?(Forget about Greece, which is pretty much a lost cause; Spain is where the fate of Europe will be decided.)? This short sentence, a parenthesis in Nobel Prize-winning economist Paul Krugman’s latest column, speaks volumes about Greece’s position today. We are a ?lost cause? — an example so toxic that even the strongest supporter of stimulus spending and opponent of austerity wants to put as much distance between Greece and his theory lest we taint it. (Even the mention of Greece has to be caged in brackets rather than allowed to rampage across his text).
Krugman may be rude but he is right — to a point. Greece is a special case — where long-term political paralysis created a dysfunctional economy that could limp along only through infusions of huge loans and corruption. But the European Union, too, is responsible for not having the mechanisms to prevent the Greek economy’s derailment nor any special enthusiasm to bring it back on track. In this way, the Greek debt crisis undermined confidence in the euro as a whole until it spread to the other end of the continent, all the way to Spain.
If we are a ?lost cause? it is because we appear unable to manage our problems, whether they be in our economy, our country, our society. This is where we see our political system’s inability to play a responsible leadership role. While most citizens — the wage-earners, pensioners and law-abiding entrepreneurs and property owners — have suffered savage cuts to their incomes and are forced to live in insecurity and fear, they have not been offered even one bit of good news in exchange, not the slightest improvement in services nor the slightest feeling of justice. In other words, our politicians accept the political cost of depriving the many but they cannot (or do not dare to) organize the tax, justice and health systems nor the public administration and transportation, so as to improve citizens’ daily lives. It is as if this failure to make the few serve the many has no political cost.
If Greece is a ?lost cause? it is because our political system did not believe in the need for reforms and was content to play hide-and-seek with our creditors — taking the cash of loans but avoiding the responsibility of creating a national reconstruction plan. Without any proposals of our own it was natural that all we would do was wait for others’ demands and then — aggrieved — start running circles around ourselves rather than do anything useful. Now that others see the danger that we all face they watch speechless as we — who were the first to be exposed to danger — behave as if we have nothing to fear.
In the end, if we appear to be a ?lost cause? it is not so much because we failed to save ourselves. It is even worse: we did not even try.