Thursday, October 18, 2012

Why Spain is Different (And a Broader Question)

Read a couple of interesting pieces this week on what makes Spain Spain (link, link).  Hint:  six letters, begins with "F" and ends with "O" and in the middle we find an unfinished revolution, where the old crowd continues to enjoy ingroup privileges at the expense of everybody else.  Which might go a long way to explaining how a seemingly-grownup nation can run a youth unemployment rate of 50 percent.  All of which impels me to consider whether the Spanish experience is unique?  The obvious first point of comparison would be Greece and here I do think I see some striking differences.  Most notably  in wretched oversimplification, the problem has been that everyone was on the take: in the sense that everyone enjoyed a government job or some kindred benefit from the license raj that provided sufficient bread and circuses to keep the party in power.  

Beyond that--well, I guess you could say that when banking came to Ireland, a lot of the blessings tumbled over into the bogs, in the form of jobs, real estate deals and suchlike.  Italy--I guess Italy is the European country I think I know best but at the moment, I'm finding it hardest to figure out (is there a moral here?--ed.).  Heaven knows it had its secret societies, its Mafia skimmers and such like.  But I've always had the sense that in Italy everyone has an angle, albeit an angle that I may not understand (compare New York City doormen who seem to subsist in an ecology that no outsider can penetrate).

Oh and on this issue--as so many others--I can't even begin to make sense of my own United States.

But it does imbue the whole sorry bubble-bust episode with an overriding whiff of cui bono?  Surely the then crust of the finance class walked away with unimaginable  profits.  But some of the money spilled  out to various people in various ways.  It's another one of those questions that can be fun to consider precisely because we'll never sort it out.  But it seems to work differently in different places--that, at least is a kind of a start.

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