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Ed Driscoll

‘Can Greeks Become Germans?’

July 21st, 2011 - 9:58 am

Well, they could for a spell thanks to World War II, as James Taranto quipped yesterday, goofing on Thomas Friedman’s ridiculous New York Times headline and dubbing it “Breaking News from 1941.” And Tom Maguire calls it a case of “Waiting For The Deus Ex Machina:”

Megan McArdle ponders the growing, ongoing Euro-debacle and warns that she is “having a hard time seeing how any of this ends well”.

Hmm – I have a hard time seeing any of this ending.  Italy has had problems with its tax collections and public finance for my adult lifetime (their demographic challenge is a relatively new wrinkle, since that has only emerged in the last few decades.)  And Greece?  Tom Friedman delivers (yet another) howler, in a column with a title that is both question and answer:

Can Greeks Become Germans?

…It will take a cultural revolution. And that can happen only if Greece’s two major parties come together, hold hands, and collectively force through a radical change in the governing culture from the top down. Without that, Greece will never be able to pay back its loans.

Is that all it will take?  Then the suspense is over, because it won’t be happening.

Germany was a pre-eminent industrial power before Kaiser Wilhelm and Hitler, and rebuilt to become one again afterwards.  Following WWII the Allies had some issues about the wisdom of allowing Germany to re-industrialize but none doubted their ablity to do so.  Recent Greek history is much less reassuring.

And Mark Steyn adds that debt isn’t the only issue here, but also what it signifies about the underlying culture that produces it:

It’s not a green-eyeshade issue. The inability to balance the books is a symptom of more profound structural imbalances. Over on the Mediterranean, the only question that matters is: Are the Greek people ready to get real? Most of us, including Mr. Provopoulos, have figured out the answer to that.

Since Obama took office, it’s been fashionable to quote Mrs. Thatcher’s great line: “The problem with socialism is that eventually you run out of other people’s money.” But we’re way beyond that. That’s a droll quip when you’re on mid-20th-century European fertility rates, but we’ve advanced to the next stage: We’ve run out of other people, period. Hyper-rationalist technocrats introduced at remarkable speed a range of transformative innovations — welfare, feminism, mass college education, abortion — whose cumulative effect a few decades on is that the developed world has developed to breaking point: Not enough people do not enough work for not enough of their lives. In the course of so doing, they have fewer children later. And the few they do have leave childhood ever later — Obamacare’s much heralded “right” for a 26-year old to remain on his parents’ health insurance being merely a belated attempt to catch up with the Europeans, and one sure to be bid up further.

A society of 25-year-old “children” whiling away the years till early middle age in desultory pseudo-education has no desire to fund its prolonged adolescence by any kind of physical labor, so huge numbers of unskilled Third World immigrants from the swollen favelas of Latin America or (in Europe) the shanty megalopolises of the Muslim world are imported to cook, clean, wash, build, do. On the Continent, the shifting rationale for mass immigration may not illuminate much about the immigrants but it certainly tells you something about the natives: Originally, European leaders said, we needed immigrants to work in the mills and factories. But the mills and factories closed. So the new rationale was that we needed young immigrants to keep the welfare state solvent. But in Germany the Turks retire even younger than the Krauts do, and in France 65 percent of imams are on the dole. So the surviving rationale is that a dependence on mass immigration is not a structural flaw but a sign of moral virtue. The evolving justification for post-war immigration policy — from manufacturing to welfare to moral narcissism — is itself a perfect shorthand for Western decay.

Most of the above doesn’t sound terribly “fiscal,” because it’s not. The ruinous debt is a symptom of our decline, not the cause. As Angela Merkel well understands every time she switches on the TV and sees a news report from Greece, culture trumps economics.

Speaking of a dissipated culture, Reuters notes that aesthetically, modern Germans aren’t going to pass for ancient Greeks anytime soon — which given its relatively recent history, is probably for the best.

Finally, Bill Frezza of Forbes is ready to give Greece what it deserves — and good and hard, to boot:

Once in a great while an opportunity comes along to deliver justice to a people, giving them what they truly deserve. Greece’s time has come.

It must be dawning on all but the most obtuse member of the banking elite that they can’t possibly steal enough money from German taxpayers to save the Greek government from default. Put it off, maybe, but collapse is inevitable.

Once this happens, what is the purpose of casting Greece into some selective temporary financial purgatory where the irrelevant Greek economy can continue embarrassing anyone foolish enough to lend their dysfunctional government a dime? Why not go all the way and give the country what many of its people have been violently demanding for almost a century?

Let them have Communism.

Hey, it’s not like they haven’t experienced forced collectivism on a mammoth scale before. Which in a sense, brings us back to where we started.

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