Rod Dreher

Rod Dreher


Greece: Broken economy, broken culture

posted by Rod Dreher

Here’s a long, informative report from Greece, painting an unsettling portrait of a country at the beginning of harsh austerity. What’s particularly interesting is the story’s look at how Greek cultural and political habits caused the country’s economic troubles — and how fixing those problems is going to require a social revolution of sorts. Interestingly, in Greece, the banks behaved responsibly; it was the government that behaved recklessly in running up unsustainable debt. But Greece is a democracy, and the government didn’t elect itself. According to the story, the government’s behavior reflects cultural weaknesses among the Greek people. Excerpts:

The Greek capital these days exists in a state of shock, suspicion, and bewilderment, not unlike the way New York felt in the fall of 2008 after Lehman Brothers collapsed–a sense that strange forces had created financial scenarios no one could yet understand. Something has gone terribly wrong with the system. For the little nations on the edges of the so-called first world, market-happy modernity can be harder to keep up with and easier to turn against during difficult times. In Greece, the past few months have been a brutal conclusion to what had been a glorious party of admission to Western consumer capitalism.
“The best way to think of it is to think of Greece as a teenager,” says Stathis N. Kalyvas, a Yale University political scientist who was in Athens when I visited. “Many Greeks view the state with a combination of a sense of entitlement, mistrust, and dislike similar to that of teenagers vis-à-vis their parents. They expect to be funded without contributing; they often act irresponsibly without care about consequences and expect to be bailed out by the state–but that only increases their sense of dependency, which only increases their feeling of dislike for the state. And, of course, they refuse to grow up. But like every teenager, they will.”
The story of Greece recalls a familiar old world/new world tale: a poor country 30 years removed from a devastating communist-royalist civil war and five years from a fascist military dictatorship finds itself, in 1981, in the maternal embrace of European Union membership, flush with all the easy funds that follow. Two decades later come the success of the 2004 Olympics, the arrival of Dolce & Gabbana, the proliferation of credit cards, and an airport as polished as a museum. Life, on the surface, looks good– though the old, unhealthy habits continue: public-sector employment for life, politicians with stuffed pockets, an aversion to foreign investment, snail-like growth, communal life that keeps people happy at the taverna table but stifles individual creativity, a sense that beating the “system” is what the smart people do.

More:

Stereotypes of Greek people as lazy and sun-stroked may have roots in the public sector: For decades politicians plied poor citizens with cushy jobs and pensions in exchange for votes. The 2004-09 conservative New Democracy government added over 85,000 public-sector jobs in its tenure; the public sector accounts for 40 percent of Greece’s GDP and 15 percent of the active workforce. The government isn’t even sure how many people it employs. As Jens Bastian, an ELIAMEP economist, explains, “Every Greek has a relative who works as a civil servant in the public sector, excluding the military and police. Reducing employment levels in the public sector immediately becomes a very touchy, family affair.”

And there is this:

Stefanos Manos applauds the recent decisions to cut wages and raise taxes but believes more drastic measures are needed. “The average pay is two and a half times the pay in the private sector,” he says. In his view, more must be done to create a competitive environment. “In Greece, you cannot rent a little truck to move your refrigerator,” Manos says. “Why? To protect the truckers. You have to hire a trucker. You have to get a parking permit. If you sell your house, both parties have to have a lawyer–by law–to participate in the transaction, and they’re guaranteed a percentage of it. If I want to give my house to my son, both he and I have to have lawyers. If Coca-Cola (KO) wants to take out an advertisement during a news program on TV, a percentage of it [20 percent] goes toward a pension fund for journalists. They have so much money in there that journalists don’t even know or care how much money they have!”
Then there are the bribes. “Lawyers know that when a tax collector comes, he will ask for a bribe. Doctors, too. But that tax collector has a job for life. A surgeon at the state hospital expects something on the side,” Manos says. “Otherwise, you can get your operation in six months or more.”

