Germany and the Euro Crisis: Is the Powerhouse Really So Pure?
Lazy, profligate, scheming Greeks versus honest, thrifty, industrious Germans. Southern vice versus northern virtue.
For much of the news media—not only in continental Europe’s “virtuous” north, but also in the United States—the euro sovereign debt crisis could be summarized in the form of this morality play opposing national or regional stereotypes. If in Germany itself it was the deliberately over-the-top tabloid Bild that famously took the lead in lecturing the Greeks on Greek vice and German virtue, in the United States, New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman adopted essentially the same tone and underlying “analysis.” “Can Greeks Become Germans?” Friedman asked in a column written last year, suggesting that this was the only way the crisis could be resolved. Even the acronym commonly employed for southern Europe’s fiscal “sinners” reflects moral opprobrium and contempt: the “PIGS” (sometimes written “PIIGS,” so as to include also the northern European special case, Ireland, along with Portugal, Italy, Greece, and Spain).
But what if the financial strains on the PIGS that threaten the eurozone are a product of the eurozone itself? What if the problems of the euro, in other words, are of the euro’s own making?