July 30, 2014

Greece as Political Time Bomb

David P. Goldman posted this today on First Things’s blog First Thought.  He describes the economic situation in Greece and sketches out some of the social causes and possible outcomes.  In my heart I want what I read here to not be true–but I suspect my hopes are misplaced.

In Christ,

+Fr Gregory

On Feb. 12, I posted this item at my “Inner Workings” blog at Asia Times and on the Spengler blog at First Things:

Although Greece is an EC member, its finances and political system have the character of a banana republic. EC membership, though, enabled Greece to borrow far more money than any banana republic, such that the country’s debt-to-GDP ratio is about triple that of Argentina just before the latter’s bankruptcy in 2000. And because Greece is an EC member, the size and adumbrations of a bankruptcy would be much, much larger than that of any Latin American country.

Earlier I had assumed that we were watching a negotiation: Brussels would shout “Never!,” the Greeks would throw tantrums, and eventually some compromise would be reached and the situation would be stabilized.

Closer examination of the political situation in Greece makes me less optimistic. Greece may be suffering from an inoperable cancer, in the form of a degree of corruption that make a resolution without bankruptcy very difficult to implement.

Here are some comments by a political observer in Athens who has written to me privately:

Corruption in Greece has been systematically cultivated by all governments and parties. Everyone has relatives living off the public sector in cushy, do-nothing jobs. They get paid through various funding sources that successive governments have created so even though the nominal wage is low the actual take home and all benefits are quite high. Another important dimension to the public participation in corruption is that the rich by and large do not pay any taxes. The only people who pay are those who can’t escape the clutches of the state: pensioners and civil servants i.e., sectors where the salaries can be accounted for. According to the President of the National Bank of Greece, 30% of the budget of the last administration was unaccounted for—yes, just disappeared into the coffers of their families and well-wishers, and I would guess the other 70% was never audited.

The common psychological traits of the corruption are what the ancients called alazoneia (brash presumption of knowledge by the ignorant) and anaischuntia (shamelessness). All public institutions have one purpose: Suck money from the EU (or via loans) and redistribute it through an inverted pyramid of chicanery with the the loaf going to the top, the crumbs to the bottom. Most people in their little niches of decay are “expert” at this. They “know” the ropes. As the country psychologically devolves there are no lines demarcating the “good from the “bad”, “responsibility” from irresponsibility”. No one ever goes to jail; no one gets punished.

The Europeans know the state of affairs in the country (which they contributed to for a variety of reasons). They know that no Greek government can implement reforms through a political process of consensus. The people are waiting for their doles; the students are waiting for their payback (cushy jobs somewhere), the unions, the coops are all poised to demand their due from the machines that serve them. Meanwhile the rich are sending money out of the country (Switzerland and Cyprus) in the billions out of fear that the government may have no recourse but to grab part of their accounts in the future.

Hence it seems to me that the only game in town is to put Greece under complete receivership with all orders coming from abroad for fiscal cutbacks and the like. Since the EU has no machinery for doing this and the Greek government could never have a consensus for such a program, these measures will be accomplished through fear. Greeks will be left dangling at the mercy of speculators and others, yet at the same time tacitly supported, so that with each assault the Greek government will be implementing (in a climate of panic and fear) some new unpopular measure to mollify the rating agencies and bondholders. The Greeks have not yet woken up to this new reality. They still think EU is Santa Claus or that someone will bail them out (maybe the Chinese!). The lollipops are being taken away and whatever sweets are left will probably go to prop up the banks.

There are two ways in which this scenario may fail: (1) the growing resentment of the German public especially and their unwillingness to bail out Greece. This raises the possibility that at some critical point the EU (due to populist outrage) may not be able to act decisively to stave off a run on the Greek banks. (2) Slide into anarchy in Greece itself. There is always the possibility that the combustible parts of the corrupt machinery start to ignite patches of fires here and there with hard-to-predict possibilities for touching off more general conflagrations.

For now the scenario is working. But nothing really has yet happened in the country. For the man on the street all of this talk about austerity is still just future legislation, measures in the pipeline, at worst manageable cutbacks that reflect the government’s rosy projections.

If all goes according to plan Greece will be ruled by the bankers from abroad with successive waves of crises leading to new cutback-measures and “reforms”. The road will be bumpy and the ride dangerous but manageable. But one should not discount the possibility that psychological despair and irrationality (fueled with desires to live the good life on a dole) may not spark suicidal actions along the way. Keep in mind that the youth have been completely alienated (corrupted and ‘consumerized’ by their parents) and their despair adds another factor of instability.

