The Healthy Man of Europe

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  • This weekend, we took a little jaunt down to Madrid.

For much of the 20th century, Spain was considered the "sick man of Europe." While France and Germany boomed in the ’60s and ’70s, Spain remained such a backwater, that many thought the country was more properly seen as an outpost of Latin America rather than a part of Europe.

But then came the end of the Franco regime, the European Union, and a great invasion of tourists and retirees. Spain is now one of the most dynamic countries in Europe. While Germany’s property lost value over the last seven years, property prices in Spain rose as fast as those in America. In certain areas — such as Madrid, Barcelona, and coastal regions — prices have gone up even faster.

Driving into Madrid from the airport, the first thing you notice are two big, lopsided modern buildings — one on each side of the road — that look like they might fall on the highway. Then, you are soon in a big, bustling city that bears little resemblance to the Franco years. Across from our office is a Rolls Royce dealer. Very fancy shops line the streets. Everything looks prosperous.

"Everybody I talk to here seems to hate America," said a friend. "Well not hate, exactly. But they despise the Bush Administration. It has nothing to do — at least not directly — with the terrorist bombing in Madrid. The Spanish know a lot more about terrorism than Americans. They lived through a civil war in the ’30s. And then terrorism from the Basques that went on for decades. They can live with terrorism. No, they just think that Bush is a naïve and dangerous man."

  • Meanwhile, back in England, the weekend paper has a story about Americans in London. After the Bush victory, say the Americans interviewed, the English seem to have become more hostile. Many report being mocked and challenged in pubs. One woman says she tells people she is Canadian.

But if Americans are ill-treated anywhere in Europe, your editor has never noticed it.

  • "Americans are afraid of terrorism," say the pollsters. The fear is so jacked up by the media, politicians and generals, it is to the point where the average man could see his house firebombed, his children abducted and his wife raped before his eyes. "Terrorists threaten our u2018way of life’," said President Bush. "Terrorists put the U.S. Constitution at risk," added the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

The actual risk of being a victim of terrorism is as remote as say, the risk of drowning in your own bathtub. You wonder why people get so worked up about it. Even in Israel, a person is 4 times as likely to die in a traffic accident as in a terrorist attack.

Bill Bonner [send him mail] is the author, with Addison Wiggin, of Financial Reckoning Day: Surviving the Soft Depression of The 21st Century.

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