Why Avoiding Stereotypes is Important (Hoisted from Comments)
In the transit-related forums I participate in, people know that the US builds subways at higher costs than all other countries, because I talk about it often. This feeds into various stereotypes Americans have of government effectiveness; Americans of many political stripes understand that there are serious problems with US governance, and compare the US negatively with certain countries that are famous for getting things done. Thomas Friedman periodically raves about China’s massive infrastructure investment; when he was secretary of transportation, Ray LaHood made the same praise, and connected this to Chinese authoritarianism, while saying that American democracy was still overall a better system. More recently, there’s been praise for Germany, or more generally Northern Europe, as a place with effective infrastructure investment (even as the actual state of German infrastructure is in decline). I was reminded of these stereotypes in the discussion of New York’s shrug-worthy reinvention report at Second Avenue Sagas: once again, the commenters praised the usual-suspect countries, and sometimes connected low construction costs with authoritarianism.
Several more examples from this month have made me notice that people overstate certain cultural differences, especially ones that are in line with stereotypes, such as Western individualism versus Asian collectivism or Northern European efficiency versus Southern European corruption. Cultures are far too diverse to be reduced to these oppositions, and this is especially true on the level of political subcultures, such as transit investment.
The reality is that the places with the lowest construction costs do not really match the stereotypes. Peruse my various posts about subway construction costs again: the main three, but also some of the side ones. Authoritarian countries like China and Egypt do not have unusually low construction costs. Countries with reputations for efficiency run the gamut: Scandinavia and Switzerland are relatively cheap, but Germany and the Netherlands are expensive, with some German projects needlessly expensive because of political influence over alignment choices. Labor costs seem to have a weak if any effect on construction costs: India, by far the poorest country on my lists, is fairly expensive to build in, and within the first world, low-income Naples has cheap construction but so do high-income Swiss cities and middle-to-high-income Milan. Culture in the sense of Samuel Huntington’s civilizations has a weak if any effect, again: there are multiple examples of subway lines built in the Western world, the Islamic world, and East Asia, and the cost differences within each bloc are far greater than the cost differences between the blocs.
I try to avoid giving explanations for these patterns of construction costs. If I knew for certain what caused them, I would not be blogging; I would be forming a consultancy and teaching New York and other high-cost cities how to build subways for less than $100 million per kilometer. I have seen two explanations by professionals. Manuel Melis Maynar, the former CEO of Madrid Metro, explained briefly how Madrid has the world’s lowest construction costs, in terms of design compromises, avoidance of outside consultants, and structuring bids based primarily on technical merit and not cost. And Paul Barter’s thesis explains Japan’s relative lack of urban freeways as a result of high land costs and a costly eminent domain process; this also explains the pattern of Japan’s high urban subway construction costs compared with relatively cheap Shinkansen tunneling (the 50% underground Shin-Aomori extension was only about $55 million per km).
The key here is that neither of these two particular explanations has anything to do with cultural stereotypes of the nations in question. When people think of Hispanic culture, many stereotypes come to mind, but none of them involves having hyper-competent local agencies designing subway systems with small in-house staffs. On the contrary, given the stereotype of Southern European corruption, an American or Northern European who was informed that Madrid Metro awarded contracts based on a combination of technical merit, speed, and cost, and did not use outside consultants, might conclude that it has a bloated in-house staff and that it uses the discretion of technical merit to favor the politically connected. Likewise, although Japan is notorious for the expense of its urban land, it does not have a reputation for strong property rights protections; Anglophone and Western supremacists take it for granted that the West has stronger property rights protections than East Asia, even if in reality English common law makes takings easier than Japanese law.
In addition to the thread on Second Avenue Sagas, in which I felt compelled to constantly defend Southern Europe’s record on building rail infrastructure efficiently, I was recently exposed to another set of stereotypes, in a four-week-old blog post by Andrew McAfee on Financial Times repeating all the usual American exceptionalist tropes of innovation. According to McAfee, the rise of the tech sector of Silicon Valley underscores how the US is going to keep winning the new global economy, giving Tesla as the prime example.
