Readers Weigh In Is America Arrogant?

A SPIEGEL cover story this week argued that the financial crisis is upending American dominance of the financial markets and world politics. The article sparked passionate responses from our readers, and we have posted a selection of letters.
A reader writes: "Europe, be careful with your current gloating and hubris."

A reader writes: "Europe, be careful with your current gloating and hubris."

Foto: AFP

A recent SPIEGEL cover story  arguing that America's economic clout will wane as a result of the current financial crisis inspired passionate reactions among readers.

"Perhaps Europe's newly found confidence will lead it to start shouldering the burdens of a global power," wrote one reader. Others said they detected a whiff of schadenfreude, or worse, in the piece. "Rarely have I read such overwrought wishful thinking regarding the United States," wrote one. Many insist that Europe is in just as deep as America. "To have gone along with the financial crisis hook, line and sinker is absurd and exhibits the same avarice, greed and selfishness the world over," another wrote.

SPIEGEL ONLINE has posted a selection of reader responses, and you can also debate the cover story in our SPIEGEL FORUM.

Dear SPIEGEL ONLINE,

The good thing about any US economic turbulence is the latent malice it reveals in our "friends." Though no country in continental Europe has more reasons to thank the US than Germany (except, perhaps, France), our compassion and generosity to this deposed bully is quickly forgotten whenever the Fatherland thinks we're on our knees. Of course, German envy and animus were recently fueled by president-in-waiting's apologies (the young Turk has yet to learn that a leader never speaks ill of his country) and only emboldened by the results of our government's lax supervision of the best-of-breed Wall Streeters.

The financial crisis will pass and -- against the greatest hopes of our European and Asian trading partners -- the US will be stronger than ever. I will keep this DER SPIEGEL piece, however, to show it to my liberal friends the next time we have to rescue the Europeans from themselves.

-- Alice Griffin , New York City, USA


Dear SPIEGEL ONLINE,

Rarely have I read such overwrought wishful thinking regarding the US. The US economy is challenged, yes, but I do believe the reports of our death are greatly overstated. We will continue to be the engine that drives most of the world's economy. If this is not the case, then why are world markets begging us to move quickly to fix our problem so that business as usual can continue overseas?

German bitterness over its relegation to a B-Team economy -- take a look at your tax system, loss of technology investment, perverse immigration system, etc. -- should yield the energy to improve, not point fingers. You don't like George Bush? Wait about 31 days and he'll be history. You think our system is based upon avarice and greed? Watch our Congress move against those who tried to over-leverage our markets. The bottom line is this: The current "crisis" is less a debacle than it is an opportunity to do what the US always does, namely step up and fix the problem.

-- Steve Kopper, Washington, DC


Dear SPIEGEL ONLINE,

Here is the view from an American small businessman in California. We in America don't care about being the dominant economic power in the world. We embrace capitalism as defined by the British economist John Smith.

We are too busy trying to improve our own lives to worry about being Mr. Big. It is true, our nation is in a banking crisis, and there is lots of pain to go around. As is the case with all corrections, we will work our way out of it. It is important to coordinate with Germany and the G-8 to sync up all central banks to resolve the worldwide problem.

I own many properties and did not take a single subprime loan. I never took a home-equity loan. I have no debt except for property mortgages. All my properties have a positive cash flow. These are common-sense principles used by many citizens in Germany, the US, Japan, the UK, etc.

I again state: We Americans are interested in being good citizens of our nation -- and of the world. We could care less about being a superpower or the biggest economically dominant nation. We think freedom is far more important. Sure, we cheer at the Olympics, but we cheer all nations, all top athletes, regardless of whether our team wins a medal.

Throughout our history, we have given our lives and treasure to support freedom in the UK, France, Germany, Japan, beating back true tyrants. The case for Vietnam and Iraq are less clear, and we are divided as a nation, but not discouraged over those conflicts.

We love liberty, life and the pursuit of happiness. We love to see all people treated equally, period.

-- Bob Moore , USA


Dear SPIEGEL ONLINE,

This article is promising. Perhaps Europe's newly found confidence will lead it to start shouldering the burdens of a global power. The idea that NATO is a "powerful defense alliance" is questionable. It has not been that for a long time and has primarily depended on US might to operate, whether in Bosnia, Kosovo or Afghanistan.

