2011-09-10

 

Rule-driven behavior, doublethink and moral authority

It's the Economy, Dummkopf! @ Vanity Fair is a very interesting read about German attitudes towards investing and social organization. Michael Lewis delves too much into the perceived scatological nature of German culture, which, though curious, is really his largely unsubstantiated opinion. He also shows a lack of knowledge of European reality, and so I assume of Germany (e.g. he seemed to have been unaware that most Europeans speak English, let alone the surfacy understanding of the economical crisis in the periphery countries...). Nonetheless the article exposes a very interesting clash between the German obsession with rules and American doublethink. Lewis misses the connection between German rule-driven behavior and moral authority, though. German investment bankers believed on the triple-A ratings of complex investment bonds based on subprime loans issued by Moody's and S&P, because of the moral authority America has on the German psyche. Certainly, if these american companies gave these ratings, they had to be true. The thing is, German investors would certainly not have believed those ratings if they had been issued by Greek companies, no matter how much Germans may like rules... So, while the american financial world is so very based on the doublethink inherent in these ratings---simultaneously believing they are accurate and risky, since these companies stand to gain from their very own ratings---German perception of the USA is what lead German investment bankers to follow the simple rule: excellent (American) rating=safe investment---no need to ask further questions or study the safety of the investment. This also explains why the ECB insisted on American ratings for regulating the Euro member states.

 Now, while Wall Street bankers (and Seemingly, Michael Lewis) may laugh at the German investors---those "ultimate patsies" as Lewis puts it---a big loss of this affair is undoubtedly the loss of American moral authority in the German psyche. Next time they will see the doublethink...

 On that note, the City Zen is left to Laurie Anderson below, "Only an Expert":

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