Adventures in national stereotypes

By Felix Salmon
May 27, 2009

The Epicurean Dealmaker has invented a new parlor game: match financial-market participants to Russian national stereotypes circa 1865! Can I play too?

Tolstoy TED Felix
Frenchmen A Frenchman is self-assured because he regards himself personally, both in mind and body, as irresistibly attractive to men and women. Investment bankers; recent MBA graduates All investment bankers under the age of 40; most hedge-fund managers
Englishmen An Englishman is self-assured, as being a citizen of the best-organized state in the world, and therefore as an Englishman always knows what he should do and knows that all he does as an Englishman is undoubtedly correct. Goldman Sachs employees; private equity professionals IMF/World Bank employees; economists
Italians An Italian is self-assured because he is excitable and easily forgets himself and other people. Hedge fund managers; CNBC commentators Traders
Russians A Russian is self-assured just because he knows nothing and does not want to know anything, since he does not believe that anything can be known. “I am completely unaware of anyone currently operating in the financial sector who will admit to knowing nothing, much less take pride in it.” EMH devotees in general; buy-and-hold index-fund owners in particular
Germans The German’s self-assurance is worst of all, stronger and more repulsive than any other, because he imagines that he knows the truth—science—which he himself has invented but which is for him the absolute truth. Economists; derivatives structurers Chartists

Incidentally, the stereotypes age well. Have you met a French investment banker? A Bank of England technocrat? Nouriel Roubini (who counts as Italian for these purposes)? Josef Ackermann?

But of course there’s still a burning question: Why is the American self-assured?

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15 comments so far

The American is self-assured because he’s the biggest and strongest and he’s never lost (at least in his own mind) and he believes the good times will always last.

Posted by Sprizouse | Report as abusive

englishmen: imf/worldbank employees? omg, we’re doomed … ^^

Posted by flo | Report as abusive

The American is self-assured because he believes that the world would be perfect if everyone just did it his way, the hollowed out shells of once-great cities that dot his country notwithstanding. The modern day equivalent would be a central banker.

Posted by GaryD | Report as abusive

The American is all of the above.

The American is self-assured because he believes that’s the most important person in the whole world and the basic thing for him is to be self-assured…
The Romanian is self-assured because he thinks that those who govern the country are not doing it well, so he considers that nobody can lead or govern him.

Ackerman is Swiss.

Posted by dsquared | Report as abusive

Italians also believe that a draft of air can be deadly. As can a cold drink with ice.
Ahh, the dreaded colpo d’aria!

The American is self assured because God is at his side, The Pacific and the Atlentic are at both sides, and world´s pollution will never be over any of their sides, specially OVER them – and, well, at the end, when Doomsday finally comes, donors will certainly be saved.

Posted by Frederico Barreto | Report as abusive

In my experience, the Japanese structure more interesting derivatives than the Germans. They’re not on here, though.

Americans have created the concept that no matter what it will get better. This after the Great depression of ten years. With this knowledge we can all learn that even though we know nothing in spite of all the political and economic histories of our countries, it is all forgivable as the clock swings back to normalcy and we will do the same mistakes again, albeit in a more regulated environment. This being said, wall street will recreate new financial products for us to be suckered into. The concept of complex derivatives took thousands of meetings and millions of marketing dollars to create. I was at dozens of high level Board meetings at major investment banks to discuss how to recreate our industry. Now, this recreation in itself is circumspect and will be highly regulated. therefore, the pysche and ability to do this has been nullified. Therefore, the game is over and all investment banks have become actual banks or conservative financial institutions. The loser is the ability to create monies for emerging industries and therefore the larger well funded companies will just acquire the emerging ideas and great but fledgling concepts. Monopoly is on the way. Whoever survives will control business, as usual. To beat this new system, you must start from scratch, work for a large company while you develop your ideas, ‘steal’ the customers by shmoozing(legal), and then borrow from friends. The bank lending concept is finished even for great ideas. You need a Russian oligarch to buy 2% of your company for 200 million to understand this. hedge funds are finished and the US confidence level will reemerge but not as for investing, just speculating. maybe a new war will reinvigorate us.

Posted by shainman | Report as abusive

The American is self assured due to his capacity to forget – everything, and thus continue doing the same stupid things over and over every generation.

Posted by Tim | Report as abusive

Both Americans & Europeans should know better than to begin the game of assigning demeaning stereotypes to each other. There is one place this leads, and only one.

I don’t know when the next holocaust will take place, but I know the stereotypes that will be used to justify it.

Posted by James C | Report as abusive

“But of course there’s still a burning question: Why is the American self-assured?”

Whether the American is self-assured depends on whether there’s a bubble in progress.

Posted by Jon Hendry | Report as abusive

This written material is truly unworthy of a link from an institution like Reuters.

Posted by A Mulder | Report as abusive

Americans are self assured because they know that things will be better tomorrow.

Posted by Ben | Report as abusive
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