Saturday, August 13, 2011

The European Crisis From a Cultural Perspective

link here to article

Michael Lewis has written some of the most insightful stories about the Wall Street culture, and how it explains much of what happened to sink the global economy into recession. One of the things that he understood about Wall Street was that its behavior is predatory. Smart people from Wall Street create complicated securities that are impossible to really understand and they search the world for stupid people who will buy things that they don't understand. Moreover, they will do it gladly because the Wall Street bankers are the best in the world at hooking their customers with the use of unlimited expense accounts. When Wall Street banks realized that they had to get rid of the toxic assets that they held in inventory, they found willing suckers in the German banks. In this article (via Manan Shukla), Lewis describes his experience with the German culture, and with German bankers, that helped him to understand why the German banks were so easily exploited by Wall Street bankers.

Of course, the larger problem today is to understand the crisis in the Euro Zone. Lewis describes this crisis in a way that everyone can understand it. He had already taken a trip to Greece and had written a brilliant story about the Greek culture and how it relates to the economic problems that they face. This is the story of his trip to Germany where he explores the cultural differences that separate the national cultures in Europe that are united by a single currency. In a large sense, Germany is the only country in Europe that can save the Euro Zone, but Greeks cannot behave like Germans and Germans have problems understanding why they should bail out countries that have behaved so irresponsibly. The answer, of course, is that German banks are on the hook for much of the debt that has been lent to the countries who have behaved irresponsibly. French banks are also at risk. The Euro Zone crisis is Europe's banking crisis.

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