Germany

From an interview with Michael Lewis:

The Germans have gotten stuffed every which way. They not only bought American subprime-backed securities and Greek government bonds, but they were also buyers of Spanish condos, and lenders into various megalomaniacal Icelandic private-equity deals—they bootstrapped these Icelandic tycoons. I don’t think there was a bad investment that the Germans didn’t make. I think it was their fundamental strength that enabled them to weather all these shitty investments. They have been generating such surpluses and wealth for so long that they can afford to squander some of it. It is also indicative of something that I haven’t really thought through. Whatever it is that makes Germans really good at making cars renders them less capable when dealing with American investment bankers. It’s like global finance and global manufacturing are two different aptitudes and occupy separate headspaces. So they’re really good at the math S.A.T. and not so good at the verbal S.A.T.

So the question is: Why aren’t they suffering more? There has always been this engine of prosperity underneath their financial activity, and although that engine is affected by what is going on in the world, it is not affected in the same way that an economy premised entirely on financial manipulation is affected. The funny thing is, one of the subplots of this slow disintegration of the European Monetary Union [is] that this whole institution was put together to contain Germany. By welding all of Europe together, the general idea was to make Germany less threatening by making them a part of a larger European enterprise.

Instead, it has made Germany more frightening in a couple ways. First, by opening all European markets to German manufactured goods, it created a big market for Germany to sell into, thus making it easier for them to become big and strong. Secondly, and more insidious, by essentially putting Germany in the position of the stiffed creditor of its European counter-parties, it changes the tone of relations between Germany and everybody else. This tone of relations seems to be shifting rather rapidly from still feeling ever so slightly guilty about the Holocaust to being pissed that everyone owes them money and is not paying them back. What we are looking at is a morally indignant Germany, which is kind of a new thing. In my lifetime, I can’t remember a time when the Germans were allowed to be self-righteous. And now they are justifiably self-righteous, because everybody screwed them. It is creating a climate where German politicians tell the Greeks they need to sell the Acropolis.

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