Despite our increasingly globalised world, there are still occasions where economic and financial matters are viewed fundamentally differently from country to country.
The Greek debt crisis is one such matter. A recent international YouGov survey showed a clear narrative, at least as understood by Northern Europeans: the Greeks had recklessly overspent and should accept the terms on offer and not be given any special favours.
Denmark was very clearly in this camp with less than 20 percent attaching even moderate blame to the creditors for the poisonous atmosphere and over 3-1 thinking no reduction of Greek debt should occur. Interestingly, Danes were even more definitive in their views than Germans, despite having considerably less skin in the game.
Britain and France were, on the other hand, split down the middle with the public 50-50 on the topic of debt reduction, with a majority saying that the creditors were at least somewhat to blame for the crisis.
This difference of opinion was also reflected in media output. Despite some room given latterly for pushback, the overwhelming narrative of the print media was of a country historically and recklessly living beyond its means (undoubtedly true) and ungratefully resisting the help offered by other countries (much less clear-cut).
In the US media, on the other hand, ample space was given for economists to discuss the fundamental issues regarding the Eurozone (the unprecedented imbalanced of the German economy, an almost fundamentalist belief in austerity, and the lack of any central transfers or meaningful labour mobility).
In Britain, the creditors’ position was questioned both from the right (the issue of a country’s democratic will) and the left (Keynesian orthodoxy says that the abject failure of austerity was entirely predictable).
Open season, closed minds
We don’t know whether the media coverage was driving public opinion in Denmark or vice-versa. The coverage was clearly dangerously shallow on an issue that is critical in many spheres (moral, political and economic).
The space given for a wider discussion on the issue late in the day on TV2 News and Politiken was welcomed. It’s just a pity it came after so many Danes had already made up their minds.