By Jamie Lalinde
Aug 10, 2011
Since contributing editor Michael Lewis traveled to Ireland for his last article on the European debt crisis (for the March 2011 issue of Vanity Fair), Portugal had to accept a bailout; Spanish youth have begun to protest—although it is unclear what about; Italy’s shaky finances have emerged as a major threat to Euro stability and resulted in the E.C.B’s purchase of Italian and Spanish bonds; Ireland’s finance minister, Brian Lenihan, died; and Greece had to ask for more money. Now, with “It’s the Economy, Dummkopf!” in the September issue, Lewis concludes his series on the European financial crises with a trip to Germany, the provider of bailouts and the holder of all the gold. When VF Daily caught up with Europe’s least-welcome tourist to ask his opinion of Germany and the P.I.G.S. (Portugal, Italy, Greece, and Spain), the contagion in Europe had yet to spread—highlights from our chat:
VF Daily: Where did the euro go wrong?
Michael Lewis: At its conception. They glued together a bunch of countries and cultures that didn’t really belong together in the same currency. So if you put Germany together with Greece in a single currency, it’s a little like watching an Olympic sprinter and a fat old man running a three-legged race. The Greeks will never be as productive as the Germans, and the Germans will never be as unproductive as the Greeks. So if they’re in the same currency—unless the Greeks simply up and move to Germany to work for the Germans—it implies a lifetime of transfers from Germany to Greece.