Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Greece - Germany: A Clash of Cultures?

As I followed the news about the Brussels negotiations (Sorry! They are not 'negotiations'. At this point, we are only talking about 'explorations of common ground', 'discussions' and 'transformations'), some personal memories came to mind.

It was around 2006/07. My job was based in Munich working for an Austrian bank. German-Greek relations seemed to be just perfect. The crisis had not yet hit. I had found a Greek (from Crete) PhD candidate to give me Greek lessons. Eva was her name. One time we got talking about Greece and Germany. Out of the blue, she said something like: "I have come to know several European countries through my studies. There are no two cultures further apart than the Greek and the German culture!" I was perplexed? Why? Her answer was: Because! She explained that these differences would not come to the surface when the sun was shining but as soon as the first clouds would come up, the differences would explode.

Backtrack to the late 1970s. I was working in Munich then, too; that time for an American bank. I was in the socalled Multinational Banking Department responsible, as global relationship manager, for multinationals in Southern Germany. One of my multinational customers was based in Munich and had several large operations in Greece. Some readers might guess correctly as to who that was. As relationship manager, I was responsible for all relationships which my multinational bank had with this multinational customer throughout the world, and in Greece we were their largest foreign bank. So it was only natural that, one day, the Treasurer of the Munich HQ invited me to come along on a 2-day trip to visit their Greek operations which we were financing. It was a great 2 days of good business discussions and even better - and unforgettable - social events in the evenings.

On the flight back to Munich I had an aisle seat. Young and ambitious as I was, I didn't waste any time with drinks but, instead, started hand-writing my reports about the various meetings (PCs did not exist at the time). As I was fully concentrated on my work, I had a strange feeling in my back. I turned around and saw a rather heavy-set Greek sitting on the other side of the aisle. He smiled at me cynically and said: "Are you calculating how much your vacation in Greece cost you?"

I never quite figured out why that little sentence hurt me so much at the time; so much that I can still remember the feeling today. It felt like having been discovered at one of the worst human traits. At the same time, my culture didn't consider conscientious work (even if it had been keeping track of vacation expenses) as a bad human trait. It was the sheer human arrogance of the man; the displayed feeling of superiority in lifestyle, suggesting that only the dumb and simple-minded would do the kind of thing which I was doing. It was a bit like Zorba's making fun of the Englishman for reading so many books. Except, Zorba did it with charme whereas this heavy-set and saturated colossos of a man had no charme at all.

Let's turn to personal life. In a bi-cultural marriage, major differences of opinion (often referred to as 'fights') can erupt over the smallest things. The worst experiences for me were situations where very good intentions on my part (at least good intentions according to my culture) were considered to be mean things on the part of my wife (according to her Greek culture). Obviously, my culture required me to justify the good intentions which I had, only to be rebutted terribly. Thankfully, we have a son who can be very laid-back and rational. He would then say to me: "You are making a mistake! You are trying to respond rationally to a totally emotional reaction". Yes, I agreed, but...

I have now described a few situations of which I was reminded as I followed the Brussels exchanges in the last few days. Both sides make good cases which can be defended on a rational basis. The Greek Finance Minister is obviously a highly intelligent and eloquent person and his European counterparts are not dumb, either. They may both be right but, as one of my bosses once taught me, "The graveyards of the world are full of people who were right!" Even if they reach an agreement before everything explodes, they will not be able to bridge their cultural differences given the damage to each of their cultures which has taken place. In marriage terms, I guess that is referred to as "irreconcilable differences".

The Austrian solution to this kind of a problem would be rather pragmatic. One would get all the players involved together in a beautiful Greek island resort and fill them up with Ouzos until they all agree that they will be best friends forever.


  1. Mr. Kastner,

    I've been waiting impatiently for your latest article. Finally! :-)

    It is nice article (on the lighter side which we all need) with nice experiences and good thoughts. I will think about it tonight and further comment tomorrow.

    I wish all our ministers indeed go and have an ouzo and solve there differences. I bet in 5 hours they would surely agree... but that wouldn't be responsible.

