Unusually enough, I read it. Unusually because I don't typically read essays about economy. What stunned me about this article was the quite obvious cheerfulness, the finger pointing, the Schadenfreude. It's a rather lengthy writing, but let me just give you some adjectives for a taste.
G.W. Bush is called “old,” “erratic,” “unkempt,” what he said is “absurd” according to an unnamed German diplomat, he was a “laughing stock” at the UN meeting, the “lame duck president whom the rest of the world is no longer taking seriously” . The Bush administration was “immoderately self-confident,” and “offended even some of its best friends” .
The United States is no longer “muscular and arrogant” , the article says, no longer “the superpower that sets the rules for everyone else and that considers its way of thinking and doing business to be the only road to success”. American turbo-capitalism comes crashing down in a giant snowball system, they write, it was an “irrational exuberance”. They proclaim an “erosion of American supremacy”.
The second part of the article is considerably less polemic and more contentful, possibly somebody else wrote it. While I was visiting Germany the last weeks, I've come across several articles in that spirit, though most were not quite as blunt.
While I was reading this essay two things came into my mind. First, it looks like the authors were striving to replace American arrogance with European arrogance. Second, it's a very premature judgement. Premature because I doubt anybody knows what the consequences of the present crisis will look like for Europe. Premature also because Americans won't give up their conviction of an alleged “supremacy” that readily.
Now today, they post a selection of several letters received in reply to this article, see
Well, here are some extracts:
“The financial crisis will pass and [...] the US will be stronger than ever.” -- Alice Griffin, New York City.
“The current "crisis" is less a debacle than it is an opportunity to do what the US always does, namely step up and fix the problem.” -- Steve Kopper, Washington, DC.
“Please do not be so quick to count us out. This is not a time to despair but, rather, it is an opportunity to make some money, if you are brave and patient.” -- Kurt Christensen, USA.
“With history comes clarity, and Bush will be judged more accurately than he is today. He could care less what people think.” -- a reader from Cary, North Carolina, USA.
“[Y]ou are dead wrong to count Americans out and to count capitalism out. Free markets and capitalism are the only road to prosperity.” -- Mario Faustini, New York.
“Never count out the United States of America. Yes, we are, and will be, going through a period of pain and retraction, but our people are resilient.” -- Steve H., USA.
So, Europe. Can you imagine such a reply from your citizens to a Europe-critical article in an US magazine? I can't. And that's why they will stay ahead of us.
But you know what? After I've complained for 4 years, one now can actually get cash-back on the Debit card in some German grocery stores...
Update Oct 4:
The NYT comments on Germany's reaction to the mortgage crisis:.
Germans tend to be the strait-laced, play-it-safe types in financial matters [...] “Americans have trust in the future and are willing to borrow against it,” said Matthias von Arnim, a German financial expert and author. “The Germans say, ‘In the future everything is going to be worse, so I have to save.’ ”
In interviews here, German citizens actually seemed less willing to blame the Americans for the troubles at home, pinning the problem on the greed of their own banks.
“The Americans always go first,” said Gesine Wiemer, 40, who works in marketing for a scientific research company, “but the rest of them go along with them.”