Roger’s Rules

A Modest Proposal for the New York Times

The New York Times is very keen that somebody, anybody, “lend” Greece more money so that it can stay in the eurozone a bit longer.

I put scare quotes around the word “lend” because, as everyone knows, any money that is shoveled into Athens’s coffers will be spent and not repaid. “Neither a borrower nor a lender be,” advised Polonius, “for loan oft loseth both itself and friend, and borrowing dulleth the edge of husbandry.” Shakespeare is not popular by the Piraeus.

No, Greece faces what the economist Steve Moore, writing yesterday in the Wall Street Journal, called “financial oblivion.” There are about 11 million Greeks. They owe some $350 billion. That’s 350,000,000,000.  You do the math.

Moore thinks that “the big loser” in Greece is socialism. Maybe. Moore is right that “the natural and unavoidable consequence of socialism everywhere it has been tried” is that financial catastrophe he warns about. And in a rational world, people would notice the regularity of this process — install socialism, ruin the economy (among many other things) — and they would conclude that socialism was a bad idea.

That’s in a rational world. In this world, we have the New York Times, which just yesterday had at least three handwringing articles about the situation in Greece. An unsigned editorial argued that, “for Europe’s sake,” Greece must be kept in the eurozone, cost be damned. OK, the Greeks have been profligate, the editorial concedes, but “European leaders have made the crisis worse by their mismanagement.” (I bet that staggered you.) Now it is incumbent upon “Europe,” i.e., Germany, to save “a small, paralyzed country.”

While you wipe a tear away at the spectacle of a country that is presented as a hurt puppy, consider “Soften the Greek Deal,” Roger Cohen’s article in yesterday’s Times. Oh, it’s a “tough” decision, Cohen allows. The Greeks have been naughty. Still, on balance, taking everything into consideration, keeping an eye on the long view and being statesmanlike and adult about the issue, Germany ought to fork over more money lest “medicines and imported foods disappear from pharmacies and supermarkets within a week or two” and the euro suffer a “body blow.”

But my favorite of yesterday’s pieces about Greece in our former paper of record was by Old Reliable, the Times’s resident economic Dadaist, Mr. Nobel Laureate Paul Krugman. According to Mr. Krugman, Europe must act now to stop the “bleeding” in Greece. Those nasty Germans have been like doctors of yore, bleeding patients because they didn’t know what else to do. And when the patient failed to improve, they prescribed more leeches. “If the money doesn’t start flowing from Frankfurt,” Mr. Krugman warned, Greece will have to start using Monopoly money, aka the Drachma, to “pay” its bills.

What do all these pieces have in common — apart, that is, from that insufferable tone of unearned moral superiority that comes with publication in the Times? Yes, that’s right, they all grandly recommend that someone else fork over the truckloads of cash that Greece wants. Everyone knows Margaret Thatcher’s quip about socialism: sooner or later, you run out of other people’s money. Sooner or later, and it is looking more and more like it might be sooner, the Germans are going to run out of money to pay for the Greeks’ lavish pension plans and retirement schemes.

But all is not lost. The sums Greece wants are quite large, it is true, but every little bit can make a difference. And, as Mr. Krugman & Co. would be the first to insist, this a moral imperative. There’s bleeding going on. It must be stopped. People have to take a stand. So here’s my modest proposal.

The New York Times should shift their entire pension portfolio into Greek bonds, beginning with whatever holdings Messrs. Cohen, Krugman, and members of the editorial board may have  It may be an adventurous investment, but, hey, we’re talking about medicines and imported food on the supermarket shelves in Athens. What an edifying spectacle: rancid lefties at a once-important paper put their money — their own money, for once — where their loud mouths are.

By itself, the Times won’t make a big difference. But what an example! And perhaps — we can only hope! — other left-wing organizations will follow suit and, instead of trying to spend your money or the Germans’ money, they will invest their own money in Greek bonds, thus showing the world that they are really serious about economic redistribution. What started as a trickle from the office of the New York Times may become a raging current of altruistic investment in a real-life socialist utopia.

“The important thing now,” Mr. Krugman says, “is to do whatever it takes to end the bleeding.” Let’s start with his own savings and pension as the first band-aid. 

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