Newspaper article The Topeka Capital-Journal

George Will: Tantrum Masquerades as Governance

Newspaper article The Topeka Capital-Journal

George Will: Tantrum Masquerades as Governance

Article excerpt

When Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras decided to call a referendum on a bailout offer from Greece's creditors -- an offer that expired before the July 5 referendum -- he informed the Greek nation in a televised speech. At 1 a.m.

Mediterranean lifestyles are different. Greece's chosen style of living is dependent on others' choices.

Tsipras is a peculiar phenomenon, a defiant mendicant. He urged voters to do what they did. In voting "no," they asserted that Greece's dignity is incompatible with loans that come with conditions attached. Tsipras' Syriza Party insists, however, that dignity is compatible with perpetual dependency on the forbearance and productivity of others.

Karl Marx, an intellectual for whom labor as most 19th-century people experienced it was only a rumor, detested the division of labor because it "alienated" workers. But although Syriza partakes of the European left's unending romance with Marxism, its program requires a particular division of labor: Greece will live better than its economic productivity can sustain, and more productive Europeans will pay the difference. Until socialism arrives, Marx said, "the worker ... is only himself when he does not work," a sentiment many Greeks embrace by retiring on government pensions at age 50.

Left-wing parties in other southern European countries -- Portugal, Spain, Italy -- are watching to see if Greece can turn weakness, indeed prostration, into strength: Continue to rescue us or we will collapse into a contagious mess. Actually, the risk of economic contagion is slight: Greece's economy is about the size of Louisiana's, and is 2 percent of the eurozone's, and markets have discounted a Greek default. The real danger is a political contagion -- a flight from free-market reforms elsewhere.

It is said that the European Union is a splendid idea but that the euro -- the common currency -- is a bad idea. Actually, the euro is a bad idea that is the logical application of an even worse idea - - the European Union. …

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