I have a simple bullshit detector for articles about innovation, especially in the tech sector: if they praise Israel’s entrepreneurial cultures, I know with a high degree of certainty that they’re familiar with too small a slice of the nation to be informed. The real Israel, even the upper middle-class slice that I grew up in, is a country at the bottom end of the first world, with Southern Italian average salaries (average household income per capita is about $14,000 a year in PPP terms, about half as high as in the US), with people who move to the US and are floored by the plenty they see at American supermarkets. It has a lot of tech workers, who function as a back office to Silicon Valley, and a handful of inventors who make exit and become rich; neither group is large enough to raise average salaries to proper first-world levels.
But McAfee’s wrongness goes well beyond the line about Israel. In a global economy with specialized regions, people tend to overvalue the sort of production that accords with their sense of identity, and this leads to either regional pride or nationalism. For a certain class of Anglo-American boosters, this is finance; New York and London are global financial centers, and this makes them worthier in this view than cities with different economic roles, such as Paris. McAfee belongs to the class that views the tech sector as the most important, and sees Silicon Valley’s wealth as superior. This is simply the modern equivalent of the 19th-century Manchester boosters’ denigration of Birmingham as a city that didn’t have Manchester’s culture of mass production of cotton, as described in The Economy of Cities; back then the boosters viewed the world as a giant factory, and today they view it as a giant smartphone app. The epitome of this is the overrating of Tesla, which is special only in that it’s made by someone with a background in online companies and not in the auto industry. Who needs the Tokyo rail system when there are luxury electric cars exciting the tech boosters?
As it happens, Europe has a lot of innovation in new fields – it’s not just Siemens making incremental industrial progress; it’s also the Human Brain Project. So do Japan and South Korea: McAfee brushes aside patent statistics, perhaps because Japan and South Korea have by far the highest numbers of patents per capita.
Now, to clarify, it’s possible to relate the US strength in online companies like Facebook to its business culture of superstars, which relates to individualism. In traditional manufacturing sectors, big businesses are built slowly, and require immense amounts of capital; in the tech sector, Mark Zuckerberg could start with a relatively low amount of capital, supplied by an angel investor like Peter Thiel on the strength of an already successful demonstration, and obtain a very large market share via network effects. However, this explanation still requires mediation via business culture. Quoting Marc Andreessen, McAfee lists four explanations, two of which do indeed involve business culture, but two of which play well into the European stereotype of American ignorance: great research universities, and rule of law and respect for contracts and property. Paris has some amazing research universities, judging by the intellectual achievements of their faculty, and as noted above, in some respects the Anglosphere actually has weaker property rights than Japan. But American tech boosters have learned that great universities lead to software and tech businesses, so if the Grandes Ecoles don’t have that then they can’t be that great, right? The national stereotype is stronger than the reality, just as with the insistence of many people in the transit infrastructure debate to talk about China and Northern Europe.
I’m reminded by a point that I made three months ago, in response to a proposal to move Silicon Valley to a growth-friendlier metro area like Houston. Facebook, Uber, and other hot Silicon Valley firms have a culture that works for their industry and that has led to useful inventions. This does not mean that the entire world has to operate like a Silicon Valley firm, nor does this mean that everything in the US operates like one. The same is true of other national stereotypes. The Spanish economy is weak, but happens to have a small segment, corresponding to infrastructure engineering and management, that works very well; other countries would be wise to copy this culture in the realm of infrastructure, and in nothing else, until it can be verified that the same principles work in other settings.
This sort of imitation, focusing on specific aspects of business culture in a particular industry, is harder than general handwaving about how to think like a German or Japanese business manager (a common trope in the 1980s and early 90s) or how to think like a Silicon Valley manager. It requires much more detailed knowledge of several different countries to make comparisons, and this is uncommon, since usually the sort of knowledge that leads to comparative analysis is broader and less specific. I certainly don’t have it – I only know the construction cost output, not the inputs that go into it. Even small mistakes are hazardous: it’s likely that the best performers’ cultures have many distinct features, of which some are crucial to their success but others are irrelevant, and it requires specialized knowledge to sort out which is which.
To add to my previous post about the MTA reinvention report, this is why I’m so disappointed in official efforts to improve American transit governance. The MTA and similar bodies have enough institutional clout and money to hire people who do understand the intricacies of various success stories abroad, and could make specific recommendations, which could appear small but could also be revolutionary. Commentators have to default to first-order information about costs, or to national stereotypes, but the MTA could have detailed knowledge about what’s needed. Instead, the MTA did nothing of the sort, and left the sweeping changes to mongers of stereotypes.
Are the MTA’s failures the kind of thing that could be fixed by greater exposure to information? Or is the information already available, and the implementation is being blocked by influential incompetent people who are threatened by the possibility of losing their jobs?