That last bit reminds me of something a Louisiana businessman told me some time ago about something an invester from outside the state relayed to him, after the outsider decided not to establish an outpost of his business in Louisiana. The outsider complained that with so much corruption in the system, he didn’t want to commit himself and his resources to a state in which there was such a difference between the law as it is written, and the de facto law — by which he meant that he didn’t want to have to depend on complicated, semi-opaque webs of social relationships and outright bribery to operate his business effectively. It was nothing personal; it’s just that the hidden cost of doing business in Louisiana, at least at the time (this was the 1990s), because of the culture, made investing in the Bayou State a bad bet.
Back to the Greek story. At one point, someone quoted there said that Greek politicians and Greek people had for so long thought Greece could live as it wanted with no consequences, but eventually, the markets caught up to them. America’s problems are not Greece’s problems. We have a much different culture. But we’re not that different. We’re a democracy too, and we have rewarded politicians that have told us we could live as we liked without paying for it. And now reality has caught up with us.
Several readers in recent days, on blog posts here having to do with austerity, react as if austerity measures ought not to be taken here because they will hurt the poor the most. That strikes me as the wrong way to think about the problem. I agree that whatever measures are taken, those better able to bear the economic burdens — that is, the wealthy — ought to be asked to do so. But it’s a form of magical thinking to believe that because it seems unfair that the poor and the working classes are going to be hardest hit by austerity, that austerity cannot and should not be undertaken. As the current Greek leaders understand, if you’re going to ask everybody to take a big hit to repair the national economy, the wealthy have got to be made a public example of. Absolutely! But to pretend that the problems we face can be resolved by inflicting pain on the rich and leaving everybody else alone is delusional.
As economist Ken Rogoff wrote in 2002, contra Joseph Stiglitz’s view that austerity is the wrong strategy:

The Stiglitzian prescription is to raise the profile of fiscal deficits, that is, to issue more debt and to print more money. You seem to believe that if a distressed government issues more currency, its citizens will suddenly think it more valuable. You seem to believe that when investors are no longer willing to hold a government’s debt, all that needs to be done is to increase the supply and it will sell like hot cakes. We at the IMF–no, make that we on the Planet Earth–have considerable experience suggesting otherwise. We earthlings have found that when a country in fiscal distress tries to escape by printing more money, inflation rises, often uncontrollably. Uncontrolled inflation strangles growth, hurting the entire populace but, especially the indigent. The laws of economics may be different in your part of the gamma quadrant, but around here we find that when an almost bankrupt government fails to credibly constrain the time profile of its fiscal deficits, things generally get worse instead of better.

To be sure, I think the Stiglitz strategy can be the more sensible strategy in a given situation, but it cannot be seen as orthodoxy. As Rogoff says, some governments get to a point of indebtedness that increasing their debt burden to avoid austerity can make things even worse in the long run — and be especially painful for the poor. The point is, if it’s the welfare of the poor and the vulnerable one is most interested in, then one should soberly consider that austerity might, under particular circumstances, be the less painful route to take.
In any case, though America’s economic quandary differs in kind from Greece’s, just as our culture does, it is useful to consider the ways in which we, like the Greeks, have to change our cultural habits to live more responsibly.



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Cannoneo

posted July 1, 2010 at 9:12 am


I get the sense that some of your fundamental beliefs are in conflict here.
You want austerity not just because you believe the economists who say it’s the best way out, but because it fits your moral instincts. You especially seem to believe that whole societies whose “cultures” become decadent must face collective punishment to set them back on the straight and narrow path. It’s a very biblical worldview.
But at the same time, the cultural sins of Greece, and Louisiana, have to do precisely with their pre-modern, pre-rational, pre-individualistic social relations, which did not fit well with hyper-rational, rule-of-law, market capitalism.
Correct me if I’m way off here, but it sounds like you, like so many social conservatives, have been duped, or cornered, into putting your old-fashioned morality entirely in the service of the very capitalist forces that destroy the old-fashioned way of life that created said morality.
Does a financial crisis have to be a moral drama? Are you convinced that’s the best way to look at it?



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Marcel Ledbetter

posted July 1, 2010 at 9:19 am


“it’s a form of magical thinking to believe that because it seems unfair that the poor and the working classes are going to be hardest hit by austerity, that austerity cannot and should not be undertaken.”
It’s not so much that it’s unfair, as that it’s implusible. As you observe, we’re a democracy. Why would any man vote to cut his own pay and give the money to someone who already has more?



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Joshua

posted July 1, 2010 at 10:03 am


Rod,
I don’t have a whole lot to add in the economic debate that hasn’t already been hashed out on the other posts, but I do have an anecdote that relates exactly to the article you cited.
Last night I was helping one of our neighbors, a UVM graduate student from Greece, move into an apartment in downtown Burlington. Naturally she had rented a U-Haul so as to make one, efficient trip. As we were loading up the truck, she said, “You know, in Greece we are not allowed to rent trucks like this! We must contact movers with trucks!”
I said, “Is that so they can have guaranteed jobs? That’s probably why your country is in such trouble!”
She replied, “Yes, our country is going to be very poor now… but I feel this is going to happen to the whole world, too.”
For my part, I thought I was mishearing it at first when she told me that one could not rent a truck in Greece. But lo, your blog post confirms it!



