Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Germany v. Greece

The Euro Cup has provided superb relief against the dramatic backdrop of a collapsing Euro and decaying social-welfare model--the kind we're rapidly emulating in the US.  This article from the NY Times--a decidedly Greek-friendly paper under these circumstances--concerns the recent match between Germany and Greece won by the Germans 4-2.

I find it rich in humor and irony.  For example:
“Without Angie, you wouldn’t be here,” bellowed the German fans, referring to the multibillion-dollar bailouts Greece has received from European partners, first and foremost Germany.  “We’ll never pay you back,” countered the Greeks. “We’ll never pay you back.”
Somehow, I think German Chancellor Angela Merkel knows that Greek debt is worth less than an aginaropita on Kefalonia.  Given Greece's inability to borrow in international capital markets at an affordable rate, however, one might expect Greeks to be less openly contemptuous of their only remaining sugar daddy (sugar mommy?), let alone their own promises.
In the working-class district of Kaisariani, near central Athens, Costas Kourountanos, 52, a car mechanic, was defiant to the end. “They make beer, and we drink it,” he said. “That’s why they don’t like us, because we know how to enjoy ourselves.”
Actually, Germans don't like beer-guzzling Greeks who run up a tab without intending to pay, who moreover demand that the free beer flow indefinitely for the German privilege of watching Greeks live it up.

Personally, I can understand Germany's insistence on tough conditions, and on avoiding the latest socialist fix, e.g., ECB euro-area bonds.  What I can't understand is why Greeks don't understand.

Perhaps they do and just won't acknowledge it, preferring to posture and overturn cars in the hope that countries in similar circumstances will elect to escalate the drama rather than behave responsibly.  A few more national elections like the recent French one, and the political pressure to make someone else pay--Germany, bondholders, grandchildren, great-great-grandchildren, Americans, anybody but existing socialist voters--will obviate the need to cut back on the size, scope and grandiose ambitions of government.

I know Greeks don't want to be responsible; nobody does.  But, grownups--like the Irish--eventually wake up to the facts that the party is over, the bill must be paid, and the mess must be cleaned up.

Parties are not meant to go on forever.  Greece partied at Germany's cost of capital for nearly a decade (because it lied its way into the Euro, leave us not forget), and now the party is over.
[S]aid Yiorgos Fakanas, 50, a musician and composer[:] “There was a big symbolism in this game: Merkel has been pressing austerity on everyone. But all we could do is defend ourselves and keep our dignity.”
Yes, Yiorgos, keep your dignity by continuing to drink free beer on the Germans (and ECB, Europe, IMF, Americans, Chinese), and perpetrating sporadic acts of violence in order to demonstrate the Greek people's commitment to human rights.  Unfortunately, every nation is filled with people like Yiorgos who believe that rather than demand responsible behavior, human dignity obliges the full panoply of government-provided benefits, a government job, and early retirement at full pay with benefits for life at somebody else's (everyone's hypothetically) expense.

Eventually, with more sympathetic articles, exhortations by short-selling crisis opportunists like George Soros, television coverage and lofty proclamations by well-intentioned church men, the intransigent Germans will open their eyes, and wallets, to the higher truth.

Then what?  Where will the next redistribution come from?  The final one?

The european social welfare state is in crisis because governments promised heaven on earth that they can't afford to deliver.  Perhaps it's time for the State to acknowledge that until it can reproduce the land of milk and honey, it cannot misappropriate enough of its own people's, or other people's, money to play god.

Once the government recedes to more affordable proportions, civil society will devise ways to supply human needs, real human needs.  National idiosyncrasies like indolence or envy will have to discover new devices for sustaining themselves.

On a much lighter note, I leave you with a precious video of the game from Monty Python's perspective.  Enjoy, but don't ask the Germans to pay for the beer.

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