and economics, so have no clue if this would be more suited in such a context. I guess you could vote it as off topic if you find it that way. Feb 26 '17 at 18:19
  • From historical perspective: the second largest economy is China, the third is Japan. Both are heavily involved in WWII and suffering heavy losses. I don't see how present state of economy would be determined solely by historical past (back to almost a century).
    – Greg
    Feb 26 '17 at 18:36
  • You're looking to support/refute a thesis - but that thesis is fiendishly complex; it is, infact, "Wicked" - multiple conflicting answers can be developed on minor variations in assumptions. We don't know what makes one economy thrive and another drive - there are too many interrelating factors. O.M's is probably as good as you'll get.
    – MCW
    Feb 26 '17 at 23:12

You will not get a single answer to such a question. Here are some factors:

  • A long scientific tradition in the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) fields. In the 19th and early 20th century, German was the international language of science in many fields.
  • Free university education for all those who would pass the exit examination of their secondary school, with student loans not as a privilege but a right.
  • Until some years ago, a system of university education different from the UK/US model, which combined bachelor and master studies into a single Diplom.

That provided a solid core of engineers and managers.

  • The main left/worker's party (the social democrats) decided to back and reform the capitalist system rather than to try and topple it. Examples include the WWI war bonds or, more recently, the Agenda 2010 reforms of chancellor Schroeder.
  • The main right/industrialist's parties decided to "bribe" the workers into "good" behaviour with social reforms and welfare. Examples include Bismarck's social laws and later the soziale Marktwirtschaft.
  • A dual education system for blue-collar workers which combines apprenticeships with trade schools.

These points combined to make the proletariat aspire to become a Facharbeiter, a certified skilled worker, and not a rabble-rousing revolutionary. This perception encorages invenstment and stability, as opposed to other European nations which are seen as more strike-prone.

  • There was quite a slump after WWI. But soon after WWII, the victors on both sides recognized that they'd need Germans in the Cold War and relented.
  • This neglects the most important reason, that Germany is in Europe, and Europe richer than most of the world from colonialism.
    – axsvl77
    Feb 27 '17 at 20:02
  • @axsvl77 "..from colonialism" and the industrial revolution, functional states, and several other factors that people fail to recognize or prefer to deny. Not talking about the fact that Germany hardly had any economic advantage from its colonies.
    – Greg
    Feb 28 '17 at 5:36
  • @axsvl77, you made that point in an answer that got heavily downvoted. Historical science isn't a democracy, but it seems your position doesn't find a consensus. Colonialism isn't the root of all history.
    – o.m.
    Feb 28 '17 at 6:10
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    @o.m. If Germany was tucked between Bangladesh and Burma, would it be wealthy today? Its proximity to Britain was very important for the spread of the Industrial revolution.
    – axsvl77
    Feb 28 '17 at 15:18

Germany is part of Europe. For centuries the Europeans subjugated much of the world through colonialism, allowing much of the European merchant class to become wealthy in the 1700s and 1800s.

In the early 1800's, part of Europe (England) underwent an industrial revolution. The money to fund the revolution came from colonialism. This revolution further enriched the merchant classes in Europe. It also created a new class - a working class. The working class were poor people who worked in factories. The industrial revolution spread to Germany after the 1860s.

In the early 1900's, the working classes in Europe started to revolt, strike, and unionize. As the working class gained power, the working class in Europe became wealthy as well.

This is why most ordinary Europeans, including Germans, are wealthy. This is also why many non-Europeans are poor: colonialism left some deep wounds, that have not yet healed.

  • 1
    Axsv177 - you are broadly wrong to say that past colonialism is the main reason many non Europeans are poor. Poverty is the natural condition of humans and needs no explanation. Relative wealth and being well off is a beneficial, and thus unnatural, condition that needs explanation.
    – MAGolding
    Feb 27 '17 at 4:28
  • @MAGolding ok, I'll limit it to Africa, South Asia, China, Southeast Asia, South America and Central America.
    – axsvl77
    Feb 27 '17 at 4:55
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    Germany in particular "came late" to the scramble for colonies, and held few of them for a very short time. So this is no explanation for the German prosperity.
    – o.m.
    Feb 27 '17 at 6:05
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    @o.m. Germany is part of Europe. Europe prospered from colonialism. The money that Spain, Netherlands, and England extracted from South Asia, the Americas, and SE Asia benefited Germany greatly.
    – axsvl77
    Feb 27 '17 at 13:50
  • 1
    @axsvl77, by that reasoning Spain should be even stronger than Germany. It hasn't been, for many centuries.
    – o.m.
    Feb 27 '17 at 18:55

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