For construction costs, it’s the former – there’s very little detailed information publicly available, on the level of “this construction technique is cheaper in Manhattan’s geology,” or “it’s possible to staff this process with fewer people.”
For operating practices, it’s the latter, at least on commuter rail, where the operating practices are the worst. Unfortunately, those influential people include Dean Skelos, who opposes Penn Station Access because won’t someone please think of Long Island’s
childrentrain slots into Penn Station. Above Skelos there are only Sheldon Silver (who doesn’t care whatsoever) and Andrew Cuomo (who cares even less than Silver).
Elsewhere, it’s possible to raise efficiency by doing things like POP on buses or OPTO on the subway, but their effects on operating costs and ridership are second-order; there’s also a much smaller pool of examples of successful operations, since many European cities have huge union problems as well. Last time I checked, which was in 2010, the MTA had about the same ridership as STIF on 20% higher operating costs. By comparison with the Tokyo subway operators, there’s a bigger difference, but still nothing like the order-of-magnitude differences that we see in construction costs.
The three people you name are politicians – I was more thinking of “influential incompetent people” within the MTA. Do they exist?
I don’t know. There are some MTA heads who try to reinvent the wheel, but it’s not really the same as resisting reforms. At the regular office worker level, they seem to know what they’re doing.
My take on that Madrid Tunnelbuilder article is that subways are really risky projects and the cost differences largely come from how effectively the agencies manage risk. Madrid seemed to be a good example of containing and minimizing risk rather than trying to share it among the biggest possible number of parties. I presume that in a city that has a history of over budget projects, the temptation to dump the risk on contractors becomes ever stronger.
Cheap is indeed relative, when mentioning Switzerland… The Canton of Zürich just approved their share of the Tram Hardbrücke, a less-than-1 km extension of the Zürich streetcar network, priced at CHF108 Millions. Or the Zürich Durchmesserlinie (10 km long, half of it a new tunnel, one 4-track station with 400m platforms, two viaducts, extensive connection rebuild at one end, some connection rebuild at the other), rated at CHF 2 Billions. To get an estimate in USD, add a bit less than 10% to the number.
Yeah, that’s what PPP conversions are for.
Is that particularly expensive? The 2nd Avenue Subway costs twice that for a 3 km section, and the Duchmesserlinie is going to carry a large number of local and long-distance trains. Yes, in Madrid it would cost about $40 and a sandwich, but you are paying Swiss people to build this, and you are expanding surface rails in populated parts of Zürich, building an under-river station and mall, etc. That seems like quite a reasonable price, to be honest.
After having read the price tag for the Boston Green Line expansion, “not so cheap” gets relative too…
So the secret to low-cost construction is *not* to award projects on a cost basis?
Possibly. The argument is as follows: if you award purely based on cost, dishonest contractors will cut corners and present you with a low bid; the change orders and the workarounds all the problems caused by said corner cutting will raise the cost higher than originally intended.
The NY NJ Port Authority has this, with spotty results. They have a bid selection regime called “Best Buy”. It works better than MTA’s system, but its not great when compared with say Rome, London or Vancouver. Take the JFK Airtrain, New Goethals Bridge PPP, and Bayonne Bridge raising projects. All could have been or could be done at 1/2 to 1/4 their cost.
The JFK AirTrain was a shitty idea, but the execution wasn’t thaaaaat bad. It’s still toward the expensive end of elevated construction, but it’s more like 2-3 times as expensive as it should be rather than 10 times.
“The JFK AirTrain was a shitty idea,”
What should they have done instead?
Dishonest contractors are no doubt smart enough to bid high and promise good quality if they think that is what it takes to win the bid. Among other problems, the harder you try to weed out the crooks in the bidding, the harder it is for new entrants (who might want to bid lower) to gain access. As has been mentioned, if the contractors keep forming new entities to bid/work each project, there is also no good way to weed out the bad apples after the fact either.
If the work were done in-house, then the accountability is more personal. This approach would probably require some ‘adjustments’ to the usual municipal pension/benefits system (or to agencies such as the MTA’s labor agreements) in order to be fiscally responsible.
Disclaimer: I do not know what I am talking about in this case, and am merely bringing up an analogy from a very different field.