The country is sliding into psychological despair within a cocoon of unrequited desires that have been inflamed and legitimized over the years. Anger is rampant. Yesterday on the bus a student gave his ticket to a lady, telling her that she should use his ticket because he was getting off. Someone called out that this was shameful “thievery” to which the youngster responded: “I am stealing 50 cents but the government and the banks have stolen 50 billion!” Many nodded in approval.

Prime Minister Papandreou was on television last night, white as a ghost. He was telling the Greek press that he was thankful that the IMF was “offering” their technical expertise (technognosia) to Greece. Yes money is not coming, but how sweet of the IMF to be sending its experts to dictate terms over the next few weeks. It seems that someone in Europe gave him the unexpected news that the party is over. This reality has not yet even remotely begun to set in here. The media are giving the message that “the Europeans can’t afford to let Greece go under….that Europe stands to lose too much….that Merkel and those stuffy Northerners will have to come to Greece’s aid.”

When the reality does start seeping in—hold on to your hats….

One of the delusions is that there is a moral kernel in the country that we can turn to for consolation and renewal. There is no such thing. The corruption went too deep. The country is completely unprotected on the cultural and moral front. This too has not seeped in. And yet when people become desperate; when their world starts to crumble around them and all their delusions about themselves and their good life not only collapse, but do so without any legacy to fall back on and no dream to look forward to, then beware. We are in unchartered territory where Furies and Ate pilot the ship.

From: Greece as Political Time Bomb » First Thoughts | A First Things Blog (24 February 2010)

Comments

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    John Panos says:

    One of the delusions is that there is a moral kernel in the country that we can turn to for consolation and renewal. There is no such thing.

    So much for the omogenia, the GOA is constantly touting. God help us when, not if, such a crisis comes to America; the Orthodox here had better clean house now so as to have something helpful to say and do when it happens.

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    Fr. Johannes Jacobse says:

    You hit it John. The moral hollowness of Greco-triumphalism, enviro-activism, and other planks of the Constantinopolitan platform become clearer every day as Greece (and soon the US if things keep up) sinks deeper into crisis. Time to man up. Start with the problems in your own house.

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    George Michalopulos says:

    John, it’s not a matter if “if” it comes to the good ole’ US of A, but “when.” You’re absolutely right: we’ve got to clean house or else it will be up to another nation to save civilization. I’m thinking China. Don’t laugh, there are at least 100,000,000 Christians there (some estimatesput the number at 400,000,000) admittedly not Orthodox, but hey, you gotta start somewhere.

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      Michael Bauman says:

      George, while the number of current Chinese that are Orthodox is relatively small to be sure, there are Chinese Orthodox Chrisitan Martyrs from the Boxer rebellion. Orthodoxy is culturally more suited to China than than Catholicism or Protestantism.

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    George Michalopulos says:

    More food for depressing thought: is anyone going to go ask the GOA archbishop if he still thinks its possible for the Greek gov’t is going to bail out Holy Cross?

    On a slightly different tangent: did anybody get your copy of The Orthodox Disturber today? There were so many photos splashed over so many of its pages of festivals and little kids dressed in their vlakhika that one would think this was a periodical dedicated to cultural events (oh, wait –how foolish of me).

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      Andrew says:

      George, if I remember correctly the Orthodox Observer is really the official census instrument of the GOA. In other words how many Observers are printed equal the number of GOA faithful in America.

      George, I share your opinion as well.. When I look at the Observer I see a fantasy land that exists neither in Greece nor in America. Each issue of the Observer is just another chapter in the wholesale denial of demographic and social realities.

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    Kevin Allen says:

    “One of the delusions is that there is a moral kernel in the country (IE Greece) that we can turn to for consolation and renewal. There is no such thing.”

    And in a so-called “‘Orthodox’ country”! Just goes to show that religious “tradition”, in and of itself, does not necessarily produce good social policy, or good and moral polity. I would say there is no Orthodox country on earth where we, as Americans, can look for social policy guidance, coming from a so-called “well-spring” of Orthodox “Tradition”. Except of course on what NOT to do! We’re on our own, I think, in more ways than one!

