Here’s the standard version of the Greek story which has currently sent the world’s investment markets into the corner. The country’s government has lived beyond its means for years and has racked up a huge debt that is beyond its power to repay. To handle this debt, the government will have to make massive cuts in taxes, cut public services and public sector salaries. The unions and people are being unreasonable and are not seeing that the measures are inevitable.
However, the narrative of unreasonable people not understanding the need for austerity has another side that you won’t find so easily in the western business media. Greece has possibly the most corrupt government in the EU. Greece is number 71, way behind all of Europe, according to Transparency International’s ranking.
If you look around for the young Greek protestors’ version of the story, this is what you will find: For years, the corrupt politicians have borrowed and frittered away the money. Because rich businessmen don’t pay their share of taxes, public expenditure comes from borrowings. Now, when the creditors have come knocking, it’s again the common people who are hit, and so they are out on the streets.
Can you think of other countries where these elements are present? I can think of at least one, and I’m sure you can, too.
However, Greece’s problem is that its economy is stagnant by our standards. The one element that prevents these from becoming a crisis in the examples closer home is growth. If this element ever becomes a problem, then it could be a different story. And in our case, the violence could be worse. This could easily happen in parts of the country where the fruits of economic growth are hard to find. Oh, wait... I don't know about you, but I’m getting this strange feeling that there’s something familiar about this story.