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Monday, February 13, 2012

More on misguided mindsets

I had made a post on passionate but misguided mindsets to which I received a very interesting reply. Below is that reply as well as my reply to it.

I fail to understand how this mess is related to selfhelp...

in all relationships, including borrower & lender there are two needed to tango. Could Greeks borrow if no one lend them? No, and why did they lend them? ...but to make money of course! and where did the borrowed money go? Italian clothes, French supermarkets, German cars tanks & submarines, American fridges & films... (that made many CEOs happy back then)

Yes, there were a few corrupt ones, just like the ones that exist all over the world (don't forget that the Siemens case started to unfold in US...), Greeks are not so good in hiding it... in other countries corruption is institutionalized!

Please, lets stop pretend about the bad Greeks and the innocence of the EU!

Please don't interprete this as though it were addressed to you personally because it might offend you and I don’t want to offend you.

The normal reaction to a sentiment which you also display is: grow up! Don’t look for excuses elsewhere even if there were good such excuses! Teenagers may lament to their therapists how they are helpless products of their parents’ mistakes. That’s fine. But at some point, everyone needs to start assuming responsibility for oneself, otherwise we have to trace the line of guilt back to Adam & Eve.

I am not saying that all Greeks are bad and that all the EU is innocent. If you browse through my blog, you will find that I am actually saying the opposite for the most part.

But what I definitely would say to all Greeks is: please stop putting yourselves into the victim’s role! I mean, you have got to have much more of a feeling of self-worth than to do that all of the time. Putting oneself into the victim’s role automatically means that someone else is put into the usurper’s role. And I really don’t know who in the world would be out to intentionally usurp Greeks. If you have an idea who that could be, please let me know. If you tell me it’s the Germans, I will explain to you with facts why you are wrong.

Since my wife is Greek, I have some understanding of what 400 years of foreign occupation can mean to the feelings of self-confidence and self-worth of a people. During those 400 years, other European “people” went through almost uninterrupted wars while Greeks had to be “subservient”. Those European “people” who survived those battles obviously came away with a greater feeling of self-confidence and self-worth than others who did not have to go through that process.

I have met many Greeks when I lived in the world’s 3rd largest Greek city (Chicago) and through my wife I have met many former Greek guest-workers in Germany. None of them were cry-babies. They were of the mold that they wanted to do everything possible so that their children would have a better future. They didn’t strike for that (because it wouldn’t have worked); they worked for that!

And that is the mold which I personally would require of Greeks when I am asked to send tax money to Greece instead of using that tax money in Austrian universities.


  1. good morning, Mr. Kastner. I have seen your 2am posting to this young greek chap.

    Isn't it time to purge the existing rotten system of symbiosis between transfer receivers, privileged bodies, social engineers and politicians, that do all live on the tax money of very few entrepreneurs and - if not sufficient - on debts?

    Isn't it a time to replace this rotten system with the money making machine of free, unregulated markets that make most of the people rich and leaves only very few behind?

    And isn't it a time to stop rewarding the poor Greeks for being poor, so that they have no incentive to get out of poverty?

    This is the economic environment that made all your brave Greek friends striving for a better future. And not the present etatist situation in Greece that promotes only envy, fear, and anger.

    And the most important, if it works for Greece, why should it afterwards not work for all the other EU states?

    Because, let's face it, Germany and Austria are only a few months - at most a few years - away from the present situation in Greece.

    Greetings from tough but free Singapore!

    1. Well, one can tell that you are formed and shaped in the free Singapore! I would just offer one caveat: a social system which works for one society does not automatically have to work for another. An American who moves to Austria might despair over the fact that everything is regulated and "protected" here. An Austrian moving to America might commit suicide for not being able to handle the emotional stress of not having "protection".

      You are right: the German and Austrian states are not all that much less bankrupt than the Greek state. Both have to borrow money to pay interest on existing debt. Certainly Austria is overregulated and overadministered and, to be honest, quite corrupt.

      The huge differenc is that both countries have very strong private sectors. Middle-market entrepreneurs who seemingly tirelessly work hard so that they can pay taxes which the state then redistributes. Austria has 8 million people of which 2 million support the other 6 million through social transfers. As long as the private sectors work so hard, the states can practically commit any idiocy they want to (and they always try hard to do that...).

  2. I am sorry but it is personal... that is why we Greeks will get rid of these ridiculous politicians quite soon.

    As a banker you should understand that all the mess is related to (lack of) trust and (shifting) risk.

    Suddenly, in just two years the world realized that Greeks are not trustworthy anymore... well, either some people in the past repeatedly and consistently did not do their job right trusting Greeks to enter the EC, EU, Eurozone, or we Greeks are the most canning people on this earth... The plain truth is that we are not as efficient as our EU partners, if we were, we would not be in this mess.

    The risk is shifting from the private banks to the central banks and funds. This minimizes the potential loses (of the interest) of the British, French, German, etc private banks. It is as simple as this.

    I truly believe that none of the new "aid" money is taken by the tax payers and is given for free to Greeks (and the rest of the PIIGS), I don't believe in any BS for EU solidarity and all this romantic stuff. It is simply safeguarding the other nations interests, past & future and making some money doing it...

  3. I agree with you entirely - and if you browse my blog you will find that this has been one of my major "battles" of the last year - that "help for Greece" has so far meant primarily using Greece's balance sheet (and tax payers' money) to bail out the banks. I call that the utter EU-incompetence (because one should never bail out banks so quickly) and charade (because it is a charade).

    You need to understand how financial markets (and banks) behave. In go-go times, the eye which normally sees the risk gets blindfolded and money is lent like there is no tomorrow. After the unavoidable bust, they all promise to have learned from this and never to make these mistakes again. Until the next go-go times, that is. This is not since the Euro; this is financial history!

    Regarding trusting Greece, a country which has the lowest EU-rating on the ease of doing business and the highest EU-rating on the corruption index has a tough position to start with with a lot of prejudices against it. Why banks still have lent so much money, I have explained above. I think the one accomplishment of Mr. Papandreou was that he managed to present a very serious, perhaps even a "new" Greece. He was trusted and people were impressed by him.

    The reality check comes when promises are compared with actions ("words are easy; action speaks"). That's where Greece failed completely. You can fail once and you may be forgiven. Perhaps even if you fail twice. But if you fail all the time and have to admit this publicly every quarter, then your credibility goes out the door. And this is what happened to Greece. Many people have sort of "had it".

    Now, I am not saying that this was done intentionally. Perhaps the political pressures did not allow Mr. Papandreou to act differently. But it happened and it cannot be made undone.

    There is a search box at the top right of this blog. Type in "Papandreou" and you will find a lot of articles on the subject.