The US has one of the highest deficits in the world:
and also one of the highest public debts (as %age of GDP):
"I think there is a case to be examined around whether much of the financial woes in the western hemisphere can be traced back to the creation and widespread use of the personal credit card."
I'd say, PERHAPS, but only in the sense that politicians are behaving more like irresponsible credit hard holders.
I just don't see anything mysterious about most of the problems that the Eurozone is facing, or even the US, to a greater extent. You cannot mandate wealth by government edict. You cannot promise generous benefits and generous, early, government-funded pensions, by edict. Just as you can't just use the credit card to buy everything you want, without understanding the constraints.
Chronic deficit spending is the irresponsible credit card holder. Ever increasing social programs are created by chronic deficit spending.
Feeling proud that the deficit one year is no greater than the deficit the previous year is ridiculous. A ploy used by devious politicians to bamboozle the hopelessly clueless.
Sooner or later, you have to pay the piper.
I would think that the personal credit card has had a major negative influence on economies around the world. Of course, I'd also say that it has had a major positive influence. I'm not sure we have any economic metaphors that aren't double edged swords.
Credit allows consumers to buy things that they couldn't or shouldn't afford. The purchase of those things makes opportunity for companies that build and sell those things, which increases jobs & disposable income which allows people that spend beyond their means to spend even farther beyond their means...
If more people were responsible with their credit and if the card companies weren't so predatory and exploitative, then I'd say on balance, personal credit cards have been a good thing.
I think it's a smoke screen actually. The problems emerged when banks started gambling depositers money in the stock market buying and selling financial instruments they understood very little about. It's an agency problem at heart.
Much of my extended family lives in Italy and they are all professionals, i.e. engineers, scientists, professors, accountants, programmers, and businessmen, so I have quite a bit of inside information into the day-to-day culture.
Italy has always been a wonderful country, great food, great wine, great cars, magnificant houses, outstanding scenery and art, and lots of free time to enjoy it.
But prior to 1990, almost no one used credit for anything. They saved for what they wanted, and purchased with cash. And they all (rich and poor alike) enjoyed a marvelous lifestyle.
Then credit happened. Yes, the lifestyle improved slightly, but not for the basics; food, housing, and transportation. They took expensive vacations and bought BMW's. They ran up a huge amount of dept for stuff they didn't really need. And look what happened. Now they have to pay it all off, with money they don't really have.
There's a lesson here somewhere...
In effect, yes, but European countries such as Spain, Italy and even France want to have their cake and eat it. If they want German money, they should surrender fiscal policy (or some of it) to the paymaster of the European Union i.e. Germany. They are still resisting this though.
It's the same story with European defence. Europe needs money and heavy investment to have a truly independent defence policy, yet it's not prepared to let Germany have a normal army. Britain and France on their own cannot mount the necessary investment, and they can't expect Germany to fund a common European defence policy without having a major say/part in/of it. Another European paradox....
Are we not already "led" by Germany because the country makes substantial exports (sales of automobiles and light and heavy engineering) and is looked to as the source of bail out money by nations at the periphery of Europe from the Mediterranean to the Atlantic seaboard.
And of course there is no deficit spending in the US.. In Europe goverments are broke, but also a lot of the general population is broke or deeply in debt..in student loans, housing loans, and credit card loans... Not to mention that anybody who has had any serious disease for 40% of the population could mean loosing everything.. Yup.. the US is doing much better..