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Ze Germans Aren't ze Bad Guys

A popular narrative has existed in many of the eurozone countries hardest-hit by the Great Recession that says the suffering of the people of [insert choice of Ireland/Greece/Spain/Cyprus/Portugal/Italy] has been orchestrated to save ze Germans from losing their geld.  It's not a terribly convincing explanation and in some countries, most notably Greece, has been part and parcel of a fairly disgusting racist campaign against both those who are perceived as having money, and against ethnic and racial minorities (in times of worse economic crisis in 1930s Germany, these were one and the same).

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Tory MPs on their way to a stag do in Athens. Photograph: Action Press/Rex Features

In Ireland there was much understandable domestic anger at slack and irresponsible lending practices by Irish banks.  While to a certain degree this allows Irish borrowers to let themselves off the hook for irresponsible borrowing, it is hard not to sympathise with your average couple keen to get on the housing ladder and who took whatever was offered to them by the bank.  (Sympathy wanes somewhat, when it comes to commercial borrowers and those who borrowed to buy apartments in Spain, Estonia and Bulgaria).

So, the story goes, where you have irresponsible borrowers you also have irresponsible lenders, who really should know better and are really the villains of the piece.  And now that the Irish taxpayer has had to shoulder the multi-billion euro burden of the mistakes of Ireland's banks, who was so irresponsible to lend so much money to Ireland's banks that they had to shove it down the throats of Ireland's borrowers, whether it was prudent for the borrower to take out such large loans or not?

And the answer of course is:  Ze Germans!Read more »