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      Fr Gregory says:

      Kevin,

      I agree with you that as far as social policy is concerned, we would do well to look to our own tradition as Americans and not to Orthodox countries. Yes the MP’s 2000 statement on social questions offers us some guidance but it is basic and does not seem to have had much of an impact on Russian society.

      Actually I would go a little further and argue that it may very well be the vocation of the American Orthodox Church to take a leadership role on matters of social policy and witness. This is not to minimize the importance of the older Orthodox Churches or of the monastic witness! But I do think that, as Americans, we have our own tradition of political philosophy and our own experiences of living in a secular (and sadly increasingly secularist) society that can make a significant contribution to the other local Orthodox Churches as they struggle to find their way in a cultural context that is neither Byzantine NOR actively persecuting the Church.

      Our is a witness to the blessings,and risks, of political liberty.

      In Christ,

      +FrG

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    Antanas Voine says:

    Friends, corruption in Greece and throughout a good part of Europe (and especially among the so called PIIGS) is a terrible crime that will cause great hardship for many. You can be sure that the poor and humble are most vulnerable. It is a universal truth that they are the ones who will suffer most from the tragedy of the financial and political collapse. The stress caused by the imposition of a common European currency will reveal the historical fault lines that run between European rich and poor, North and South, East and West. Now in the US, we express our discontent by holding gun-toting “tea parties”; the Greeks, they strike and riot. Both expressions reveal the ugly underside of our respective societies. In times like this, I find refuge, guidance and strength in prayer.

    Sadly, Fr. Johannes, and I hope that it is not your intent, your sentiments skirt open schadenfreude. You are so quick to find an example of failed “greco-triumphalism”, you fail to realize that the Phanar exerts very little influence on contemporary Greece (well, certainly less than the Church of Greece). Constantinople has more influence on the minds of Greek-Americans than on the Greeks in Greece. And in answer to your call for “manning up,” the Greeks and the EU might well deal more justice to the perpetrators and enablers of political corruption and financial crime than we will ever see in the US. Start your reading here and here and here about US bankers’ roles in the Euro debacle, of which Greece is just the tip of the iceberg.

    As Kevin remarks, we are certainly on our own. We have always been, as have the Greeks. In the final reckoning, we will all be held accountable. Indeed, let’s get our own Orthodox house in order before even thinking of making what are essentially condescending offers of “leadership”. American Christianity is so enamored of leadership and its rewards, it forgets that real leadership may sometimes be a silent and quiet martyrdom of unrewarded, unrecognized work.

    I have always found my Greek friends in Athens to be supportive and understanding of our efforts to establish an Orthodoxy in America that is American–unfortunately, more supportive than a number of GOA clergy I know. They realize that the tribulations of the Church of Greece in a modern secular Europe are not so different from those we face here in the US.

    Instead of bashing our Greek brothers and sisters, let’s include them in our prayers.

    Antanas Voine

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      Fr. Johannes Jacobse says:

      Anatanas, the influence any religious leader has is moral, not political. Frankly, the enviro-activism of Constantinople, particularly with its endorsement of the globalist political agenda (urging the passage of the Copenhagen Protocols for example) was politics masquerading as morality. Some of us saw it at the time. Now that global warming has been shown to be a scientific fraud, more should see it too.

      The same is true with Constantinople’s accommodation of modern attitudes toward abortion (See: A patriarch who ‘generally speaking, respects human life’). Read through the article. You will see Constantinople employ the kind of rhetorical sophistry you would find from, say, the feminist wing of the Democratic Party. Abortion is a grave social problem in Greece (it has one of the highest abortion rates in Europe), and not having enough children is one reason why countries borrow so much to stay economically viable.

      And, no, the comparison between “gun-toting tea parties” and riots in Greece, doesn’t hold. Greece may slip into anarchy and may end up in receivership to the EU. America is certainly going along that path, but the Tea Party people demand stricter financial accountability while the rioters in Greece are demanding that the largess continue.

      So Greco-triumphalism ought to be looked at once again, especially in light of the failures of moral leadership that are becoming increasingly evident as the countries of Christendom struggle against collapse. The day of reckoning is coming for all Western nations, and frankly I find the claims that the Orthodox in America ought to emulate the practices of ostensibly Orthodox nations to be morally hollow.

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        Antanas Voine says:

        Thank you, Father Johannes, for allowing me to clarify my comment.

