Austrian Economics Wiki
Country summary




Austria 784 km, Belgium 167 km, Czech Republic 646 km, Denmark 68 km, France 451 km, Luxembourg 138 km, Netherlands 577 km, Poland 456 km, Switzerland 334 km

Government type

federal republic


82,329,758 (July 2010 est.)[1]

Population growth %

-0.05 (2010 est.)[1]

Life expectancy

79.26 years[1]


7.5% (2009 est.)[1]

Index of Economic Freedom


Corruption Perceptions Index


Doing Business ranking


As Europe's largest economy and second most populous nation (after Russia), Germany is a key member of the continent's economic, political, and defense organizations. European power struggles immersed Germany in two devastating World Wars in the first half of the 20th century and left the country occupied by the victorious Allied powers of the US, UK, France, and the Soviet Union in 1945. With the advent of the Cold War, two German states were formed in 1949: the western Federal Republic of Germany (FRG) and the eastern German Democratic Republic (GDR). The democratic FRG embedded itself in key Western economic and security organizations, the EC, which became the EU, and NATO, while the Communist GDR was on the front line of the Soviet-led Warsaw Pact. The decline of the USSR and the end of the Cold War allowed for German unification in 1990. Since then, Germany has expended considerable funds to bring Eastern productivity and wages up to Western standards. In January 1999, Germany and 10 other EU countries introduced a common European exchange currency, the euro.[1]

Points of interest[]

The following notable inflations have affected German lands:

Levees in Frisia[]

One typical and popular example of public goods is the case of dikes or levees. If a dike is built for one person, additional consumers can benefit from its services, i.e., protection from flooding. But once a dike has been built, no one living behind the dike can be excluded from its service, whether he participated in financing it or not. Hence, people would wait for others to build a dike hoping to enjoy it without having to pay for it. But when everyone waits, the dike that everyone needs is not built. This line of thinking ignores individual actions and motivations, and social pressures that may also come into play. People can decided to take the higher subjective risk or come to an agreement of sharing the burden.

Historically, as other public goods that allegedly need government provision, dikes have been built on the private market for a long time. In Germany, mainly in Frisia and Dithmarschen, the first dikes were built without any government help about 1,000 years ago. The population grew quickly in these very fertile areas made accessible by diking. As the population grew and became wealthier, monumental churches were built, symbolizing the success of private dike building. The newly diked areas were almost independent territories. Although they nominally formed part of the Holy Roman Empire, only in some cases were they required to support the army in case of war and pay taxes. They were autonomous with their own jurisdiction and diplomatic contacts. The land of the Fries was without a feudal order or without feudal overlords. Diking not only had the incentive to create new fertile and profitable land but also to create free land.

It is striking to realize that dikes were not only built without the state, but also that the dike areas can be regarded as seceding areas, that came close to private law societies. The government of Friesland in the thirteenth century has been characterized as a 'harmless anarchy.' Officials were not appointed by a higher authority but were chosen by the free farmers. The institution of diking could have been one of the main reasons for the liberty in Frisia along with the "unique autonomy" the Fries enjoyed in Germany.

In dike law, there were two fundamental principles: the dike duty for maintaining one’s own section of the dike and the duty to help others in cases of emergency dike repairs. Both duties were tied to the property so that the property could only be sold with them. Penalties for violating common dike law could be rather draconian. Whoever did not help in maintaining the dike or did not help in time of emergency would lose his property inside the dike area. According to Steding (a region near Bremen and Oldenburg) dike law, he who did not manage his part of the dike and therefore was the cause of a dike break would be buried alive in the dike. The second pillar of dike law, the duty to help in case of emergency, referred to cases of dike breaks and storm floods. In 1533, certain Frisians who did not help the island of Pellworm with a dike break were beheaded.

