Greece in America
Tibor R. Machan
Most of us who are aware of world financial trends know that earlier this year thousands of Greeks took to the street and mercilessly engaged in destruction of property around Athens. They were upset about having to tighten their belts in the wake of the possibility that some of their entitlements will have to be cut and their retirement postponed past age 57. In short, they were upset that the freebies they had come to take for granted may have to be reduced, even completely cut. Few of them seemed to have a clue about how one cannot get blood out of a turnip. After decades of living off the work and incomes of other people and future generations -- via borrowed funds -- the gravy train is very likely to reach its termination point.
In much of Europe the attitudes of these Greeks is routine. They have welfare states in spades and few have ever warned them about the hazards of living in such systems. These last few years may finally have produced such a warning but only by creating hardship for those who have become completely dependent on the system. Greece, Portugal, Italy, and Spain are just the more drastic examples. But the entire continent is experiencing the consequences of decades of profligacy. Instead of testing a truly revolutionary alternative to socialism -- which of course crashed with the demise of the old USSR and its colonies -- namely a consistent free market, capitalist economic order (with a proper constitutional framework) -- what most Western European politicians chose to do is to turn toward socialism with a human face, of the democratic kind (i.e., without outright police state policies).
This has been a strategy adopted in America as well. Promoters of more and more entitlement programs and top down federal and state government economic regulations have been clamoring for America to become a so called compassionate system (and throwing around accusations that adversaries and critics of government profligacy are mean, lack heart, etc.). These and similar ways were meant to accommodate the moral and political sentiments of the former Soviet system. The only difference is that while the Soviets realized that their planned economy requires the police state and met their demise by applying police state policies, the Western welfare states try to square the circle by preaching compassion and kindness while enacting laws and regulations that in fact require a firm hand by the government.
So after it is becoming clear enough that no system can survive with the reckless economic policies of the welfare state, what is left? We see the answer on the streets of New York and elsewhere with the attacks on Wall Street. Just as the Germans turned upon Jews, whom they irrationally held responsible for their economic wows, the Wall Street protesters are scapegoating a segment of the American population that not only does not deserve this but may actually be the last hope of the American and even world economy. “We don’t much like our situation, so let’s pick on Wall Street traders and companies and blame them for it.” What these people are calling for is just a bit short of stringing up or liquidating the very people who are mostly hard at work trying to earn a living for themselves and their clients.
Yet given the mainly mindless commentaries on the Greek, Portuguese, and Italian economic situations, given how so very few mainstream observers pick the correct culprit -- namely, the welfare state and its coercive wealth redistribution and punishment of productivity -- it is not all that surprising that young Americans tend to turn on those who are managing to make it in this economy. They feel, having been so urged to feel, that they are owed a living -- they have gotten free education and most of them are still getting one (protesting vociferously every time tuition is raised) as an object lesson and now that this can no longer be sustained they are picking on precisely those who carry very little of the responsibility for their circumstances.
Why are so many surprised with this? Almost all of the teachers, from elementary to graduate schools, have preached the welfare statist mantra that we all have a right to be taken care of. So what is one to expect?