Arianna Huffington recently returned to Greece and reports her observations about the protests there which she likens to the Egyptians in Tahrir Square. She claims that the media are not covering them properly, for one thing. And she argues that what is at issue is not economic austerity but democracy itself. This debate has implications throughout the developed world.
Nevertheless, the media's focus is on the shrunken and pinched debate about austerity. Instead of a debate about how to tap into the human and natural resources Greece teems with, all we hear is about how deeply services should be cut. Well, the Greeks don't do pinched well. They're an expansive lot, and if any people can pry open this dangerously narrow debate with their humanity, it's the Greeks. Because this isn't just a policy debate -- it's a debate about what the big outlines of what we call democracy are going to be for the next century. The forces of the status quo would have you believe austerity is the answer -- that it's the answer in Greece, the answer in Spain, the answer in the UK and the answer in the U.S. But it's also clear that it's not just the Greeks who want something more out of civic life than they're currently getting.
In fact, austerity is not the answer even in the purely economic debate. As the Guardian's Michael Burke shows, the problem Greece is facing isn't due to too much spending. "Falling taxation revenues are the problem," he writes, "as the cuts themselves have sent the economy into a tailspin." He also explodes another Greek myth (the non-ancient kind) prevalent in Europe right now -- that the Greeks are lazy, and that's what brought their problems on. As he notes, Greeks work the second-longest weekly hours of any workers in Europe and have the highest level of weekend hours worked.