The unfortunate Greeks, as it turns out, were not selling their jewelry to send their children to school, as Mrs. Huffington claims her mother did; in fact, they weren’t having many children at all. They were borrowing wildly from the rest of the world to live the good life. The average Greek owns six properties due to emigration and depopulation, because whoever is left inherited whatever there was to inherit. A large part of the population lives by renting or selling these properties to tourists (for payment in cash, or wire transfer to Lichtenstein). Taxi drivers take three-month vacations. A third of the economy is off the books. Corruption is endemic.
Greece well may default on its debt; the parties that favor cooperating with the European Community’s bailout-and-austerity plan did not get enough votes to form a government in last week’s election, and its political system presently is in chaos. If Greece does default, the result will be a vastly devalued currency, and a massive reduction of wealth for all Greeks. When Greek land and labor have become cheap enough, money will flow back in and pick up the bargains. And the Greeks will endure an economic dark age, a horrible example for feckless and spendthrift countries. Talented and educated Greeks (like Mrs. Huffington) will emigrate, and adverse selection will leave a rump population to gnaw on the bare bone of resentment. Infertility will hollow out the remaining population, and eventually turn Greece into a beachhead for impecunious North Africans seeking entry into Europe. At present fertility, the working-age population of Greece will fall by half over the present century.
If America is foolish enough to return politicians of Mrs. Huffington’s ilk in November, something similar will happen to us.