It’s Greek to me


While traveling with a group speaking in various cities in the Middle East and Eastern Europe on the Austrian School of Economics, I found myself in Greece at the very time that its government is up-for-grabs and its economy is on the verge of collapse. The 350 or more folks that packed an auditorium in Thessaloniki (the second largest city after Athens) were concerned about the future of the country and its participation in the European Union. That night at a late dinner, I found myself sitting next to an affable Greek man whose spouse had served on the local organizing committee for the day’s events. After discovering that his sister had attended IU, our conversation ultimately turned to economics.

He asserted that the highest form of humanity thus far to inhabit our spinning rock were the ancient Greeks. He suggested that they spent their time in pursuit of enlightenment, not the avarice befalling (his words) the West today. He claimed that rampant materialism is the order of the day. Hmm. Didn’t those ancient men all have slaves to serve their material needs freeing them for other interests? Well, he conceded that slavery wasn’t ideal, but defended the short workday and early retirement of many Greeks. Then, I asked, were modern Greeks, by failing to address their significant debt to the rest of the EU while continuing to demand financial support, simply resting on the toil of others, specifically the Germans? Had the Teutonic people become slaves to a fresh Greek leisure class? My companion smiled and responded, well maybe.  Besides, he continued, the EU should never have allowed Greece to borrow from the beginning, so they deserved it.

Yet, as I reflected on our own growing deficit, I wondered if our generation is enslaving the next.  Somehow, it doesn’t feel right.