What’s so bad about austerity?

There’s a lot of talk about Greece lately, and not as a tourist destination. Greece is broke and may be removed from the European Union. Experts are conflicted on what the effect will be on world markets. While I worry somewhat about my global investments, I worry more about the state of us as a people.

Alexis Tsipras, now prime minister of Greece, ran on the promise of reducing austerity measures. These austerity measures were put in place by lenders who provided bailout money to Greece. Tsipras has gained popularity as he thumbed his nose at creditors and their austerity measures.

What’s so bad about austerity?

In economics, austerity measures involve reducing the government deficit, which means either raising taxes or decreasing spending, or both.

Hailing from the Greek word for severe, synonyms of austere include frugal, sober, restrained, and strict. None of these synonyms sounds like a lot of fun, and definitely not for such a hedonistic society.

Who likes a frugal friend when you’re sharing a bill at a restaurant? Who wants a sober perspective on our weight gain? Who wants restraint when we want to buy something fabulous? And what child ever asked for a stricter parent or teacher? Of course Tsipras was elected, basically, to make life more fun again.

No one wants to do without. Who would vote for austerity? Not the people who need it most.

And so, the Greeks are behind Tsipras, hoping his hubris is indicative of knowing another way out of the Scylla and Charybdis situation they find themselves in now.

I still can’t understand why there was a referendum about the austerity measures, let alone how the Greeks could follow Tsipras and vote 61 percent against them. We wouldn’t leave children to vote for a less strict teacher who was prepared to give them candy all the time and abolish naps. Someone needs to say “no” to the children, rules are there for a reason.

If you’ve made your bed, you have to lie in it. Even if it is a simple, spartan bed. You don’t get to buy a pillow-top mattress and silk sheets first.

It’s reminiscent of the financial crisis in the United States where people thought they were entitled to buy houses with little to no down-payment.

Are we now all gluttons who don’t want to diet? We can’t eat whatever we want, whenever we want without consequences to our actions.

It’s the same on the financial scene. Increased taxes are no fun for citizens, nor is decreased spending, but that is the bed. Sisyphus needs to get pushing: steep tax increases and decreased spending will hurt, but are do-able.

A feeling of entitlement sweeps the globe. This entitlement, in terms of Greek tragedy, is our fatal flaw, and seems to be leading to our downfall. Question is, can we pull up before we crash?

What’s worse, is that with all these entitled voters, we also see a vacuum of leadership with our politicians. Politicians are focussed on promising what is popular and not what is right. Unfortunately, they get elected on promises to fly us all too close to the sun.

This is not just a Greek tragedy. Gluttony and entitlement may well be the tragic flaw that leads to the undoing of many more than just Greece.

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