Every anarchist understands the inherent incompetence, and corruption of the modern State. However, Greece is not a typical case. Greece is competing with Argentina for the most extreme failure of the State, and its many cronies, in the postwar period.
“With 300,000 to 400,000 such party men who have no qualifications to their credit other than the fact of having performed good services for their party, this state of affairs of course could not exist without enormous evils. A corruption and wastefulness second to none could be tolerated only by a country with as yet unlimited economic opportunities.” Max Weber – Politics as a Vocation
That is exactly what happened to Greece. Adjust the figures to reflect the size of Greece, take account that no “unlimited economic opportunities” are in place here, and you got yourself right at the middle of the recent economic and social collapse.
However, few realize that this tiny little country of 11 million has a maritime industry that ranks first in the world, with Japan as a distant second. How can people who are so competent on the global seas be so incompetent in their own home?
Of course, it is not a matter of incompetence. It is a striking case of a vampire State draining every drop of blood out of the society that sustains it. Shipping is so successful for one and only reason: because it is, by definition, far away from the death touch of the Greek mafia State.
Greece entered the EU in 1981, which began a period of stability, democracy, and peace, with a flood of funds flowing in from the EU. You have to go back 2,500 years, to the Golden Age, to find an era of similar opportunity. But it took the State only thirty years to ruin that opportunity. In 2009 Greece got the nervous attention of the international community when the public deficit was running as high as 15.4%. The Greek State initially reported this figure as only 3.7%. Cooking statistics was so common for the local State mafia that “Greek statistics” has become the EU slang for unreliable and fake numbers.
In January 2010 the government announced austerity measures that were meant to bring the deficit down to 2.8% in just two years. That sharp a deficit reduction in such a short time has never occurred anywhere in the world, and there was no reason to suspect that it was possible in Greece. The EU stepped in to prevent the Greek financial collapse from spilling over, but it stepped in too late, with no real concept how to resolve the crisis. A relatively small problem eventually rose serious concern about the strength of the whole Union. But that is another story.
Coming back to Greece, from 2000 to 2010 cheap and abundant Euros raised the private debt from 55% to 120%. In those days banks were pushing in many fancy ways to put their money in borrower’s pockets. However, to be fair, similar debt increase happened during the same period in many other EU states. Private debt in Spain rose from 120% to 220%. Irish debt went from 150% to 330%. What is important is that this debt did not contribute to the real economy. It did not result in investment. It resulted in sheer consumption. Real estate prices went up 15-20% when the development was around only 3%. The bubble was forming…
Obviously, a broad EU crisis contributed to the Greek collapse in 2010, but only partially. To a large extent the Greek crisis was native, and was engineered by the local State mafia rather than the adoption of the Euro.
In 1982 the sovereign debt in Greece was close to 28% of the GDP. Within thirty years it went up to 140%. In the same period Greece de-industrialized. Agricultural production remained stagnant and unimaginative. It gradually declined and survived only because of the funds from the EU agricultural policy. On the service side of the economy, nothing spectacular happened. In the 70’s a large number of wealthy students from the Middle East and Africa came to Greece to study. Some of them settled permanently after their studies. This trend has now completely stopped. In the same period, information technology opened a great spectrum of new, global, opportunities. Greek software engineers are among the best when they are abroad; not in Greece however!
There is hardly any business success to report from this period. Spain was establishing itself as a global leader in wind energy, Ireland was turning into a promising ICT hub. In Greece people were happily living on debt and EU allowances. Even worse, the political narrative of the period brought the people to believe that this was the natural way of things, that wealth was somehow automatically generated. The socialist jargon added to this myth, suggesting that we only needed keep the bad guys away from State assets. Nobody said who these bad guys were.
The education system in Greece remained completely under State control. It was held as a hostage, and used as an instrument for favoritism and clientelism. Creative people were seen as a threat, and chased away. Meritocracy was banned and labeled an ugly, unfair concept. Speaking favorably about entrepreneurship during this period was enough to have your access to universities and other institutions blocked. The most creative Greek people emigrated away throughout the 20th century for a variety of reasons (wars, poverty, etc.). In the 80’s and 90’s emigration continued due to the tight control of society by party militias, and the suffocating environment where creative and innovative people were forced to work and survive.
