Global Crisis/Innovation Blog

Angela Merkel, Meet Frederick the Great

By Shlomo Maital



What would happen if Frederick the Great, King of Prussia (b. 1712 – d. 1786),  Der Alter Fritz, who ruled for over 40 years, came back to life and spoke with German Chancellor Angela Merkel?   What would they chat about?

   Here’s my take on it.

   Merkel:  Alter Fritz,  I’m in deep trouble. I lead Germany, Germany is the only nation that can save the euro, yet my stubborn people won’t let me, they want to punish Greece and Italy more than they want to strengthen Germany.

  Frederick:  The reason you were chosen Chancellor, Angela, is presumably because you are smart and wise, like me.  We know you are smart, because you are a trained scientist.  But are you wise?

   Merkel:  What do you mean, Frederick?

   Frederick:  Shall I tell you how I saved my nation?

   Merkel:  Yes please.  My history is a bit rusty these days, all I get to read is what those damned economists write.

   Frederick:  Europe had a mini-ice age for two centuries.  Crops froze.  The people were starving. They had no grain, no bread.  I heard of something called a potato, brought from the New World by the Spanish in the 16th C. But it spread very slowly in Europe.  Yet the potato was ideal, because even if its leaves froze above ground, the potatoes below ground survived.  But – how can I get those stubborn Prussian farmers to adopt it?  So, around 1770, I planted potatoes in the fields of my palace in Potsdam.  I announced I would whip any farmer who stole my potatoes for seed.  I served them regularly for my dinner.  And I left big holes in my fences.  The potato quickly spread like wildfire throughout Prussia.  To this day, kartoffel is a German favorite.  It saved Prussia from mass starvation.  In contrast, in France, stupid King Louis and his “Academy of Science” declared that the New World Americans were idiots, because they ate corn and potatoes.  They refused to adopt the potato.  Some say the resulting starvation led to the French Revolution.  Louis lost his head – literally.  

   Now, do you see what I mean by ‘wise’?   

   Merkel:  Yes, but…  I have no palace. And … I’m afraid my Germans today are more French than Prussian.