Greece finally managed to pass the necessary austerity measures demanded by the EU as a requirement for the latest bailout of their sovereign debt — and their capital of Athens burned into the night as protesters violently reacted to the news. For a country that already has 20% unemployment, the deeply unpopular measures will likely stir up a hornet’s nest of radical activism long after these flames have receded:
As the Greek parliament approved a deeply unpopular austerity bill to secure a second bailout from the European Union and International Monetary Fund, protesters stormed Athens, setting fire to buildings and throwing bombs made of gas canisters at police.
The historic vote paves the way for Greece’s European partners and the International Monetary Fund to release $170 billion (€130 billion) in new rescue loans, without which Greece would default on its mountain of debt next month and likely leave the eurozone — a scenario that would further roil global markets.
But critics worry that the bill, which will reduce the minimum wage by 22 percent and slash one in five civil service jobs, will condemn the Greek economy to an ever-deeper downward spiral.
As lawmakers convened to vote, 100,000 protesters descended on the capitol. At least 45 buildings were burned, including one housing the Asty, an underground cinema used by the Gestapo during World War II as a torture chamber.
As Daniel Hannan at CPAC told me, it’s not difficult to feel some empathy for Greek citizens who are going to have to pay for the failure of their government — but that failure is due in no small part to the fiscal insanity demanded by the people in the form of nanny-state entitlements and government mandates. The likely reaction will be to demand even more of these in the future, but the actual solution is to get government out of the way rather than a guarantor of outcomes. The longer it takes the Greeks to realize this, the worse their problem will become, and even the latest EU bailout won’t make a difference if the Greeks — and the Italians, the Spaniards, the Portugese, and the Irish — don’t make fundamental changes in their expectations of government.
That also applies to Americans. Thanks to our relationship with the IMF, we’ll be participating in this EU bailout. When the Greece fire spreads to the US, there won’t be anyone left to bail us out. We’d better learn these lessons a lot faster than we seem to be now.