    Till Tomorrow.


  2. Yes, I understand your sentiments in this post -- although I do not share them, since I have never felt happy with the northern European book-keeping mentality (which is Protestant in origin). And the worst are not Germans: it is the Dutch! Every single penny fussed about, regardless of how much effort and waste of time and energy.

    My own stories of this type are not directed at Greeks (whom I understand well from my reading of history and actual life experiences) but at British-international people, with plenty of money.

    One day, as a poor music student, I was eating with friends in an inexpensive Pakistani-Indian restaurant in Manchester. The place was very popular owing to its favourable price-quality ratio, and there was a long queue of customers outside the door, waiting for vacant tables. The waiter was under terrible pressure to speed up turnover of the tables.

    We finished our meal, received a single itemised bill, and people started arguing about who had eaten this or that, why so-and-so should not pay the full amount, and so on. The loudest arguers were those with the richest families. The waiter started to look desperate, after 10 minutes of this nonsense. (Bear in mind that the bill was not high, even for 10 people)

    In the end, I lost my temper. I told them: "Just stop this nonsense. It's not fair on the waiter or the other customers, waiting outside. I'll put it on my credit card, and you can pay me what you think you should". And it was not even very much money.

    I have never forgotten this incident, nor the opposite experiences in Greece where one struggles to be allowed to pay one's share of bills. The northern European (and especially the rich) mentality is selfish and anti-social. It is this mentality which informs the current German (and other) positions within the Eurozone, and it is this which will destroy Europe.

    Of course, I am not defending the Greek economic management of the 2000s -- but we all know that France and Germany were well aware both in advance and at the time of what was going on with Greece. This hypocrisy (if not downright lying) is yet another northern characteristic, that Europe can do well without.

    1. Oh, how I just love utterances like these:

      "Of course, I am not defending the Greek economic management of the 2000s -- but we all know ..."
      "Of course, I am not a racist, but we all know ..."
      "Of course, I am not an Islamophobe, but we all know ..."
      "Of course, I not defending the killings at Charlie Hebdo, but we all know ..."

      In all these cases, the answer is "Yes, you are!"

    2. @Seukel. I find your attitude offensive and unacceptable. First of all, you are accusing me of lying and hypocrisy. This is not correct: since I have many publications and press interviews openly attacking Greek government policy of the 2000s and earlier.

      Secondly, your comparison of macroeconomic policy with racism and terrorism is just so offensive and absurd that it shows the low standard of your arguments -- roughly bottom of the pit. In the gutter, along with vermin.

  3. The Germans produce a lot of wonderful things and they can finance consumption, they just choose not to.

    The Greeks produce very little so they can't finance consumption, but they would clearly love to (consume that is).

    I guess one can see it as cultural differences.

    1. The German non-consumption is atypical of northern Europe; it seems to be cultural-religious in inspiration, and reminiscent of the Victorian period perhaps. It is anomalous in modern capitalism, and problematic in the sense that the German domestic market is very weak. That leads to a reliance on exports, which can only be done in quantity with euro membership, alongside poorer economies like Greece to keep the euro low.

      Greece used to produce a lot, especially agriculture, traditional handicrafts and basic industrial products. These sectors were hard hit by eurozone membership, an over-valued currency alongside cheap money that the Greek spent on consumption and repayment of old bond issues.

      All of these things were known to any competent economist within Europe; the politicians and banks chose to ignore advice in both the North and the South. They have no right to ask the ordinary people of Greece to pay for the mistakes and greed of politicians and banks.

      So, cultural difference as an explanation of economic production and consumption? No, that is a piece of German propaganda that has no basis in fact.

    2. @ guest(Xenos)
      I think you are wasting your time with these comebacks. Unfortunately facts can do little to change an appealing moral narrative.

    3. @Anonymous Feb 19. Yes, I often wonder about the utility of posting such replies. My opinion generally is that bigots and fools are ignorant enough actually to believe their narratives, and it is necessary for us to waste our time repeating an infinitum what are the actual facts and what are reasonable alternative interpretations of them.