Imagine America's joy when, after all these decades (since) World War II, Europe finally managed to squeak out a few monitors for Georgia. Success! Now if they only could come up with a few combat troops for Afghanistan under our "strong defense alliance," NATO.

Schools of thought differ over how America can take advantage of a few developed nations finally taking it upon themselves to lead economically, militarily and politically. As Europe's scoffing is nothing new and has been going on for decades, I think Americans would be more than happy to hand the reins to Europe, sit back and watch.

Fareed Zakaria's opinions about a post-American world are intriguing, but unfortunately grow out of wishful thinking. These new multipolar "centers of gravity" have been slow to respond, despite America's fondest hopes. Indeed, Canada has been forced to continuing patrols off the Horn of Africa against a menacing piracy threat in the absence of any other nation's offers to assume those duties. Piracy also imperils the Straits of Malacca and the waters around the Philippines and Indonesia, critical choke points along a sea line of communication used by all countries.

Weary Americans would be more than happy to be spared recurring global obligations, such as fighting in safe havens where attacks against Europe and the US are plotted, but all these great new "centers of gravity" seem to be taking their time.

-- Rowan Jordan, Besthesda , Maryland , USA


Dear SPIEGEL ONLINE,

This is my first letter to the editor, but it comes at an important time. I was born in Germany and have lived overseas at various points in my life. I was living overseas the last time the US had a big financial dip in the early 1990s. Most people were polite, but they generally had the opinion that America's days of preeminence were over and that Japan would now be taking the lead in the industrialized nations. My advice to them at the time was that this would be a really good time to buy as much stock in American companies as they could afford. Sadly, they did not take my advice. If they had, they could be retired now...

Please do not be so quick to count us out. This is not a time to despair but, rather, it is an opportunity to make some money, if you are brave and patient.

If you have some money you can afford to do without for 10 years, my advice would be: If you are of modest financial means, buy Treasury notes or index funds. If you are middle class, buy stocks. If you are rich, buy stocks in banks or real estate.

-- Kurt Christensen , USA

'America Bashing Is the European Way'

Dear SPIEGEL ONLINE,

Europe and much of the world don't understand George W. Bush or his commitment to the office he holds. What these countries "know" is what the partisan, biased American media writes. Their dislike of this man clouds objective reporting.

In the years I have watched George Bush, no matter what anyone has ever said about him, he never responded with a critical comment naming an individual. He has never lowered himself.

With history comes clarity, and Bush will be judged more accurately than he is today. He could care less what people think -- as long as he believes what he is doing is best for our nation and for the world.

-- a reader from Cary , North Carolina , USA


Dear SPIEGEL ONLINE,

I am not surprised by the America bashing in your magazine -- it is the European way. America is only good when you need us, and history has proven that you needed us very frequently. But you are dead wrong to count Americans out and to count capitalism out. Free markets and capitalism are the only road to prosperity.

I was having dinner with a friend last night and he brought his 26-year-old nephew to dinner with him. His nephew had just arrived from France to work here in the USA at a hedge fund. I asked him why come to America now with all this financial turmoil? His answer was that America still offered the best chance for prosperity. "France could never give me the financial opportunities that I can find here in America," he said.

Furthermore, if America is so down-and-out, why is an American education still the best in the world? Why is it that workers from France, Germany and Poland come here for a better future? Why don't they stay in Europe?

-- Mario Faustini , New York , USA


Dear SPIEGEL ONLINE,

What you are seeing in the United States is the result of socialist policies as prescribed by the Democratic Party in the name of "helping the poor" by lowering the threshold and minimum requirements for obtaining a mortgage. These looser policies were abused, of course, by greedy brokers who had a vested interest in making these loans due to the fat commissions they were receiving.

Congressman Barney Frank, Senator Chris Dodd and Senator Joseph Lieberman and other Liberals fought tooth-and-nail against legislation that was proposed more than once (years ago) by the Bush administration that would have put much stricter standards and oversight in place to prevent the failure of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

Barney Frank, in particular, stated categorically at the time of the proposed legislation (2005) that there were no problems with either Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac, nor anything to indicate that there would be a problem. This man should be the poster-child for a failed liberal-socialist agenda and should be (driven) out of Washington, DC on a rail.

Instead, believe it or not, he is leading the charge and blaming the Republicans for causing the current financial problems when, in fact, it was he and his ilk that caused it. Frank is the ultimate hypocrite within the United States House of Representatives and he should resign -- immediately.

