- John Studzinski describes how a sense of social responsibility and a country-wide commitment to making jobs available have placed Germany in a better economic position than its European neighbours:
Let me highlight some of the features unique to the Mittelstand model that I believe everyone should learn from – and imitate if they can. The first is what we might call the Mittelstand ethos – that business is a constructive enterprise that aims to be socially useful. Making a profit is not an end in itself: job creation, client satisfaction and product excellence are just as fundamental. Taking on debt is treated with suspicion. The objective of every business leader is to earn trust – from employees, customers, suppliers and society as a whole. This ethos chimes with the values of prudence and responsibility with which every schoolteacher hopes to imbue their pupils. Consequently, about half of all German high-school students move on to train in a trade. Business and education are natural bedfellows.- Sixth Estate comments on the Cons' deceptive efforts to dictate Saskatchewan's electoral boundaries, while Lawrence Martin sees the lies as evidence that the Cons are rotting from the head down. Meanwhile, Alice thoroughly describes the independent boundary development process in Canada and notes that "gerrymandering" isn't the right term to describe the Cons' interventions.
The second essential feature of the Mittelstand model is the collaborative spirit that generally exists between employer and employees. This can be dated back to the welfare state that Chancellor Otto von Bismarck established in the late 19th century to head off what he saw as the menace of socialism. Its modern-day equivalent is the system of works councils, which ensures that employees' interests are safeguarded, whether or not they belong to a trade union. German workers expect their employers to keep training them, enhancing their skills. In the post-reunification recession, it seemed only natural to German workers to offer flexibility on wages and hours in return for greater job security. More recently the government protected jobs by subsidising companies that cut hours rather than staff.
A third feature of the Mittelstand model is the determination of German companies to build for the long term. To this end, they tend to keep core functions such as engineering and project management in-house, while outsourcing production whenever this proves more efficient. Mittelstand companies are overwhelmingly privately owned, and thus largely free of pressure to provide shareholder returns. This makes them readier to innovate, and invest a larger proportion of their revenues in R&D. There are Mittelstand companies that file more patents in a year than do some entire European countries. It is one of the underlying reasons for their exporting success, even when their goods seem expensive.
(T)here is much that non-Germans could learn from. To close the gap between education and business, companies should take a greater interest in their local schools and colleges. If you haven't got spare cash for sponsoring gyms or computer equipment, go and talk to sixth-formers or degree students about what you do. Find out what graduates aspire to. It will help you to work out how to attract the next generation.
If you want to get more out of your employees and suppliers, consult them; invite them into your confidence. Don't complain: "We're not like the Germans. It won't work here." Think of a different way. Try harder.
The same applies to governments. Let me mention one simple legislative option. In German law, the owner of a family business who passes it on to the next generation can avoid paying inheritance tax if, during their tenure, they have increased employment and thereby benefited the economy. What better signal could a government give than by favouring those who create employment?
- Chris Hannay discusses how our current governments are missing the point of social media - including with up to eight points of revision and control over every single Tweet.
- Finally, Duncan Cameron writes that the editorial boards and political adversaries criticizing the NDP's Unity Act should instead be recognizing the opportunity created by the party's success in bringing Quebec voters into a discussion as to how to make federalism work.