Yes, says a Greek economic exile. Excerpt:
Upward of 75 percent of Greek businesses are family-owned. Most are small and rely on family labor, which is as flexible as it gets — in practice, no minimum-wage or maximum-hour laws apply. Women often work for their husbands without salary, and divorce laws don’t effectively ensure the divorcing spouse’s stake in the family business or remuneration for the work she put into it — meaning it’s very difficult to leave a marriage. Young people are similarly constrained. The lucky ones land government jobs through family connections or work in a family business, “helping out” with no pay while formally unemployed. The unlucky ones toil for meager wages at someone else’s family business, where they have almost no chance of advancing into management. Many live with their parents up to the age of 35 because they can’t afford to live on their own. Unsurprisingly, fertility rates are very low. Young people also depend on their families to supplement their wages and pay the “tips” necessary to get decent health care.Those who desire independence join the flourishing Greek diasporas in Europe and the United States. I left Greece when I realized that, as an aspiring lawyer with no family connections in the business, I would probably spend the initial years of my legal career serving coffee to someone’s father or son. Until Greece can find a way to disentangle the private sector from the family and find another way to allocate resources — free from the intergenerational, class and gender inequities of the family unit — no amount of reform will make a difference.
But wait, people like me think we’d be in better shape if we lived an economy with more small, family-owned businesses. Are we missing something important?UPDATE: Here’s what: Peter Boone and Simon Johnson explain why the economic crisis in Greece matters to what Dubya would call us non-Grecians. Excerpt:
When the problem was just Greece, the numbers were already large. In our view, the Greek government needs 150bn euros over three years to be sure it can refinance itself through a recession. The Portuguese will roughly need 100bn euros. If those amounts were made available – will that support the confidence needed to buy Irish and Spanish bonds, or would it scare investors because the protests from Germany would be so large that it would be clear no more funds would be available in bailout mechanisms? There is no easy answer to this question, but yesterday’s action suggested that markets are not at all confident policy makers are going to stop this crisis soon. They are surely right: Greek strikes, a weak Portuguese government deeply in denial, and German hatred for bailouts, all make a path to restore confidence very difficult.Yesterday was also a wake-up call for the United States. It is no longer reasonable or responsible to say: “US banks have no exposure to Greece”. US banks are heavily exposed to Europe, and this is turning into a serious Europe-wide problem. The US badly needs to make sure this does not spread beyond Greece and Portugal/Ireland.
Mr. Panos, who might be the Greek finance minister, I dunno, offers a different diagnosis on the economic situation: