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The latest showdown in the European Union features the election of the very first anti-austerity government in Greece, cold disillusionment among the EU’s political elite, and the prospect of a broken promise, which could push financial markets into a tailspin in the near future.Last month’s electoral victory by Greece’s left-wing Syriza party, which was driven by the promise of non-adherence to the harsh austerity conditions imposed on the country, threatens a 0-billion rescue package that Greece needs to stay solvent.This is despite running not only a budget surplus but, in the first half of last year, the biggest budget surplus since its reunification in 1990.

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Meanwhile, European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi, and even the International Monetary Fund have urged a more flexible interpretation of the EU’s Stability and Growth Pact, which provides the legal authority for the austerity conditions.

And last month, more than 30 economists urged Greece’s lenders in an open letter to provide debt relief for the distressed country.

So why is Germany so set on enforcing the rules when so many others have taken an opposing stance?

Certainly, a strong belief in structural reform and a desire not to waste German taxpayer money play a significant role.

It survived the hyperinflation of the 1920s and turned out to be very useful in an immediate post-World War II period characterized by extreme poverty.

Past events like these often have a profound effect on a society’s culture — a phenomenon that Fisher calls “deep culture.” The lessons taught to society by times of severe distress effectively become part of its culture and continue to exist in its collective memory.Higher education, moreover, is free or close to free in Germany, so the kinds of debt American students take on is virtually unthinkable.Before immigrating to the United States, I remember getting caught up in conversations with Americans who could not believe that I was actually debt free.But another contributor to the German insistence on austerity can perhaps be explained by a very different variable: culture.German Thrift In his book , sociologist Glen Fisher describes culture as a “design that has been socially created, tested, and shared.” In other words, culture is a way of coping with the world that has proven to be successful for previous generations.They also called on the Greek government to “abandon the austerity programme that is crushing economic activity.” Besides compassion for the long-suffering Greeks, there are real economic concerns that need to be addressed.

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