      Of course, it is rather like dealing with stubborn and arrogant schoolchildren -- who have no intention of learning and consider the subject to be a joke. Rather sad, that adults behave like this -- but it seems to be a fact of the human condition.

  4. Your examples of the clashs of different mentalities remind me to this movie "A very European Breakup", highly recommended:

  5. Very nice post. It's easy to focus on the cultural differences in this time of ongoing negotiations. One also has to keep in mind though the common cultural ground. No two cultures have contributed to philosophy and the sciences like these two and in their own way they value rationality above all else. The differences are mainly spiritual if I may say so. Greek culture is somehow unique in this aspect. We believe that aspects of the moral sphere is something that is between man and god. There is no concept of sin in the Greek orthodox faith. No purgatory, no Hell. God is ever-loving ever-forgiving and a refuge for everybody that makes no discriminations. In short there is a complete separation between the secular pubic sphere and the spiritual moral sphere. In contrast in Protestant culture life on earth is a trial for the eternal life on either heaven or hell. No two concepts could be further apart. A lot of the cultural differences stem from these two primal concepts.

    1. Please help me: What have been the significant contributions of Greek culture to philosophy in the last 200 years? Or perhaps the last 1.000 years?
      I dont remind any.

      You know as much as anyone that ancient Greece and modern Greece share not few more than same islands and nice ancient stories. There are several thousand years between, with a complete exchange of population, complete collapse of the culture, complete loss of culture.
      Until 200 years ago some guys told the local fisherman, that the ruins around them have a great history they should be proud of. So these guys got delusional, imagined to be Odysseus while beeing ordinary fishing.

      Ancient Greece was a cultural and economical superpower.
      Modern Greece was financially broke more than 50% of its existence, 95 years of around 190 years, always begging for foreign money. And culturally, yeah, just what you can expect of a culture of ordinary close-minded fisherman.

      Come down to your feets. Modern Greece is a megalomaniac dreamer, catched by it own druggy fantasies.

      Get sober early enough to take the offered help from Europe, otherwise you have to gut through your detoxification treatment by your own, without help.
      Detoxination treatment with help is bad and ugly, and you may hate the helping hand on the way. But detoxination treatment without help it is way much worse.

      Greece still has the choice. But the time is ticking.

    2. @Anonymous Feb 19 10.39. Your ignorance is quite profound. There is a continuity of culture from Ancient Greeks to modern ones, albeit one with interventions and serious discontinuities.Sadly, the philosophy and scientific achievements of the Greeks were for a fairly short period -- as they are in all societies. So, we can ask the arrogant Germans today: where are your Bachs, your Beethovens, your Goethes, your Marxes? All we see are Schaubles and other useless politicians representing Germany, at this time. We see no greatness at all -- just money-obsessed neoliberal mediocrities, who have no grasp of economic management AT ALL.

      And of course, this tiny little country of modern Greece -- always kept under control by the Bavarians in the first instance, and later by other Great Powers -- has not managed to rival the empires of Britain, France, Spain or the aggressive military power of the Germans. The latter which is hardly a positive point in the history of Europe.

      So, what help are you offering Greece? Why, none at all is the standard economic interpretation across the world. You are acting out of self-interest to protect German banks, the eurozone, and your weak economy which is now completely dependent on exports. Those exports are reliant on the weak euro, which is caused by Greece, Portugal, etc: without them, the German economy would be in severe crisis.

      So, get a grip on reality. This is about economic co-operation and is not a handout to Greece: it is a way to save germany. Nothing else at all. Try to grasp some basic issues of economics.

    3. The area that now constitutes the modern state of Greece has always been home of the Greek people and the Greek culture for thousands of years to this day as our language, customs, religion, tradition and history can prove. The concept of the sovereign nation state is very new compared to the state of affairs that prevailed in much of history. Greeks have lived as equal citizens in multinational empires such as the Roman, Byzantine and Ottoman ones (Hey that includes the E.U too now I guess..) and have even managed to rule the Byzantine empire for a significant part of history. It is understandable that Byzantium with its predominantly Greek heritage and cultural contribution to the world remains relatively unknown compared to its sibling the western Holy Roman Empire. As are many Modern Greek scientists, artists and philosophers it seems. To ignorants basicaly.

