The 13th Labour of Hercules, Yannis Palaiologos, Portobelo, 2014. This the first book I have found that specifically looks at the recent Euro crisis but from the Greek perspective- and it was Greece that was at the center of that crisis. The story told here by Palaiologos is sad, devastating, and frightening. It is a story of government corruption at its best (worst), with departments colluding with various ‘interested parties’ (not just unions, but some public sector too), to create an unsustainable economy. Greece was paying itself way beyond its means, for many years. Cronyism was rife. There are reports of corruption in healthcare, private sector regulation, telecommunications, transportation, energy and more. The corruption was widespread. And this was before the crisis and the author shows how these excesses explain much of the cause for why Greece has suffered so much while in the Euro zone. Even during the terrible resulting recession and bail out by the European Union, corruption still continued if only under other guises. The unbelievably sad riots of 2008, that heralded the public image of this Greek tragedy, are explained by the author as he travels back in time with numerous threads. The story unfolds over many years, from Dublin II and influx of asylum seekers from Eastern Europe straining the social fabric, to the ludicrous average wage rates of government-backed commercial organizations that far exceeded what performance and productivity should have paid, and finally onto the dangerous rise of extreme political and even anarchistic groups. What we saw in the news was the tip if the ice burg. This book exposes the real weight of the problem. It is hard to understand how so much could go bad, unnoticed and over such a period of time. How on earth the Greek state, once the center of civilization, and still an inspiration for us all, could be brought so low? How can a democracy create such a mess? About the only saving grace is that with democracy things can change, for better (or worse). So once exposed, hopefully rational voices speak up. With communism and socialism such corruption would just continue. Required reading for anyone wanting to understand what troubles sit at the center of the Euro Crisis (and why markets will take years to really trust the Greek government again. Recommended 8 out of 10.
And as a follow up, as I went to post this book review, there was an update to Greece’s financial situation in today’s US print edition of the Wall Street Journal, entitled, “Greece is Snatching Defeat From Jaws of Victory”.
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