Germany’s treatment of Greece shows what the Right wants us to become

Summary: The Greek-eurozone tale is a common one, much like that of America’s inner cities. As usual, the Right begins its tightening with the weak and poorly behaved. People are told that they deserve their harsh fate.  But it doesn’t end with them, as austerity is a medicine always requiring another dose.  {1st of 2 posts today.}


Previous posts reported economists’ explaining the roots of the Greek crisis, so unlike the simple morality play in the newspapers. Yesterday’s post said that events in Europe result from similar political forces at work in America, both pushing the west to the Right. This provides evidence of that, in a small way, by Tyler Cowen, a conservative Professor of Economics at George Mason U: “Greece and Syriza lost the public relations battle“. It’s quite revealing, which we see at the opening.

One of the most striking aspects of the Greek situation is just how much the Greek government has lost the public relations battle.  They have lost it among the social democracies, and they have lost it most of all with the other small countries in Europe.

Conservatives respect public opinion (vox populi, vox dei), except when it’s just the views of the mob. But public opinion is malleable, and condemnation of the Left has been a knee-jerk reaction of the news media for centuries — as we’ve seen in America from the first great public relations campaign against William Jennings Bryan in 1896 (the most expensive Presidential campaign ever) to the demonization of Martin Luther King (“commie agitator”). The campaign against Greece ranks among the best of them, driven by a mix of fact and fiction.

The progressives do have some good points and I absolutely favor significant debt relief for Greece.  That said, the Greek government has handled the last few months so badly it really is incumbent on them to show they will do better.  I don’t see many signs in that direction, quite the contrary, and any reasonable democratic government will ask for Greek institutional progress before putting up much more in the way of money.

Blood and Iron

An essential element of modern conservatism concerns how we treat the poor and broken, whether the nation of Greece or an individual Afro-American. The Right demands that they be tested (multiplying their stress), that aid should depend on the results, that the worthy of the underclass must suffer (as if in purgatory) — and that the unworthy suffer even more (as if in hell). It’s the opposite of a helping hand.

The entire handling of Greferendum should alert the progressives that they have been egging on the wrong horse; the heroic Hugo Dixon nails it: “Tsipras’s wild promises have worsened the Greek crisis“.

Cowen describes a journalist writing an op-ed as “heroic”, not the poor suffering now in Greece. Also, this is quite a daft judgement considering the long series of mistakes made by both sides in Europe since the crash. There are no clean hands among Europe’s leaders.

I take the progressive “clustering out on a limb” here as a sign that, for better or worse, progressivism as an ideology has reached and indeed gone beyond its high water mark.  The progressives are siding with a corrupt, clientist state, which won’t cut its defense spending down to Nato norms, against some admittedly imperfect social democracies, thereby sustaining the meme of powerful aggressor vs. victim.

Greece is corrupt, but it’s not imposing mindless austerity — endless years of suffering — on a smaller and weaker neighbor, based on theories proven false before this attempt (and doubly so after the experience since 2010). Which is worse?

Also note that the bulk of the lending to Greece went to pay off loans by eurozone banks, shifting the debt from private to public hands (as Steve Randy Waldman passionately explained). The price Greece paid for rolling over its loans (rather than defaulting on its bank loans) was depressionary austerity, making them weaker with every passing year.

Compassionate world


Fifty-two years ago President Kennedy said during a different kind of crisis “Ich bin ein Berliner” (I am a Berliner). Today the Right looks at the weak with far less empathy than Kennedy of Johnson did. Whether they live in America’s inner cities or Europe’s periphery, the Right’s prescription is austerity plus uplifting rhetoric. It seldom works, at least for those on the receiving end.

Europe has chosen its path, and none can see where it leads. America might be on the same path, just following a few steps behind. We can watch Europe and learn from them, and see if we should conduct our affairs in the same way.

For More Information

To understand the how Europe fell into this hole I recommend “Greece, The Euro and Gunboat Diplomacy” by Karl Whelan (Prof Economics, University College, Dublin). “The original decision to provide a bailout is the source of the current crisis. Time for Europe to share the blame and financial consequences.”

For a deeper look see “Greek crisis: How Greece became Europe’s fault line” by economist George Magnus.  Magnus recommends Modern Greece: What Everyone Needs to Know by Stathis Kalyvas (Prof of Political Science, Yale), which explains “the structural features and characteristics of the Greek state that have coloured the behaviour of its governments and people to this day. His book invites us to take a front row seat to observe the geo-politics of Europe that work, up to a point, to keep Greece in the euro area, and the politics in Europe that are driving Greece out of it.”

If you liked this post, like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter. See all posts about Greece, the European Monetary Union, and especially these about the perilous state of the European Union…

Skipping ahead to the present…

25 thoughts on “Germany’s treatment of Greece shows what the Right wants us to become”

  1. On the subject of the relentless decades long establishment attack on the american working class including the Black minority …

    Do you plan any articles on ILLEGAL IMMIGRATION and how that horrendous problem adversely affects american society?

