You can almost hear Robin Leach snootily addressing his audience in the popular 1980s TV show Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous when you read this:
See that demoractic government? You can’t afford it.
By hook and, literally, by crook a while back, Greece joined the European Union and replaced the drachma with the euro as its currency. Two national bailouts and another one currently cooking in the oven later, the country is on its knees, on the verge of swallowing a deal that will likely see its Scandinavian-styled welfare state severely downsized and its key infrastructure works and prized national treasures possibly seized or held as collateral by its wary creditors.
The story of Greece is really a short one. First, the country entered into commitments it could not honour. It tried to join a clique of nations it was not equipped to keep up with and pandered to socialist ideals without the resources to back it. Second, it consumed without producing. By a lot of accounts, much of the proceeds from the massive debt it incurred were wasted on bloating its bureacracy and bribing its voters. Funds were spent rather than capitalised. Instead of going into permanent assets that generate income, improve productivity, and expand equity, funds were pissed away into the wind never to be seen again.
It’s simple financial management. You either save your money for use later when your income can no longer sustain you or you invest it in durable stuff that can deliver you value over a sustained period. If you spend your next euro on things that disappear (or significantly degrade) after a brief dopamine fix, that’s one less euro to brighten your future.
As my colleague Ilda wrote earlier, there is much the Philippines can learn from Greece.
For one thing, Filipinos must re-evaluate the things it focuses on. Democracy is one of them. Can Filipinos really afford “democracy”? Democracy is a tool rich countries use to govern themselves. But in the hands of a Third World society, democracy is a mere toy. A referendum early this month that resulted in a popular vote to defy Greece’s creditors did nothing to solve its vast problems. Funny enough, democracy extremists laud national referenda and call these exercises democracy’s “purest” forms. Referenda, unfortunately, removes the intellectual layer provided by elected representatives (such as the members of parliament) that acts as an intermediary between mob “wisdom” and the educated structured debate that parliaments and congresses facilitate.
So while it may be argued that ordinary Greeks “had spoken” in that referendum, the reality came to bear upon that quaint notion when the long-term consequences of that kneejerk vote came to light. Indeed, the biggest humiliation to the Greek government today is seeing a Far Left government bowing to the capitalist rules of the powers-that-be in the Eurozone. Nice work, comrade.
Coming back closer to home, to the Philippine setting, we see the way Filipinos have also retarded themselves to using democracy as a mere toy rather than a real tool for modern governance. We can see in the Philippine national “debate” in the lead-up to the 2016 national elections that there is hardly any trace of intellectual substance in the rhetoric dished out by the Philippines’ so-called “thought leaders” and opinion shapers. The candidates being evaluated all fall far short of the bar set by real statesmen of a calibre that makes real sovereigns and real national leaders. Yet the national obsession remains fixated on the three- to four-odd bozos vying for that lucrative seat in Malacanang.
That’s Philippine-style democracy at work. Moronism trumps intellectualism on a national scale to the tune of billions of dollars routinely entrusted to crooks and idiots thanks to the inconsequentially drivelous talk that passes off as “political debate” in the eyes of 100 million starstruck citizens.
Greece and the Philippines are the same. They are countries that happen to be physically located within the economic spheres of prosperous regions. Both may have once been prosperous, but it was more a sad prosperity-by-osmosis as neither are true engines of wealth creation in the sense that the highly-capitalised economies of Northern and Western Europe and northeast Asia are. Rather, Greece and the Philippines, like lizards, merely bask in the sunshine of Western European and northeast Asian wealth respectively, their reptilian internal metabolisms regulated by the hour by an external source of energy. Unfortunately whenever storm clouds move in, the rays disappear underneath. Meanwhile, the sun continues to shine above the clouds.
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