The Other McCain

"One should either write ruthlessly what one believes to be the truth, or else shut up." — Arthur Koestler

Growing Up

Posted on | May 30, 2012 | 10 Comments

by Smitty

Victor Davis Hanson has another excellent essay on the situation in Europe. Read the whole thing. But let us focus on the Germany/Greece dichotomy.

In other words, it is as illogical as it is common for the wayward debtor to blame the thrifty creditor for his dilemma. The Germans now are in the impossible situation of being told they did something wrong by doing things mostly right. They retire too late and caused others to retire too early; they saved too much money so others had to borrow too much; they built too many things that others wanted; they acted too much like parents and so made others too much like children.
Right now the continent’s psychological problem is not that southern Europeans cannot pay the northerners back, but that they are often arguing that they should not have to pay them, as if those who lent are more to blame than those who borrowed. The Germans rightly know that if they were just to write off the debt, such magnanimity would only lead to the same disaster in another five years, as the southern Mediterraneans cited such largess as proof that the Germans were guilty all along of mercantilism and therefore finally evened up with their moral betters. For Germans, this serial blackmail is of course an impossible situation. Would you wish to be lectured by your poorer brother-in-law on why he should not have to pay your $1,000 loan back, as he critiqued your oh-so-conventional workaholic habits?

What comes to mind is the parable of the Prodigal Son in Luke 15. Let’s compare and contrast:

Parable Europe
Younger, decadent party animal son. He bottoms out. Repents. Greece seems a land of fops. Read the comments on the Hanson post. The cradle of Western Civilization sounds like it’s gone gutter. And, yet: where is the introspection? Where is the realization that corruption is the antithesis of what is lasting and virtuous? Where are the Greeks saying “We are an insult to our ancestors”? The Greeks instead seem to double down on dumb, like a trireme caught in a tidal wave of stupid, flung forward, wondering where she’ll land and if there will be anything bigger than a toothpick remaining after the impact.
Older, boring, effective son. Ah, Germany. When not starting wars militarily, Germany’s work ethic triggers tension economically. And yet, during the summer, you see more Germans at the Grand Canyon than Americans (to my embarrassment). How is it that the older son manages to get ‘it’, while the younger one swims in ouzo?
The god-like Father The father archetype in this juxtaposition is certainly not the EU, where that one dude is President, or something. Everybody looks for a patron, but all balk at the chafing that comes from being bound to that patron when he comes for the payback.

On a related note, I find myself chuckling at Ann Althouse, emphasis mine:

“Ann Althouse pushes back, and she has a point. But watch a few episodes of 16 and Pregnant and you might think that ‘it’s wrong’ is a useful heuristic for people incapable of fully understanding what ‘it will be hard’ actually means.”
Writes Instapundit, pushing back to my pushback on the “Dan Quayle Was Right” article.
Let’s take a closer look at this “useful heuristic” concept, which expresses something truly profound about the role of traditional religion and other conservative philosophies in society. Look at what is being admitted. There are a whole lot of people who are insufficiently smart, competent, and emotionally stable to make a decision involving a complex set of factors, so we need to dominate their minds with a starker structure of “right” and “wrong,” even where those of us who are really smart and able to process complex factors know it’s not really a matter of right and wrong.

As a matter of pedagogy, Ms. Constitutional Law Prof, how exactly do I explain to my 10-month-old that an electrical outlet, while perhaps fascinating, is not an object of play?

Neither the World’s Youngest Blogger nor the Greeks seem to have much of a mature grasp of the whole “work more/spend less” model of prosperity. The WYB is an individual. We can work with him as he grows. What, seriously, can be done with these Prodigal Greeks?


10 Responses to “Growing Up”

  1. Evilbloggerlady
    May 30th, 2012 @ 1:15 pm

    Another example of how Ayn Rand nailed this mindset do well.

  2. JeffS
    May 30th, 2012 @ 3:28 pm

    Lefties never grow up.  That’s the base problem.

