By voting "No" with a large margin (61-39 percent), Greek voters demonstrated several important things. First, that they were not easily intimidated. Second, that despite a massive propaganda campaign by what the New York Times described as "the oligarch-dominated news organizations," they were not easily fooled.
What do they really want? That's the question everyone is asking about both the Germans and the Greeks. Aspirations explicit and veiled circulate. But recent events -- negotiations, stalemate, trash talk, referendum, shutdowns -- have moved many options off the table. A thunderous "no" vote in Greece drowned out the more pointed "no" from Germany. Both these negatives were expressions not of will but of weakness. Yes, that's correct, German weakness, too. Is this something Alexis Tsipras can exploit? On such a field of increasing obstacle and impediment is where the next battle will play out. Politics is like this.
This week, while the U.S. celebrates its independence, the world watches a modern Greek tragedy unfold as Greece votes on austere bailout terms imposed by the country's creditors. However the vote goes, one thing is clear: The austerity that came with the two previous bailouts has utterly broken the Greek economy. GDP has gone down nearly 30 percent. A quarter of the country is unemployed, including half of its young people. Pensions have been slashed. The health budget has been cut by 40 percent. Suicides are up 36 percent since 2008. The Troika has authored a new Greek myth -- that you can cut your way to growth. And now they're back, demanding more of what's already shattered the economy. The question is will they shatter the spirit of the Greek people? Just as we value our independence, so do the Greeks, who, after all, invented democracy. No matter the outcome of the vote, feeling some measure of control will help keep Greece's spirit alive.
The Greek government has squandered all its goodwill within half a year through a combination of arrogance, belligerence, naivety and utter incompetence. It set out to restore the "dignity" of the Greek people by "liberating" them from the alleged stranglehold of the Troika, while in the process "transforming" Europe into a more equal and just continent. It has achieved neither.
NEW YORK -- Some in Europe, especially in Germany, seem nonchalant about a Greek exit from the eurozone. The market has, they claim, already "priced in" such a rupture. Some even suggest that it would be good for the monetary union. I believe that such views significantly underestimate both the current and future risks involved. A similar degree of complacency was evident in the United States before the collapse of Lehman Brothers in September 2008.
BERLIN -- Tsipras squandered Greece's opportunity, because he and other Syriza leaders were unable to see beyond the horizon of their party's origins in radical opposition activism. They did not understand the difference between campaigning and governing. Realpolitik, in their view, was a sellout. Of course, it is precisely the acceptance of necessity that marks the difference between government and opposition.
ATHENS -- The current disagreements with our partners are not unbridgeable. Our government is eager to rationalize the pension system (for example, by limiting early retirement), proceed with partial privatization of public assets, address the non-performing loans that are clogging the economy's credit circuits, create a fully independent tax commission and boost entrepreneurship. The differences that remain concern how we understand the relationships between the various reforms and the macro environment.