    4. @ Anonymous 10:39

      In Greece we have a saying "Sciolism is worse than ignorant stupidity."

      No further comment necessary....


    5. I agree with Byzantian Culture as the source of modern Greek culture much more than I do with any great ancient Greek history of thousands of years ago.
      Regarding religion, regarding language, regarding culture, regarding day-to-day corruption.
      But please tell me, what are the great Modern Greek scientists, artists and philosophers that Europeans should know to understand modern Greece, modern Greeks?
      Please lift my clouds of ignorance.

    6. The Greek history and people is a continuum from ancient times, Classical antiquity, Helenistic times, Roman times, Byzantium, Ottoman Empire, Modern Greece and our culture has evolved through all these periods. If you want an introduction to the best modern Greece has to offer try a book by the philosopher Kastoriades or the novelist Kazantzakis or a poem by Elytis, Seferis, Ritsos or Kavafis, put on a record by Aphrodite’s child or Manos Hadjidakis. This would be sure to lift your clouds of ignorance for starters. Or better yet try one of the books by the man that has the unfortunate job of having to deal with Europe's worst our latest finmin. He is one of the brightest economists around you might learn one thing or two.

  6. Thank you, Herr Kastner, for sharing this excellent prose, with many details about "Greek" and "not Greek", so nice, even about your private life and experiences, so beautiful human, that it creates smiles, and warmth.

    I had written a comment that was too long to publish. Could not create a shorter one without being incomplete. So, I let it and sending just the last sentence, the one this comment starts with. I liked it very much to be inspired to write about my own experiences with Greeks, their temperament, next to the more rational Germans, to mix it with some psychology, even just for myself, anyhow.

  7. The Dirty Little Secret of Berlin's Bankers (by Daniel Altman)
    Why did Germany try so hard to stop the European Central Bank from giving the eurozone a trillion-euro boost? Why did Germany decree fiscal austerity for Greece instead? And why, despite Greece’s travails and alleged duplicity, does Germany insist that Greece stay in the eurozone? These actions may have seemed irrational and contradictory, but the same people benefited in every case.

    First, consider Germany’s recent economic history. In 1990, the reunification of the East and West added an enormous, low-wage population of Germans to the labor supply. Though integrating them into the West’s business environment took time, these millions of new laborers in the workforce instantly made German exports more competitive. Then, with the launch of the euro in 1999, Germany diluted its currency — among the strongest in the world — by mingling it with those of less stable economies from across the European Union. Again, the effect was a huge boost to German exports.

    These dramatic shifts in Germany’s economic position might have been expected to benefit both German workers and owners of German capital. For workers in the poorer East, wages were sure to rise, and they did. Workers in the West may have suffered by comparison, but the boom in exports — which went from 23 percent of the economy in 1990 to 42 percent in 2010 — should have been big enough to boost their incomes as well.

    Indeed, in the first decade, incomes for Germans from top to bottom on the economic ladder rose by about 7 to 8 percent in real terms. But with the advent of the euro, things started to change. Incomes at the top kept rising, with gains for the top 10 percent of earners continuing apace for the next decade as shareholders reaped record profits. At the bottom, however, there was a sharp dip that eventually left incomes exactly where they started at the beginning of the 1990s.

    The effect on inequality was startling. By itself, the integration of East and West should have reduced German inequality substantially. In a country where labor retained some bargaining power, the export boom might have been expected to encourage this convergence as well. Yet Germans at the top of the income distribution saw such an upturn in their fortunes that inequality actually rose. With incomes continuing to diverge, Germany’s wealth inequality was the worst in the eurozone and almost on a par with that of the United States, which was no mean feat.


