Indeed as soon as support for banks has limits, which were always suspected and now confirmed for Cyprus and Greece, a Euro in one country's bank is not worth the same as a Euro in another country's bank. So it's not the same currency.
There are three currencies called Euro today: The one in Cyprus, the one in Greece, and the one used by the rest of Europe. These currencies are artificially pegged by capital controls, but they're not the same.
What does a No vote mean? Inside the Euro I don;t see how it means anything but endless fighting, uncertainty, and punishment. A No vote should mean leaving the Euro and using the new national currency to revive the domestic economy.
I think a No vote for Euro will be a good thing for all sides. Greece gets monetary policy tools to repair its own economy and ultimately be better able to pay creditors. The EU, hopefully, gets the clue that the gold standard concept of the Euro beloved by Germany / Austria / Benelux does not work for all economies.
The Greek government (current and prior) is obviously to blame for completely f**king up the country. Remember, Greece was warned by the EU about its economic situation all the way back in 2004. That’s 11 years ago. The Greece Government has repeatedly lied about its economic situation, all the way back to when it was first accepted into the Eurozone to begin with. Meaning that the only reason why Greece is even part of the EURO today is because they falsified their budget data so that it looked like they met all five accession criteria. We should have thrown them out of the EURO back in 2004, but… well… European imperialism took precedence.
The population of Greece is to blame for a ton of different things. It’s not just a long history of tax fraud and terrible levels of economic history, there is a cultural element to it as well.
And the international bankers and the EU are to blame as well. They might have meant well when they started borrowing money to Greece, but when we continued to lend more and more, somebody should have said stop years ago. Today, the situation is such that Greece is so debt ridden that it’s has very little real chance of changing it. For the remaining months of 2015 alone, Greece is due to pay back $18 billion EURO alone, of a total debt of €271 billion. … and to do that, Greece has asked to borrow even more money.
You don’t have to be much of a banker to realize that this can’t end well (and it hasn’t).
But, in all of this, there was one thing that I was missing as a reader. I had nothing to compare this with. We see all these big numbers, but how does that compare to, say, the situation in my country, or in yours?
So, yesterday I decided to do something about and I went over to IMF's databank (http://goo.gl/plDn5f) to get some sense of things. I downloaded the data and ran the numbers, and you can see the result in the graphs in this post.
Let’s look at them one by one:
First, we have Gross Domestic Product per citizen, which is a weird number, but it’s purpose is to illustrate the economic output of all the activity that takes place within a country. In other words, it’s a measure of the economic value of the work done by its citizens. And in this graph we find that Greece performs very poorly. Its GDP is half that of the rest of the EU. So that’s obviously bad.
In the second graph we have the unemployment rate. In most of Europe, the unemployment rate is between 4-8%, which I consider to be high. But in Greece it’s almost 25% of the employable population. That’s insane!
What the frak are they doing? Mind you, this is not just the fault of the Government. This is very much the fault of the whole society of Greece. The Government by itself can’t change this. You need markets such as what we see in the US where people dream about doing stuff. Where you have a culture of startups, building your own dream, and conquering the market.
Is this hard? Oh yes! Is it double hard if you don’t have any money to do it with? Absolutely.
So, what does all this have to do with the debt? Well, the problem is that the way you look at debt at a country level is that you do so in comparison to the economic output. The better you are at translating production into economic value, the ‘safer’ you are at lending money to.
Thus, to evaluate debt, we need to look at Debt compared to GDP. There are a few countries in Europe who is doing amazingly well. Norway really stands out (they are just amazing). Finland, Sweden is doing nicely as well, while Estonia is just at the right side of things. My country, Denmark, used to be on the right side, but have recently failed to keep control of things and have started slipping. Greece, on the other hand… is at the absolute rock bottom in terms of how much money it has borrowed compared to its annual economic output.
And this is the basis of the problem. The bankers have had enough. You can’t keep lending money to a country like that. It’s unsustainable. What Greece should have done was the same as in Latvia. Latvia is the country with the lowest GDP of all (in my comparison) and with a fairly high unemployment rate (at 11%). But despite this, it has forced itself to moderate its expenses which has kept its debt at a very low level. So while Latvia’s economic situation is as hopeless as that of Greece’s, It doesn’t have a crippling level of debt to deal with too.
This is really the basis of the problem.
However, we now come to the interesting part. Because all those numbers sound incredibly as a country. But what is the impact on a personal level?
For instance, if Greece’s government were to ask its citizens to bail it out, how much money would each person have to pay?
Well, we can find out by looking at “Government Debt per Citizen” … and it’s quite interesting. Again, we see Noway, whom have so much money that it’s ridiculous. In my country, well, we owe about €7.8 billion, so that means every citizen could pay out the loan by paying about €1,400 each. In the Netherlands, they owe $233 billion, so each citizen would have to pay ten times as much (€14,000/citizen) to pay out their loan. Here we are getting into the really painful zone.
