A bailout has, at least temporarily, saved Greece from bankruptcy, but no remedy has yet been provided for the social crisis that is brewing there. We’ve glimpsed this deeper crisis in the news coverage about bribes and tax evasion. But those problems have mattered really only because of their financial consequences. Bribes and false tax claims represent lost revenue that the state could have used to reduce its debt. Too, the measures that the government must enact as a condition for the bailout are limited to reducing public spending and engendering greater competition in the private sector. That combination alone is supposed to yield economic prosperity: growth, more jobs, greater tax revenue, less public spending, lower debt. But even if that were true, Greece would remain on the catastrophic course that led it to this point in the first place. In the pursuit of personal wealth, anything goes, so that urban sprawl, and traffic congestion, air and water pollution, crime, drug abuse, and racism are simply regrettable but unavoidable consequences of yet another prosperous capitalist democracy. Bribes and tax evasion, then, aren’t just financial transgressions; they are just two more short-cuts to the ultimate destination.
In case you think that I’m throwing “racism” around lightly, below is a recent news item from Kathimerini, a respected newspaper in Athens, which I translate from the Greek. Ask yourself how often you read a crime news story in which the ethnicity of the perpetrator is cited, and consider that Greek criminals are never identified by their country of origin in the Greek press.
An Albanian woman, 21, was arrested today at the Port of Iraklion, carrying 10 kilos of unprocessed Indian marijuana and half a kilo of heroin in her luggage. She had traveled from Pireus, and she was stopped by police officers from the Department of Narcotics as she was getting into a cab. The young Albanian had separated the Indian marijuana in 5 two-kilo packages and was carrying them in her suitcase, while she had hidden the 520 grams of heroin in her purse.