Over time, the state got involved in the lucrative business of diking and claimed ownership of "polders" (reclaimed land) that were to be built by virtue of "sovereign fiat." The "Oktrois" as the rights to build a dike were called, were tied to a number of liberties, for instance, tax and duty liberty for a number of years, property rights for the fouling, freedom for inns, breweries and mills, free hunting and fishing, freedom for the building of churches and schools, etc. Often the "Oktrois" polders were autonomous, having their own jurisdiction and police power. These rights were very attractive due to the extensive liberties and religious refugees, even from the Netherlands, came for this reason. For the prince with a low time preference the system of the Oktrois polder was a very lucrative investment. By selling the right to the dike in the beginning, he would receive payment for these time-limited rights. Then for a number of contracted years the community would prosper in a state of anarchy and the population would grow. After a number of free years the prince could impose taxes, like property taxes, which would generate solid revenues for him.

The dike associations had an autonomy that the developing territorial states found difficult to tolerate. Over the course of 500 years, sovereigns of nearby states gained control over diking and the dike areas by employing a strategy of carrot and stick. Some of the areas were conquered in grimly fought battles, allowed by advancements in drainage methods which made it possible to dry out the swamps. But normally, the extension of state power was achieved by gradual means. For example, after the storm floods of 1717 and 1721 and the subsequent rebuilding, dike associations in Frisia were heavily indebted. In 1744, Prussia took over the debt payments of the dike associations and began to dike on its own account. The sovereign also tried to merge the dike associations into larger ones and to gain influence in the dike administration. State supervision and an organizational restructuring were introduced; a dike commissar was appointed as a public servant by Prussia; later a dike and sluice legislation was adopted, which gave government agencies supervisory power over the dike associations. Hence, the formerly autonomous dike associations increasingly became state entities in the nineteenth century. The state paid for this growing influence with subsidies in the form of credits or guarantees. Finally, in the twentieth century, the responsibility for all aspects of dike management from construction to damage repair went completely from property owner to the state.[5]

Economical characteristics[]

  • Currency: Euro (ISO code: EUR)
  • Central bank discount rate: 1.75% (31 December 2009)[1]
  • Commercial banks lending rate: 5.97% (31 December 2008)[1]
  • is part of the Eurozone


Statistic / Year 1999 2000 2001 2002 2003 2004 2005 2006 2007 2008
GDP (million USD)[6] 2 143 620 1 900 220 1 890 970 2 016 920 2 442 210 2 745 100 2 789 700 2 912 430 3 316 130 3 649 490
Govt. debt (% of GDP)[7] 37.778 38.968 40.608 42.629 44.251 43.255 40.775
Govt. revenue (% of GDP)[8] 30.540 30.342 29.617 29.592 29.755 28.584 28.732 28.681 28.471
Govt. expenses (% of GDP)[9] 32.069 31.752 31.444 31.943 32.436 31.341 31.260 30.161 29.021
Debt to revenue (years) 1.276 1.317 1.365 1.491 1.540 1.508 1.432


Note: statistical data was rounded. Different sources may use different methodologies for their estimates. Debt to revenue is calculated by dividing the two variables from their original ('unrounded') values. It represents how long it would a government take to repay its entire debt if it used its whole revenue for this purpose.

  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 1.5 1.6 CIA - The World Facebook. "Germany", from The World Facebook. Referenced 2010-09-21.
  2. Heritage Foundation. "Germany", Economic Freedom Score. A lower ranking is better; but please be careful when comparing between different countries or years. Referenced 2010-09-21.
  3. Transparency International. "Germany", Corruption Perceptions Index 2009. A lower ranking is better; but please note that the numbers cannot be compared between countries or years due to different methodology. Referenced 2010-09-21.
  4. Doing Business. "Germany", Doing Business 2010 (part of The World Bank Group). A lower ranking is better; but please be careful when comparing between different countries or years. Referenced 2010-09-21.
  5. Philipp Bagus. "Wresting Land from the Sea: An Argument Against Public Goods Theory" (pdf, or html), Journal of Libertarian Studies Volume 20, No. 4 (Fall 2006): 21–40. Referenced 2010-10-08.
  6. World Bank. "Germany: GDP", from World Bank Data. Referenced 2010-09-21.
  7. World Bank. "Germany: government debt", from World Bank Data. Referenced 2010-09-21.
  8. World Bank. "Germany: government revenue", from World Bank Data. Referenced 2010-09-21.
  9. World Bank. "Germany: government expenses", from World Bank Data. Referenced 2010-09-21.

External links[]