Russell and Duenes

Michael Lewis: “Beware of Greeks Bearing Bonds”

with 2 comments

If you haven’t read Michael Lewis’ latest piece in Vanity Fair, then you need to stop what you’re doing right now and read the whole thing. Not only is Lewis one of the most brilliant and engaging writers on planet earth right now, but this piece has a clear eye about what is happening in Greece, and by extension, what is happening in the morally and fiscally bankrupt shenanigans of our U.S. Congress and Administration, going back a few (Just think of Fannie and Freddie not being counted as part of the Treasury’s balance sheet as one example). An interesting subtext in the piece is the actions of a few monks in an ancient Greek monastery.

The larger point I take away, however, is that we never seem to think these days about what kind of people we’ll become if we accept the collectivist schemes of government into our lives. Yet all we have to do is look at countries that have had it for awhile. No one trusts anyone else and thus, the people can’t achieve the rudimentary civil society necessary for liberty and social health. My wife tells me that in former-Soviet Uzbekistan, where she lived for five years, no one trusts anyone else. Sure, they’re nice to each others’ faces, but get them behind closed doors and each slanders everyone else. How in the world could people be trusted? A statist/ collectivist society shapes people, and not in a good way. It makes people lazy, uncreative, ungrateful, suspicious and selfish. It leads to black markets, bribes, legalized theft and extortion. It certainly does not foster the virtues of honesty, excellence, honor, perseverance, and love for neighbor. Lewis obviously sees this:

The Greek state was not just corrupt but also corrupting. Once you saw how it worked you could understand a phenomenon which otherwise made no sense at all: the difficulty Greek people have saying a kind word about one another. Individual Greeks are delightful: funny, warm, smart, and good company. I left two dozen interviews saying to myself, “What great people!” They do not share the sentiment about one another: the hardest thing to do in Greece is to get one Greek to compliment another behind his back. No success of any kind is regarded without suspicion. Everyone is pretty sure everyone is cheating on his taxes, or bribing politicians, or taking bribes, or lying about the value of his real estate. And this total absence of faith in one another is self-reinforcing. The epidemic of lying and cheating and stealing makes any sort of civic life impossible; the collapse of civic life only encourages more lying, cheating, and stealing. Lacking faith in one another, they fall back on themselves and their families. The structure of the Greek economy is collectivist, but the country, in spirit, is the opposite of a collective. Its real structure is every man for himself. Into this system investors had poured hundreds of billions of dollars. And the credit boom had pushed the country over the edge, into total moral collapse.

This is all common sense and all inevitable in socialist/ communist economies and governments. But a larger question is: How did the people of Greece, and other countries like her, come to the place where such widespread moral failing is seen? What was once there that has been lost? I don’t think the answer is “capitalism” or “free enterprise.” What’s missing is true spirituality, as simplistic as that may sound. Which leads to Lewis’ question at the end: Even if it is technically possible for these people [the Greeks] to repay their debts, live within their means, and return to good standing inside the European Union, do they have the inner resources to do it? The answer is: Apart from repentance and faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, no! We here in America don’t have the inner resources either, and from what I can tell of what we’re teaching our children these days in the government schools, we’re going to have to learn the hard way.



Written by Michael Duenes

October 17, 2010 at 3:38 pm

Posted in Duenes, Economics, Ethics

2 Responses

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  1. You don’t seem to get many comments, but I want to remind you that I’m reading. 🙂


    October 17, 2010 at 5:17 pm

    • Unfortunately you’re right. I’d love to have my blog be a place where some learning could take place for both me and my readers, but I don’t get many takers. Thanks for reading. I appreciate your sight, too. Keep up the good work over there.



      October 17, 2010 at 8:00 pm

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