Today I received an email that was impossible to ignore: “My name is HK and I am a 12-year-old Belgian student. We have been asked to formulate a question about a topic that interests us and then give a presentation about it in front of the group. The question I chose is: What was, or is, the social impact of the financial crisis a few years ago in Greece?” And here is the answer I just emailed back to HK:
Periodic economic crises are a sad but natural phenomenon in every capitalist (market-based) society. They are like bushfires that help forests replenish themselves through burning down the old trees, making room for younger ones, and improving the soil’s fertility. However, some forest fires are so intense that even the seeds burn down, leaving nothing behind them but a desert-like landscape. The global financial crisis of 2008, by the time it reached Greece in 2010, caused such a devastating crisis in my homeland. Once its flames died down, sometime in 2017, the whole ecosystem of Greece’s social economy resembled a socio-economic desert. We lost hundreds of thousands of well-educated young people (including most of our young doctors!), small businesses fell into permanent bankruptcy, the state is permanently insolvent and, thus, forced by its international creditors to charge tax rates so hefty that whatever ‘green shoots’ emerge they soon dry up and wither. Unless there is a systematic write down of state and private debts, this beautiful country will remain a wonderful playground for tourists and a debt trap for its inhabitants. As for those who insist that Greece is now peaceful and out of the woods, they need to be reminded of what Tacitus once said: Ubi solitudinem faciunt pacem appellant (They made a desert and called it peace).