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Friday, 01 June 2012

Comments

Some of Christos pictures are amazingly depicting the situation in the poorest areas of Greece. I would love to post more about what led Greeks here, but that is neither the place nor the time.

Thanks to TOP for this report, as a fellow Greek, I very much appreciate it.

As someone who is extremely sympathetic to the reactions of the Greeks in response to the prospective pauperisation of large sections of their population I'm extremely conflicted. There's no doubt that the current Euro-crisis is a case of "Privatised Profits: Socialised Losses" however...

Anyone who has been to Greece in recent years or who has contacts among Greeks can't fail to be aware that many of the clichéd criticisms of this country are actually close to the mark. Greeks don't like paying tax and many, maybe even most of them, manage to evade a range of taxes quite routinely. This isn't universally true in Europe however it seems to be a characteristic of the countries in deepest trouble.

Travel around Crete. It's impossible not to notice all the buildings with reinforcing rods poking out of the top, awaiting further stories to be added. Which they never will: tax is only payable once the building is completed. So no-one does.In 2011 it was still forbidden, in most places, to flush toilet paper because the sewage sytem can't cope. Every toilet features a disgusting bin of sh!tty paper. This in 2011, on an island which has had a consistently vigorous tourism industry for many decades.

A friend of mine has a relative married to someone working in a branch of the Greek tax office. He's retiring (or was) aged 45. Of course his healthy retirement fund was created by charging people to, er, "modify" their tax records. This is SOP in Greece.

Overall there's no doubt that the banking and finance "industries" bear full responsibility for the world's current financial mess. And of course they got away with their loot, unpunished. Effectively private taxation of entire populations has been a way of life in the western world for a very long time: however this outrage doesn't entirely absolve the general public in many countries from a substantial contribution to the mess we're in.

Mike, Nobody should assume that current problems begin and end with Greece.

Henry,
I never suggested they should.

Mike

Greece is a tragedy: regardless of what election results might be, the Greek economy will remain moribund and the country will pay the price. It's a failed country: you can't demand services if you aren't willing to pay for them (collectively) and those who can have had their money outside of Greece for ages.

You cannot live off tourism alone. There are many lessons to be learned here, but I will forebear detailing them: life is too short.

In some ways it is a reversion to the mean: Greece was desperately poor after the war and their politics has always been to despair of. The military takeover was an act of desperation and a failure. There are no easy solutions here.

Glad you published this, Mike, you read a lot, man. Next to be in focus is Spain, a much bigger subject for snaps of reality. For instance, you can document right now one of the fastest travels in time... backwards: Spain can has reversed in social-political terms seven decades in just seven months. Well, financially we're a bit slower, currently we're still in the 80's, but just wait a few more weeks...

I'm going there next week. Not looking forward to it. I was in Greece in 1999 and was underwhelmed then. Now I expect to be overwhelmed and not in a good way.

Mike, I'm sorry if it looked as if my post was a criticism of you, which it was not, rather than a general comment, which it was. Roy's long post is very interesting cnfirmation, from someone with a close up first hand view, of the problems Greece faces. One way and another many European countries have got themselves into similar difficulties, or are heading that way, as Enrique confirms.

The big question is whether the political structures we have created in Europe since WW2 are now making things worse or, alternatively, provide a mechanism for sorting them out. You will see closely worked out arguments, voiced with passion, for both propositions. Personally I'm a bit pessimistic.

Future availability of film, the lack of good quality film scanners or how to make a better print are interesting topics which take the mind off impending disaster!

"Privatized Profits, Socialized Losses"? How else are we gonna build them Pyramids?

As a Greek, i should say the following:
1. The greek public sector is like a bunkrupted company and worse, for many many years: very poor output for very expensive input: it has to do with the quality and the education of the people that are working there, with the lack of management, and of course with unbelivable corruption (bribery etc). Private sector cannot develop with a corrupted at all levels public sector
2. The greek politicians, were working more in favor of foreign interests than greek peoples' interests, for many decades.
3. The greek politicians have been elected all these yrs only because they were promising unrealistic benefits to the public.Unrealistic benefits without realistic public obligations.
4. Greece is a baby of a country in comparison to other countries. The first time in history that there was an official Greek country was in 1821, and by that time till now, Greece has been always a muppet of the powerfull countries and bankers.
5. Greeks are smart, but not mature, have qualities but no target, want to live in a developed country but they cannot understand how developed states and economies must work.
6. Greece has so much potential that is like a fillet for many dogs.
7. Greecs are the firsts to blame, they are responsible for their own situation. The world is not a paradise and is a given quantity. We should first protect ourselves and invest in ourselves, and then blame morgan stanley,eu, imf, corrupted politicians, siemens etc.

Not specific to Greece in particular, but to most countries and even individuals living on credit...blaming the banks for lending you money and then stopping when they realize they will not get it back is like an alcoholic blaming the barman for the hangover after he stops serving you.

Yes, banks have behaved in a particularly irresponsible way for some years, but we should take personal blame for getting into debt in the first place. Borrowed money is money you eventually have to pay back.

That governments can themselves behave like kids with a new credit card is alarming, but no-one ever votes for tough measures.

In every rational jurisdiction there are laws and regulations about "over-serving". Bartenders are required by law to recognize when they need to stop serving. Banks are not innocent enablers. What they did may have been legal (after successful lobbying to to gut regulation,) but appropriate, even moral, is an entirely different issue.

@Earl

I agree, over-lending is heinous, but so is borrowing more than your income can service.
Nothing absolves the individual from taking personal responsibility even if it is trendy to do so these days.

Bartenders have a responsibility, but are you saying the alcoholic has none?

The problem with banking is the short term bonus structure that does not account for the long-term viability of the transactions. Regulation is of some help, but in the end the banks defeated themselves. Ironically, in the UK, investment in property (as opposed to businesses) was seen as a safer bet so we ended up with an artificial property boom linked to the cost of credit, and a business contraction owing to a lack of credit.

The problem with regulation is that it hurts businesses as much as it saves individuals from their own stupidity.

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