JP Morgan explains the euro crisis with lego

By Felix Salmon
September 6, 2011


This chart comes from a Michael Cembalest’s research note today. The key is in there too. I’m not making this up:

  1. The toreador in a floppy hat, and the F1 driver with his helmet, represent Spain, Italy and the rest of the Euro Periphery.
  2. The three men with helmets, shields, and medieval weaponry represent the CDU, CSU and FDP parties in Germany.
  3. The blue-and-white sailor boy is Finland. Obvs.
  4. The woman with an oversized carrot and her friend in overalls with a shovel represent the Social Democrats and Greens.
  5. Wotan represents the Bundesbank.
  6. The piggy bank is the IMF.
  7. The grey-haired Banque chap is the ECB.
  8. The chap in the red bib is Poland.
  9. The artists are France.
  10. The angry chef, the sweeper with a broom, the airline pilot, and the rest of the motley crew at bottom left, represent EU taxpayers in Core countries.
  11. The storm troopers are the EU Commission and Euro Group Finance Ministers, chaired by Jose Manuel Barroso and Jean- Claude Juncker.
  12. The monocled banker and his assistant are EU bondholders and shareholders.

iceland.tiff Full credit here is given to “Peter Cembalest, who specializes in conceptualization of such phenomena”; I assume that Peter (age 9) helped out too with the Icelandic bonus extra, for people who make it to page three. But Iceland sadly didn’t make the cut as one of the “12 players in the EMU Debt Crisis most likely to affect policy from here”.

Cembalest does at one point feel the need to explain what he’s doing here:

If today’s diorama analysis borders on the absurd, so does maintaining the fiction that accumulation of massive public and private sector claims in Europe can somehow be engineered away.

Still, I like the idea of sitting all the key European players in a room with a box of lego and telling them to work things out that way. The results couldn’t really be more farcical than those of the EU bank stress tests.


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I’m well past 9 but can’t decode what the arrows mean…

Posted by petertemplar | Report as abusive

Ooops. Didn’t see that key!

Posted by petertemplar | Report as abusive

Can you post a higher resolution image? it’s too hard to read. Would love to see the original.

Posted by beerdovezeus | Report as abusive

Lego has certainly changed from when I was a kid. I didn’t even realize they had an EMU Edition.

Posted by Curmudgeon | Report as abusive

Well, according to MMT, don’t they owe all that debt to themselves – one person’s debt is another person’s asset? So it all nets out to zero…One person’s chintzy lego figure is another person’s valuable collectable…

Posted by fresnodan | Report as abusive

The graphic is fun, but this seems like an unbelievably convoluted way to present this information. The text is disconnected from the graphics (not to mention quite cramped), and the sheer number of arrows makes it difficult to figure out what is going on. I have to imagine a simple table would have been clearer.

Posted by worm600 | Report as abusive

Isn’t that Playmobil and not Lego? Although with Lego’s ridiculous move to give up on 4×2 bricks in megapacks in favour of 2×1, 3×1 and 4×1 just to make it seem like there are lots of bits when in reality there isn’t only looks good in the sense that it shows the real effects of inflation in what you can actually buy for your money.

Clearly all the 4x2s have gone off to China and the Far East and they’ll only let us play with them if we’re nice to them.

Posted by FifthDecade | Report as abusive

Peter Cembalest missed an entire group of players in this crisis. My kids had a really cool Lego pirate ship with pirates (complete with parrot and treasure chest) that should be in this diorama representing the major banks that hold the debt of these sovereign nations and back the derivatives that they buy from each other to “cover their risks.” They could even have the cannon from the ship in the diorama as the threat that the banks will blow up the economy if they fail.


These are Lego people. You can tell by their square flat-footedness which hides holes in their soles that allow them to stick to Lego pieces and boards. You can see the ECB banker standing on a Lego piece. The PlayMobil characters actually have little feet.

Posted by ErnieD | Report as abusive

Thanks Ernie – no Playmobil to hand!

Posted by FifthDecade | Report as abusive

Oh my god, we are doomed

Posted by SurfSmurf | Report as abusive

More insightful than most of what I have seen on the Eurozone. At least some of the stereotypes required some thoughtful imagination.

Posted by wpw | Report as abusive

This seems like the Lego version of the sh*t flows downhill theory. If you’re at the bottom of the diagram and there are arrows pointing at you, you’re stuck with it.

Posted by k3nt0n | Report as abusive

There is of course one thing missing, a vital element, the one that started it all and caused all the problems in the first place: US sub-prime based securities and the long feeding chain that took them from impossible to pay mortgagees right up to banks like Lehman and others who then sold them on into Europe.

Posted by FifthDecade | Report as abusive

This graphic is really an eye opener. We all need to realize that it is time to wake up, and to face the real issue that is at hand. Playing the blame game, finger pointing, arguing about who is at fault, these actions get us no closer to a resolution, serving only to distract us from the problem at hand. Those behind this know it, they continue to thrive because of it, and continue to make the situation that much more dire.

And yes, at first, the situation was jumbled, confusing, a frustrating mess with no clarity at any level. This graphic has, however, given us the ability to see what is really taking place. While we squabble, the Empire and it’s Stormtroopers are infiltrating and taking over the EU.

It is just a matter of time before they succeed, or perhaps they already have, either way we are on the verge of collapse. With the spotlight now on the problem, visible for all, we have little time and must act fast, or else we have only ourselves, and maybe the ewoks, to blame.

Posted by fletbr13 | Report as abusive

StokeyBob Explains it with a Super Dollar:

No matter how much real money people can put together to build their countries the way they want there are those that can print up what ever it takes to dictate their way.

Maybe this will help make the danger of fiat money clear.

Imagine you and me are setting across from each other. We create enough money to represent all of the world’s wealth. Each one of us has one SUPER Dollar in front of him.

You own half of everything and so do I.

I’m the government though. I get bribed into creating a Central Bank.

You’re not doing what I want you to be doing so I print up myself eight more SUPER Dollars to manipulate you with.

All of a sudden your SUPER Dollar only represents one tenth of the wealth of the world!

That isn’t the only thing though. You need to get busy and get to work because YOU’VE BEEN STIFFED with the bill for the money I PRINTED UP to get YOU TO DO what I WANTED.

That to me represents what has been happening to the economy, and us, and why so many of our occupations just can’t keep up with the fake money presses. ollowthemoney/Supersingle640x537.jpg

Posted by StokeyBob | Report as abusive

The three men with helmets, shields, and medieval weaponry are truely trying their best. Today the EFSF Eurorettungsschirm will not bye yunkbonds etc. ettung-die-stunde-der-rechenkuenstler-30 498320.html

Posted by nobailoutplease | Report as abusive

I don’t know … If the EU Commission and Euro Group Finance Ministers were *really* Stormtroopers; The rebels would win. ;)

Posted by Packerchu | Report as abusive

My 4 years old ask why the toys 10 and 12 don’t have arrows going out? Have they been bad toys? Did they do something bad? :)

Posted by ehauske | Report as abusive

number 10 is the 99 percent who need to cap personal wealth at 10M dollars, and number 12 is the 1 percent who would be affected by that, but at the moment nothing affects them so they don’t care where the debt goes. Is that ok for a 4 year old?

Posted by Haroun | Report as abusive