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Thursday, May 7, 2015

Michael Lewis Compares Greece With The Berkeley Pedestrian!

Michael Lewis true to form on BloombergView: 

"The Berkeley pedestrian, on the other hand, seems bent on his own destruction. In daylight hours you can find him sprinting from behind tall bushes into busy intersections, ear buds in place to ensure he remains oblivious to any danger; at night he dons dark clothing and slips, ninja-like, from shadows onto poorly lit streets. It's California law that a pedestrian, when he arrives at a crosswalk, must stop and make eye contact with any approaching driver: Hardly anyone here pays that law any attention. If the Berkeley pedestrian glances up at all, it's to glare at any driver moving slowly enough to notice his sudden, almost magical appearance in the middle of the road.

Behind that glare lies the source of the peculiar danger on Berkeley's streets. The Berkeley pedestrian is propelled not just by his desire to get from one place to another but also by his sense that he's doing it in a morally superior way. He believes -- even if he might not quite put it this way -- that it is the duty of all fossil-fuel consuming, global-warming promoting, morally inferior users of the road to suffer on his behalf. He's not suicidal. He doesn't want to be run over by a car. He simply wants to stress to you, and perhaps even himself, that he occupies the high ground. In doing so, he happens to increase the likelihood that he will wind up in the back of an ambulance.

Which brings me to the current dispute between the Greeks and the Germans.

In the new Greek finance minister's (pretty great) macho bluster, in the new Greek prime minister's condescending lectures to the German people, in the unquenchable Greek thirst for magazine cartoons of German leaders in Nazi uniforms -- in all of it you see the soul of the Berkeley pedestrian. It's only the source of Greek self-righteousness that is obviously different: The Greek people think the German people should feel shame for the sins of their past, and an obligation to expiate those sins.

As if to illustrate the point, the Greek Ministry of Finance recently commissioned a study to determine how much Germany should pay Greece for the atrocities committed by Germans in World War II. (The number they came up with, 301 billion euros, was suspiciously close to Greece's outstanding debt.) This study did not make it more likely that Germany would pay Greece reparations: just the reverse. It enraged the German politicians whose indulgence the Greek government now seeks. But it still served its purpose -- to remind everyone that the Greek people still insist on their own righteousness.

Greek government corruption, cheating on taxes, resistance to reform: Never mind all that! If a Greek wants to sprint across the autobahn, every German still has an obligation to notice and hit the brakes."


  1. In a way I can hear my own outcry in all you write, also because of the Syriza-cabinet's "Παλαιοκομματισμός".

    Therefore it was absolutely wooonderful to read the last paragraph of your post, because I can visualize that perfectly: I have been on German's "Autobahn" so often..... I would like to make it even worse: the German Nürburgring!
    It's so healthy to laugh, loud, to transform negative emotions.
    Thank you for this.


    For those who do not understand the word "Παλαιοκομματισμός":

    For those who do not know the name "Nürburgring":

  2. A very good article indeed! I may be biased, because I am German, but is very refreshing to read something like this from time to time.

  3. Dear Mr. Kastner,

    I will be honest that i did not like this article nor such articles which incorprate the debt problem with the reporations issue. As both Mrs. Angela Merkel and Mr. Alexis Tsipras well put it in a combined statement that these are two seperate issues. And they are not to be mixed. Angela also maintained her position of the German Government that this is up to "legals" to determine, which is closed issue formally for germany.

    But as many German policians are coming out now and stating openingly that there is an ethical issue aside from the well manipulated legal system that has protect the German state from reperations.

    The debt issue is diffent and greece with the EU is obligated to find a solution which includes reforms which are badly needed in Greece. And reforms taylored to Greece and not what the IMF believes. I believe the Eu is more understanding on what reforms are needed and how to be taylored in Greece. Bringing in the IMF into an Eu problem was the biggest mistake.

    If the German policians decide that the ethical background of the reperations needs to be addressed and payments need to be made this is welcome for sure. And i must add once again, that it is just this which helps repair the relations between Germany and Greece that such great leaders in Germany have the balls to openly say "we need to review and ammend our past." Everyday i here a german official stating such comments shows the greatness and courage of Germans. This is the courageous character i always admired in Germans. These are the Germans i truly come to admire and show how "above" they are to understand what has occured some 70 years ago.


