Tuesday, May 29, 2012

What's Wrong With Spain?

For some time now I have thought that the first question we should always ask ourselves is:  What am I good at?

That in place of questions like: What do I want out of life? What do I really, really want? What is my passion? What do I love to do? What is most meaningful?

Get great at what you are good at and you will have a better life than if you choose to follow your bliss.

This morning David Goldman posted a great article about what is wrong with Spain. In it he asks why Germany is thriving while Spain is sinking into penury.

Thankfully, he presented the comparison in terms that we can all understand.

He began with the simple observation that the Spaniards are simply not very good at anything. They lack the competitive spirit; they do not seek to be the best.

To put it a bit tendentiously, they are more interested in luxuriating than in working hard to excel.

In Goldman's words:

Why should Germany thrive while Spain implodes? That’s like asking why Facebook is worth a lot and Myspace is worth nothing. It’s a winner-take-all world. Countries that do well have to do a few things extremely well. Germany makes the world’s best machine tools, some of the best heavy engineering equipment, not to mention autos. German manufacturing dominates innumerable key niches. The Spanish don’t do anything well. They haven’t done anything well since the Spanish Empire outsourced its manufacturing to Flanders in the 16th century. Germany has a score of marquee manufacturing brands, as well as hundreds of lesser-known quality manufacturers, of which my favorite is Howaldtswerke, a ThyssenKrupp subsidiary that makes the Dolphin class submarines for Israel. Name one world-class Spanish manufacturing brand. There aren’t any.

It’s not only in manufacturing. With its 82 million people, Germany has a cumulative total of 1,618 Olympic medals. Spain has 50 million people, but only 115 medals. On a per capita basis, that’s one eighth as many. Spaniards don’t wake up in the morning with the desire to go out and be the best in the world at something. There are hundreds of first-rate Italian firms, most of them small (intentionally so, to keep under the tax radar), and there are plenty of world-class French products. Spain is a bust, which is why it almost certainly will go bankrupt. It lived off the world’s most egregious real estate bubble for the past ten years, and now that the bubble’s popped, there isn’t that much else to the Spanish economy. There are plenty of smart Spaniards, to be sure. They are the ones who will end up working for Germans. There are also plenty of smart Turks, and as Turkey lurches further into Islamism, many of the best Turkish engineers will bail out and work in Germany as well.

The entire article is well worth a read.

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