        I agree that, in this case, the influence of any religious leader is moral, and not directly political–political in the sense of how we describe our decision making process about government. Perhaps another day we can discuss why it is that we are compelled to express private or personal reasoning in the public spheres where we, as citizens of pluralist nations, form and inform public decisions about governance. In the coming days, questions like where do we stand as Christians in relation to states that are only nominally Christian (and I include the US and all of Europe) will be important. In this regard, knowing the histories of other Orthodox nations is important. At a basic level, it is the same as knowing and understanding the lives of the Saints and our Church.

        I look forward to reading the article about the Patriarch’s positions on the environment. While you and I might disagree about the status of the science, I do find the very attempt of the Patriarch to gain some kind of public relevance through this issue to be unseemly, highly suspicious and very unfortunate.

        Getting back to the financial problems in Greece–my point is that no one has ever claimed the Greek economy as any kind of triumph, and certainly not one for the EP. This would be laughable. To claim the crisis as an example of failed greco-triumphalism just undermines the other very good points you make about the EP and its influence upon American Orthodoxy.

        My point about Tea Parties and Greek riots is that they are both examples of social and political dissent in times of trouble, not that they are exact equivalents. How could they ever be when contemporary US and Greek history are so different? Drawing direct analogies is totally pointless–which is just why Mark Steyn and others are so utterly wrong when they relate US and Greek politics in such simple terms. These pundits view events in Greece through the prism of US politics, playing for their own US audiences. Our audience here is wider, Orthodox and Greek and American and Russian…

        I believe that the lesson we can learn from this crisis and the EP is this: not that Greece suffers from our same political problems, but that in everyday practical matters of leading a full Christian life, those in Greece, in Turkey and the US face similar problems (ei–increasing secularism, abortion, corruption, consumerism…), but each in their own cultural context that requires their own solutions and leadership.

        Finally, and sorry for the long post, you can rest assured that Greece will survive the current troubles. It has survived far worse in its long history, though many will suffer. What we are seeing there, AND in the US (think California), is the collapse/adjustment of fiat currencies that are, by their very nature, issued out of gov’t debt and dependent on an unbridled consumerism. Let us work and pray that our Christian society will prosper in its witness to Christ in every nation, for all peoples.

        Antanas

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          Fr. Johannes Jacobse says:

          Anatanas,

          The term “Greco-triumphalism” refers to the apologetic that posits Constantinople as the Church to lead world-wide Orthodoxy (but actually is a play for the American Church) because of its historical proximity to Hellenism. The Greek State, apart from gaining some advantage from the effort, doesn’t really factor into the definition. So the term does not really refer to Greece but to the notion that the Ecumenical Patriarch functions as the embodiment of the Hellenistic ideals.

          The reasoning informing the apologetic goes like this: Because the Ecumenical Patriarchate is the one institution that bridges Byzantium (and through Byzantium to Classical Antiquity) and the modern world, and because much of the modern world has a historical debt to the Hellenes because of the Hellenistic Ideals that shaped it, the Ecumenical Patriarch has a historical claim to leadership in the modern world.

          It’s true that that modern world has a historical debt to Hellenism. It is not so clear why this debt should elevate the Ecumenical Patriarch to world-wide Orthodox leadership beyond the primacy of honor he rightfully holds.

          Of course, the apologetic necessarily expresses itself in the language of “spiritual leadership” but in practical terms can only mean ethnic affiliation. Nothing wrong with that as long as we are clear about it. Here is where the modern nation state of Greece enters in. If this leadership is indeed real, and if ethnic affiliation is the means by which the apologetic is carried out in practice, non-Greeks will rightly look to Greece to see how successful this leadership is carried out.

          So you are quite right in pointing out that the Ecumenical Patriarch has limited influence in Greece. But if it fails there, why should it extend to cultures beyond Greece? Further, if the leadership is primarily “spiritual” (a word I find almost devoid of concrete meaning), why then the endorsement of partisan politics such as the Copenhagen Protocols?

          As for Mark Steyn not being relevant, your final paragraph:

          (Y)ou can rest assured that Greece will survive the current troubles. It has survived far worse in its long history, though many will suffer. What we are seeing there, AND in the US (think California), is the collapse/adjustment of fiat currencies that are, by their very nature, issued out of gov’t debt and dependent on an unbridled consumerism.

          …proves the opposite I think. You’ve outlined Steyn’s critique very well here (although he digs deeper into the social factors) and shown that California’s problems (and much of the US) isn’t that much different than Greece’s. Yes, Greece will survive, and so will the US, but at what cost? Just a half a century ago, Greece could have easily have gone the way of Albania or Romania (the Truman Doctrine prevented it). Today mosques are being built in Athens.

