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A proud member of the reality based commentosphere since 2000. You can find my two Eurocent mainly at liberal and centrist discussion threads, but also at some other surprising places. Also tweeting now, as user "graygoods".

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Ranting about Greece

In his most recent blog post, Prof Yanis Varoufakis, actually one of the more thoughtful and reasonable experts in Greece, published a link to an interview (in fact, more of a round table debate) he gave to German weekly Stern. It wasn't so much what he said there, which was quite laid back for a Greek pundit, but rather what he didn't say and talk about which rubbed me the wrong way. Here's the (lengthy, sry!) response I posted in comments:

Excuse me pls for being very critical, Prof Varoufakis – I see you’re a well meaning guy, but this interview once again makes it obvious that you both shy away from taking an honest look at the Greek misery and from drawing painful conclusions. It’s not that the other pundits are much better, not at all, but you represented Greece in that round, and so the readers have to expect more first hand insights into the problems and possible solutions from you. Sadly, you didn’t really live up to that admittedly difficult task.

Firstly, you put virtually all the responsibility on Germany, ignoring the correct point by the others that this nation simply isn’t big enough to singlehandedly save the Eurozone. Then you emphasize that Merkel should lead, but not in an authoritarian way! You dream of a single leader who refrains from using his power? For heaven’s sake, what nonsense! How shall this work in reality, especially when it’s the rather anarchist Greeks who shall be led? They don’t even voluntarily do what their OWN government wants from them! Really, the other guys, who said there has to be a more concerted effort, made much more sense than you.

Secondly, you obviously see more money as the single way towards improvments, but say nothing about where this money shall come from. The others rightly pointed out that after overspending for so long, the Eurozone nations haven’t much leeway left for Keynesian stimuli, and that this crisis showed the market won’t tolerate more of the same anymore. You stayed totally mum on this argument, not a single idea from you about how to cope with this problem! Sorry, but this almost disqualifies you as a serious advicer. You simply can’t avoid presenting a solution for the financial side and still expect to be taken seriously. That’s like a mechanic calling a race car “repaired” that’s got brand new shocks and tires, but no engine installed. Sorry, but you won’t win any prices with this.

Lastly, and most importantly, you say virtually nothing about what the Greek government, and the Greek people, too, have to do now to contribute to the recovery. Your only point about that is that there should have been more resistance against the cuts. Well, that's spilled milk: Even if there had been any leverage to get a better deal (there wasn’t, that’s just wishful thinking), that’s yesterday’s issue. What matters now is to improve the competitiveness of the nation and to get rid of the countless roadblocks that prevent job creation and turn investors away. Once again, you point fingers at Germany, as if its Merkel’s and the Bundestag’s job to create better conditions in Greece! OMG, really, can’t you Greek people EVER accept responsibility for your own affairs and the reality that it’s YOU, not others, who have to do the hard work of reforming your country? You people largely created the problems (through your votes, false tolerance, and exploitation of the screwed up system), you know the problems best, and you’re in the very best position to solve them, too.

Even if you disagree with the argument that the Greeks collectively bear the responsibillity, you still have to accept the fact that it’s you all who are on the sinking liner Costa Grecia, and that of course your own actions will determine if you’ll sink or swim! Either you plug the leaks, while additional pumping is supplied by the surrounding Eurozone cruise ships, or you evacuate all crew and passengers and board MS Drachme instead. Sitting in the deck chairs, discussing the shipwreck, while waiting for other crews to make your ship afloat again isn’t an option, really! To simply ignore that the corrupt and inefficient administration has to be reformed, the economy revived, the judiciary improved, the legal system overhauled, the special interest groups and unions held responsible, etc etc etc is a luxury you can’t afford now. Time is running short, the first two years have been totally wasted, and the speed of the real modernisation efforts (instead of desperate measures like the property tax) is still too slow. But the Eurozone won’t cover the Greek deficit forever, there’s no political support for that. So, stop daydreaming and focus on what can be done, on all levels, national, regional, municipal, and by entrepreneurs and people forming cooperatives. Greeks faced an even more dire situation during and after the war, why should this generation not be able to master the challenges and create a better future?

Escuse me pls for my outbreak, but the hypocrissy with which many Greeks act in this drama really gets to my nerves. It’s always the others, most prominently Germany, who are to be blamed and who shall magically supply a brand new country for the people, but there’s almost no discussion about what the Greeks shall and have to do for the recovery themselves. With this attitude so obviously widespread, it’s rather understandable, imho, that many here in Germany see Greece as a hopeless case and a bottomless pit for rescue plan Euros. You are aware of the discussions in Germany about the Greek crisis, Prof Varoufakis, so you know that Germans are willing to help. But we want to see Hellas doing her own part in that. That the nation instead simply waits for orders from the troika (only to protest those, then), and puts the whole reponsibility on Germany, isn’t acceptable for us, sorry.

(Disclosure: I corrected some typos and improved some wordings, but there are no major differences to the original comment)

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