Sunday 23 October 2016

It's all Greek to many, but home economics can fix bailout crisis

Published 20/07/2015 | 02:30

'The Germans forced us to make cuts, but were they not for our own good?'
'The Germans forced us to make cuts, but were they not for our own good?'

I suppose it's easier to take an ideological view of economics rather than figuring it all out for yourself on a policy-by-policy basis. There's comfort in a leftist/rightist approach, even if everyone is completely wrong.

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As one lemming says to the other 'after you'. The challenge for all of us is to stay independent and to think rather than react or take the lazy way out by 'following the gang'.

So many people fit every situation into their big view of the world.

The Germans have been branded the baddies who want nothing more than to crush the poor Greeks. Just for kicks. As if the Germans would knock the craic out of blackguarding the Greeks.

The truth is the Germans would like nothing better than to solve the problems of Greece and to make sure there will be no repeat in a few years.

And if you play on the left wing, then the easy way is to say Greek Prime Minster Alexis Tsipras sold out on his principles.

I have always had difficulty in trying to figure out exactly who is right and wrong when it comes to economics - as I suspect most of our politicians do. So the only way that makes any sense is to reduce the equation down to the size of our own household budgets.

Your money comes every month and you pay off the bank and then deal with day-to-day spending on the essentials. If there's a little left over, well then you save it up for the kids' education or for that rainy day.

And so it is that we plan and try to make do. There was a school of philosophers who took a drink in our pub on mart days and their profound statements had a major influence on the assembly of thinkers and drinkers, as well as yours truly.

One of the philosophers was a small farmer - in stature and acreage - but between his ears there were prairies of brains, teeming with the rich harvest of wisdom. He was a pint man, but only when the young lad in the university had his fill first.

My friend called for a half pint. "Are you under the weather?" I asked.

The half pint wasn't his style at all.

"No Billy," he whispered behind his hand. "Men with small boats must sail close to the shore."

This was the Greek way of seafaring in ancient times. The Greeks were island hoppers and managed to sail long distances by taking the journey in stages.

So it's easy then. Cut back and live within your means. Pay as you go. We will go back to home economics.

How long do you think it would be before the next-door neighbours would start complaining if they had to pay for all your groceries?

So it is then that Angela Merkel had to be seen to be tough on Greece if she was to keep the voters on her side. She has being savaged by the German tabloids for helping out Greece.

Mr Tsipras is a socialist, but he was brave enough to lead Greece on the road to recovery. The bailout will be tough, but the Greeks weren't even collecting their taxes. Something had to be done.

I know the Germans forced us to make cuts that hurt us badly, but were they not for our own good? This will not be popular, but I think we would have been in the Greeks' situation if we hadn't done as we were told. This is the reality. There was no way Germany could allow us to keep on spending money we did not have.

What worries me, though, is the way decisions are made.

Staying up all night, as was the case in Ireland and Greece, isn't the best way to run a country. What shocked me most about our decisions was that the politicians didn't seem to know too much about economics and were forced into taking catastrophic decisions in the space of a few hours ... decisions that would impact for years on our economies.

Mistakes will be made in such situations and so there is a need for flexibility, which was sadly lacking in our treatment by the big stick people.

So there you have it from the kitchen table of a man who is neither left nor right nor in the middle.

Those who are locked in to an ideology always mould their views to suit a leftist or rightist purity of thought and action.

They fear isolation and lack the courage to agree with the other side when the other side just happens to be right.

The Greeks are wonderfully warm and friendly people. Kids and old people and sick people will suffer. There must be a hardship committee. And the Greek hardship cases must be monitored on an ongoing basis.

We must soften the need for fiscal reform by just looking after each other. That same principal applies in all religions and is the creed held by the good who are not religious.

We need to find new political and economic solutions where there is no hiding place behind failed ideology.

Mr Tsipras has taken the first step.

We hope his pragmatic patriotism and personal bravery will be recognised by his own people. And by those princes of capitalism who would send the Greeks on an odyssey to the world's end because helping out is not their way.

Philos is the ancient Greek for love and sophos meant knowledge.

We get the word "philosophy" from the Greeks and so once again this learned people can show the world how best to live and prosper.

Irish Independent

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