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Rod Dreher

posted July 1, 2010 at 10:04 am


Correct me if I’m way off here, but it sounds like you, like so many social conservatives, have been duped, or cornered, into putting your old-fashioned morality entirely in the service of the very capitalist forces that destroy the old-fashioned way of life that created said morality.
You are way off here. I wrote a book that criticized my fellow conservatives for not understanding that we cannot have unrestrained free-market capitalism and also preserve the kinds of social values and institutions we profess to value. My conservatism is religious and social, not so much economic.
Does a financial crisis have to be a moral drama? Are you convinced that’s the best way to look at it?
This financial crisis is a moral drama, though not only a moral drama. How can you read that Business Week report from Greece and fail to see a powerful moral element, having to do with hubris, primarily, and deep-seated habits of moral corruption that have led to an economic disaster. We are living through the same thing, in our own terms. I’m not convinced that a moral drama is the only way to look at the crash, but it is a necessary way. How else can you understand the reasons for why people up and down the chain — from bankers to politicians to ordinary homeowners — made the choices that they did?
I don’t get why you keep saying that because I have a Biblical worldview, I somehow “want” people to be punished for economic sins and failings. As if I myself didn’t stand to be punished too! We’re all in this together. I believe there are moral laws that have to be obeyed, whether or not God exists as the author of those laws. Among them: don’t live beyond your means. If you want something, be prepared to pay for it. Etc.
Read more: http://blog.beliefnet.com/roddreher/2010/07/greece-broken-economy-broken-culture.html#comments#ixzz0sRGVl7oG



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Helen

posted July 1, 2010 at 10:11 am


This part of the quotations stuck out for me:
“[T]hough the old, unhealthy habits continue: public-sector employment for life, politicians with stuffed pockets, an aversion to foreign investment, snail-like growth, communal life that keeps people happy at the taverna table but stifles individual creativity, a sense that beating the “system” is what the smart people do.”
The first two and the last item are corruption and graft. But I would expect Rod would support folks who wanted to avoid foreign investment, grow slowly, and live “a communal life that keeps people happy at the taverna table.” That such a life might “stifle creativity” could be disputed, but in any event could be argued to be a legitmate price to pay for The Good Life.



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Rod Dreher

posted July 1, 2010 at 10:38 am


Helen, your point is a good one. My criticism of the Greeks is that they wanted to have the old way of life, but on a budget that was unsustainable. It’s like a small-town grocer saying he loves living in his village, with its quaint and humane ways … but he also wants to wear designer clothes and drive a Mercedes. So, because he doesn’t make enough money in the village to support that kind of lifestyle, he goes out and borrows gobs of money to help him live his dreams.
That can’t go on forever. That’s my only point. We Americans are in a similar boat.
To quote the Rt. Rev. Bob Marley, “Everybody wants to get to heaven, but nobody wants to die.”



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kevin s.

posted July 1, 2010 at 11:56 am


A better domestic example of this phenomenon is the Michigan economy. For decades, auto workers and other union members were paid inordinate sums for their work, based on contracts enforced by the mafia. Residents bought into the dream of an excellent living off of unskilled labor became the norm.
Over time, the quality of automobiles suffered, and consumers looked elsewhere for cars, rather than pay a fee for American mediocrity. Paying employees a generous wage AND a generous pension was not sustainable.
The private sector imposes its own austerity measures, and Michigan is living with those. But they are also living with the consequences of an economy built around an illusion.



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DannyK

posted July 1, 2010 at 12:34 pm


Rod, have you read any of Paul Krugman’s recent articles? He seems pretty convinced that people like Ken Rogoff are way off base — there’s absolutely no evidence that inflation is a threat, the US can borrow money at very good rates, and unemployment is still extremely high, almost 10%.
If Krugman is right, austerity measures will keep the economy weak and keep unemployment high — a human disaster for millions of Americans for years to come. What will become off all the kids graduating high school and college this year, and entering an economy that doesn’t need them? How will they start careers, be able to live independently and start families?
We’re not just talking about grinding the faces of poor here, but also the destruction of the middle class that you’ve posted about before. I think this human disaster deserves more attention than you’ve given it thus far.