Greece? Well, if the Government of Greece were to ask its citizens to pay out their debt, each citizen would have to pay €28,190 each… and this is from a country where the annual average salary is €9,360. That’s three years total salaries for each person.
But the really crazy part about this, is that this doesn’t even come close to that of the US. The US has borrowed €13 trillion to cover all its many expenses (mostly related to wars). Meaning that the US citizens would have to pay €41,140 each to pay out its debt ($46,000).
It’s the same for France, Italy, UK, Ireland and Japan. Each one of these countries have borrowed more, per citizen, than Greece. But of course, each one of those countries also has a much higher level of economic output, which Greece doesn’t.
Another way to look at this, is to look at the Government balance per citizen, which is quite fascinating as well. This tells us how much money a country is spending more than its earnings in taxes per citizen. In any respectable country, this number would always be zero. As in, the government should operate as a non-profit. It should neither earn or spend more than it has. A few countries in the world manage to do that. Norway again is insane. The Norwegian government actually earns €5,000 EUR, per person/year after all expenses have been paid (which makes you wonder why they still have such a high tax rate). Germany mostly breaks even, just like South Korea, New Zealand… and Greece.
This is incredible. When you read all the news reports about Greece, you are led to believe that the Government is spending ghastly amounts more money than they have. But in 2015, it’s only spending €129 per citizen more than it earns in taxes.
Wait… what? That’s nothing.
Compare that to my country, Denmark, who is planning to spend about €1,000 more per person than what it earns (we really need some new politicians), France that spends €1,300 more per citizen that it earns, the UK who spends €1,950 more per citizen, and the USA who spends €2,150 more per citizen than what it earns.
Greece is not in any way spending that much money (at least not anymore).
This leads us to the final question. How much money does Greece actual spend per citizen? From the news reports, it sounds like this is at insane levels.
Well, take a look at the final graph called Government Expenditure per Citizen. Here you will find that Greece is only spending €7,300 per citizen, which isn’t that much money and puts it at the very low end.
In comparison, Germany and the UK each spends about €16,500 on each citizen per year. The US spends $18,500 on each citizen (more than 10 times the amount that Greece spends). And then we have the countries of Scandinavia …oh boy…
Finland, Sweden and Denmark each spend about €24,000 per citizen, per year. That's just insane. That’s a full year of salary that the Government spends on Government services and bureaucracy. Norway is even more insane. It spends €31,000 per citizen per year.
Granted, we also get a lot from this money. We have free health care, full social security, supported child care, one year of support maternity leave, free schools (in fact, paid for schools because our Governments pay people when they take an education) and so many other things. We have what we call a ‘welfare system’.
But it’s an incredibly expensive welfare system.
So, it’s kind of pathetic when EU politicians demand that Greece should reduce its costs. Greece already spends almost nothing on its citizens. They do not even come close to the levels of spending we see in the rest of Europe.
And this is the whole point. The way to save Greece is not to reduce costs. That won’t really solve anything, because it’s already incredibly low. The real problem is the terrible level of economic output.
If we want to save Greece, that the only real way of doing this is to find ways to dramatically increase the GDP and facilitate the level of economic activity.
So, how do we do this? Well, I surely don’t know how one the level and time scale of what we see in the Greece. Also, because this is mostly a cultural issue. You cannot increase the economic output without a cultural desire by its people to work their asses off.
We have that culture in Northern Europe. We have that in the US (that’s why so many new companies are born there), and we definitely see the same culture in most of Asia. We don’t seem to have that in Greece.
So, how do we facilitate a change in culture on a country wide scale?
Well, my suggestion is this:
1. In the short term, we need to relieve the crippling burden of the debt. So, I suggest that we put all depth payments on hold for 10 years, at zero interest. In other words. Greece will still owe €310 billion, but it won’t have to start paying it back until 2025. And during those years, this money won’t change in value (except for global inflation rates). But, those ten years have to be about change. And Greece would have to be accountable and completely transparent about its progress.
2. We also need to put an immediate halt to borrowing Greece anymore money, again for the next 10 years. They have to make due with what they have.
3. We need to change the tax code, so that we facilitate new economic growth, for the long term. Specifically, I suggest that Greece exempt startups from paying taxes at all, up to a revenue of €150,000 EURO, and from €150,000 to €300,000, the tax rate will gradually increase, until at €300,000 people and companies will have to pay full taxes. What's that ‘end’ tax rate should be depends on the current expenses of the Government.
This way, all those 24% who are currently unemployed would be financially encouraged to dream about starting something new, by themselves. This will force everyone to become far more productive, especially because of the early reward they will gain in the early years of progress. It will also mean that Greece would no longer have to pay social security for all those people, even though it won’t earn any taxes from them either (but that is a net positive).
Is this going to be enough to kick-start a new economy? I don’t know. But it’s a start. And I think it’s a much better start than the crap they are currently discussing.
- Toshiba2009 - present
- Barco2004 - 2009
- Voxar1994 - 2004
- University of Edinburgh
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