Id, ego, and debt: The Greek bailout

EU and Greek flags are pictured under a heavy sky in Athens on Oct. 10, 2011.

Todd Buccholz: Greece is broke and broken. Ask a German and he'll shrug: "They drink and dance during the day. We wait for sunset."


Kai Ryssdal: Commentator Todd Buccholz.


Buccholz
So the hard-working, disciplined, punch-the-clock-on-time German stays solvent and sober. While the Mediterranean neighbor lolls around in fertile fields of lemons and olives.

So why do Germans, grudgingly, reach into their pockets to bail out his dancing neighbors?

It's not "just the economy, stupid." It's also culture. Friedrich Nietzsche and Goethe can teach us more about the Euro crisis than John Maynard Keynes.

Germans have been searching for a missing part of their soul: passion. They envy the sun-filled days of their Mediterranean neighbors.

Nietzsche was fascinated by ancient Greece and juxtaposed sober Apollo with that reckless, wine-drinking southerner, Dionysus. A dose of Dionysus might not be so bad for Germans, he figured.

Today German companies like BMW conquer markets by manufacturing flawless motors. But when do Germans experience the fun of Dionysus? When vacationing in Greece, Italy, Spain and Portugal.

And then there's Sigmund Freud. His Germanic surname translates as "joy." If only. Freud, too, thought that Italy and the south could save the Teutonic psyche. Freud poses superego and id. The id hosts ecstasy. The superego is that German librarian-frau with her hair tied up in the bun telling you to "shush!"

On the map of Germany you can find quite a few towns called Buchholz. My wife once scolded me for acting too uptight, saying "You take all the fun out of everything." Wow, I felt both powerful and bad. I could take all of the fun out of everything. Even Zeus didn't have that much power! But a starchier-than-thou power sickens the soul.

So today Germany has the power and the discipline and yet still feels pretty bad for its neighbors. And so, to maintain their own sanity, Germans are willing to write some hefty checks.


Ryssdal: Todd Buchholz was an adviser to the first President Bush. His new book is called "Rush, Why You Need and Love the Rat Race." Share your thoughts.

About the author

Todd G. Buchholz is an American economist and author. He is a former senior economic adviser at the White House, a managing director of the $15 billion Tiger hedge fund, and an award-winning economics teacher.

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