What we caught we threw away; what we didn’t catch, we kept.
Legend says that the Greek poet Homer died of frustration at not being able to solve this riddle, posed by two fishermen on the island of Ios. Before sharing the solution, we might consider the greater enigma that is Greece itself.
To begin, we might consider the rather ironic truth that, today, Greece may well be Europe’s Achilles Heel. The reason, of course, is that among all the childish, imprudent, political culture that is modern Europe, Greece may be the most childish, the most imprudent.
Naturally, they weren’t the only state willing to join the sovereign suicide pact we know as the European Union. Perhaps, they rightly believed that they had the most to gain in the exchange. The real truth, however, is that such arrangements – those that facilitate our worst instincts – always end badly.
By that, I mean that even casual examination of the original Maastricht Treaty reveals (as it has, thus far at least, to the United Kingdom) the underlying corrupt purpose. For those paying attention here in the US of A, it’s the same corrupt purpose of Obama-care, notably, in some ventures, there’s no such thing as a “half-measure”. Take the bait and, well, you’re on the hook; too bad, so sad.
You see, the real purpose of the European Union is not, as promised, to simply create a new “economic superstate”, whereby the member states get some kind of synergistic “free lunch”, the ostensible “bait”. No, the real underlying purpose is to create a “political superstate” composed of member states with virtually zero democratic process, zero oversight, zero checks and balances. Meet the “hook”. No surprise, the EU is rife with corruption.
But for member states such as Greece, the “free lunch” nature of the bait was all the more irresistible. Why? Well, mostly because it fed their already well-developed socialist appetites. In this case, it was likely believed that piggy-backing on a common european currency, among other presumed “benefits”, would offer protection from the usual hazards of their profligate spending habits. The Greek drachma, you see, has one of the oldest and most consistent inflationary histories of any currency on the planet, and for good reason.
This is a country, after all, that is pathologically incapable of collective self-discipline. As the world discovered over the past year, the Greek fiscal crisis (i.e. the imminent threat of a default on Greek bonds) was prompted by the revelation of the fuzzy accounting practices being used to hide their nasty little addiction to spending money they simply didn’t have and could never, ever get (….not that they’re the only country hiding this sort of problem).
Enter: the hook. This past May, the EU, after much public hand-wringing, eventually offered $141 billion in financial assistance in exchange for stringent fiscal austerity measures. The unpopularity of the bail-out, especially in Germany where it threatened to unseat Chancellor Merkel, was only overcome by the realization that the Greek contagion would spread throughout the EU due to the interdependency of Europe’s financial markets. Other member states, notably the so-called PIIGS (which adds Portugal, Italy, Ireland, and Spain) were already teetering on the same debt precipice.
As expected, the threatened austerity measures inspired immediate civil unrest, mostly on the part of the greatly over-paid, public sector union members. Where’s the hook? Well, they are now being squeezed between: a) getting kicked out of the EU and immediately defaulting on their debt obligations, causing a subsequent, un-containable, contagious, Euro-wide economic melt-down, and b) the utter destruction of their civil society. Can you imagine that either will be permitted? Get real. No, one way or the other, Greece has just become the newest colony in the European Empire. Act like a spoiled child playing with matches and, I’m sorry, daddy’s gonna spank you. Wait and see.
Oh, the answer to the above riddle? Lice. Apropos of the current Greek dilemma, the socialist state doesn’t offer tailored, bespoke solutions. It’s a one-size-fits-all straight jacket chock-a-block full of nits. And, sadly, once infected and strapped in, no treatment will provide relief, short of burning the jacket (assuming you can actually get it off), shaving your head, and bathing in caustic chemicals.
Afterword: Fellow ARL contributor, Harry Dexter White, has suggested that Greece presents a presumptive model for the anarcho-capitalist state, for which he is a recent proponent. Among his observations, taken from an interesting article presented on the Open Economy (Open Democracy) website, is the unusual statistic that 57% of those employed in the non financial business economy are either self-employed or employed in firms of under 10 employees. The article also highlights what it terms the political rentier class, an ingenious application of the term, really, and which the author defines as the privileged (and, I add, oppressive) public sector, which is able to command “political rent” by virtue of their political power. Clever.
Now, I may be reading between the lines a bit, but it seems clear to me that the pervasive, small-scale, “anarcho-capitalism” that Mr. sees in this statistic is either: a) the only economic activity left after allowing the country to be so thoroughly gutted by the state, or b) the most effective means available to the private-sector Greek to hide income from the state. All I can say is, if that’s what it takes to inspire a “wider distribution of the means of production”, then, I’m not sure I’m interested.
That said, I’m taking notes because, frankly, the road ahead of us here in the good old US of A is looking remarkably similar.