The Greek crisis is a moral crisis

The Greeks have lived beyond their means for decades and are now reluctant to pay the bill.

Their leaders are wreaking havoc in the European Union (EU), which has been giving them generous aid plans for several years. Would it not be immoral to place the burden of the mismanagement of the Greek state on the European taxpayer? The “serious countries” have done well to set up this irresponsible government, whose setbacks are a warning to countries that, like France, fail to “reform” their economy at a satisfactory pace.

This litany – a kind of ordoliberal remake of the fable of the Cicada and the Ant – is resumed in the chorus at each jolt of the Greek crisis. Draped in “common sense” and “morality”, it makes the happiness of the coffee trade. Yet, in this case, despite appearances, “morality” and “common sense” do not necessarily fit together, for at least three reasons.

First, what about the responsibility of so-called “virtuous” countries?

In 2010, while the EU imposed harsh austerity measures on Greece, the Germans sold Greece a submarine and 223 pieces of artillery worth 475 million euros (France was not outdone, refilling the same year for 935 million euros of military aviation equipment). Since the beginning of the crisis, Greece’s social spending has fallen by 9%, while its military spending has increased by 18%! Is it “moral” to improve its exports by pushing a partner in quasibanqueroute to acquire weapons that he does not need, thereby contributing to aggravate his debt, before designating him to the public vindictiveness as sole responsibility for his misfortunes?

Secondly, what about the responsibility of banks and financial markets? Recall that each debt is also a debt, which, at the time it is granted, engages the responsibility of the creditor, who is supposed to have assessed the creditworthiness of the borrower- payday loan consolidation via visit the website. International banks, which have opened up the floodgates of credit to Greece for several decades, before continuing to lend to this country at usurious and unrealistic rates, are therefore co-responsible for the current situation. Crisp detail: the accounts of the Greek state were certified by the investment bank Goldman Sachs at the time of entry of the country into the euro area. This same bank was at the forefront of the speculative attack on the “rotten” bonds of the Greek state, which caused interest rates to soar in 2009! Is it moral to postpone the entire burden of this over-indebtedness crisis on a weak and isolated state, by exonerating its otherwise richer and more powerful lenders from their patented responsibilities?

Tertio, what about the responsibility of the “experts” of the troika? Greece belonging to the euro area, two solutions were available to rebalance its external position vis-à-vis its European partners. The first, which is the one adopted since the outbreak of the crisis, is to make the Greek economy undergo a “cure of austerity”, that is to say to strongly lower prices and wages. This economic policy, which is very costly socially and politically risky (because it undermines the moral legitimacy of the EU) is presented to us as the only way out. However, any macroeconomics textbook teaches us that it would be possible to gradually rebalance Greece’s trade balance, if countries with a trade surplus with it (Germany in the lead) had increased their relative prices and demand imported products, by a significant increase in wages. This policy, which would be faithful to the spirit of European solidarity – but contrary to the short-term interests of the industrialists of the surplus countries – could at least have been combined with the fiscal consolidation efforts demanded of Greece, but was systematically ignored. during negotiations. Is it moral to put the full weight of adjustment on the Greek population, and more particularly on the most vulnerable (the young, the sick and the elderly), while other less painful macroeconomic solutions could be envisaged?

It is astonishing to note that these three elements, which are verifiable and regularly taken up in the international press, are systematically ignored in the French debate. Decidedly, the Greek crisis is a moral crisis. But not necessarily the one we believe.