OPINION

Crisis as midwife

The crisis in Greece reflects the collapse of an entire economic growth model, one characterized by waste, illegality, a lack of accountability and a mentality that pervades all of society. Nevertheless, the Greek saying that «a fish begins to stink from the head» in no way absolves society. Longstanding relations of clientelism between the state and citizens have created a climate of guilty tolerance on both sides. The political system buys the people’s tolerance of its incompetence and sins by in turn putting up with widespread corruption among public servants, tax evasion and other forms of illegality. It is a system that has corroded values and killed the country’s growth potential. In order to demand respect for its laws, a political system must first be credible itself, and the fact that crimes are not only tolerated but sometimes even encouraged, has led to an avoidance of social responsibility that negates the rule of law and undermines any chance of overcoming the crisis. This does not mean that everyone is to blame. There are those who have not participated in this free-for-all, some as a matter of principle, most because of a lack of opportunity. But even those who have taken part do not bear the same responsiblity as those in power. In other countries that have found themselves in a similar position, ruling political elites have been brought down. Even in Turkey, three of the four main parties found themselves outside Parliament in the economic crisis of 2002. At this point, Greece not only needs another economic policy but also new political tools, another way of being governed. The crisis could and should function as a midwife for a new, healthier, more productive model of growth and development, but that won’t happen on its own. Yet the political system that led the country to the brink has neither the morals nor the political credibility to act. It is the corrupt ruling class that has embezzled the lion’s share of the fortune now being presented as a gigantic public debt.