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            George Michalopulos says:

            Fr, I see your reasoning here. What upsets me as a Hellene most besides the collapse of Greece as a country (and of course the domino effect up to and including the US) is that I would not be surpised if the Church of Greece loses its autocephaly. This would not be the first time in history that the Phanar used external events to confiscate national churches. In 1767 the Ottoman Empire ended the autocephely of both Bulgaria and Serbia and folded them into the ecumenical patriarchate. Not a shining moment in Constantinople’s history.

            Where can this lead? Can Russia come ahead in this? I just read a piece in realclearpolitics by Eric Margolis. It seems that Russia has the fourth largest monetary reserves in the world. Putin is hinting that they can ease Greece’s pains. I’m sure that Russia’s aid would come with serious strings attached, but what other option is there?

            Let’s continue along this vein: if Russia proves to be the savior/lender of last resort, then “Greco-triumphalism” will no longer play in the US (not that it does anymore anyway, at least with the broader public). Will the GOA’s position be strengthened vis-a-vis the other jurisdictions? I rather doubt it. (BTW, I think the GOA’s position has strenghtened in relation to the Phanar, ever since the orphan gambit failed against +Dimitrios.) Also, demographics are no longer the GOA’s strong suit. Eastern European immigrants are by now the greatest number of Orthodox Christians in America. In order they are Russians, Ukrainians, Romanians, Moldovans, etc. Admittedly, these people are mostly not affiliated with any jurisdiction (although we do see renewed vigor in the MP parishes and ROCOR) and many are Baptists, Pentecostals, etc.

            Anyway, excuse the ramble. The situation in Greece is such a mess. It’s disturbed me more than a little.

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          George Michalopulos says:

          Atanas, I agree, we Hellenes are a resilient people. We’ll survive. But what will Greece look like at the end of the day? Quite possibly the single richest institution in Greece is the Church. I fear wholesale confiscation of properties, the closing down and sale of monasteries, and the forced opening of Mt Athos to tourists of all stripes.

          As for the US, Steyn’s argument is essentially no different from that of Greece. It’s socialism and the greed of people who want goodies from the government that cause these types of defaults. The creation of bubbles are merely ways that crafty people try to use the government to game the system for their temporary and quick enrichment. Steyn adds a crucial element however that is often overlooked: the demographic time bomb. For this we can thank our narcissism, feminism, in other words, immorality mixed with greed.

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    Kevin Allen says:

    Good reasons not to cede our ecclesiastical sovereignty to leaders who do not understand or share our cultural experience. We need to be looking forward, not backwards to some idyllic, mythic paradigm that no longer exists (if it ever did).

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      George Michalopulos says:

      Kevin, agreed. What distresses me about the whole Chambesy process (among many things) is the inability of the “Old World” to understand that Orthodoxy has been growing here in America on its own and without any of the “protection” that they claim to have given.

      I’m not saying that there haven’t been mistakes made here (there have), or that much of what passes for Orthopraxy is regrettable (it is). But in the final analysis, a Church grew up here on these shores, first planted by true evangelists and then watered by the sacrifices of hundreds of thousands of immigrants, and now nurtured by thousands of converts to the Faith. The Old World should tread lightly and correct their own problems before they patronize us.

      Our own Orthodox paradigm I dare say will be more republican and conciliar than monarchical and hierarchic. (That is unless our republican institutions atrophy like Rome’s did and an empire is declared.)

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    Eliot Ryan says:

    People in power even if they do not think centuries ahead, they certainly have some plans. Secular powers do manipulate the Patriarchate of Constantinople, they did break up Serbia, and there was/is a plan to EU-ise Greece, Bulgaria, Romania, etc. EU would like to have even Russia dependent upon it, but it is rather the EU that is dependent on Russian energy supplies.

    Forgive me for not joining in the stone-throwing. The actual crisis in Greece was created using printed euros. Yes, one can blame people’s greed for money, but do not think for a moment that we are free of it. Americans are receptive, nice, surprisingly innocent (almost naive) people, but the greed for the almighty dollar is strong here too.

    The economic collapses and political crises that we face today (is not only Greece), have their roots in the abandonment of Christian principles by the Western world, both in its finances and in its politics. It is superficial to blame the Orthodox “tradition” for it.

