This sharp contraction in exports was as much of a shock to these countries' systems as the sharp fall in housing was to the United States. The United States had built an economy that was highly dependent on housing, leverage, and easy credit--and that was unable to weather stress in any of those sectors. Japan, Germany, and many other countries, by the same token, had built economies that were highly dependent on credit-fueled trade. For other economies, the Lehman shock meant the sudden recognition that what for years had been a source of jobs and growth was no longer reliable. It's not just that exports to the United States shriveled after September 2008; the flow of goods everywhere, in all directions, has fallen.