Victor Davis Hanson: Greece Alone and Broke — Again

Victor Davis Hanson is a classicist and historian at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University, and the author most recently of The End of Sparta.

The indecisive Greek elections could be summed up in two general themes: Greeks want to stay in, and expect help from, the euro zone. But they still do not want to take the medicine necessary to stop borrowing billions of euros from northern Europeans, who want a radical reform of the Greek tax code, deregulation of the labor market, fiscal discipline, massive cuts in bureaucracy, and greater transparency — all unlikely given Greece’s history and contemporary culture.

So what lies in the future for Greece as it is slowly eased out of the euro zone and its civilization goes into reverse?

In theory, with the ability to devalue the drachma and be freed of enormous debts, the Greeks could return to business as it was practiced in the 1970s. In those sleepy days before the massive transfers of northern European money, I lived in a Greece that was a Balkan backwater without advanced surgery, autobahns, suspension bridges, sleek subways, or a modern airport. In that era of genteel poverty, divorce, abortion, drug use, and crime were rare in Greece. Now, all are commonplace. Back then, rural Greece was more Middle Eastern than European.

Yet the main problem with returning nostalgically to a world long gone is not the creeping return of Third Worldlike poverty, but rather the psychological shock of Greeks losing the European lifestyle that is now considered a birthright. For Greeks not to live like people in Munich or Amsterdam now would be far more cataclysmic in political terms than it would be had they never gotten hooked on Mercedeses, iPhones, and lattes in the first place... 

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