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    George Michalopulos says:

    Eliot, you are correct about a lot of things, including the “love for the almighty dollar,” so we Americans best take heed. My disagreement comes from the idea that we are as beholden to the public teat as are the Europeans. True, many American social classes want public largess, but the roughly half of the country that is productive would rather just be left alone. In time though, we can devolve to European levels of dependence. I’m convinced that this is what the American Left wants. They are globalists and disdain nations and traditional religion.

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    Kevin Allen says:

    “The economic collapses and political crises that we face today (is not only Greece), have their roots in the abandonment of Christian principles by the Western world, both in its finances and in its politics. It is superficial to blame the Orthodox “tradition” for it.”

    I am not convinced that American politics or economics have ever truly been based on “Christian principles”, other than a nod to an abstract Theism by which we are granted inalienable rights. I agree however that (even) abandoning such a theism is part of a decline in terms of our social values. Question: could European Democratic Socialism (Greece) be connected organically to a view of “Christian principles” that we are not recognizing? I have read St John Chrysostom and come away thinking he was promoting a Christianized socialism!? Maybe Greece’s “socialism” – collapsing underneath them – is based on a view of economics that in fact IS part of their Orthodox tradition?

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      Fr Gregory says:

      While principles matter, and while bad principles are deadly, we are not ruled by principles–Christian or otherwise–but by men. Good laws in the hands of wicked men, Socrates tells us, make us worse than slaves. Whether in the City of Man or the Church, when we allow wicked men to rule over us, our good laws are used against us and we are shown to be fools.

      In Christ,

      +FrG

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        George Michalopulos says:

        Fr Gregory, that quote from Socrates is wisdom to the nth degree. Thank you for sharing it with us. That is why I believe our Founding Fathers wanted a decentralized government (federalism) in which the central authority was further subdivided into three co-equal branches. Even this incredibly stable arrangment could not last once the people became wicked. I love John Adams’ quote: “our form of government is unsuited to a people who are ruled by their passions. It is only for a religious and moral people.” (paraphrase)

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      Eliot Ryan says:

      Socialism was in part a reaction against Capitalism and the social evils which it has produced. Socialists borrowed the religious and ethical convictions of Christianity to serve their propaganda. The moral principles on which Socialism rests are purely materialistic, and it was/is no less hostile to Christianity than Capitalism.

      The actual crises are the result exploitation by the secular forces of every mistake, every human weakness.

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    cynthia curran says:

    Well, the housing market was not just cause by bankers but also by politcians who wanted votes. The rules about having a certain income to qualify to buy a house in the United States was relaxed, so more lower middle class people could qualify to buy houses, price hikes were the result.Fredie and Fannie are just to blame as much as the Bankers. This cause the world’s woes ad are politcians going to prevent people that can’t afford to buy a house from buying them, no, Obama wants just as many people to own houses they can’t afford as Bush does. Just my political thoughts, not everyone agrees of course. I’m blaming both parties.

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    cynthia curran says:

    Well, the late Roman Empire had some features of the welfare state but basically it didn’t have as much as what is described here as lower middle class to middle class welfare it could not afford that as much as modern European countries. As for John Chrysostom he lived in a world where income gaps between rich and poor are similar to a country like Brazil. One reason he talk about the rich being responsable for the poor. Unlike people today, there were some that actually took this seriously and gave all their wealth to the poor. How many modern politicans that want to give other people’s money want to do that personality. I’m not totally against the welfare state but some schemes to expand as mention above homeownership when the results lead to ecnomonic problems is undesireable. As for Orthodox countries prior to modern ones like the Byzantine and Russian Empires, they had features that were sometimes described as mixed economies with probably more of a market economy during their wealthier periods, for the Byzantines that would probably be the 900′s to the 1100′s.John Courtas is the expert here on earlier orthodox economies.

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      Andrew says:

      With all this talk about socialism and its connection to Orthodoxy I think its time for a Milton Friedman break. Here is a great link to a conversation he had with Phil Donahue.

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RWsx1X8PV_A

      I believe Friedman is exactly right about what lifts people out of grind poverty. Dr. Friedman deserves alot of credit for helping the poor around the world.

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    Andrew says:

    This article hits the nail on the head

    Mark Steyn: Our Own Greek Tragedy
    The Washington Times, February 26, 2010

    http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2010/feb/26/our-own-greek-tragedy/

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      Kevin Allen says:

      Great article (Steyn). Hard to say it better. Thanks for linking it!