    This government as i have stated in the past is very far from what you state. and this exactly what both greek traitors and foreign intrests fear. Syriza has had no time to get caught with their hands in the cookie jar. As i have stated they are clean and are making due on their statements and is why the negotiations are improving. Just Today crashonline released an article whre the SDOE (tax evasion office) issued warrants for the greek elites, (doctors, laywers business men whom have hidden large untaxed sums.) Syriza is proving they are clean by bringing these people in. Before the past government feared to bring them in because all the politicians wer corrupt. feared to be exposed for scandal and did nothing.

    All you need to know is that Syriza if well handled just like Mr. Juncker is doing will prove to be a new dawn for Greece. And i am sure a bright light for our european counterparts outlook on a greek political party.

    I will not go into the details of attrocities. I personally have dozens of textbooks (fromt he 60's, 70's, 80's and 90's well before this crisis) with insightly formal articles of what happened in greece in the 40's. Documents by German 3rd reich stating what was done. Both what was stolen and also what was done to the population. Distomo is the cherry on the top. From my understanding most today Germans where unaware of what happened in Greece in the 40's



  4. "Syriza is proving they are clean ..." Are you kidding? They are as dirty as other Greek politicians.

    The same clientelist policies as Pasok and ND ... rehiring thousands of not needed bureaucrats and media staff. Wasteful spending!

    And not only that ... nice jobs are given to their own sisters, brothers, mothers, cousins and friends (Giorgos Tsipras, Nikos Kountouras, Panagiotis Douros, Iphigenia Kamtsidou, Evangelos und Giorgos Kalpadakis, Marina Chryssoveloni's daughter, Manolis Panagiotaki, Dimitris Tsoukalas, Lina Alexiou, Peti Perka ...).Corruption and nepotism!

    Syriza is not clean. Syriza is filthy! The ECB has to close the money support to this government as soon as possible!

  5. Every "reasonable" person would agree of course. But, hold on a second.
    The trouble is that, ever since the times when the Greeks tried to explain to the Persian king of kings the superiority of their laws, the Greeks have always done it. Worse, they came out to be right on their self righteousness every time. I understand the Americans do not read Nietzsche, but the Germans?
    The other trouble is that no corruption, no cheating, no resistance to reform and whatever other values of this nature the writer tries to sell does not necessarily make a people good people. One needs far more than that. Do I need to remind the ancient Greek values? They still hold strong.
    The next trouble is that if only one person disagrees with everyone else this does not mean that this person is wrong, ask Galileo.
    The next trouble is that the Germans, although they have always claimed, and it is true, to be part of the civilisation and not of the barbarism, have never paid for their atrocities. Do I need to remind the Herero and the Nama people? Von Trotha has had his statue standing proudly until few year ago. The belgians? In the single month of August 1914, 6000, yes, six thousand civilians were murdered for reprisals. The German army went to Leuven with benzine pumps ready to put houses on fire. Perfect preparedness. They never paid.
    And to finish, look at the bright side. Of course the Greeks will get nothing but words of sympathy, just as the Namibia people, and they should be pleased as the Belgians did not even get that, but with this we all have been spared of more German lessons on ethics. It was getting boring.

    1. By the way, did the Greeks ever pay reparations to Iran (and other countries) for the human rights violations and the material damage done during the unprovoked attack on that country by Alexander the Great and during the ensuing occupation? Together with accumulated interest that might be a considerable sum, even at today's low interest rates.

    2. Ok; so we are now bringing Alexander the Great into the debate. That will be fun to watch! Perhaps I should give the discussion a bit of a spin by asking whether Alexander was really a Greek?

      PS: just so there is no misunderstanding, I have written the above with tongue in cheek...

    3. Who cares? We only know he ordered greek (a later term) books. Anyway. First the attack was not unprovoked. You can still see the marbles of the destroyed Parthenon on the Acropolis walls. The King's intervention in the greek civil war is known.Then he brought something from Persia far more destructive. Caesarism, which later became papism. Without Alexander humanism would be a distant memory and with him the motor of the Greeks, competition, run out of fuel. You said the Great? Maybe only because he ordered his arms to hang out of his coffin to show that we get out of this world just as we get into it. Naked.

  6. May I just remind everyone that Michael Lewis' article was not about the Germans. It was about the Greeks in comparison with Berkeley pedestrians.

  7. Those who argue by analogy (as opposed to using analogy to illustrate their points) reveal not only their weak grasp of logic and several thousands years of philosophy, but also their arrogance and prejudice.

    It is therefore appropriate that this ignorant article should come not only from the USA but also from a banking publication -- the actual origins of our current economic crisis in the developed world.

  8. So much for SYRIZA's doing things differently ("Government nepotism continues"):

    1. That is really!

      But on the other hand, did you really - even in your wildest dreams - expect anything else from this national populist party?