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Joshua

posted July 1, 2010 at 12:56 pm


Rod,
I’ll see your Marley and raise you a Bono:
“They say they want the Kingdom, but they don’t want God in it.”



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stefanie

posted July 1, 2010 at 1:14 pm


DannyK has a point worth listening to. An entire generation of young people faces substantial economic impact from joblessness and under-employment. Rod, you say your conservatism is largely based on religious and social rather than economic foundations. The social consequences of joblessness among the young *have* to be addressed.



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Rod Dreher

posted July 1, 2010 at 1:27 pm


Stefanie, y’all keep missing my point. I don’t think any austerity advocate is saying that people ought to live with austerity because we deserve to be punished for our sins and failings. Austerity advocates are saying that it is the least bad of our options. They argue that piling more debt on now would likely cause an economic collapse that would be much worse for all of us, especially the poor, than austerity now.
Austerians may be wrong about this, but y’all need to quit imputing bad faith to people who advocate for austerity measures. It’s not fair to assume that austerity advocates don’t give a rat’s rear end about jobs and the poor, any more than it would be fair to assume that those who want more stimulus don’t care about the possibility that the entire economy could collapse under the weight of debt.
The question here is a profound one: is it going to be harder on more people to observe austerity measures in an attempt to reduce public indebtedness, or is it going to be harder on more people to ramp up public debt even higher, and run the risk of a true economic collapse? I don’t believe there is a “good” solution, no matter which one policymakers take — and by “good,” I mean a solution that is painless. What we’re talking about here is taking the more responsible course, the one that inflicts the least pain. Some of you seem to think that the choice is between accepting pain (austerity) and no pain at all (more debt-financed stimulus). That is unrealistic, as I see it.
[Captcha: "wage salvers." How does that software do it?!]



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John E. - Agn Stoic

posted July 1, 2010 at 1:32 pm


Your hypothetical small-town grocer could pick up a very serviceable used Mercedes for under $10,000.



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the stupid Chris

posted July 1, 2010 at 2:19 pm


… beating the “system” is what the smart people do.
And this isn’t just a Greek thing, is it? We elected back-to-back US Presidents who were adept at “gaming the system,” and our bookstores are replete with advice on how to “beat the system.”
What led to the collapse of the sub-prime market and the banking system was when this ethos became widespread, but having watched individuals become super-rich by “beating the system” (think: James Cayne) it’s very hard to curb that impulse among those who want their slice of the pie, too.



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the stupid Chris

posted July 1, 2010 at 2:36 pm


The question here is a profound one: is it going to be harder on more people to observe austerity measures in an attempt to reduce public indebtedness, or is it going to be harder on more people to ramp up public debt even higher, and run the risk of a true economic collapse?
The true economic collapse has already happened, Rod. Look around: 1/3rd of all homes being sold are foreclosures, 8 million people are out of work, state and local governments are cutting jobs and services to the bone. Private sector hiring is sensitive to these trends, and so went from adding workers to flat, which is better than the two years of huge cuts we saw at the beginning of this thing.
The question is whether recovery is better achieved by further borrowing to create jobs, or by further spending cuts which will continue to deflate the value of assets and labor.
Reagan got us out of the economic malaise of the early 1980s by massive deficit spending, not by “austerity.” And I think it important to acknowledge that the people who now counsel austerity in the US previously told us “deficits don’t matter” as they turned budget surpluses into deficits at a time of apparent economic growth.



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Rod Dreher

posted July 1, 2010 at 3:13 pm


Chris, that’s not true. As bad as the economic crash has been, true economic collapse would be 24 percent unemployment, like the Great Depression — or worse. Or look at Weimar Germany for another version. This is what I think about. You seem to believe it couldn’t get worse than it is now. I think that’s a highly debatable proposition.
I don’t know what you mean when you bring up the “deficits don’t matter” crowd from nearly 30 years ago. I mean, I know what you’re getting at — that conservatives back then said deficits don’t matter, and now they say they do, ergo they must be politicized hypocrites we can safely ignore. This is only confusing the argument. I am prepared to be persuaded that more deficit spending, on top of our already gargantuan deficit, is needed, because I too have a job, and I have kids I’ll need to send to college in less than a decade. I want them to be able to find meaningful work. In short, I don’t want to suffer, and my countrymen to suffer, to prove an ideological point. But if one really did believe that by adding significantly to the deficit for another round of stimulus would put the entire economic system at grave risk of collapse, why should one be silent and acquiesce to more stimulus because people who were right-wing economists when I was still in middle school held a certain view of deficit spending?
Anyway, I think it was pretty clearly demonstrated during the Bush II years that Republicans do not mean what they say when they say they’re for spending cuts. They had their chance and they blew it. But that doesn’t mean they were wrong in theory, only with their hypocritical lack of execution.



