Greek Week

“When a man’s folly brings his way to ruin, his heart rages against the LORD.” – Proverbs 19:3

That verse really sums up man’s ability to deflect blame. A man’s own folly has brought his way to ruin and he will blame everything else under the sun – up to and including an accusation against the Lord God Himself.

Across Europe, protests continue over necessary spending cuts in the face of collapsing social systems and political benefits. It all started in Greece a while back, with the IMF stepping in to “bailout” the failing system … the Greeks are unhappy with the deal and are protesting again (story here).

There are several plot lines here, but ultimately it comes down to blame and a fundamental understanding of where things went wrong.

First there’s the IMF. They have used taxpayer funds (quite a bit of it from the US) to bailout struggling sovereign debt loads – so that the private bankers who loaned the money in the first place don’t have to. It’s a mildly slicker form of the TARP bailout here in the US, where taxpayer funds went to prop up banks that made bad loans. The bank bond holders are well connected and are not about to take the hit.

Next there are the Greeks, who (as Glen Beck puts it), are on the same road that we are – there’s just a little further along. The Greeks are pissed. They don’t like the collapse of their system and the hardship it implies, and they are complaining. So what are their complaints?

The article notes: “Greeks are angry no politicians have been punished for the corruption they blame for the crisis, as well as the dire state of the economy and waves of austerity demanded under the terms of a 110 billion euro ($157.5 billion) bailout from the European Union and IMF last year.”

Well, that’s what they’re upset about now. The first wave of protests was upset that they couldn’t continue to carry on with massive benefits for no good reason … but perhaps the two are connected.

The Greeks are blaming politicians and political corruption for the problem. Sound familiar? Let’s follow this train of thought for just a moment, shall we. The politicians hold power over the citizenry and can regulate freedom (including free enterprise) however they see fit. Those who wish to make a profit (that’s just about everybody) realizes that they have to get favorable legislation to get the job done – so they bribe politicians. The politicians, in turn, provide the necessary loop holes and carve-outs to benefit their patrons. Wash-rinse-repeat.

Do the Greeks have a complaint? Well, maybe. First off, who voted for these politicians? How is it that in Greece (and America) corrupt politicians who take bribe after bribe and return the favor continually win re-election? Simple, you need only get 50% plus one vote to win. If you can own 30%-40% of the vote (a hypothetical number) and then convince another 21% or 11% that they prefer you anyway, then you can win.

Yet and still, when the Greeks gripe about their leaders, we must ask “who elected them?” You have reaped what you sowed. By the way, it is not just the politicians who have plundered you. The public unions and corporate interests (those are your neighbors, by the way) have been plundering you for years – via the politicians.

So what is the answer? Well, in Greece the answer is painful – there’s a huge pile of hurt to tackle before they get to the other side. First, I’d suggest default; and then moving forward with a balanced budget. Ultimately though, nothing will get done until the government has less power to regulate the lives of citizens.

It will always, always be the case that government officials with enough power and authority to turn a profit will indeed turn a profit. They will sell influence to the highest bidders and then work to convince you to vote for them again. “Perhaps we just need some more regulation?” Yeah, that’ll work. Let’s give the government more power, but this time concentrate it in the hands of bureaucrats who are not at all answerable to the voters. Good idea.

Look, the fact is we’ve all made votes we later regret. It happens. You never fully know what a politician will do once in power (nor do you really know that their bad decisions are better than the bad decisions the other guy would have made). But when we continually vote for a political class that continually plunders us – we cannot play the role of victim. Unless …

There was one quote in the story that I think has some merit: “We’ve had enough. Politicians are making fools of us. If things stay as they are, our future will be very bleak,” said a 22-year-old student who gave his name as Nikos.

He’s 22. That’s very interesting. The voting age in Greece, as here in America, is 18. It is very possible that many (even most) of the political corruption that has ruined this young man’s prospects in his home country happened before he was eligible to vote. The political class continually made promises they could not keep, borrowing money from the next generation (that’s Nikos). The bill is coming due, the future is not bright, and Nikos is left holding the bag with very bleak prospects in his homeland. That, my friends, is taxation without representation. It’s well done taxation at that; 10-year-olds rarely rise in open rebellion – who better to plunder?

Nikos, your parents and your grandparents have plundered you. They voted for politicians and a political system that borrowed heavy sums from you to lavish themselves with benefits. Think about that the next time you’re at a family reunion. Those grandparents, aunts and uncles that you love so much, that you respect so much (as well you should) – they chose unwise and unsustainable policies because they themselves benefited, or they “felt better about themselves,” or who knows what reason. Those choices are why you’re in this mess.

It’s a shame really. You’d like to think you can count on the older generations to deal wisely and to “do right by you” … sometimes it just doesn’t hold up though.

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