Fourth of July in Europe

This morning I was re-reading the Declaration of Independence, displayed on page 22 of today’s New York Times, and I couldn’t help thinking about Greece.  “When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for a people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal stature to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.”  This opening line immediately raises a question:  if, possibly as a result of a majority ‘no’ vote in the Greek referendum tomorrow, a Greek exit from the Eurozone becomes inevitable, has the Syriza government sufficiently explained the causes of the separation?  I’m inclined to say that they have done a superb job in making clear that after years of imposed austerity that has brought widespread misery and has shrunk the Greek economy to the point where it became impossible for Greece to ever repay its debt, the country is at the end of the rope.  Although the long term effects of a yes or no vote are still very uncertain, the stakes are clear.

The Declaration continues with a warning: “Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience has shown, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed.”  Other than austerity, the ‘sufferable evils’ the Greeks were subjected to were caricaturization and humiliation, and most recently, a series of increasingly harsh demands on the part of the Eurozone countries, who, led by Germany, seemed more interested in getting rid of Syriza than solving a problem that also threatens their own stability.  For the Greeks, the following sentence of the Declaration is right on target: “But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and  to provide new Guards for their future security.”  Syriza has chosen Greece’s oldest weapon, democracy, to counter despotism, and although its fight seems as desperate as that of the Continental Army once was, it can be won.

Whether inside or outside of the Eurozone, Greece undoubtedly has many difficult years ahead, but the Revolutionary War was not won until seven years filled with hardship had passed after the signing of the Declaration by ‘Representatives of the United States of America,’ and it may take Greece less time to re-establish itself as an ‘Independent State.’  The question then is if there is a scenario that provides the citizens of that state the ‘unalienable Rights’ to ‘Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness’?

It is possible that in case of a ‘yes’ vote and the fall of the Syriza government the Eurozone bureaucrats suddenly become lenient and offer the next Greek government much better conditions of debt relief, showing that from the very beginning they had only political intentions when they sucked the blood out of the Greek economy.  But the Greeks won’t forget that, and other European peoples shouldn’t either.

In case the Eurozone countries, the ECB and the IMF won’t offer improved conditions the Greeks are better off going it alone.  They have an airline, hotels, tavernas, beautiful islands with great beaches and lots of sun, and if they reintroduce the Drachma and cut all their prices in half to boost tourism and exports maybe they can bring their economy back and after a couple of years give the Eurocrats the middle finger.

Hugo Kijne

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