The Greek situation
If you’re anything like me, you eat up the news on the Greek situation whenever and wherever you can. It’s like watching a slow-motion train wreck that takes years to hit. No, even better, it’s like this:
Imagine there’s a family that you know as self-absorbed, undisciplined, and indulgent, especially with their kids- they let their kids watch too much TV, they give their kids every gadget they can’t really afford, flat-screen TVs on credit, they stay up too late, eat crap food, they bribe their kids to like them, bringing them presents after every trip. It borders on neglect, for God’s sake, and it will come back to haunt them, you think to yourself. Then imagine seeing them in a crowded restaurant with their kids, older now, and utterly obnoxious and lazy and entitled, screaming at the top of their lungs that whatever the complaint is, it’s definitely not their fault, it’s their stinking parents’ fault, and why should they get a job. It’s an obnoxiously satisfying scene to watch as an exhausted parent who has been sure to feed their kids broccoli and have their kids tucked in by 9 with their homework done and their backpacks ready for school the next day.
But here’s the thing, I kind of have to side with the spoiled kids. I mean, it is the parents’ fault if they’ve completely spoiled their kids. As bratty as the kids are, you really can’t blame them on this until they are rational adults.
In summation, Greece is the European version of the Kardashians.
Here’s an article which kinds of proves my point. The politicians have spoiled the Greeks for so long, by buying votes with do-nothing government jobs, and simply ignoring the state of the deficit and anything involving money or taxes (mostly because the politicians themselves are the worst of the tax-evaders and don’t want to rock the boat), that the people living there are looking anywhere but at themselves for where the problem lies. In other words, a completely backwards-looking approach with no forwards-looking solution in mind. They are that kid at that restaurant, somewhere in late adolescence but not quite adults.
Another aspect of this crisis is the enormous disconnect between the economists and bankers on the one hand, who have absolute certainty that the banking system must be kept functional at any cost, and the actual people living in a country on the other hand, who don’t want to pay for the mistakes of the rich bankers. What makes this gulf so wide? It’s wide in any country actually, but in Greece you have the extra layer of spoiled entitlement. I’ll talk about this disconnect in my second post about working at D.E. Shaw, where I experienced it first-hand.
After quite a bit of feedback (love feedback!) I’ve decided to add to this post because I think I was too glib and didn’t make my point well. First, let me be clear that I don’t think that the Greek workers are spoiled. I have a lot of compassion for the working people of Greece- especially the youth. The young people of Greece have a broken system, filled with closed guilds, high unemployment, and corrupt politicians. I am extremely empathetic to their plight and if I were them I’d be protesting in the streets too. What I mean to get across with the spoiled kid thing is that spoiling kids really is neglect and really is the fault of the authorities, and it sets up someone to fail and it gives them no tools to correct systemic mistakes. In this analogy I’m trying to point out that the political class has neglected its people and its duty to create a working system. They have done nothing for those young people, and now they are trying to make inside deals with the European bankers and don’t seem to understand why the actual working (or unemployed) people of Greece don’t see why this is a great opportunity.