The Economist as Novelist in the Greek ‘Crisis’

The European debt crisis is one of those times when economists are better understood as novelists than scientists, says Dalrymple at the Library of Law and Liberty, because the crisis is a story of social and political problems best portrayed by reference to history, psychology and sociology.

I hope I will offend none of my Greek friends when I say that their country is not one in which an Irish-type response to the crisis could happen. The Greeks are a talented people, but organizing a functioning modern state is not one of their talents. Mistrust between various parties is so great that none of them believes that there is such a thing as the national interest, or if there were such a thing that anyone could or would put it ahead of his own individual or sectional interests. Corruption is so general that it has destroyed faith in even the possibility of honesty. By contrast the Irish, though they hold their political class in almost as deep contempt as do the Greeks, believing them to be a pack of thieving or at least of self-interested scoundrels, retain a sense of national unity and purpose, no doubt a legacy of the long struggle for independence (and it helps that it is so small a country that no one is more than a couple of phone calls away from the highest powers in the land). An appeal to the national interest in Ireland in time of obvious crisis will not therefore be regarded cynically, as just another ruse of one tiny section of the population to deprive everyone else of what is rightfully his. A constructive attitude in one country is not automatically reproducible in another, and depends upon history and mass psychology.

2 thoughts on “The Economist as Novelist in the Greek ‘Crisis’

  1. Benjamin Rossen

    Greece is much like Italy. In these Northern Protestant lands we are, for example, astounded that the Italians can possibly elect the likes of Silvio Berlusconi to power, a demonstrably corrupt greedy power-hungry individual only seeking the gratification of his own ego-serving interests. But those who know the political culture of the Mediterranean, know too that such is expected of the political class; nothing else can be imagined. It is a self fulfilling belief.

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  2. Alex Bogaerts

    Let us not kid ourselves: our recent batches of politicians have smoothly adopted the “Greek system”. While that can be measured by their wealth before holding office and after, it is more than obvious when one looks at the wealth of EMP’s, especially those that took up “residency” after their national careers. Of course, former “Commissairs”, dropped in their European chairs through national politics, are not to be outdone when it comes to wealth-through-politics.
    Europe, then, resembles Greece, much more than taking after Ireland.

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