There are some disagreements on what exactly is a rational stance for a random Greek citizen to take given the mess their country is in currently. I feel like they need to follow the lead of the EU and aim for serious austerity measures to try to get funding to pay their bills but clearly there are plenty of people, Greeks in particular, who don't buy that. I completely believe that lots of people there want to protest and are extremely upset about their situation; their economy is melting down and their government seems to be run by foreign bankers. I think we can all agree that this situation does not warrant arson and armed conflict however, and that is their situation now. On Sunday 34 buildings in Athens were on fire and the police were involved in running battles with protesters, criminals and malcontents in the streets of the capital where they were regularly being attacked with petrol bombs as well as rocks and other improvised weapons.
It is something of a worst case scenario for a modern economy where usually the trend is ever upward. There are always plenty of countries where economically speaking things are very rocky but this sort of collapse and descent into barbarism is really unusual. I wonder if these sorts of things could be predicted somehow based on the nature of a country and the culture of the people there. Greece certainly has all kinds of aspects of its character that suggest that financial prudence is going to be a tough sell. Any country that has an unspoken agreement that the government won't bother to collect taxes on election years is going to have issues when people are looking for German quality financial restraint.
Greece may well be the keystone in the whole world economic construction, the thing that is stopping a even greater collapse from coming. They have demonstrated that a first world nation, even one backed by the EU, can collapse spectacularly. Not just collapse economically, of course, but also socially and politically. If Greece had been willing to take a 50% writedown in exchange for real reforms I think things would be much more secure for all the nations teetering on the brink but with the capital burning and the country in chaos nobody can be sure that any nation will be interested in paying back what it owes instead of just declaring bankruptcy. What the EU desperately needs is a clear, unmistakable signal that nations that get in trouble dig themselves out instead of just throwing in the towel. That certainty may well be the sole thing that keeps Italy, Portugal and Ireland afloat and Greece seems like it will not provide it. The EU needs investor confidence and every day that Athens burns that confidence evaporates.
What would I do if Canada were in the same situation? If the government were slashing salaries, pensions and indeed any other expenditure to the extent that the Greek government is? I think my answer would be to just sigh and keep going; I am not the protesting type, particularly when that protesting seems to be synonymous with arson and looting. Paying back their debt and reforming their finances may be a huge burden to the Greeks but I think they are on the path to revolution and destruction, not financial independence.
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