The Crisis In Greece Can Be Explained By These Two Words

greece john iced coffee

Photo: Business Insider

ATHENS, GREECEAfter my first 24 hours in Greece, I said that one of my big surprises was the extent to which people blamed internal corruption, not Eurozone structure or Germany, for their problems.After another day spent in Greece, nothing has changed me from this view.

I spent this morning with a 31-year old computer engineer named John, who lives two hours away, cares for his mother who is ill, and is planning on emigrating to Australia in September.

John is a self-described Marxist, and he even wrote a book blasting globalization.

But even he spent a lot of time identifying internal corruption as the main problem in Greece.

Over iced coffee, he told me two words that basically sum it all up, and both come from the old Ottoman Empire days.

The first is Rusfeti, which basically means: “If you vote for me, I’ll give you a job.” This is the source of the massive public sector that everyone identifies as a problem. Supporters of New Democracy who get jobs are are called “blue shirts.” Supporters of PASOK who get jobs are called “green shirts.”

While left-wing leader Alexis Tsipras plans to expand the public sector, his opposition to this kind of patronage employment is apparently one thing that sets him apart from the old, mainline parties.

The other word, and this too comes from the Ottomans is Haratsi, which means that the local ruler (mayor, Sultan in the old days, etc.) has the right or ability to tax anyone for whatever reason, without the establishment of the rule of law. This is the essence of what everyone seems to acknowledge is a system of massive innovation with respect to not paying taxes.

Says John: “If you want to avoid these issues, the euro is the perfect decoy.” People will say ‘It’s the euro’s fault. It’s Merkel’s fault,’ if they’re not interested in addressing Rusfeti and Haratsi.

But of course even he sees the problems with the euro and globalization, and the fact that the system does not incentivise Merkel to address anything. The euro is “a problem [but] it’s just one problem.”

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