A Greek friend has written in support of yesterday’s second Greek bailout, believing that it will  keep Greece in the single currency and giving it the chance to institute deep structural and attitudinal changes.
I do of course agree with the need for a culture shift in Greece away from clientalism and towards more pragmatic, responsible and energetic engagement with the tasks of rebuilding the economy.  My doubt is whether deferring default and remaining in the euro are the routes to this goal.
I have three concerns with Greece staying in the euro: that the euro doesn’t act as a full common currency for any of its members because of the restricted role of the ECB which doesn’t act as it should as lender of the last resort; that staying in denies Greece the possibility of a currency devaluation which may be the one way to break out of the current deadlock and kick-start growth; and it also removes from Greece the important sense of taking full responsibility for its own future.  Better for Greece to quit the euro, repair its economy and return if the common currency is working better at that time and offers clear advantages to Greece as a member.  Otherwise we will be back where we are now in six months time, buying more time; or we won’t be because the cuts will have taken place but it will be more misery for the Greek people without ownership of the changes and without hope of what they can bring.  Where is growth going to come from after 5 years of decline without a Greek government willing and empowered – politically and technically – to make deep changes? After all, elections are coming up in Greece. Full democratic debate followed by commitment to a new path is not just a formal political legitimation of uncomfortable change, it is the only route to a process of deep national learning and a new politics which puts efficiency over cronyism and values honesty and transparency at every level of the national finances. However painful, these values and others that will guide change can only be decided by the Greeks. Otherwise they will simply not take root.
Perhaps it is also time to refloat the idea of English as a second official language in Greece.  In strategic economic terms the south-east corner of “official” Europe is not a bad place to be, with Turkey, North Africa and the Gulf all growing or poised for growth.  Plus it’s clear that EU membership is now off the agenda for Turkey so Greece’s position as the south-east corner boundary state isn’t going to be taken away soon.  A more open and competitive state in this position might be attractive to international capital.
The main cartoon in the the Guardian newspaper today, in the style of Munch’s”The Scream”  shows the patient Greece being pulled from the deck of an ageing old cruise ship by a line from a powerboat which symbolises the thrusting, energetic euro.  Crewmen on both ships have their thumbs up to signal that the Euro can now power away, pulling Greece with it; a happy outcome perhaps, except that the screaming Greek figure is being pulled by the Euro by his or her neck.  The metaphor is appropriate – the bailout isn’t for Greece – it is for more time for the banks of Europe to prepare against the shocks of Greek default.
The Greek tragedy that has been the European economy over this five year crisis seems always played out in terms of the inevitable clash of titanic opposing forces.  It seems that each political community is only able to identify with the programme of one of these massive interests in its totality, rather than seeking new ways to reconcile them, for example by protect banking business and domestic customers without protecting bank investors or the “bonus culture”.  We have made the business community our Olympian gods for so long that we have become craven supplicants at their sacrificial alter: politically trapped in indulgence of even their most bizarre social demands. We have to hope that Greece might say “no” not only for its own sake but for ours.