Root for the Socialists. It's Important.

There was a famous election in which David Duke ran against a legendarily corrupt politician that produced the slogan, "Vote for the crook. It's important." (The same politician produced the aphorism about political death meaning being caught in bed with "a dead girl or a live boy," the truth of which might now be questionable). At The Week, Michael Brendan Dougherty argues that conservatives should root for the socialists in Greece.
Conservatives may say that people get the governments they deserve. But the Greeks actually did something that was unthinkable in this country, kicking out both of the major parties that led them into debt-peonage. Syriza was their Tea Party, and like the Tea Party it boasts some grandiose and irresponsible rhetoric, flagrantly breaks Godwin's law, and is generally unruly.
This is what I mean when I say that I expect us to have a conversation like this down the road. The ones who've been striving hardest against reckless spending are the ones being told they have to accept the consequences, including the disarmament of the Greek military at a time of national crisis. Doubtless we will hear the same things in our hour. We should look differently upon them, as we would want others to look differently upon us.


Texan99 said...

Some of those lines of reasoning are strained. Greeks kicked out the parties that got them into debt peonage? What voters did was rebel against the idea that debt means not just the arrival of a third of a trillion dollars in free cash, but some kind of eventual repayment. Where is the Greek party that wants to renounce new debt going forward? Is only the old debt "peonage"? What's the new debt supposed to be--a plain old gift this time? That demand would at least have the virtue of honesty, but new donors are not lining up for the privilege of participating.

Syriza is analogous to the Tea Party? Sure, if you think "Tea Party" means grandiose and irresponsible antisemitism, as the quoted author apparently does. If, on the other hand, you think "Tea Party" means "keep government small enough that you can afford it with the resources you actually have," then I'd say Syriza was closer to Occupy Wall Street: give us unlimited stuff, and never send us the bill.

This part I really don't understand: "The ones who've have been striving hardest against reckless spending are the ones who have to accept the consequences"--who would that be? Is there a contingent in Greece that's been striving against reckless spending? All I've seen is a competition to elect a leader who will get the most German money across the border, with the fewest possible strings attached. On the reckless-spending side of the equation, there has been impressive unanimity.

Greece's pressing problem is not that it can no longer afford its military. It's that its diabetics can't get insulin, and soon that its people can't get bread. Greece spent the money on things it thought were more important. It was wrong.

The one virtue I can see in voting for the Socialist right now is that the stunning collapse is most likely to get the right label. Greece may achieve the impressive label of degenerating into full Mad-Max mode even faster than Venezuela. It makes for a clearer object lesson, because Greece isn't sitting on a sea of valuable oil that can mask and delay the crisis for a while.

Grim said...

Look, I'm not one to turn a blind eye. These guys are socialists, no doubt. They want to do what socialists want to do. But they're better than the government they replaced, and the plan outlined in the slide is really pretty close to what the creditor nations are demanding. As the guy in this article points out, the creditors knew they were getting into a high risk situation and priced their loans accordingly -- as well as getting made whole for their previous loans at state expense. So the banks get bailed out, but not the Greek citizens? That's like how, here, the banks got bailed out after our own financial crisis -- but not the American people.

I understand the moral impulse, as well as the anti-socialist position. I also think this government is being more responsible than we're seeing them given credit for in the Western press -- their negotiating position is not 'free money forever,' but 'we'll meet you more than halfway, but we aren't willing to abandon our national competitive advantages that might actually allow us to pay on these loans, nor are we going to gut our military.'

Texan99 said...

Two things I don't understand:

(1) How is the current government an improvement?

(2) How is their position not "free money forever"? The halfway part is, at best, "half the free money forever"

The military angle is risible.

Grim said...

I don't think it's risible at all. I think they've got a real crisis on their hands, no reason to think it's going to improve soon, and good reasons to think it's going to worsen. I can't blame them a bit for not wanting to gut military spending at this time.

Here is the Greek government's proposal, which lays out a substantial package of benefits cuts and tax increases. They are better because they are trying to tackle the problem, rather than being the guys who created the problem. They aren't very far at all from the position their creditors are demanding. It's not a black and white issue, but one in which they're hung up on a few points and, on balance, I think they have the wiser direction on those points.

Texan99 said...

The deal-breaker here probably isn't going to be in the details of potential reform over the next few years. It's going to be in Greece's demand that Germany fork over new cash for years to come. That's why I asked you, how you do conclude that their position not "free money forever"? I didn't see an answer. What about the new proposal makes you think they'll ever be able to pay back even the new advances?--let alone the existing debt.

Yes, the EU creditors knew this was a crazy investment, and I'm not crying for them when they realize they can't be paid back. But I also can't imagine why they should send in more money. From the point of view of Greece's survival, yes, this day-late-and-a-dollar-short proposal of spending cuts and tax hikes is a wiser direction than the economic collapse that is already well upon them, and it's exactly why they should have tried it before they ran out of willing creditors and had to shut down their banks and their stock market. (They're already well on their way to a barter economy! Look at this: But why is it a wiser direction for Germany? And if it's such a great idea but the Germans are too mean or shortsighted to see it, why aren't other countries lining up to write the checks?

Grim said...

Watching a socialist government descend into a barter economy is the fulfillment of a lifelong dream, I realize. I can't compete with the pleasures of that! :)

However, it strikes me that these socialists didn't actually make the mess that they've inherited, but they have been working on fixing it. As for why the Germans would sign on, I'm sure I don't know -- the EU doesn't make any sense to me, but the Germans clearly feel strongly attached to it, perhaps because it extends their control over their neighbors. Why they would do it I don't know, but that they are only a few small points away from doing it is a verifiable fact. Indeed, that concerns about repayment are not driving this is underlined, for me, by the attempt to get Greece to abandon its favorable position as an importer. That's one of its main economic advantages, which if anything is how I'd expect them to repay any future loans.

So something else than cold economic calculation is going on with the Germans. They're buying something for their money.

Texan99 said...

Watching people running out of insulin is not the fulfillment of a lifelong dream. It's time for me to take another--long--break from this discussion.

Grim said...

Nobody thought -- certainly not me -- that you were enjoying the sight of human suffering. The sight of socialist politicians getting their much-deserved comeuppance, perhaps! You'd forgive me, I hope, for thinking that you might enjoy watching a school of thought you hate fail hard.

A break is fine. I'm going walkabout for a few days.