June 26, 2010

Lamenting the Impossibility of Having and Eating the Cake

Justin Katz

This short article about job prospects for young adults in Greece catches many of the various nuances, but it still seems as if there's a disconnect of cause and effect. Consider:

From their settled perches, the elders criticize and cluck. The young, they say, have either no initiative, a dearth of opportunities, or some combination of the two. They fear that young people will be unable to start their own families and they fret over the prospect of Greece’s demographic undoing.

The youth of Greece are merely responding as the culture in which they were raised taught them. They feel owed — and their elders don't appear to be enthusiastic to undo the government catering that they've enjoyed in order to secure opportunity and a healthy polity for their children. This is the inevitable result of a big nanny-state government.

Now begins another phase, which one suspects was part of the intention of those who strove to set this international movement in motion:

[Twenty-year old Olga] Stefou believes that the government is bound to respond to her discontent. And she has suggestions: Greece should make up its budget shortfall by pulling its 122 troops from Afghanistan and levying steep taxes on the Orthodox Church rather than squeezing the workers, she says.

Moving six score troops from active to inactive duty and transferring wealth from a Church is not going to make up for the demands of unemployed youth with high expectations as to what the world owes them. It is, however, subtle evidence that there are people strategizing to turn a shiftless and insecure generation into a political, quasi-military weapon.

It makes for an interesting, frightening question to consider the addition of the Muslim fanatics currently permeating Europe to the dynamic. Secular revolutionaries may discover that the discontented troops that they've been carefully cultivating find something more compelling in the notion of jihad than of a worker's paradise.

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I have noticed that there is a large number of Greek immigrants in Australia.

Posted by: Warrington Faust at June 26, 2010 5:45 PM

Don't forget that this state is named after the Greek island of RHODEs.

Posted by: Tommy Cranston at June 26, 2010 6:55 PM

Fairly clear that Olga Stefou isn't a math whiz. The 122 troops have government employment rights too, don't they? And a serious question - if the Greek government confiscated ALL the wealth of the Orthodox Church, how many months would that buy them in Lotus Land?

I daydream about the ideal Greek government-type job in Rhode Island. Did you know the Greeks have a water commission to oversee a lake bed that has been dry for 3/4ths of a century? Yes, I think my ideal RI government job would be boating safety commissioner for the Big River Reservoir. Once I'm appointed, it's only fair that I be paid retroactive to the time the land was seized by eminent domain.

ps - hey politicians, I'll donate generously to any 'times' you might have

Posted by: chuckR at June 27, 2010 12:47 PM

It is currently popular to fret about inflation and to ignore the real threat, deflation. We preach the need for belt-tightening when the real problem is inadequate stimulus spending. Hooverian cuts in spending follow an easy political course, as suffering becomes concentrated upon the underclass. Paul Krugman summed it up.

So I don’t think this is really about Greece, or indeed about any realistic appreciation of the tradeoffs between deficits and jobs. It is, instead, the victory of an orthodoxy that has little to do with rational analysis, whose main tenet is that imposing suffering on other people is how you show leadership in tough times.

And who will pay the price for this triumph of orthodoxy? The answer is, tens of millions of unemployed workers, many of whom will go jobless for years, and some of whom will never work again.


Posted by: OldTimeLefty at June 29, 2010 11:07 PM
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