In an essay on German public policy, Manfred Schmidt (1989) began by asking what was distinctive about it. His initial response was that the Germans had a strange claim to distinctiveness. In contrast to the Sonderweg, or exceptional course, pursued by their predecessors between 1870 and 1945, they had taken a path towards relative normalcy. ‘What is distinctive about West Germany’s public policy’, wrote Schmidt, ‘is that it has ceased to be dramatically distinctive.’ However, the main thrust of his insightful analysis was that there nevertheless remained something different about the Federal Republic’s public policy profile. By building on historic traditions surrounding the German state and at the same time learning from the catastrophes of the twentieth century, the Germans had chosen ‘a middle way … between the extremes of Scandinavian social democratic welfare capitalism and political economies in which centre-right, or rightist tendencies, dominate’.
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