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      Scott Pennington says:

      Perhaps the question we should be asking ourselves then is how to boost fertility rates; i.e., how to get couples married earlier, to maintain a stable marriage and to have 3 or more children on average. Any suggestions?

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        Kevin Allen says:

        Scott,

        Stop killing babies when they are fetuses
        would be a good start, although politically a non-starter!

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    Chrys says:

    Cynthia said:

    Fredie and Fannie are just to blame as much as the Bankers.

    More. Far more.

    The Community Reinvestment Act imposed demands on banks to lend to those who were often poor credit risks. Indeed, the policies and implied guarantees of FNMA and FHLMC fostered widespread blindness to credit risk. The bankers – at least those who participated in the securitization of subprime mortgages – certainly figured out how to profit from this situation, but smart financial folks always do. They are to blame, but primarily for playing the game as established by the government. The demands, incentives and conditions – however – were set by the government’s and GSEs’ policies, and these bear far more responsibility. As for the government ever subjecting itself to a proper accounting in this matter . . . well, don’t hold your breath.

    As for socialism being a reaction to capitalism’s evils: yes and no. The union movement certainly was an effort to give the worker leverage. Socialism, however, seems to tap into that enduring human penchant for playing god, for trying to control the vagaries of life. The problem is that it creates far more suffering than it alleviates. While competitive markets may seem to momentarily “gouge,” they often respond quickly to opportunities which eventually resolves any shortages or surpluses. By contrast, “administered” markets typically create distortions (like the one described above). Because they eliminate the incentives and threats that motivate responsiveness and sustain efficient distribution systems, they invariably create rather than resolve surpluses or shortages.

    On a moral level, if competitive markets are prone to greed, administered markets are often fueled by envy. Unfortunately, the system that command economies create destroys all but altruistic incentives for productivity, and thus inevitably deplete rather than produce wealth.

    Andrew is right about Milton Friedman, whose policy recommendations have done far more for the poor than the vast majority of well-intentioned government programs. The same could be said of Walmart.

    On a somewhat unrelated note, I have come to suspect that the root of the environmental movement may also rest on a deep need for control. I do not mean just a desire for government control, but something much deeper. Despite increasing evidence that there are far more factors involved in “climate change” than human behavior, there remains an almost religious insistence on submission (in a very distorted form) to the Green agenda among it’s proponents. I wonder if this isn’t because they are terrified of what it would mean if humans weren’t actually able to affect – couldn‘t control – the environment. That is, I wonder if they aren’t really insisting that we DO affect the environment because they are terrified by the alternative, by the notion that we really don’t have any control. Without a any effective providence to rely on, they can not relinquish the white-knuckle control that they so desperately need. It is as if one were looking at the fall of man from the other side of the coin (if you’d pardon my mashed metaphor): the man who rejects the rule of God needs to assume God’s throne to control the terror of living a life without God.

    IF this is true, then the need for control may be why progressive heart finds a home in both environmentalism and command economics.

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      George Michalopulos says:

      When the final book on this is written there will be three major villains: Jimmy Carter, the Clinton Administration, and Barney Frank and the Black Congressional Caucus. All of these actors ended redlining, commonly accepted lending practices, and forced mortgage bankers to make improvident loans. Then there is a whole raft of secondary actors who made a killing buying and selling bad paper.

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      Fr. Johannes Jacobse says:

      Your last paragraph is insightful, Chrys. You might like this article:

      Malcolm Muggeridge, The Great Liberal Death Wish.

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      Eliot Ryan says:

      the man who rejects the rule of God needs to assume God’s throne to control the terror of living a life without God.

      Science – the modern idolatry, is about the worship of the knowledge of creation. Materialistic societies, with their cult of the human intellect, purposely deceived and deluded their followers for centuries.

      They took over people’s life, claiming to meet their spiritual needs through humanist or communist morality. They promise to improve human’s health through embryo experimentation, improve the pleasures in life, getting rid of pain, cure fear, inhibition, and so on.
      All this effort is meaningless because Man without God is meaningless, because ahead of him is only death. What is there to enjoy when death hangs over you?

      The spiritual bankruptcy of this period led to personal and ecological suicide. Without an immortal soul human-beings are animals, a dehumanised mass.

      What does it mean to be human?

