The 'Stereotyping In Europe' Chart That's Become An Internet Phenomenon

We ran this chart from Pew on Tuesday, and since then it’s become a huge phenomenon.


Photo: Pew

People are in love with this fact that Greece, and only Greece, is the country that doesn’t see Germany as the most hardworking, and that in face they see themselves as the most hardworking.

And while everyone is mocking it, people are mounting a spirited defence of the Greeks.

Brad Plumer at WaPo’s wonkblog notes that OECD stats say Greeks do put in the most hours of work of any country.

In his latest note, SocGen’s Albert Edwards defends the Greeks too for their hardwork, and says that the Greeks are more realistic about their problems than any other European country.

Hedge funder (and new blogger) Mark Dow also got a fascinating piece from the survey, in which he reveals some big insights about how to understand a country’s economy.

There’s also an important side point here for sovereign analysis. There is a tendency to listen more to the people in the country being analysed. It is presumed they have ‘better information’ and understand better how things work. But what I have learned in my experience with sovereign crises over the years is that whatever informational advantage they have is usually more than offset by (1) their difficulty in distinguishing between things that matter and things that don’t; (2) the psychological baggage with respect to their own past, and (3) the often emotionally-charged nature of their perspective. Shorter: never ask a Brazilian about Brazilian inflation risk.

Dow also has some great observations about the third column, which indicates that many countries are willing to label themselves as the most corrupt.

The third column tells us something else about human nature. Five out of eight countries chose their own country as the most corrupt in the survey. Why? I, for one, still haven’t been to a country where people complain they are being taxed too little. Similarly, I hear in virtually all countries going through rough times that they could solve their problems if they could only end corruption in government. This is the height of wishful exculpation. It also ignores the fact that China has grown spectacularly over the past decade, despite what many believe to be a highly corrupt system. And, even if it were true that corruption were the primary cause of a country’s ills, it also ignores the reality that government is usually a reflection of a country’s culture, and changing the politicians doesn’t change the incentive structure that gives rise to corrupt behaviour.

Bottom line: Everybody loves this chart because there seems to be so much meat in it.

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