Sunday, May 2, 2010

The Greek tragedy

At The American Interest, Walter Russell Mead reflects on the situation in Greece and the difficulties limitations that culture imposes on a country's development:
The Greeks are a highly cultured people; the most popular slogan at the rallies was “The Croesuses should pay.”  Croesus was, of course, the extremely wealthy king of Lydia whose story appears in Herodotus.  The point of the protesters is that the rich should pay the costs of the economic crisis not the ‘blameless’ ordinary people whose only sin is to have voted for generations of demagogic politicians who promised to give them the moon and pay for it with other people’s money.
Greece is one of those countries like Argentina where conspiracy theories are widely seen as important intellectual breakthroughs.  As in Egypt and Russia, in Greece only a fool believes anything that authorities say; it must all be deconstructed to reveal the plots within.
In many parts of the world it is easy to spot a vicious cycle at work.  Because a country or a culture missed the visit of either or both of the two modernization good fairies (geography and culture) it starts out handicapped in the race to master capitalism and control their own destiny.  As a result, they fall behind, and lose power and control to other, faster rivals.  Capitalism becomes ever less popular, ever more associated in the public mind with a world system felt to be wrong and unfair.  Those feelings of alienation make it steadily harder for the country to adopt and follow the policies that could reverse the cycle and bring it success.  And so it goes.
Read the whole thing.  

Update: Riots with protesters killing innocent bystanders.

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