The State and its political parties were always in a very sensual love affair. Socialism was the driving ideology during this period. In fact there was no alternative. Even the so-called right wing parties were competing with the official socialists to be more socialist. The recent crisis created a new version of socialism. National Socialists, Nazis and Fascists got 8% in the election. Stalin loving communists got another 7%. Neither of these ideologies had such appeal anywhere else in the world. Ideologies that are long extinct everywhere else are alive and well In Greece.
Over the years an oligarchy has emerged, much resembling that of Putin’s. Party mafias, living-on-the-State businessmen, party controlled unions and mass media have been its main components and beneficiaries. They still control large parts of the economy. Greece is the only EU country where there is just 1 energy service provider. In Sweden there are 170, in Poland 188! This ruling mafia still holds on to power, and consistently pursues its own interests. Most of its financial assets are abroad which of course makes it largely indifferent to whether the country stays in the Euro zone or not.
Of course, just as the laws of physics are inevitable, the above socialist legacy resulted to a dramatically shrinking and uncompetitive private sector, wasting most of its time trying to trick a greedy State, and stay clear from its corrupt tax collectors.
Today, in a society of 11 million, after having practiced Soviet socialism fervently and by all ruling parties, left or right, for 30 years, we are left with 1.5 million unemployed, 0.8 million public employees, 2.8 million pensioners, 2.8 million below 18 age and 2.9 million heroes that have to take care of all the rest.
Now, guess what the political response has been to this utterly unsustainable mix! More socialism! Yes, more socialism!
The current coalition government has launched an aggressive tax campaign, again overlooking basic laws of physics, as you can’t get much out of those that don’t have any to give. Power is currently in the grip of the two major political parties, those whose socialist policies sky rocketed within 30 years the sovereign debt, ruined the economy and devastated the society. They have put aside their fake ideological differences, have subscribed to exactly the same policy. The only one they know. Overtaxation.
And the opposition, most certain to win the election next year, is a radical left party comprising a mix of all socialist versions, from light social democratic to Maoist. It promises to restore salaries to the previous levels, and refuses to pay off the huge debt of the 350 billion Euros, something that will most certainly result in the country being forced to leave the Euro zone. Just imagine a ruling, semi-communist party of relatively rich Greece issuing a debt write off request to poor Slovakia that has suffered under communist rule. What are the chances this grotesque initiative will ever be accepted? Maybe this is an extreme case, yet I seriously doubt the response from the German or the Dutch parliament would be much different. At least under the given, current, circumstances. There is little doubt that the EU, amidst the many problems of its own, has no more time and money to spend on ridiculous requests from a profligate State.
Under other conditions, moving out of the Euro might have been an option to consider. In the current shape of things this is certain to empower the oligarchs who have their funds parked safely abroad, while further impoverishing the people.
Friends question me often about the competitive advantage of Greece in a hyper competitive world. I do believe this exists; the main barrier is not there.
The country has many advantages that it has never seriously considered tapping into. It is not really the nature of Soviet States to tap into opportunities. This is only possible when delegated to human creativity, not to State exploitation. There is a 14,000 Km coastline, largely unexplored. The tourism model is still a dull, low cost, low quality one, and is not moving in the direction of small, quality, different, experience oriented, units. The notion of agrotourism is still largely unknown in the country. There is ample opportunity in the food sector. There are 130 species of wild flowers and herbs globally unique to Crete alone. What has been made out of this? Almost nothing. The powerful maritime industry would love to establish ship building facilities in Greece. This is not allowed by communist madmen, who look forward to the destruction of everything in order to establish their dictatorship of the proletariat. They openly say so. Have no doubt that they mean it! Until recently, they had literally succeeded in keeping Greece outside the sea cruising industry as it would endanger work positions, so they claimed. A brave man, Mr. Adonis Georgiades, managed to literally trick them out and cruise ships bring now several billions to the economy and create a lot of new work positions.
The real barrier is the 19th century mindset the Soviet Statism has imposed here. There is hardly any place on earth where the anarchist approach would make more sense. Less, close to zero, State, with a strong entrepreneurial spirit allowing the Greek creativity to flourish and compete globally. This is the only way out. But how can you ever get this message to people who have been brainwashed for decades by Soviet Socialism? Who have been systematically told that capitalism is about the fat man with the cigar, sucking the blood from the workers, and anarchism is about writing silly graffiti on the wall, and now and then bombing some police van?
The real problem is that time has stopped here. Socialists broke the clock. We are stuck in the 19th century.
All financial data reported above have been taken from the book “Revolutions” of Matthieu Pigasse