  2. I hope the 1% have more sense regarding the US than Germany has towards Greece, if not, they are doomed to horrific (for everybody) failure.

    The key issue for the Greek government is that they faced the following obstacles to getting their story out:
    1) In one election they went from virtually no seats in Parliament to a majority. Nobody in their party had prior experience ruling. This was a huge advantage in the polls but not with the Troika.
    2) The media had already been fed the story by their respective governments and saw no reason to divert from it during the entire 5 months of negotiating. This caused their headlines to be unintentionally humorous to people who took a wider view of the events.
    3) Language and cultural differences proved to be much more important than I expected in reporting on the situation in Greece. For example, Latvians said to themselves, “We suffered through this, why can’t they?” Failing to realize that Greece had suffered something four times worse than what Latvia suffered for three times as long.
    4) And this is the biggest point: The Greek government saw their argument as a private one with the Troika, not a public relations fight with the rest of Europe


    The Greek government obviously got one thing right. In spite of an enormous amount of waffling during the negotiations, they kept the faith of the Greek people who were willing to overwhelmingly vote reject the Troika deal.

    The time for closed door negotiations on debt is past. The next set of events are likely to be an enormous amount of finger-pointing by everybody at everybody and no repayment of any type. This will probably (hopefully) be brief. Once that is settled, real discussions can start happening again on the fate of Greece and the Euro.

  3. I support neither the troika in their predation of Greece nor the economics of Syriza. Its best that the Greeks exit the Euro and reinstate their own currency and do shat Iceland has done in their economics.

    1. infowarrior,

      Everyone has their own perspective on these things. I believe that our support for either side is irrelevant. We have little enough influence on our own government. We — rightly — have none on Europes’. It’s not a baseball game. Not entertainment for the Outer Party.

      A more useful perspective is to understand what’s happening, seeking insights about global trends — and lessons about what’s happening in the US. Things we can influence, if we exert ourselves.

      1. That’s true. But hopefully the medium of the internet may make it possible for people in other countries to exchange possible solutions that may not be possible in previous eras.

  4. Yeah, blame it on Germany (if only in the headline) and post a “Blut & Eisen” picture of Bismarck. That surely gets the readers’ attention. Interestingly, the article never refers explicitly back to its headline, to clarify what exactly Germany (the German government/media/people?) did. Are we really supposed to click all those links to get the idea?

    1. Tintorea,

      Did you read the post? Your comment suggests that you didn’t.

      (1) “blame it on Germany”

      The post repeatedly and explicitly says that there is “blame” on both sides. For example: “considering the long series of mistakes made by both sides in Europe since the crash.”

      (2) “never … to clarify what exactly Germany”

      It does so several times. For example at the end: “Greece is corrupt, but it’s not imposing mindless austerity — endless years of suffering — on a smaller and weaker neighbor, based on theories proven false before this attempt (and doubly so after the experience since 2010).”

  5. The poster above who mentioned the detrimental impact of immigration on the American worker is absolutely right. Though I was born here my parents were not, and so my tendency was previously to always dismiss people who complain about immigration as xenophobic racists. It took me awhile to realize that in fact, the promotion of mass immigration is just a way allowing employers to draw on an inexhaustible supply of cheap labor, so as to undercut the wages of our middle- and working- classes. And this is not to even mention the other, political and social, changes that the people who actually run this country were and are trying to bring about by promoting it. Nevertheless, it is somewhat simplistic to focus exclusively on immigration. There is also the problem of offshoring and automation. As well, the introduction of women into the workplace has probably had the most significant impact in terms of the impoverishment of the American worker. I don’t mean to say that women should not work–I’m completely neutral on that question–but simply the fact that they do work means the automatic doubling of the work force, and the consequent reduction of wages by at least one half if not more.

    As for this post itself I agree completely with everything in it. Putting the specific issue of Greece aside, however, I just want to say that what passes for conservatism these days in the West, but primarily in America and Britain, is really just a kind of crude, extremist and basically anti-human ideology of unchecked economic liberalism. They have no compunctions whatsoever about sacrificing everyone — individuals, nations, even the entire world — if that means that they can “grow the economy” a few percentage points. They need to be opposed. I do not like to think the worst of people and it does seem as if they think that their policies are for the greater good in some strange sense, which is astonishing to me.

  6. Just as the use of the US dollar as the world’s reserve currency gives the US economic advantage, so the domination of the euro by Germany is in Germany’s interest . It enables Germany to push ultra ‘hard money’ policies on one hand , without the sky-high currency that these policies would have on a German mark. I expect that Germany will continue its current policies – what’s there not to like ? If the South of Europe falls away, and the euro starts appreciating – hurting Germany’s exports – Germany can dump the euro at its discretion .

