Monday, February 22, 2010

Greece & The Welfare State In Ruins

Click on the title of this post to read Robert J. Samuelson's article of the same name. Herewith:

"Conceived as a way to unite Europe, the euro increasingly divides. No one wants Greece to default, but no one wants to pay the price of prevention. With its own currency . . . Greece would pursue depreciation to spur exports and economic revival. If other countries dump the euro, currency wars could ensue. The threat to the euro bloc ultimately stems from an overcommitted welfare state. Greece's situation is so difficult because a low birth rate and rapidly graying population automatically increase old-age assistance even as the government tries to cut its spending. At issue is the viability of its present welfare state.

Almost every advanced country -- the United States, Britain, Germany, Italy, France, Japan, Belgium and others -- faces some combination of huge budget deficits, high debts, aging populations and political paralysis. It's an unstable mix. Present deficits may aid economic recovery, but the persistence of those deficits threatens long-term prosperity. The same unpleasant choices confronting Greece await most wealthy nations, even if they pretend otherwise."