With that in mind, I don’t think technical scoring of proposals is about what the contractors promise: for what it’s worth, the winning bidder for the first California HSR contract had the lowest technical score of the qualifying bids, and won purely on price. Research proposals are about a combination of promise and past performance. If I write a research statement that says I’m going to prove the Riemann hypothesis, employers will stop reading and make paper airplanes out of it. Of course, it’s different if I show that I’ve done work in that direction and have useful contributions (and if I’ve published preliminary results, or given talks about them to serious people who are going to write me rec letters), but that’s harder to bullshit. What I need to show is that I can do solid work, in fields that are in line with the interests of the people who want to hire me – just like, I imagine, contractors need to show they’ve done solid work in situations that are similar to the projects they’re bidding on.
The MTA in NY routinely hires contractors who did shoddy work previously, or even who basically cheated them (as in the case of the new South Ferry station).
Certain American cities (LA) seem to have figured out how to build tunnels for not-outrageous prices. What are they doing differently?
Perhaps it is because their infrastructure departments are younger?
Water Tunnel 3 in Manhattan is on time and on budget.
Okay, then what sets, say, SAS and BART to Silicon Valley apart from the water tunnels and the regional connector?
Water tunnel #3 may be a paragon, but the new treatment works for the Croton Aqueduct being built in the North Bronx may not turn out so pristine.
Some water bills are being ratcheted up rapidly and quite dramatically using projects like these as partial justification, but seemingly reflecting other causes – take your pick: offloading previously subsidized losses onto ratepayers, privatization (and profits) of some municipal systems, waste & corruption, or rehabbing (an awful lot) of old plumbing with surprisingly little construction. Adding insult to injury, I am now dunned every 4-6 months with solicitations to purchase insurance on the private portion of the water line by an apparent affiliate of the water company, who also struck a deal with the local government to charge ratepayers for maintenance of the fire hydrants (which had previously been paid for by (our taxes to) the local government.
Is engineering team / management team size a commonly mentioned factor? I know that the Madrid subway was famously overseen by a small cadre of highly experienced engineers, and the crew working under Kelly Johnson back in Skunk Works’ prime was also highly skilled and very small. Rumor has it that Johnson felt that a large design team was a recipe for disaster.
This is something that should be read by the Important People who are too busy to read it. Edmonton’s first subway segments were boringly (heh heh) built on time and budget or close enough. Then the experienced city staff structure was replaced by outside firms and they had their first fatality and major delays.
I’ve been involved with bringing foreign ideas to U.S. and Canadian transit service, where useful, but in the U.S. generally have to find a U.S. property example that is already doing the same thing. Second best is to point to a Canadian example, third to an overseas example. Again, the small team approach seems related to this, as it is easier to talk over a new idea and to get it implemented without conflicting agendas distorting it.
A very good point by Mr levy that needs to be made early and often. Still, I’m perplexed by the range and persistency of the problem. Other heavy construction projects have outliers of course, but also fairly consistent grouping towards the middle. Why is this so different? Why isn’t there even a detectable impulse towards best practices in this area?
“Manuel Melis Maynar, the former CEO of Madrid Metro, explained briefly how Madrid has the world’s lowest construction costs, in terms of design compromises, avoidance of outside consultants, and structuring bids based primarily on technical merit and not cost. ”
NYC seems to do the opposite:
(1) extraordinarily expensive (but pointless) design features are kept to the bitter end, such as Calatrava’s porcupine, or the ‘oculus’ at Fulton. To stretch a point, massive expense is also used to deal with organization problems, such as the refusal to share track between LIRR and Metro-North, or LIRR’s inability to cooperate with Amtrak…
(2) Outside consultants are used so heavily that consultants are hired to manage the consultants
(3) …and bids are structured based on cost, and given to contractors who are known to have cheated the MTA in the past.
“Lack of accountability” might be the common element here. Or maybe you could simply refer to it as “corruption”. The LIRR has some quite extraordinary levels of labor corruption, according to a number of well-documented scandals (including the disability fraud scandal, and the multiple documented cases of entire gangs of track workers simply not doing their job, wandering off site to fool around, but recording hours as if they’d worked). This is one of the few cases where privatization and union-busting might improve things.
This would also explain India. High degree of corruption & graft.
