It was the “Old Man of Democracy, as the late prime minister Georgios Papandreou became known, who said that “When the numbers prosper, the people suffer.”
Ironically, it is a left-wing government which today has set out to prove in the most cynical manner that Papandreou’s famous quote is completely applicable today.
In order for the numbers to prosper the Tsipras-Independent Greeks government forced people into suffering. In order to collect money for all manner of electoral handouts, it halted public investment, froze the issuance of new pensions, and forced the state to behave toward citizens like the worst delinquent debtor.
The super-surplus – that portion of the primary surplus which exceeds targets – is a number that prospers. Yet, it prospers at the expense of the whole of society, which is suffering. It prospers at the expense of the market, which suffers due to the lack of liquidity.
The combination is toxic. It is impossible for a society that is economically pressured and a market that is bedeviled by over-taxation to lead the economy to a growth path. Without growth, it is impossible to create new jobs. In other words, the numbers prosper, even though the unemployment queues are endless.
It has been said that this government has proved to be the best pupil of Greece’s creditors. That is a half-truth. The other half is that it proved to be a fervent supporter of a state that enriches itself at the expense of the social whole, which it is supposed to be serving.
Often in the past, the Greek state treated citizens as potential crooks. That explains its extremely bureaucratic structure.
Now it treats citizens as pariahs, and indeed as pariahs who can be bilked.