  8. The Dirty Little Secret of Berlin's Bankers
    With all of this in mind, let’s return to policy. The eurozone was dangling on the edge of deflation for months, and even Germany’s inflation rate had been below the European Central Bank’s target of just under 2 percent since August 2013. But German bankers and politicians were dead set against the use of credit easing or other unconventional monetary tools to create inflation, devalue the euro, and presumably improve short-term economic growth in the eurozone.

    Instead, they decided that countries in need of an economic lifeline — like Greece — should keep making massive cuts in public services while servicing debts on terms set by wealthier nations such as Germany. For most economists, this was an impractical prescription that would only make the patient suffer more. So why did the Germans insist on it?

    The bankers in Berlin realized that inflation eroded the value of savings, of which their wealthy countrymen had quite a lot, and also made German investments less attractive to foreigners. As long as Germany continued to grow, they had no use for inflation. In fact, growth with low inflation — and thus little upward pressure on wages — was a perfect formula, especially for owners of capital. Indebted and unemployed Germans might have benefited from a weaker euro and more inflation, just like the Greeks, but they clearly weren’t the bankers’ top priority.

    And Germany did grow, at least until late last year. By the fourth quarter of 2014, its economy was on the brink of recession. Not by coincidence, when the European Central Bank’s governors met in January, Germany’s bankers and politicians finally relented — or at least failed to convince their colleagues of the remaining dangers of inflation. Now, a new challenge has emerged.

    Greece is calling Germany’s bluff. A few years ago, the Germans wanted Greece to stay in the eurozone enough to bail them out of their fiscal deficits, but the cost was penury for the Greeks. Back then, Germany seemed to have all the bargaining power. But Greece’s new leftist government has apparently realized that the real bargaining power lies in Athens, because Germany will now do anything to hold the eurozone together.

    Germans have read plenty of articles alleging that Athens never should have been allowed to join the eurozone in the first place. But the bankers in Berlin know that each weak country that leaves the eurozone now is likely to push up the value of the euro. This would increase the value of German savings, but it would also harm exports, and at the moment Germany needs them more than ever. Moreover, uncertainty about the euro in the short term might cause investors to pull their money out of German securities, leading to lower asset values and higher interest rates — a double-whammy for wealth and economic growth.

    Today, this cluster of threats is unacceptable to Germany. As its growth rate changed, so did its bankers’ priorities and, as a consequence, the balance of power in the eurozone. The Greeks figured this out, and other countries are cottoning on. But it was a good run for wealthy Germans while it lasted.

  9. In a normal marriage cultural differences can be overcome by love (not painless, it takes one to know one). In a social and economic contract, they may be so big, that the parties are better off without that contract. I see no shame in admitting that. What that would mean to Greece should not be Europe's concern, which should be the best for the most.

  10. Dear Mr Kastner,
    I was going to something about the differences & similarities between Greece and German people, but after seeing a comment further above, I would like to end the myth that Greece does not produce anything and that we are an insignificant economy. I simply cannot stand to hear ignorant stereotypical fools jabber and blurt garbage to the world about Greece. Furthermore, that what Greece produces indeed has a significant effect on markets in various product categories. Meaning Greece may only be 2% of EU’s GDP, but without our 2%, the COG (Cost of Goods) in other markets of other countries which produce with Greek goods or raw materials, will cause and inflation hike incomprehensible. The failure of the Greek state will not only affect the financial markets but the real market as well. Furthermore, what is that which Greece imports? Some raw materials and mainly petrol and petrol based products, finished goods such, vehicle, entertainment items, food stuff we choose to import, and luxurious goods. With exceptions to petrol and some petrol & chemical raw goods, we can easily decide to live without the rest. Easily! We have enough unsold new and used cars and vehicles to last us till the next decade.
    Greek Industries and What we (Greece) Produce for Internal and Export Consumption:
    1. Minerals (Raw Materials):
    a. The world’s leading producer of Pearlite. (Building Materials)
    b. The 4th world producer of pumice. (For Agricultural uses and fillers)
    c. Bauxite (Aluminum) (multiple uses)
    d. Rare Earth Elements: Lanthanum, Praseodymium, Neodymium, Terbium, Dysprosium vital elements needed for high tech industry for scientific, medical, communication and military products. (Also Untapped resources state Greece has the only global 2nd deposit other earth elements which only China produces and some few in the USA. In some extremely expensive elements used in mobile technology is monopolized by the Chinese government. Greece may break that monopoly. No other known deposits are known. Germany knows this data quite well and it is kept quiet.)
    e. Gold (Skourias Gold mine does not only contain gold but also various alternative mineral and elements meanwhile have rare earth elements which have value 10s of time more expensive per ounce than gold.) This specific trait makes the output profitability for the private company quite lucrative.
    f. Asbestos, Lead, Silver, Zinc, Nickel, Copper, Magnesium and other. So many uses.
    g. Sand for Glass and glass based products
    h. Clay for Ceramic based products.
    2. Energy:
    a. Traditional:
    - Petrol: Imported crude for finished goods for internal use and export goods.
    • Distilleries, processing plants,
    - Coal (covers 60% of our electrical energy needs.)
    - Natural Gas. The future if they allow us one day.
    b. Renewable:
    - Solar. Only 1% but we have.
    - Wind. Below 1% but we have.
    - Other. Surf renewable.


