Uncle Lulu

That guy with the cigar on this West German stamp from 1987 is my great-uncle, Ludwig Erhard, or “Onkel Lulu” in our family.

Why is he on this blog?

Newspaper cutting of my dad and his uncle

Newspaper cutting of my dad and his uncle

Because is life is one of those I trace in my book, to show that that what happened to Hannibal and Scipio happens to all of us, one way or another.

My dad pouring tea for his uncle, the chancellor, in the 60s

My dad pouring tea for his uncle, the chancellor, in the 60s

In Germany and continental Europe, Ludwig Erhard is a household name. In America, he is not, but should be. He is famous for being a founding father of post-war (West) Germany, its first economics minister, the father of its currency (the Deutsche Mark), and then its second chancellor (ie, prime minister). He is credited with causing the stunning economic growth of the 1950s, sometimes called (but not by him) an “economic miracle”. And he is probably the most steadfast proponent of freedom, tolerance and open and fair markets in German history.

Dad and Lulu again

As my father’s uncle and godfather, he practically raised my father after my grandfather died. I only met Lulu when I was very small (he died in 1977). He liked to hide Easter eggs for me in his steep hillside garden by the Tegernsee, an Alpine lake south of Munich. His influence lives on, in Germany, in our family, and now in my book.

My mom with Lulu in New York, where I was born

My mom with Lulu in New York, where I was born

10 thoughts on “Uncle Lulu

  1. Very cool. He did live a fascinating life. I highly recommend the English biography of your great uncle Ludwig by Alfred Mierzejewski.

  2. Thanks, Mark. I’ve just read that one, and yes, it was good. Now I’m reading a German one, and comparing it to the little anecdotes that my dad’s been telling me…
    Are you an expert on him?

  3. I find most interesting that you are a great nephew of Ludwig Erhard, whose name is very familiar to me, as a lifelong aficionado of world politics.

    So I’ll be interested to hear of your personal stories about him.

    To change topic ever so slightly, I’ve just re-read “If”, and was surprised to see that its last four lines were not quite as I’d memorized them years ago.

    I’d remembered them as:

    If you can fill EACH unforgiving minute
    With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run,
    Yours is the Earth and ALL that’s in it,
    And–WHAT is more–you’ll be a Man, my son!

    Although I now realize I’d got three words wrong, I still think mine fit better than Rudyard’s.

    What say you?!!

  4. I’m hesitant to over-rule the great Kipling, but your memory, by editing him, seems to have improved it. “Each” is stronger than “the”; “all” makes its line fall a few syllables short, which seems punchier in a Limerick-kind of way; and “what” sound more natural today than “which” (not in his day, perhaps).

  5. My Goodness!

    I have just finished reading about your Great Uncle Ludwig Erhard. Impressive lineage, for sure.

    Now, based on Uncle Lulu’s economic philosophy, And he is probably the most steadfast proponent of freedom, tolerance and open and fair markets in German history., what advice would he give to the new Treasury Secretary?

  6. That’s a very, very interesting question, Cheri. I will ask my dad what he thinks. (He knows Lulu’s mind much better)
    It’s hard because the issues that Uncle Lulu faced were so different: an economy and society totally destroyed by war, where Lucky Strikes and sex were money, and where cartel bosses with cigars were waiting to parcel up any economy that might come out of the ruins. Lulu started, you might say, with a clean slate. And did pretty well.
    Today, in the US, there is no clean slate. We’re trying to preserve things (banks, lending, consumption, home ownership…), and in the process nationalizing.
    Lulu, like all “real” Liberals, was not a free-market fundamentalist. He cared about real people and their freedom. I think he would be quite pragmatic–Obama-esque–at this point in time.
    I will ponder this some more…

  7. Andreas,

    I am sorry if the phrasing of my question made it sound insincere, as I was ,truly interested in the language you used to describe Uncle Lulu’s economic philosophy, especially considering all of the current discussion about deregulation and free market economies.

    I am not an economist by any stretch of the imagination, so forgive me!

    Your father’s response is clear and concise. I agree with him almost chapter and verse, especially with regard to his comments about the following:
    1. Excessive Wall Street greed.
    2. Americans as zero savers. This is partly to be blamed on my generation, the Baby Boomers.
    3. An independent Fed
    4. Not bailing out Detroit for fear of a super monopoly.

    I would like to know his thoughts about Europeans, in general, as savers.

    Cheri

  8. Nothing sounded insincere at all, Cheri. I was projecting a bit of naughtiness, lest readers get the impression that we Kluths get our kicks out of wanton necromancy or, what is infinitely worse, that we would choose … the economy as the topic if given the opportunity. 😉
    We can safely assume that Uncle Lulu is now turning in his grave. (For newcomers to this post, we are talking about this post in response to Cheri’s question.)

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