There are many people in Germany who have experience of giving up. So far, some have known this primarily in a voluntary form. They want to get thinner and give up sugar. They want to live healthier lives and avoid alcohol. Or they try to protect the climate and the environment. Then you don’t fly and take the train instead.
On the other hand, there are those who have given up for a long time without having a choice. For them, going to the cinema is a luxury, on the 27th of the month there is no money left for shopping in the supermarket, and last winter the heating was only turned on in one room of their apartment. It sounds cynical to them when politicians say that belts need to be tightened – because they don’t know where they can save more.
What it means not to give up voluntarily, but to be forced to do so: soon many more people in Germany will experience this. The federal government is already swearing by deprivation in the country. Federal Economics Minister Robert Habeck cannot and will not rule out colder apartments in winter in view of the falling gas supplies from Russia. Federal Finance Minister Christian Lindner has already predicted “years of scarcity”.
These cuts will no longer only affect the poor, people with low incomes or small pensions, but also parts of the middle class. Those who were previously happy to count themselves among the average earners will feel the change badly.
Supply chains disrupted by Corona, scarce resources and the energy price shock triggered by the Russian war of aggression against Ukraine – all of this leads to rapidly increasing prices for food and everyday products, to higher costs for heating and fuel. An end to the development is not yet foreseeable. The consequences are felt by all consumers and uncomfortable for almost everyone. It is indeed an age of renunciation and scarcity that is upon the land.
For decades, things went steadily uphill economically in the Federal Republic. Prosperity and economic stability became a matter of course for many, as did the annual flight or regular visits to restaurants. Now people could also get to know fears of relegation who previously did not have to feel meant by it. How will they react? Political scientists warn that extreme parties could gain strength.
The possibilities for the state to take countermeasures with financial means are finite. It has often been emphasized that not everyone can be exonerated. Aid from the state must be given primarily to those who need it most. It is true that politicians are now preparing everyone else for difficult times – and asking for help. Economics Minister Habeck has expressly called for energy saving in order to alleviate the gas shortage.
At the same time, citizens only have limited control over it. If Vladimir Putin turns off the gas tap completely, even shorter showers will no longer help against the (energy) crisis. It is therefore primarily the task of politics to cushion the greatest hardships at the moment – and to set the course in such a way that the renunciation does not result in permanent deprivation.