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.

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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What an appallingly worthless, shallow, self-satisfied segment. There's about as much insight in this story as in your average Facebook status. If you wanted to air an interesting, nuanced, and most importantly RESEARCHED story on the cultural aspects of Germany's relationship with economic issues in general and especially as regards its place in Europe, you should have gotten in touch with Planet Money and excerpted from their recent podcast on the topic instead.: http://www.npr.org/blogs/money/2011/09/23/140746357/the-friday-podcast-t...

I'd encourage others disappointed by this absurdly glib nonsense to check that one out instead. Come on, Marketplace-- you're better than this!

Just let them fail, if Germany wants sun and sand just go to Libya and make Italy and Greece "flyover country".

Pretty soon they'll also reinforce their southern borders and kick out illegal immigrants. Oh wait, are we still talking about Europe? It sounds similar to some other place, can't put my finger on it...

Usually, the commentaries on your program are very interesting and thought-provoking. This one was not. It was off the mark by a mile. The thesis of the commentary was, that Germans will help Greece, if grudgingly, because they feel somehow compelled to. In fact, the majority of Germans do not, rendering the rest of the analysis pointless. According to one of Germany's main T.V. channels, 60% of Germans think that Germany will HAVE TO help, although they are upset about it, while 36% believe that Germany should not feel obliged. That makes 96% of Germans either most unwilling or entirely unwilling to bear more cut-backs themselves to bail out a "Club Med" country. However, let's also not forget that it is wrong to pit Germans against Greeks. That is a diversionary tactic to enthrall the masses, and it drudges up old and tired and incredibly stupid and wrong stereotypes. Germans have a great way of life, they do have fun and live in a beautiful country. So do they Greeks. If I had a dime for every time I heard entirely wrong stereotypes about Germans, I'd be part of the 1%!!!!

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