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“An honest man,” wrote Ayn Rand in “Atlas Shrugged,” “is one who knows that he can’t consume more than he has produced.” Where does this leave the Greeks?
For the second time since 2010, Eurozone finance ministers threw Greece a “financial lifeline,” this time to the tune of $172 billion. The European banks have agreed to write-off more than 50 percent of the money owed by Greece, forgiving $100 billion in debt.
Still, Athens, like Washington, is corrupt to the core. It continues to spend more than it takes in. Greek labor markets have yet to be liberalized. A high minimum wage impedes hiring. And, by BBC News’ accounting, “a habit of paying a ‘holiday bonus’ equal to one or two months’ extra pay” persists. One need not be a Delphic oracle to divine the next stage in Greece’s unraveling: a downgrading of the country’s credit rating to junk status.
“Austerity,” however, is a euphemism among politicians and their media pack animals for “long-term retrenchment and reform” in the public sector. Implicit in their critique of “austerity” is that inflicting pain on the Greek state apparatus will inevitably destroy Greek society.
Au Contraire. State and society should never be conflated.
Try explaining to our president that the bigger the state the smaller the civil society. While entertaining leaders of the European Union, November last, President Obama promised that America would help its European soul mates to withstand the Eurozone crisis. He said the following (well, some of it):
“The EU is our biggest trading partner. We cannot afford to let it fail. We send much of our goods and services to Europe. We share their values.” Without our European accomplices we are unable to crush Iran and Syria. Or bomb and regulate the world and its people into submission. If the Eurozone disintegrates – it might be a harbinger of things to come in the U.S. (OK, the last part is ad-libbed, but I think I know my president by now.)
The stakes are too high, you say, Mr. President? For whom? Cui Bono? Who benefits, Barack?
Ask yourself that question every time a reporter/pundit/analyst/politician insists hysterically, without quite motivating why, that the EU and the Eurozone cannot be left to die a natural death.
To ask what will transpire if the colossus collapses is to invite non sequiturs and circular arguments from the stakeholders. In the tradition of “a statement that does not follow logically from what preceded it,” David Böcking of Spiegel Online (an uncharacteristically intelligent newspaper; the Germans are undeniably impressive) summarized the arguments against the break-up of the Eurozone. The treaties, Böcking has argued, don’t allow for easy disengagement. Legal disputes could arise over debt owed if the seceding state was in hock to the Bismarckian suprastate, as Greece is. Above all, tenured EU technocrats would lose sway on the world stage.
Are you unconvinced by these legalistic justifications for sustaining a union in rigor mortis? Then consider the following economic realities:
Flesh-and-blood Americans trade not with Barack or with Brussels, the seat of the European central government, but rather with the people of Belgium, the Netherlands, Germany, France and Greece. If the financial institutions into which Europeans and Americans have been herded by statists on both sides of the Atlantic fail, well then, individual producers and traders will be freed to produce and trade absent these superimposed, artificial, inorganic structures.
Greece’s failure is a failure of government, not necessarily of the people – a failure of a government that has squandered 160 percent of GDP. Granted, very many of the governed, perhaps the majority, have failed as well, having been seduced by the state’s forbidden fruit.
“We must not let our rulers load us with perpetual debt,” Thomas Jefferson forewarned. “We must make our election between economy and liberty, or profusion and servitude.” For rejecting “economy and liberty,” Greece got “servitude.” Athens, the cradle of democracy, has also gone and sundered direct democracy by refusing to allow a popular referendum on whether the country should leave the Eurozone.
In the absence of that option, the defaulting Dionysians are trapped. As compared to the productive Germans, for example, Greeks constitute a high-cost and low-efficiency workforce. They cannot compete.
Had they a moral and intellectual compass – and were allowed to chart their destinies – the people of Greece would opt to leave the Eurozone and the wider European Union (EU). Greeks could then reclaim their sovereignty. First, by reinstating the drachma, their ancient currency. Next, they could elect to float their exchange rates against those of EU member states so as to increase the appeal of lackluster Greek labor.
Finally, these wards of the superstate would be in a position to expel EU, IMF and ECB (European Central Bank) occupiers, whose officials are stationed in Athens in a supervisory capacity.