The column below, penned by the always-intelligent Simon Jenkins, is mostly about Britain, but his words apply to the United States.
I have always said that there is no perfect place to live. That includes Germany. To ensure a balanced view of this country, I will point out one feature.
All countries have bureaucracies, and many are worse than Germany’s (France and Italy come to mind). But, I live in Germany and must occasionally deal with the system. One word which will never appear in a sentence with civil service is efficiency. Germans are great at building machines, but have a problem with any service industry, especially when a government employee must provide it. Do not ever hire a German “efficiency expert”--if there is such a creature--unless machines are involved.
One purpose of the civil service is to provide jobs for a whole bunch of folks. Even though a government department is over-staffed, customer service is not something considered necessary. I will provide one small example. We visited city hall to apply for a children’s passport. Three people manned the reception desk, even though maybe one visitor per hour bothers them. We were directed to the passport office, where four desks were occupied...and told to sit in the waiting room. It took some time before one of the idle workers deigned to call us. Once there, we learned that a copy of the birth certificate was needed...from a different department in the same building. Computer links are unheard of. Back the reception (still with three people), we learned that the birth registry is open only in the morning. So, an office which provides service is not open, but one with little to do is over-staffed. All these people will retire with full benefits, without having paid a penny into the system. We can thank Bismarck.
There are countless examples of tax payers supporting many people with useless jobs, as opposed to paying unemployment benefits or putting up with people living in boxes under bridges. This is what Americans would call socialism, but it works for this country. One must merely have patience...and pay high taxes.
Prior to writing novels, the author enjoyed a multifaceted career: from decorated combat aviator to advertising professional to global communications director of a major consumer brand. He has traveled the world and met sports, film and television stars, political leaders, and royalty. He graduated from Middlebury College, is married, lives in Germany, and has two grown children.