  11. conitnued...
    - Recycling has increased in double digits for the last 10 years year on year.
    - Use of recycled paper for new renewable goods has increase triple % digit.
    - Use of recycled plastics for new renewable container uses.
    - Biological waste management units are in small use but exist only in some small municipalities.
    3. Heavy Industries: Steel Manufactures:
    a. Greece had a very strong steel industry but as such globalization has relatively squeezed the Greek companies out of the market but continue to survive and also cover internal needs and also exports.
    4. Heavy Industries: Rock
    a. Many cement manufacturers but are tittering due to reduction construction projects due to the crisis.
    b. Rocks:
    - It is a well-known fact that Greece is a huge exporter on the global scale. One of the most premium rock elements that Greece produces and exports is marble. Over hundreds of types of marbles meanwhile we have 10-15 rare and solely produced marbles in the WORLD.
    - Shale, Quartz, Granite, and many other type of rock formation for various exports for finished goods uses.
    5. Construction: Exists but due to crisis output is low.
    6. Shipping: No further comment.
    7. Medium Industries: Plastics and semi-finished goods. Hundreds of healthy mid size companies all with niche production technologies aside from standard normal technologies.
    8. Medium Industries: Finish Electronic goods. Pitsos, manufacturers own brand and foreign brands. Pitsos, Bosch and Siemens. Refrigerators, washers, ovens, etc big to small household electronic items. R&D is also located in Greece.
    9. Aluminum heavy to light finished goods industries.
    a. Windows and Framing
    b. Construction finished goods.
    10. Pharmaceuticals:
    a. Injectable, tablets, pills, drinkable, aerial all manufactured in Greece.
    b. Manufactures in Greece all have large R&D’s, maintain large productions for own use and 3rd party manufacturing. Drugs produced are mainly generic but many new patents are coming out of Greece. Mergers with big pharmaceuticals in existence and forming. Mergers are coming due to new types of medicines GREEK R&D’s created.
    c. Private R&D’s research centers. Many foreign pharma corps use Greece’s Greek R&DS for research and studies conducted.
    d. Types of Drugs Produced in Greece and exported and used in Greece
    a. Cancer drugs, heart drugs, blood / sugar drugs, psychological drugs, children’s medicine, arthritic medication,
    e. I would also like to add some personal information. One of the biggest selling items we produce in Greece are anti-psychotic and anti-depressant drugs. The biggest importers of these products are the northern countries of Europe.
    11. Shipping Foundries: Currently dead but the infrastructure is there.
    12. Linen and shoes manufacturers. What remained in Greece are doing well.
    13. Tobacco and Cigarette manufacturing

  12. conitnued...

