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Diane Francis

Diane Francis

Posted: May 11, 2010 08:23 AM

US Versus EU

What's Your Reaction:

This is a tale of two continents and currencies. Greece exploded in violence because many of its citizens object to paying the past-due bills for the "party" they call a country. Meanwhile, the systemically violent United States has handled the end to its "party" -- more than one million families thrown out of homes they couldn't afford -- without a single rubber bullet or squadron of riot police.

They do share plenty of voter anger in both places, and everywhere for that matter, but these crises point to a new, under-appreciated competitive advantage that the Americans may possess.

Namely, they (and Canadians too) mostly accept hard work as a value and failure or financial setbacks as an outcome that must occasionally be dealt with. Nobody in the U.S. or Canada likes adversity or political incompetence. But nobody has killed bank employees or manned barricades to fight for the right to a 32-hour work week and retirement at 53 years of age.

EU nastiness

The violence is not restricted to Greece either. Apparently, the threat of more thugs doing harm in equally spoiled-brat countries, Spain and Portugal, helped propel the third trillion-dollar bailout on the weekend.

(First was the Wall Street bailout, then the emerging nations bailout and now this.)

So what's next is going to prove interesting.

The Greeks, Spanish and others had better learn how to work like the Germans and Americans or they will never dig out. The problem is with attitudes like their youth, unions and civil service have displayed this is unlikely.

Better to sell off the islands in the Aegean or Mediterranean beach front as a German politician suggested last week.

The American mess has spawned a non-violent Tea Party movement and it is going around electorally decapitating moderate Republicans, splitting the right-of-center. The good news is that it will serve to modulate taxation going forward which will be a indirect brake on spending and borrowing. Or so one hopes.

Meanwhile in the European Union, the brats have won and it remains to be seen whether their nanny-states will raise taxes, curb spending and force their workers to work. Or whether they will just live off others and wait for bail out #4. Go long US$, not the Euro.

Diane Francis blogs at Financial Post.