The German econblogger space is just fine

This past Sunday Felix Salmon wrote a post called “10 reasons for the lack of German econobloggers.” I found it inaccurate and offensive. Let me tell you why.

I was in Germany at the time I read the post and had been there for the better part of the week. In reading and watching German news, I was very heartened that there was a comfortable debate about the goings-on in finance and in the German and world economy.

Now, I would sum up Felix’s arguments regarding German bloggers as a typical and stereotyped Anglo-American view of Germany and the German-language realm. The core of the view is that Germans are hidebound, hierarchical, conservative and obedient. This is at odds with the ethos of the blogosphere. Therefore, Germany and the German-speaking world will never have a good blogging community.

I happen to think highly of Felix’s work but his views here are out of bounds. Moreover, he’s just plain wrong. There actually is a good thriving German-speaking econblogging community. I have four of the blogs on my blogroll and often correspond with their writers. They are:

  • Immobilienblasen:  the blog title means property bubble in German.  I have aways considered Immobilienblasen a good bilingual effort that does a good job of bridging the German and Anglo-American world.  It has been around since well before the econblog space got noticed.
  • Zeitenwende: this is a Swiss blog in German and has been a very good source of information fr me on the goings on at UBS, Credit Suisse, Glencore and other Swiss companies. It went on a brief hiatus earlier this year, but I am happy to report that it is back.
  • egghat’s blog: Egghat is another German blogger who has been around for quite some time (since before the econblogging space became noticed after Lehman’s demise).  Although, he writes completely in German, egghat does have a lot of good information on the U.S. financial crisis as well.
  • Blick Log: this is the most recent German-language blog I have been turned on to.  Very, very good detail on the German situation specifically.  If you want to know what is happening at HSH Nordbank, WestLB or Deutsche Bank, this should be on your list.

There are any number of other German blogs as well (Boersennotizbuch is one) that are not on my blogroll of which I am aware.

As to the substance of Felix’s argument – that German cultural traits prevent a flourishing blogosphere, I would say there might be kernels of truth in what he says. For instance, I was walking through the town centre in Duesseldorf on Monday. And whenever I came to a traffic light I felt that dreaded social pressure I always felt to be coercive and corrosive when I lived in Germany not to cross on red. Social pressure is subtle and the pressure to conform to social norms is one of the key ingredients that created a massive credit bubble. Here it was in action at the pedestrian crossing.

Nevertheless, Felix overstates his case. There are very good German blogs. Moreover, the German press is and always has been MUCH more critical of the government than the U.S. press has been. One could legitimately argue that magazines like Spiegel and even ARD and ZDF, the public television stations, take on a role in Germany that the mainstream media in the U.S. do not.

The arguments that there are few German bloggers compared to U.S. bloggers could be made regarding Australia, Canada, France, Spain, Ireland, or even the U.K. In the U.K, you have Alphaville, Willem Buiter, Alice Cook, and Mark Wadsworth as examples but there are not nearly enough econbloggers in the U.K. given the severity of the economic crisis there. And, it’s not because the Brits are ‘too German’ that there aren’t more blogs there.

Like Felix, I wish there were more blogs outside of the U.S. because they might give us a different perspective. But to say that the Germans will never develop a good econoblogosphere is just plain wrong.

  1. egghat says

    Blush. I’m kind of moved.

    Thanks a lot!

  2. Mark Wadsworth says

    Ta for mention, I’d like to point out in the context that I’m half-German and I lived in Germany (and worked in tax) for nine years.

    I learned a lot of stuff over there about how silly these ‘targetted tax breaks and subsidies’ are, i.e. where their tax/subsidy system is superficially exactly the opposite of the UK but leads to a similar end result, which renders most of the tax/subsidy code in both countries superfluous.

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