Greece is certainly female. Like the fair sex, she changes her mind nonstop. One day she sleeps with the German suitor; the next she decides to declare her independence from the Kraut and go it alone. Finally, she chooses both—the moneybags and her freedom. After all, she’s Greek, and she thinks that rules do not apply to her. Welcome to modern Hellas, a place that never pays the piper, and where everyone goes to the beach, rain or shine.
She has a point. The bureaucrooks of Brussels insist you can cure debt with more debt. German taxpayers tell Frau Merkel they are fed up with their own savings being sent as loans to the weaker nations. The Greeks insist on it, and soon they will be joined by the Spanish and the Italians. Europe is in chaos, runs on banks are an obvious possibility, and the eurosystem’s life is in jeopardy. And it all began with little Greece, like the invention of democracy 2,000 years ago, however selective the original system was.
Speaking of selective democracy, here’s how it works in its birthplace. The president of the country, a left-wing nonentity by the name of Karolos Papoulias, invites all party leaders to form a government, including an extreme leftist whose party received six percent of the vote. But he fails to invite two leaders of the right whose combined percentage came to nearly 17 percent, the second-highest in the polling: Independent Greeks and Golden Dawn. This is Greek democracy at its finest.
The latest craze is SYRIZA, a left-wing group whose leader, Alexis Tsipras, insists that Greece can have it both ways: stay in the European Union and not pay the debt. It’s a fine way to think, especially if one has a rich sugar daddy who says yes when he means maybe. Tsipras is a Greek demagogue, which is a redundancy of expression. (Why do you think the Greeks invented the word?) And yet, oddly enough, the Greek problems have been evident for two years. The two key words are default and devaluation. But these are the exact two words no one in Brussels dared to mention, until now. Had Greece defaulted two years ago, reverted to the drachma and devalued, everything in euroland would now be hunky-dory. But the bureaucrooks wouldn’t hear of it. One crisis meeting followed another summit, followed by another crisis meeting. Prime ministers and financial secretaries flew in and out of Brussels, traffic cleared for them by outriders in flashing motorcycles. They sat down to delicious French-cuisine lunches and dinners washed down with expensive French wines. Time and again they decided to meet again, then flew back to their countries, perhaps a bit overweight, but satisfied that the fools who pay their salaries were appeased for the time being.
There is only one problem: Membership of the single currency is simply incompatible with real democracy and the nation-state. Brussels does not believe in real democracy, any more than the elites inside the Beltway do. They do not believe in the nation-state. They think they are the state—the fat, crooked, blindfolded bureaucrats of Brussels.
Now it’s crunch time. The Greeks have lost their stomach for austerity, and the rest of Europe has lost patience with Athens and her broken promises. Even a German sugar daddy can only be deceived to a point. More Greeks should have read Thomas Mann, or at least seen the movie starring Marlene Dietrich. Many Greeks I know have pulled their savings and headed for Switzerland. I can’t really blame them. No one trusts anyone in Europe—too many lies told over too many years—so the next big thing is for Brussels to . . .
I wish I could tell you what the crooks will think up next, but I’m not that Machiavellian. What I’m certain of is that Spain and Italy will soon follow suit. Italians had their Ferraris requisitioned by the state for failure to declare this past winter. Spaniards are also slow on the draw, and their king went elephant hunting in Africa and was caught red-handed with his German mistress when he fell and broke his hip in three places. Not a very kingly thing to do when more than 50 percent of his young citizens are unemployed. Portugal is very poor and in big trouble, as is Ireland. France has a new president who promises to grow the economy, put more money into education, pay civil servants more, and finance all of this by taxing the rich up to 75 percent of their wealth. It’s a beautiful idea, except that the rich are going to leave the place faster than they did back in 1981, when another socialist, François Mitterrand, threatened to do the same. The Brits are being British. They worry about accents and whether one is middle class, upper-middle class, or lower-middle. They are busy with the Olympics and the queen’s diamond anniversary. And whether it will rain during the Wimbledon fortnight. That’s the way things should be. After all, there will always be a Europe.
Or will there?