Corruption is an institutional-culture thing. So the NYC Department of Water is a clean organization and delivers the water tunnel on time and on budget. Meanwhile the MTA isn’t clean and doesn’t deliver on time or on budget. (The Department of Buildings isn’t clean either, and ends up blackmailing the MTA for money because the DoB doesn’t want to do its job.)
such as the refusal to share track between LIRR and Metro-North,
You have a cite for that or is it just rumors floating around on Railroad.net that then get repeated on subchat and then quoted elsewhere?
or LIRR’s inability to cooperate with Amtrak
Amtrak owns Penn Staton in Manhattan. The LIRR cooperates with Amtrak or the LIRR closes down.
The Long Island honchos oppose Penn Station Access. It’s pretty compelling evidence of non-cooperation and refusal to share track.
The LIRR isn’t run by Nassau County.
Helena Williams opposed Penn Station Access too.
So? She doesn’t work for Nassau County either.
She was the head of the LIRR.
And the head of the LIRR doesn’t tell Amtrak what to do with Penn Station or tell Metro North where they can run their trains or how much money the MTA is going to allocate to subsidizing LIRR trains to Penn Station.
“such as the refusal to share track between LIRR and Metro-North,”
“You have a cite for that ?”
East Side Access. Proof positive. Original plans were to run into some of the many, many, many underused tracks in Grand Central, but instead a deep cavern was built because NO SHARING TRACK
“or LIRR’s inability to cooperate with Amtrak”
Amtrak has requested a complete track separation from LIRR in Sunnyside due to LIRR’s inability to cooperate with Amtrak. And received, IIRC, $300 million for the project.
Sorry to shorthand this, I figured it was well-understood in this discussion. The *only* reason East Side Access is in a deep cavern is refusal to cooperate between Metro-North and LIRR on track sharing. (In fact, enough tracks were removed from Grand Central to create the ESA “concourse”… to serve ESA right there, without a deep cavern. But that would involve TRACK SHARING. THE HORROR.)
Similarly, Amtrak is requesting total grade separation from LIRR because they have an acrimoneous relationship when it comes to schedule coordination. LIRR has to work with Amtrak, but they really don’t seem to want to, and Amtrak doesn’t seem to want to work with them any more either. So they’ve been following the “good fences make good neighbors” principle, except that these fences cost $300 million each.
In the 1960s when East Side Access was being built there was no Metro North. The New York Central was busy trying to find a way to scare up money by selling off Grand Central Terminal so an office builiding or buildings could be built. The LIRR was in such a basket case that the state had just taken it over. They would have gladly sold off whatever they could to the state. Including the lower level. The plan then was for a deep cavern station under 48th street. The plan since then has been for a deep cavern. It’s moved around depending on which group of NIMBYs scream the loudest but it’s always been a deep cavern. Except for rumors among foamers who think it’s technically possible to get trains from Queens into the lower level.
It is technically straightforward to get trains from Queens into the lower level of Grand Central. Under pressure, the MTA even came up with engineering sketches a few years back, though I didn’t save them. There’s no doubt it would be expensive and tricky tunnelling work, but no harder than what they are doing.
no it’s not or someone other than people on railroad.net and subchat would have proposed it some time in the past 50 years
FWIW, Tesla Motors *is* quite impressive, but it’s a weird stretch of stereotyping to claim that it represents some aspect of “American” culture. Elon Musk — generally considered the source of impressiveness behind Tesla (and SolarCity, and SpaceX) — grew up in SOUTH AFRICA.
Why are his companies in the US, and specifically on the West Coast? Because he went to Stanford University. Period! So he happened to be there when he decided to drop out and start a company. What did Silicon Valley have going for it, in general? Stanford, mostly, and a first-mover advantage which led to economic clustering. (Stanford’s CS program was very early. Cornell’s was also very early, but ever since the train service was ripped out, Ithaca has suffered from transportation isolation compared to Palo Alto. MIT, also early, did generate the same sort of computer-based tech companies in Boston, and is still doing so.) Plus nice weather.
Meanwhile, the unique-in-the-world American car dealership franchise laws, and the powerful cartel which fights to make them even more protectionist, have been one of the biggest thorns in the side of Tesla — something they don’t have to deal with *anywhere else in the world*.
I don’t see that Tesla’s success has anything to do with the stereotypes about “American individualism” or whatever. If Musk had gone to Oxford, Tesla would be an English company. It may say something about American research universities still being attractive powerhouses, but that’s all it says.
Palo Alto is 33 miles from San Francisco. Ithaca is 33 miles from the middle of nowhere.
