The Greek Tragedy of the Welfare State

Violence erupted across Greece as the crumbling welfare state has been forced to implement austerity measures as part of an agreement with prospective EU creditors to loan it more bailout cash.

Rioters took to the streets hurling Molotov cocktails and bricks to express their rage at having the cushy rugs pulled out from underneath their feet. Massive debt and unemployment has rocked the Greek economy, and the government seems helpless on how to correct the situation in a politically palatable manner.

As ‘global revolution’ protests continue to flare up, and America is facing its own potential conflagrations in the form of the Occupy Wall Street protests, which are inexplicably being backed by several major Democrat figures, it would be wise to take a glance across the pond from time to time and witness what decades of social democratic policies have wrought in Europe.

The New Deal, the Great Society, these were our own social democratic agendas, but they did not go nearly as far as the Europeans’ welfare programs, which led to their economies being generally dominated by the state.  Dependency is widespread in Europe, as is massive national debt. (And that’s factoring in American defense subsidies through NATO).

We are fast approaching these states in terms of public debt as a percentage of GDP, and in some ways, the scale of our debt dwarfs the Europeans.’ We cannot assume that we will continue to have largely shared prosperity as our country did in the past, while restraining our economy with private sector-hostile regulations and high corporate taxes.

What makes America relatively prosperous is our business sector, including our powerful and successful corporations. Countries without a strong private sector tend to be gravely impoverished, and that cannot be chalked up to American exploitation; because by extension, we are simply not doing much business in the more impoverished nations. We may be buying raw materials or unfinished goods from poor countries, but that is not the definition of exploitation. Not giving is not the same as taking. Hiring laborers is not the same thing as slavery.

If we as a people seek to avoid a fate like Greece’s, we need to begin turning things around. We must encourage more people to be net producers instead of net takers. That entails creating jobs, which logically means allowing success to be rewarded by the market, and non-success punished in kind. That is the only way we can learn as a people, and avoid becoming another Greek tragedy.

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