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Works and Days

Where Did Our Real Wealth Go?

February 17th, 2010 - 2:43 pm

The Greek Lesson

No, I don’t mean the classical Greeks, but their present-day counterparts.

Economists have given us all the usual diagnoses of what went wrong in a now bankrupt Greece — high taxes, tax cheating, too generous retirements, unsustainable entitlements, government corruption, and anemic demography.

Add to such socialism the natural foreign policy and collective expressions that always follow statism in the modern Western world — increased pacifism, utopian pretension, moral equivalence, cheap anti-Americanism — and we have the foreign policy expression of Greece (and much of the EU) of the last 30 years. (A citizen who believes by birthright that he is to be taken care of by the state always hates the state that can never do enough, in the fashion that the country who is taken care of militarily always hates its protector.)

In other words, Greece is the canary in the mine of the impending crack-up of the modern welfare state. It is a great gift to us all, this example. A year ago, the socialists, even as they were juggling and falsifying their books, were bragging that the Wall Street meltdown was a referendum — and capitalism was doomed. Now, the entire socialist dream is exposed and even the most ardent statist knows that there is no longer enough “others” to pay the tab.

The poor EU learned that the Greek siesta, the 10PM Athenian dinners, the state power company vans at the beaches in the workday afternoons, the kafenions full of 50-year-old men at 11AM, the angry students perpetually in the streets at each hinted reform, and the moonlighting telephone employees all came at the expense of far harder-working Scandinavian and German socialists, who apparently  now realize a nice two weeks each year on Santorini or Crete aren’t worth billions of their own Euros in rescue bailouts.

We Are All Greeks Now?

Here in California we see the symptoms of the same Greek malady as we go from one budget shortfall to the next — dream-like borrowing, raising taxes, and furloughing, in lieu of the tough medicine of cutting government payrolls, changing pension payouts, and freezing the pay of state-workers until their compensation mirror images those in the private sector.

Postmodern Western society will soon witness a real showdown, analogous to the teenager who rebels and either accepts that he is still dependent on his parents and therefore subject to the rules of the house, or runs away and implodes in a sea of drugs and street-life.

In short, how will an entitled society react when the money runs out and it learns that it must change or wither away — and all the whining rhetoric about “social justice” and “a green future” and “spread the wealth” and “redistributive change” won’t bring another barrel of oil or bushel of wheat or Douglas fir 2” x 4”?

Imagine…

Imagine a politician announcing: we are going to raise the Social Security age to 66. We are going to freeze and cut spending until we balance the budget within three years, and then with surpluses pay down the debt within 6 years. We are going to build 100 new nuclear power plants and open up the country and its shores to oil and gas production. We are going to cut back all federal entitlements and subsidies by 20% immediately. We are going to ensure enough water for agriculture. We are …

Would collective relief or revolution follow?

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