In Germany, credit gets extended much more by feel and by knowing people, I think. This has some obvious problems (what if you don't have social connections? or social skills that look good in an interview with a banker?), but the US system of national credit bureaus is so hopelessly sloppy that it isn't obviously better and may well be a great deal worse.
I'm not sure that there's a financially effective way of running a meticulous national credit bureau. I've speculated about religious people who take the ninth commandment (against bearing false witness) seriously running such a bureau as a non-profit, but I'm not sure it's legally or economically feasible and anyway, no one's lining up for the job.
Considering how much noise there is in national credit reports, it's surprising that they're taken so seriously, but (sorry no cite) there's evidence that people get very attached to the only fact they've got about a subject.
Addendum:: the tendency to be over-attached to insufficient information is called anchoring.