  3. Adjoran
    May 30th, 2012 @ 4:06 pm

    You just can’t have a unified currency covering several sovereign governments.  It can only work so long as all of them remain within broad outlines of fiscal prudence (or all of them move in the same fiscal direction at the same time).   Where there are broad cultural and political differences, it becomes like herding cats.

    Inevitably, the sounder societies end up subsidizing the unsound ones.  There is a finite limit at some point, though, when hard-working, frugal, productive Germans tire of cutting back their lifestyles and working to 65 so that Greeks can retire at 50 at full salary from the state.

    For over two years, European bankers have desperately tried to put together one bailout package after another to avoid writing off their worthless Greek holdings.  It could never work.  The Germans have had enough and the Greeks can’t implement even the first austerity measures agreed upon two years ago.

    So Greece must default, the bondholders take a beating, devaluation and separation from the EU will be painful for a few years but in the end at least Greece has a chance to survive as a nation state.

    They should be happy.  In days of yore, it wouldn’t even take this much of a provocation to set German tanks rolling.

  4. Kenneth Hall
    May 30th, 2012 @ 4:22 pm

    The difference between the prodigal son (the lost sheep) and Greece is that — at least for the Greeks who have custody of the megaphone — there isn’t a lot of repentance on display.

    It’s one of the tougher parables, I admit, but remember the father’s answer to the older son (paraphrased here): “You  I always have with me, and all that I have is yours.” In other words, his virtue has been its own reward.

  5. Wombat_socho
    May 30th, 2012 @ 4:22 pm

     That’s half the problem right there. The Bundeswehr doesn’t have as many tanks these days as the Wehrmacht had in 1939, even if you lump in the Austrians.

  6. Adobe_Walls
    May 30th, 2012 @ 6:16 pm

    Aside from the moral hazards of all of the solution by bailout put forth by the EU to solve Club Med insolvency are the totally preposterous fix debt problems by borrowing (I didn’t know Joe Biden’s economic ideas carried so much weight in the EU). In every account I read of proposals put forth is the plan to “inject” say 100 billion euros into one of the saviors and then “leverage” that money to loan a trillion euros to European banks and Governments.
    What a despicably obfuscatory word “leverage” is in that context. The notion that one can borrow “data money” from someone who probably borrowed it and and then use that as collateral to borrow ten times that amount from others who’ve borrowed their money in order to lend it to the insolvent boggles the mind. This inverse pyramid can not possibly avoid collapse.

  7. Bob Belvedere
    May 30th, 2012 @ 7:59 pm

    Recently I watched the first of two episodes of Niall Ferguson’s Civilization: The West and the Rest and he made a very good point as to why The West triumphed and Ming Dynasty China did not.

    The West had competition.  They had an abundance of city-states, principalities, kingdoms, etc. all competing against each other for everything.  Practically everything, especially the currency, was decentralized.

    China, on the other hand, was one nation, with one currency, where all provinces answered to the central government.  Without competition, creativity is stifled, suffocated.

    Ming Dynasty China = The European Union.

    The current US Federal Government is almost at the Ming China stage.

  8. DaveO
    May 30th, 2012 @ 8:39 pm

    The Greeks have less.

    It’s the Chinese that one needs to worry about.

  9. johnl
    May 30th, 2012 @ 8:53 pm

    Ordinary Greeks do have a right to be angry at the Germans, for 1848, Carl Marx, the invention of public pensions, lots of things, but mostly for giving the Greek government so much money. How can an honest Greek have any control of his country or even his own life when Germany seeks out the most evil people in Greece and throws money at them?

  10. Adobe_Walls
    May 30th, 2012 @ 11:02 pm

    I submit that the Germans would not have given money to the evil Greeks if it were not for that whole European Unity thingy. Had there only been good Greeks to give the money to The Germans would have done so because of that European Unity thingy. But I think mostly that European Unity thingy saying that all countries within it will never default on their debts had the most to do with it. Because no matter how much Germans like giving evil people money (as we are all sure they do) I think they like getting paid back with interest even more.