Painful Truth: Greece fights against debt bondage

Phrases you didn’t hear before the year 2000: viral video, unfriended, cord cutting, and important Greek election.

Not that national elections weren’t important to the Greeks themselves. But just like Canada, Greece is somewhere in the second or third tier of countries. 

A handful of big countries can change the world economy by fiddling with their interest rates, that can make or break international treaties, that can threaten war and send armies scrambling.

But Greece? Fewer than 11 million citizens. Centre of ancient and modern culture and art, yes, but not an economic or military powerhouse.

Yet the election of Alexis Tsipras as prime minister and leader of the Syriza party has sent shock waves through Europe.

Greece was one of the many, many countries that went a bit mad during the early years of the new century. Cheap money fueled foolish spending which fueled debts both public and private. That’s no different, really, than the story across most of the world. 

But when the crash came, when the U.S. housing bubble burst, it hit Greece very hard. They were part of the Euro community, using the same currency as France, Germany, Italy, and most of their European neighbours, giving them fewer options to pay off their debts.

Greece has faced more than five years of punishing austerity as they struggle to get out from under a 320 billion Euro debt. Unemployment is 26 per cent. Economic output has shrunk by 25 per cent. Social services have been slashed, minimum wages cut. It is not a fun time to be a Greek.

The Germans have been particularly adamant that Greece pay back its debts and cut its expenses, since they’ve shouldered a big chunk of the cost of bailing out their smaller neighbour.

Tsipras plans to reverse many of the changes that have been demanded as part of the austerity measures. The minimum wage will go back up, the sale of government assets has been frozen. Predictably, the markets in Greece have dropped.

But why should we pay attention to what the markets think? Didn’t they get us all in this trouble to begin with?

Tsirpas is still waiting to fight with the real monster, the noxious hydra he’ll have to slay to make his changes stick.

Greece is going to have to default on some of its debt.

In virtually any version of our economic system, debt is going to be a reality. For the economy to work, we need at least a reasonable certainty that people, corporations, banks, and nations will make good on their debts.

But it’s obvious that not everyone will. Sometimes, through incompetence or fraud or simple bad luck, there will be no repayment.

And we have to decide how to handle that.

The Greeks are probably aware of how it used to be dealt with – in ancient Athens, people who couldn’t pay their debts were sold as slaves. Centuries later, most of Europe hosted debtors’ prisons. We now allow people to declare bankruptcy, rather than enslaving or imprisoning them.

So if individual punishment (beyond a ruined credit rating) is inappropriate when it comes to debt, why is it okay for Europe and the IMF to collectively punish the Greeks? Because they are being punished, whether they spent the fat years recklessly spending, or if they were frugal savers who paid their mortgages on time every month.

After all, it hardly seems appropriate to blame the Greeks for their mess, when thousands of bankers and traders lied, schemed, grew massively wealthy, and got off Scott free.

Just Posted

VIDEO: G-Men seek revenge Saturday night in rematch at Langley Events Centre

Portland’s Winterhawks downed the Vancouver Giants 5-3 during a road trip down south.

UPDATE: Abbotsford murder victim was brother of slain gang leader

Mandeep Grewal gunned down Thursday, brother Gavin killed in North Van in 2017

LETTER: Retired firefighter defends union’s election involvement

In rebuttal to another letter writer’s stance on firefighter involvement in municipal politics.

Painful Truth: Homelessness is the only issue on Langley ballots

Reporter Matthew Claxton said reducing homelessness should be a focus for those elected.

Langley Advance What’s On: Oct. 18, 2018 edition

Submit Langley events: LangleyAdvance.com/add-event or news@langleyadvance.com (subject: What’s On).

Tommy Chong says cannabis legalization makes him proud to be a Canadian

Legendary marijuana advocate and comedian celebrates cultural milestone at Kelowna event

3 in serious condition after altercation on Granville strip: police

Patrol officers came upon the fight just after 3 a.m. on Granville Street near Helmcken Street

B.C. passenger caught smoking weed in a car issued $230 fine

Saanich police did a field sobriety test on the driver and deemed it safe for him to drive

Pedestrian rushed to Lower Mainland hospital after being hit by car

Friday night crash is latest in rash of collisions involving pedestrians in Surrey

Payette invites critics to ‘come and spend a few days’ with her

Governor General Julie Payette made her first official to B.C. back in March

More pot stores expected in B.C. in coming ‘weeks and months’: attorney general

Attorney General David Eby and Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth visited the new BC Cannabis Store in the province’s Interior

Telus launches charitable foundation to help vulnerable youth

The Telus Friendly Future Foundation complements other social initiatives by the company, including Mobility for Good

Police say suspicious death of B.C. artist ruled a homicide

Patrick Zube Aylward’s body was found in a residence on a rural road outside of Seton Portage, west of Lillooet, B.C.

Temporary roads being built in areas affected by landslide in northern B.C.

Emergency Management BC news release says Disaster Financial Assistance is available to eligible residents of the Peace River Regional District who may have been affected by the landslides

Most Read