Mark Zuckerberg went to Harvard.
So a few people move from Boston to the Bay Area (for the weather probably); Boston still has a pretty strong tech company situation. Amazon and Microsoft settled in Seattle.
I don’t believe that NYC uniqueness is entirely imaginary. Wages, housing, salaries, prices, etc. are all pretty much scaled up relative to most of the rest of the US. One could almost imagine a NY$ as a separate currency such that NY$1.00 = US$1.50. Since NY “exports” certain fairly unique items which can be arbitrarily priced in $NY (Finance, Advertising, Tourism, Prestigious Real Estate, Entertainment, and general glamour), it is able to maintain a balance of trade sufficient to pay for “imports” of food, energy and other goods and services.
Other cities and countries are able to operate the same way to a greater or lesser extent, depending on whatever special widgets they may have and how much they need from the external economy.
Insofar as there is sufficient willingness for outsiders to trade for especially the more intangible of these “products”, there can be money to spend on extravagant infrastructure. In fact, excessive extravagance itself can add value to some of those export items (Los Vegas has long trafficked in that particular currency).
The expensiveness of New York is often overstated. Housing in New York is cheaper than in San Francisco. Wages are lower in New York than in DC, SF, Seattle and Boston. Groceries are cheaper in New York than in most US cities. Pizza is cheaper in New York than anywhere I can think of (99¢ a slice!).
And that’s without even mentioning comparisons to Zurich, Oslo, Tokyo or Sydney, where all sorts of things are far more expensive than anywhere in the US including NYC.
Most of the things which are supposedly “unique” about New York exist double in London. Yet London doesn’t have the same problems with construction…
First, 1 New York-area dollar is more like US$1.22 (link).
Second, and more importantly, I try to deflate costs to national price parities, and not regional ones, for the prosaic reason that I don’t have any data for this outside the US. Usually urban rail tunnels are built in major cities, which are more expensive than the rest of their respective countries: France has few subways outside Paris, and Britain has almost none outside London. Switzerland is expensive overall, but Zurich is almost certainly more expensive than the rest of Switzerland, and yet my cost figure for it is based on Swiss prices, not Zürcher prices.
The only major change that I think could come out of using a global metropolitan price comparison is that, since poor countries usually exhibit larger gaps between urban and rural living costs than rich ones, the costs in third-world countries would go down, creating a correlation between wealth and construction costs that doesn’t really exist as of now, when costs are deflated to national price parities.
Smaller cities don’t need subways.
Brescia, Italy, a city of 200000 installed an automated metro recently. It manages to get slightly more riders per route-km than BART, though that’s not much to brag about.
Regarding Tesla, there’s certainly nothing about the Bay Area or California generally that particularly facilitates auto manufacturing. Apart from Tesla, which took over the old GM/Toyota joint venture site, there are no auto plants in California. Both “American” and foreign auto companies tend to open their American in the Southern US, where effective unions are rare. The Bay Area is very conducive to tech companies–there’s a danger of becoming a one industry region.
BART just opened the Oakland Airport Connector, an elevated modern cable car between BART and the Oakland Airport. It cost $450 million, over $100 million per kilometer. That was far above the original estimate. It would have been even worse, but planned the intermediate stations were dropped. A ride on the OAC costs $6–the most BART thought it could charge–but that doesn’t cover debt service costs–in essence the rest of the system is subsidizing the OAC riders. It runs above a 6 lane highway. A BRT would have accommodated buses from multiple directions, been cheaper, opened sooner, and had intermediate stations.
Spanish infrastructures are optimized but it does not end there, Inditex can qualify as the strongest company in Europe right now and a revolution in the retail industry worldwide, Telefonica, owner of the German O2, was a public telecommunication company on the top of the sector in the continent and now privatised still remains as a giant.
It would be wise to extirpate the stereotypes in an economy that can grow as the fastest..remember the 90s, when the economists talked about Spain entering in the G7? I think few remember now.
Their problem is their structural unemployment, somehow they have an historical potential to sustain very large amounts of people living with high quality of live and no job, the black market in a market where the tourism is so powerful and many are working without contract, or a cultural corruption … maybe an ego that does not let them to build a class system like the germans that can send the less qualified people to low jobs unscrupuly. Now almost all that 50-40 % of unemployed young people in Spain have an art Master or a Bachelor in Psychology where in Germany they would have send them to the Realschule to be plumbers with a decent salary.