    Forget ‘more Europe’. Germany is ruthlessly following its narrow self-interest. It has never in its history shown self-restraint , not in 1870, or in 1914, or in 1939. Not in 2015.

  7. Duncan Kinder

    OK, let’s talk turkey.

    Once upon a time, Greece was a bedrock of stability for the Balkan Penninsula, a region that – oddly enough – tends to get Balkanized. Now, not only is Greece unstable, but so is neighboring Ukraine. Greece liess directly across the Mediterranean from LIbya, another fun spot.

    Next to Italy, Greece now has more refugees than any other Eurpean country.

    FM, you may very well assert that the global elites, to which you refer, actually have no more love for Germany and other current instrumentalties of their agenda than they do for Greece. But they cannot presently disregard their interests.

    And Greece currently is a “low pressure region” through which many disruptive elements are flowing into Europe generally. One would have to have many billions to disregard these implications.

    1. Duncan,

      “you may very well assert that the global elites, to which you refer, actually have no more love for Germany and other current instrumentalties of their agenda than they do for Greece.”

      I don’t “assert that” because it’s a daft thing to say. Please use quotes for such accusations.

      “through which many disruptive elements are flowing into Europe”

      A citation, please. We hear these bold scary statements daily since 9/11 about US and Europe. Yet these “disuprtive elements” don’t seem to disrupt.

    2. Snake Pliskin

      When exactly was Greece a “bedrock of stability”?

      Was it so after its army got routed by Ataturk, and swarms of Greek refugees fled Anatolia for the old homeland?

      Was its “stability” a factor in western anti-Communist intervention in the immediate aftermath of World War Two — arguably the real beginning of the Cold War?

      I guess the government of the colonels was another sign of Greek “stability”.

      I really don’t understand what point you’re trying to make, though it seems to be some kind of sotto voce warning about the dark swarms threatening pristine Euro culture. In any case, I don’t believe you know much about Greek history.

      For clarity’s sake, I mean no slur against Greece. At all. In fact I think the referendum result was correct and splendid. I only wish to point out that Greek history has been tumultuous.

      1. Snake,

        I agree, seeing Greece as a “bedrock of stability” is a bit odd. Not just the political instability; look at its credit history.

        [caption id="attachment_87026" align="aligncenter" width="500"]Greece Credit History From Merrill – Bank of America[/caption]

    3. Duncan Kinder

      My apologies for my “daft” statement. I did not mean it as an accusation.


      There’s all sorts of information about the Balkan Route. I have discussed it here before. Here is one of countless articles:

      The destructon of Syrmna / Izmir has little to do with the current situation. The immediate post-WWII unrest does stand in striking contrast with the relative current quiescence. We certanly don’ want a renewal of that.

      I don’t regard this as “dark swarms.” However, many Germans would. Which is the point.

      As for the emotional content of your two replies, I have no response.

      1. Duncan,

        Interesting articles about immigrants. Esp the frenzy about the small numbers, vs the EU’s 300 million people.

        Increasing to a thousand per month from the Balkans is a big deal, worth special mention? Got to wonder if this isn’t the “Look – Others!” to distract attention from local problems. Europe’s elites long ago mastered that game. They need new candidates, having used up or pushed out their Jewish population.

        At least the Greeks found a way to make sure they don’t want to stay in Greece. No jobs.

        If the EZ elites don’t find a better way to deal with the periphery, they will have far larger problems to worry about than thousands of immigrants.

    4. “Greek authorities say more than 1,000 people entered the country illegally by sea in a day, bringing the five-month total to about 50,000 — well above the full number of migrant arrivals for all of 2014.

      Greece is a close second to Italy in migrant arrivals this year.”

      I really cannot assist you with respect to your emotional involvement with the European immigration issue. Suffice it to say, however, that many Europeans rilghtly or wrongly regard it as a serious problem and their mindset is part of the current reality.

      1. Duncan,

        I am uncertain what point you are attempting to make in that comment. If you think those are big numbers vs the EU’s 300 million, there’s not much more to say. Also note, the reports you gave explicitly said that Greece was an entry point, not the final destination for the immigrants

        I’m uncertain how might citing numbers shows my “emotional involvement”. I suspect it’s just you again making stuff up and attributing it to me.

        “Suffice it to say, however, that many Europeans rilghtly or wrongly regard it as a serious problem”

        Yes, I also said that.

      2. Duncan,

        Follow-up: it’s interesting that so many in Europe are upset now about immigration. Their problems with assimilation of people from foreign cultures was baked in after WWII, when they encouraged mass legal immigration of people to provide cheap labor. Not a smart move for societies with so little ability to either assimilate or coexist with foreigners (e.g., Jews), especially given the wide difference in fertility rats. How they handle this might be a defining issue in the next few genertaions.

  8. The right loves capitalism, except when others practice it. Non-repayment of debt is a capitalist act i.e. bankruptcy. It’s only money.

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