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Karl G

posted July 1, 2010 at 3:56 pm


There is a fundamental claim that keeps getting repeated in this discussion that’s simply not true: That the US is bankrupt, or even remotely near it.
The only way that you can imagine that to be true is if you pretend that currency represents wealth and nothing else. That idea is actually the complete inverse of the truth.
General production and existing durable goods are wealth. Money is just a transfer medium that we use to quantify the value of such things or of services that we give and receive.
Greece’s primary problem is that it consumed without producing- it didn’t have the real assets to match the debt it was taking on. Pouring more money into the Greek economy didn’t help it, because it was sent to producers outside of Greece rather than being used to increase domestic production.
The US economy, on the other hand, is binding up because of lack of currency, not lack of production capacity. In fact we’re significantly underusing our capacity because there’s not enough money moving about to bring it on line. And the biggest reason for that is because in the 80’s the people with money stopped spending it to grow our capacity and started lending it on a massive scale instead. People got loans instead of better paychecks, which pulled more and more money out of circulation and into financial instruments.
Price inflation happens when there is too much money and not enough goods. Especially after the financial collapse, we’ve got a glut of goods and not enough money. We need to get money back into circulation- be it by using taxes or spending incentives to move it out of financial investments and into active circulation (“austerity” for the wealthy, that is. Force them to actually use money for its intended purpose or charge them a fee for the economic harm they do by withholding it or otherwise lending it instead of spending it) or by printing enough to fill the void that’s created and making it less necessary for people to take loans to stay afloat. Making a real, committed push to eliminate non-voluntary unemployment, on the other hand, will pay for itself and render any debt (especially that which we owe to ourselves) irrelevant, because the real value to back that debt will always be there.



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the stupid Chris

posted July 1, 2010 at 4:15 pm


I don’t know what you mean when you bring up the “deficits don’t matter” crowd from nearly 30 years ago…
That’s not a quote from 30 years ago, but from Dick Cheney as Vice President in 2002. My thought is that those most for “austerity” in the political realm are the same “win at any cost” group that insisted on tax cuts during wartime, and deficit spending in good times.
Debt gets reduced by growing income, not by shrinking income. When the economy is in danger of shrinking what’s needed is stimulus, and when the economy is doing well what’s needed is austerity.
Think of it this way, you store up during good years and draw down during bad years. But WBush drew down during good years and his fanboys are arguing that we should try to store up during good years. It’s backwards, totally.



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John E. - Agn Stoic

posted July 1, 2010 at 4:50 pm


In fact we’re significantly underusing our capacity because there’s not enough money moving about to bring it on line.
Something to that – I have some peripheral knowledge of the wind tower industry and that sector is slowing down because banks are reluctant to finance large projects right now.



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the stupid Chris

posted July 1, 2010 at 6:51 pm


something’s not right, been trying to post a correction for a while;
Think of it this way, you store up during good years and draw down during bad years. But WBush drew down during good years and his fanboys are arguing that we should try to store up during bad years. It’s backwards, totally.



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Jon

posted July 1, 2010 at 8:04 pm


Re: A better domestic example of this phenomenon is the Michigan economy. For decades, auto workers and other union members were paid inordinate sums for their work, based on contracts enforced by the mafia
Sigh.
Once upon a time a prosperous working class was a matter of national pride. O tempora, o mores!
Kevin, may I ask how old you are? Usually this sort of comment comes from young libertarian types who are bitterly disappointed that the job market is not falling all over itself to grant them six digit salaries fresh from college. Hence the class envy and snobbery when they behold “mere” uncouth working people making decent money.
But that’s wrong: just because someone does not have a degree does not mean they are unskilled. Many of these people have skills you or I could not accomplish even if they are less than articulate and drink cheap beer.
But the wages in the auto industry were never the problem; our main competitors in autos were also unionized and paid good wages. To some extent the benefits were an issue, esepcially for retirees, and here the fact of America’s stupid healthcare financing system is the villain: our competitors do not hobble their employers with this burden, but require the whole body politic to support it, as we do with education. But the real problem in autos was the sheer adversity, often amounting to hate between labor and management: this was something our competitors avoided, the Germans, for example, allowing their unions a very real and active share in running the companies as capitalists. Here in the US we ended up with a lot of ludicrous work rules hamstringing companies and dragging down quality. I’m from Michigan, and I am old enough to rmember the day of the domestic lemon (Joke of my youth: Ford = “Found On Road Dead”). That was not a problem with costs at all. You could make a lemon cheap as rotgut gin, and still it wouldn’t sell. Anyone remember the Yugo?