    14. Military manufacturing of vehicles, arms and ammunition of the local Greek army. We only choose to purchase badly buoyant submarines from our Eu partners.
    15. Military Service: Greece public industry also services military air force airplanes for all countries of NATO. In many cases Greece is highly recommended because of the high tech knowledge meanwhile cost are extremely low than any other country. A profitable government business’s
    16. Foods Stuff And Agriculture:
    a. Beer Wine and spirits. Equivalent quality beers that of German small breweries. Even our mass produced beers are far better than Heineken and Amstel. Wines we are growing as exporters. Spirits Metaxas conquer global renowned. Ouzo and Tsipouro spirits well known.
    b. Cotton exporting and local market of fabric manufacturers.
    c. Fruits and Nuts. Exported as finished goods in various ways and as bulk goods consumed in Greece. Anything else by comparison with exceptions to Italian and some Turkish is garbage. Watermelons best in the world.
    d. Fishing: 2 bil euro business and growing for Greece. Premium sea water fish.
    e. Sugar: Production and processing locally in Greece. Local consumption and for exports.
    f. Salt: Production and processing locally in Greece. Local consumption and for exports.
    g. Agricultural: Can you find a better tomatoe, potatoe, cucumber, eggplant etc etc than in Greece?
    h. Livestock: We import some life stock meat for consumption but our own demands are also greatly covered by our own local production.
    i. Milk – Feta – Yoguart: Local and export businesses.
    17. Medium Industry of Finished an semi-finished goods
    a. Cosmetics manufacturers.
    b. Gift items manufactures.
    c. Repacking manufactures.
    d. All exporting.
    18. Tourism:
    a. Up to here I have briefly mentioned 2 pages of sectors. Tourism split up with services is another 3 pages in abridged version.
    There are many more but I think I made my point.

    1. I agree with all of this: the quality of some Greek products is unrivalled internationally.

      The area in which Greece has not made enough progress is with international market penetration, promotion of exports and economies of scale. The reasons for this are complex and many -- but to attribute it to laziness or incompetence is just rather ignorant. The reasons are structural and relate as much to European capitalism as to adverse domestic conditions within Greece.

  13. There are cultural differences, big. I know no other nation where stealing and lying don't cause the perpetrators loss of honor and respect, in Greece the loss is caused by the victims who point it out. That's modern Philotimo for you.

  14. @ Guest
    Where are today's outstanding Germans in the arts and sciences? Try a list of German Nobel laureates (102).
    I solemnly swear I am not an agent of the German government or any other German institution.

    1. LOL. No, I am not accusing you of that (which is not true for a few others here). Yes, ok, there are Nobel laureates. Two things to say about that. First, I wonder if the real greats of Germany would ever have received Nobel prizes, had that existed in their times. (I am not a great admirer of the obviously political process that is funded from dynamite sales). Secondly, Germany is a very large country with a lot of money: it should be able to produce able people in the arts and sciences. However, there is a big difference between success in a profession and reaching the giddy heights of both Greeks and Germans of the past. I am sorry to tell you that no German today impresses me -- and particularly I am completely scathing about economists. Lots of technical expertise (of course, after two doctorates this should be normal) and rather little in the way of insight and vision.

  15. @ Guest
    Your contempt for Nobel Laureates and other innovative professionals is interesting. Personally I have great respect for them, be they Spanish electricians, Dutch production managers or Austrian chemist Nobel Laureates. I hold the view that they keep us competitive and put bread on the table. They even make our societies so wealthy that we can afford people like Tsipras and Varoufakis to air their diverging opinions, while still feeding them. If that makes me a liberal then I plead guilty.
    As for your statement that the laureates are selected for political considerations, it may have happened, it cannot be the rule when you consider the election process. The potential nominators are literally tens of thousands of people from all walks of life in the whole world. The selection is made by four different committees and academies in two countries, none of them having (or wish to have) much political clout. yes during the last 100 years Germany has been on average richer than Greece. That however, can not explain why Greece is number 40 on the list of per capita Nobel Laureates, neither why 20 of the countries ahead of them have been (are) poorer. The hint at Dynamite was cheap, unless your convictions and integrity are so strong that you would refuse a nomination.
    A question, is there any person today who impress you, present company excluded?