Michael Pettis, a Spanish international economist currently working in China, accuses thrifty Germans of forcing Southern European countries like Greece and Spain, to get indebted over their capacity of ever repaying their debts. In fact, he says that Germany has enslaved these peoples by foul play. He blogs:
As I see it, domestic German policies, perhaps aimed at absorbing East German unemployment, forced a structural trade surplus. The strong euro, along with the automatic recycling of Germany’s large trade surplus within Europe, ensured the corresponding trade deficits in the rest of Europe – unless Europeans were willing to enact policies that raised unemployment in order to counter the deficits. As long as the ECB refused to raise interest rates, southern Europe had to accept asset bubbles and rapidly rising debt-fueled consumption.I have heard this argument. President Correa offered to pay 30 cents on each dollar of Ecuador's sovereign debt because the debt was "immoral" and "forced on poor helpless Ecuador by powerful foreign banks". In the 19th Century, British banks were Latin America's favorite oppressors. Now the same argument is being recycled by Pettis. And many others.
This couldn’t go on forever, or even for very long. Now southern Europe is paying the inevitable price, and of course the moralists are accusing the south of being shiftless and lazy, confusing the automatic balancing mechanisms in the balance of payments with moral weakness.