In uncertain times like these I came across a great anecdote shared by former German Chancellor Gerhard Schroder’s foreign policy adviser Michael Steiner, in a recent interview with Spiegel. This story concerns a late night conversation between Steiner’s boss and then British Prime Minister Tony Blair, at a time when German car companies were buying up boutique British brands such as Rolls Royce:
I can remember an evening in London when he was sitting together with British Prime Minister Tony Blair. It was two or three in the morning and the two were, let us say, in an advanced social state. Suddenly Blair said: “You can have them all, Gerd, all the cars that we’ve built here: Rolls Royce, Bentley, Rover. That is the 19th century, that is steel, that isn’t the future. Schröder answered: “Tony, you have no idea about the economy. You don’t get it. The cars that we build are drivers of technology. Already today, they contain the most modern electronics and that will be even more the case in the future. That is the platform for the real future.” Back then, I was deeply ashamed for Schröder. I thought the future was the financial markets and virtual reality. And then comes Schröder with his old fashioned stuff. And who was right? Gerd Schröder.
I’m not sure Steiner would be sounding quite so triumphant in light of the Volkswagen scandal, but you see the point.