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Jon

posted July 1, 2010 at 8:08 pm


Chris,
Try to boil that down to a bumpersicker slogan. It can’t be repeated enough: WE NEED GROWTH! In fact someone should organize a March For Growth with the unemployed and everyone else worried about their future.
When did conservatives forget such a key concept of their own, on which Ronald Reagan’s whole economic program was based?



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Cannoneo

posted July 1, 2010 at 8:26 pm


My point is not that you want people to suffer, but that the *economic* austerity argument appeals to you because it confirms your *moral* worldview. I think that’s a dangerous category error, and it’s surprisingly putting you in a camp with people (like the IMF) who would impose “market discipline” on the entire world, local culture bedamned.
I just hope you are fully aware of this dynamic (classic macroeconomics=personal virtue), because it has been used since the industrial revolution by financial elites to manipulate people into accepting their austere lots, not to mention two different sets of rules. Businesses manage their stores by juggling debt, taking high risks, externalizing consequences, threatening lawsuits, walking away from obligations, etc. etc. ‘Cause business is business. I don’t think many individuals do this stuff, and I don’t think it’s fair or accurate to say we have an immoral culture at the level of the person who takes a mortgage they can just about afford, but only if they don’t lose their job.



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the stupid Chris

posted July 1, 2010 at 9:47 pm


When did conservatives forget such a key concept of their own, on which Ronald Reagan’s whole economic program was based?
Happened when conservatism allied with Libertarianism in order to win elections, and replaced the western canon with the collected works of Ayn Rand as its reference library. Ok, that’s a bit harsh. Most of them don’t read…books.
Except Sarah Palin, she reads “all of them.”



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Nixon is Lord

posted July 1, 2010 at 10:22 pm


Wonder what the Orthodox and Catholics think about the fact that Protestant places (the Dutch, Germans, Scandinavians) are doing much better generally than Orthodox and Catholic (and Muslim) countries.
Why be members of the Orthodox and Catholic and Muslim religions if they produce dysfunctional societies?



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Nixon is Lord

posted July 1, 2010 at 10:26 pm


In other words, like Louisiana, the Greeks rely on “the intercession of the faithful” for employment, perks and getting things done generally. Their heaven is as corrupt and “it’s not what you know, but who” as their earth.



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Nick the Greek

posted July 2, 2010 at 9:37 am


Why be members of the Orthodox and Catholic and Muslim religions if they produce dysfunctional societies?
Because whilst this may be difficult for a Protestant to understand, the Orthodox and Catholic and Muslim religions don’t judge success purely in terms of material wealth. From a southern European or Middle Eastern point of view, the Protestant societies have gained the whole world but lost their souls (though the Greek crisis shows that such societies are not immune to the temptations of “Protestsnt” consumerism).



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Nick the Greek

posted July 2, 2010 at 10:18 am


Sorry, I didn’t mean to smear all Protestants in my last post, even though it comes across that way. My comment was aimed purely at Nixon Is Lord, not the many Protestants who value things other than material wealth.



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JLF

posted July 2, 2010 at 11:13 am


Somehow we’re missing the forest for the trees. When 70%+ of the economy is based upon consumer spending, it defies all logic to empoverish the largest class of consumers, the middle classes. Not to put too fine a point on it, but those with family incomes less than $100,000 are the sparkplug to any economic recovery, and they are precisely the ones to whom the “austerity gospel” is being preached. That will become a self-fulfilling prophesy.
Although he has been derided by the Right, Lord Keynes was correct: borrow and spend in bad times; save and repay in good. But like the person with bi-polar disorder, while taking the medicine for the lows is a good idea, giving up the highs is a whole different story. And in a democracy, politicans ultimately give the people what they want. Hence, every higher deficits



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