A Greek Holiday from History

GreeceMargaret Thatcher once said that Socialism works until you run out of other people’s money.  Too true.  Socialism has always worked in the ’smidgen-of-history’ sense, in that it has really only ever worked temporarily, while plunging the economic system toward utter collapse.  By that stretched definition of “working” I guess modern socialism has been a resounding success.  It has bought every major economy to the brink of financial collapse, and under the more, how shall we say, robust socialist experiments, it has led to total economic ruin and poverty.

This is why that ancient philosophical cradle of modern wisdom, Greece, realised Socialism was such a good idea. Why spend time doing petty, mundane, dead-end work when you can sit and drink coffee and theorise about ‘more important’ endeavours?  Well, now the Greeks can theorise and pontificate in their coffee shops all they like about how bankrupt their economy is and why it is so.  Maybe our easy-going, happy-eating, mojo-maximising, take-life-as-it-comes, play-more-than-work, olive-eating-olive-skinned Mediterranean friends will find the answer somewhere between their fourth espresso and their forced redundancy.

It is a sad irony that rich nations become poor when they forget how they got rich.  History is quite literally scattered with the ruins of civilizations that simply forgot.  Forgot how to produce, forgot about work ethic, forgot that government cannot produce wealth, forgot that production begets consumption.

As Isaac Morehouse wrote so astutely earlier this year,

It is a great irony that prosperity affords posterity the luxury of forgetting its origins…Though not a hard-and-fast rule of societal evolution, generations who grow up wealthy often lack respect for or understanding of the values and ideas that generated the very wealth from which they benefit.

And this is indeed the nub of socialism’s ‘success’: It is always built upon real wealth gained through hard work, and so for a time it appears to ‘work’ because society effectively lives off the mortgaged capital that it once created and owned. 

Socialism is a holiday, a break from history, a lull from real life, a hiatus from the fortitude required for prudence and production, and always a temporary and utterly false reprieve from the actual duties required of adult men and woman.

Will the penny drop and the Greek nation come to realise, as their ancestor Hesiod did in 700 B.C that money doesn’t pay for coffee and crepes, production does, and that the sooner one gets productive the more double-espressos one can drink?  Ok, so Hesiod said it a little differently,

“If you work, you will be dearer to immortals and mortals; they both loathe the indolent.  No shame in work but plenty of it in sloth.  If your work brings you wealth, you will be envied by the slothful, because glory and excellence follow riches.  Whatever your lot, nothing will be as good as work.”

Quite.  It is surely becoming a shame to this once-proud nation that it can now barely pay the interest on its debts.  Sometimes shame is a profound and electrifying motivation to become productive once more.  But remember also, that old habits die hard, and sitting for decades on the drip of government welfare has made Greeks bloated and lazy, not to mention profoundly dissatisfied with their lot in life and yet tragically unable to see that it’s the stultifying nullity of their ‘social democracy’ that’s plunged them into this morass of economic degeneracy.

Can the Greeks learn from their mistakes and turn to become a great productive and prudent nation?  Hard to say really.  Their “Club Med” brethren (Italy, Spain, Portugal, Latin America) haven’t been so good at learning the lesson.  Argentina was plunged into currency crisis not more than 8 years ago only to remain forever reeling on the brink of a new default, a new devaluation, a new socialist leader promising more prosperity through spending.

Europe should offer Greece the tough medicine, but will Greece be willing to swallow?

That question is key to Greece’s survival.  Prolonged socialism will only make the inevitable ruin that follows it that much more devastating and absolute.

Comments are closed.