-- Jeff Roe , USA


Dear SPIEGEL ONLINE,

As Epicurus once stated, the greater the difficulty, the more the glory in surmounting it. Never count out the United States of America. Yes, we are, and will be, going through a period of pain and retraction, but our people are resilient. We believe in liberty and freedom at all costs and in all endeavors. Sadly, at times, this includes greed, which in a capitalist market economy will eventually be exposed and corrected. Unfortunately, this exercise can be painful.

If, as you point out, the US is in demise and the power is moving toward the EU, then the world is in trouble. Although taking the lead position, the EU hasn't stopped Iran from (its) nuclear bomb development. The EU also witnessed Russia invading Georgia territory and destroying (its) infrastructure and economy. Their reaction was a slap on their wrist. Where's the strong leadership there?

Europe, be careful of your current gloating and potential hubris. Americans would rather eat bread crumbs that fall from the table and live free then to eat steak at the table and watch from the stands and live life timidly. If you ignore the US now, then don't look for our help when Russia is knocking on the EU's doorsteps again, or terrorist are knocking on your door via Iran sponsorship, or you can't get oil because of an OPEC/Russian embargo or shipping lanes are blocked in the Persian Gulf, or your monetary system is in need.

Epicurus also wrote: "It is not so much our friends' help that helps us as the confident knowledge that they will help us." We can't take our mutual friendship for granted...

--Steve H., USA


Dear SPIEGEL ONLINE,

Your series missed one thing. There is liquidity in the market, people can still buy homes, and businesses are running and the stock market has stopped falling.

The financial crisis started with the Community Reinvestment Act in 1979 (a liberal program) and ballooned during the Clinton years. Give mortgages to people who should not be getting them + people who cannot repay them = economic problems.

This financial problem was created by the US Federal Government, and it should be solved by those who created it. The American taxpayer will not clean up a socialist experiment gone bad with private taxpayer money.

My wife and I are thrifty. We are going to buy a house at a bargain price because we have money. One person's problem is another person's gold mine.

-- Kevin Kasson , USA


Dear SPIEGEL ONLINE,

If you are going to spend this much time and space writing an article, I would implore you to choose your words more wisely. To speak in such broad, wide-sweeping strokes about a nation of 300 million is absurd.

Arrogance? What do you mean by it? Is leadership arrogance? We never forced our values on the rest of the world. It, in fact, would be impossible to do so. Our nation contains less than 5 percent of the world's population. The world has chosen to emulate our actions to their great success. With America at the helm of political and economic decision-making, our planet has seen the greatest liberalization of humanity and the greatest economic success in the history of the world.

The bailout of the nation's banks has been voted down, and I believe this is a direct reflection of Americans' sentiments. We do not believe they should shirk their responsibility and obligations. The individuals who entrusted their money to institutions they knew little about are now learning to do their homework. Why did so many people decide to invest in credit derivatives if they knew nothing (about) what they were? To say nothing of the ridiculous mortgages they took out as well. I believe your publication coddles individuals. The blame is always passed to institutions. We are all free-thinking persons, and many of us are unfortunately too lazy and petty to own up to our mistakes.

-- Donald Carter, USA


Dear SPIEGEL ONLINE,

This article was exceptional from beginning to end. I do detect a bit of disappointment, and I have to say, why? Where were you all when Bush was elected in 2000? Didn't the papers read "How can 54 (million) Americans be so stupid" in 2004 when he was reelected? How could Europe actually be so fooled? We in the middle-class -- the X-generation who have no social security, pension or medical insurance -- saw it from the get-go.

And I have to say, hooray.

But isn't it about time that Europe does something? Isn't it well past time that Europe works to manage the economic, financial, environmental and physical world along with Asia and the Americas instead of sitting back and letting America -- led by W., of all people -- make foolhardy decisions for eight long years? Bush was wrong to not work with other countries in the Iraq crisis. Was this not a sign that Europe should have taken more drastic steps to work together on other major issues then?

To have gone along with the financial crisis hook, line and sinker is absurd and exhibits the same avarice, greed and selfishness the world over. How can those of my generation, the fortysomethings who are now managers, buy into this in Europe? None of us were even born during the time of war when America was hailed a redeemer. There is no excuse, and I must say that American greed deserves to go down with Bush and his cronies.

--Robert Reincke, California, USA

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