Thingish Things

What’s Pericles Got to Do with It?

Written By: William F. B. O'Reilly - Mar• 08•12

Nicholas Kristof files his latest defense of Keynesian economics from Athens, which is published in today’s New York Times. He is beginning to sound like — hold your ears — Paul Krugman.

Mr. Kristoff argues in the very same space that Greek society is structurally broken and corrupt, and that its government should pour massive amounts of borrowed cash into that broken urn to stimulate the nation’s economy.  He cites as an example of this working in the Greek isles an action undertaken by Pericles in the 5th Century BC. As irresistible as it must be to weave Pericles into a piece — see, I’ve done it now, too — I’m not sure Mr. Kristoff is talking apples and apples.

“Republicans are right to see in Greece some perils of an overgenerous government: The state sector was bloated, early retirements and pensions were sometimes absurd, and rigid labor markets undermined Greece’s competitiveness,” Mr. Kristof concedes. “But the problem was not a welfare state — Greece has much less of a safety net than northern Europe. Rather, it was corruption, inefficiency and a system in which laws are optional.”

I wonder how borrowing billions more Euro, when you are about to default on your existing debt payments, to pour into a corrupt system is in any way a good idea. 

Mr. Kristof interviews one young man who had been educated at Cambridge and had traveled the world  before losing his job: “It might end up as a social revolution,” the man warned in discussing the current austerity plan.  

Isn’t that the idea?  Isn’t that what’s needed in Greece and elsewhere, sans violence — a mass social realization that nation’s cannot live continuously above their means? 

That public works project Pericles put in place?  It was the Parthenon.  Would never get built today, no matter how much money one put in it. The Greek unions would bleed the project dry before a single stone was put in place. And that’s where Pericles was dealing with oranges where Papademos is dealing with apples — there were no socialist trade unions in 5th Century Greece. 

You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.