Wednesday, June 06, 2012

The Eurozone chain-gang

I was recently trying to explain to a friend (in the U.S.) what's going on in Europe. The best analogy I could come up with is a chain-gang.

Imagine a chain-gang of 17 prisoners who are bound, one to the other, by chains.

At least four of the prisoners (Italy, Spain, Greece, Portugal) are mordibly obese midgets.

The chain-gang has escaped into the forest and is running away from their oppressors. But after running a while, the four weakest members (mentioned above) are out of breath, and they stop running.

The fittest members of the chain gang, represented by Germany, say to the laggards: "Come on, now. Let's keep going. We're making great progress. Don't stop now."

But the laggards are out of breath, sweating heavily, and they say: "We need to eat something. We're exhausted. We can't go on without something to eat."

And the fittest members of the chain-gang say: "Nonsense. You're obese. You need to get up and start running."

And the obese ones say: "But we didn't choose to be obese. This is a genetic condition. We inherited the 'obese' gene. Don't penalize us just because we're obese."

And the fittest say: "We're not just going to turn over our food to you, just because you're exhausted and hungry. You're fat. You need to go on a starvation diet. And you need to exercise. So get up. And run."

This seems to me to sum up what's going on, economically, in Europe right now.

The Germans don't want to just give hard-earned wealth to states like Greece, Spain, Portugal, and Italy, who are (on at least some level) plainly undeserving.

But the chain-gang cannot make progress unless the weaklings stand up and move.

Making an obese person go on a starvation diet (and sudddenly start exercising) is neither humane nor realistic. But Angela Merkel has demonstrated that even after 80-odd years, nothing much has changed in Germany. She has revealed the quintessential German nature: neither humane nor realistic.

What's needed now in Europe is a solution, for the less-well-off nations, that is both humane and realistic.

It's like a commentator on my favorite TV network (CNBC) said. Squabbles of the kind we're seeing in Europe right now used to be resolved at the point of a bayonet. They now need to be resolved at the point of a pen. And that requires significantly more time and talent.


  1. At least they're midgets.

    Wikipedia defines morbidly obese as having a BMI greater than or equal to 35. It also defines midget/dwarf as less than 147cm. So if you work out the BMI, then a person of 147cm height will be obese at 76kg. 17 average prisoners can pull four people of 76kg easily.

    Too bad these are no average prisoners.

  2. Your analogy is missing two key points:

    1) the chaongang members are constantly acquiring food; the weakest members are less good at that and acquire less

    2) The weakest chaingang members are constantly complaining about having less food and are tossed extra lumps by the stronger members. This has been going on since 2008.

    If anything, the strongest members have shown they are humane to the point where it harms themselves, because it encourages the behavior of the weakest members ans changes nothing

  3. Anonymous7:05 AM

    You forget to mention how the "strongest" members got rich in the past by over-feeding the fat members, and how they need to keep selling them their high-caloric food. Recently, in fact, they have "rescued" one of those "weak" members by forcing him to eat a bit more (even when this member was not asking for any food).

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  5. I don't know what to do with Europe... or the US... I've recently read Debt: The First 5000 Years - it's changing my thinking... need to reread the last two chapters soon, and also re read Lynn Twists The Soul of Money.

    I don't think we've even started to ask the right questions for this small blue planet.

  6. Anonymous6:07 AM

    Let's not forget that in 60 years, the fittest member of all went from ruins, broke off an internal wall and is the chain gang's most proficient member now.

    Allowing a fat person to break from his walk for a popsicle won't help things. Desperate times call for desperate measures.

    Greece was promised a bailout if they worked on their internal problems and laissez-faire attitude. It's like forgiving your wife again after she slept with the neighbor guy for the third time.

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