      To be human means to understand that death does not make any sense. When one understands this he/she can’t go on and ignore it, living like an animal, unaware of death.

      It means to notice all the beauty of this world and to understand that it cannot be the a result of randomness.

      It means to understand that it does not make sense to be atheist. Their proof that God does not exist relies on the virtually endless suffering in the world, equally for good, misbehaving or evil people.

      Means to understand that everything here on earth is just temporal and the sufferings of this life are not worth being compared with the glory that is about to be revealed to us. Death is a door and God’s power reaches beyond it.

      This is why the first century Christians and the 20th century Christians confessed the same Truth even under the death penalty: cut by the swords, fed to the lions or left to die in prisons, imprisoned and tortured for 10 or 20 years, still not renouncing their faith.

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        Chrys says:

        I generally agree. I would only note that sin perverts everything. Science, on its own, is but a tool (one expression of which – computer technology – allows this conversation to occur as it does). Like any other gift of God, it is sin that misuses and abuses it. We are increasingly like a child with a loaded gun; science has extended our reach, yet our the maturity of our spirits have not increased commensurately.

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          Eliot Ryan says:

          Science in the hands of modern societies, lacking the grace of the Holy Spirit, turns into evil. One example is embryo technology.

          The modern technology, internet, TV, are not evil in themselves. We corrupt ourselves through our attachment to such things. Christ said: “Behold, I set you free”. We are modern slaves, we are no longer free to worship God, the Creator.

          A thoughtful young girl asked me once: why should we go to college if we are going to die anyway? If you ask around you’ll find out why: for money. This is just another idol. All is needed is a printing money power and you’ll have a total enslavement of mankind.

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      Kevin Allen says:

      “…the root of the environmental movement may also rest on a deep need for control.”

      Secular environmentalism, I agree. But I am becoming increasingly convinced that a spiritually informed — and as yet not adequately defined — environmentalism is integral to the Orthodox Christian ethos. St Gregory Palamas, who we just commemorated Sunday, wrote: “We are all brethren in that we have one Creator and Lord, who is Father to us all. That brotherhood we share with animals and inanimate nature” (Homilies; On Peace With One Another; Veniamin). Personally, I am not a tree-hugger, I’m a New York City boy. But the more I read the Church Fathers, the more I see that a veneration of the earth, created being, is part of our incarnational theology & ethos. Too bad the secularists got to it first, rather than the Church defining it appropriately.

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        George Michalopulos says:

        Kevin, Palamas is a powerful witness to a more integrated approach to appreciating the universe. I wish there was somebody out there who could synthesize in a cogent and simple way (in English) his theology.

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          Dean Calvert says:

          George,

          Go and read what St. Gregory Palamas has to say about Hellenism in the TRIADS.

          Don’t have it handy here…but I’m pretty sure he compares Hellenism to a pit of vipers.

          I love it when the saints make the arguments for us.

          Best Regards,
          Dean

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            Kevin Allen says:

            Dean,

            I see this sad reality as a terrible cancer in our institutional church. As a recent example, FOCUS NA, a Pan-Orthodox charitable ministry to the poor and working poor, has been making strides to establish ministries in major cities. Unfortunately some of our (guess the jurisdiction?) bishops – principally in one jurisdiction – have been obstructionist. There is great enthusiasm among our faithful across jurisdictions to “work together” at the grass roots to serve the poor and needy in our midst. But FOCUS is not – although it has received a blessing to exist from SCOBA – this particular jurisdiction’s inititaive, so an opportunity to speak to a local Philoptochos chapter was withdrawn a day before it was scheduled, when the local metropolitan “found out”. I assume for “territorial” reasons. I hate to make this comment publicly, but for all the beauty of our liturgy, theology and history, our hierarchs are our weak link. Lord have mercy on me.

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          Michael Bauman says:

          Kevin,

          We have always had venal, selfish, weak and otherwise inadequate bishops, just as we have always had sinful clergy, monastics and laity. Unfortunately, episcopal sins are magnified, but so are their virtues. Bishops reflect the spritual state of the faithful– leaders always do. If we want better bishops, we have to be better believers.

          Their sins are mine.

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        Michael Bauman says:

        Kevin, you are quite right, BUT, it will take a lot of heavy lifting to articulate a modern Orthodox Christian vision care for creation. It shouldn’t as it is such a integral part of the Biblical salvation narrative in both Genesis and particularly Romans. It is integral to the Incarnational reality of our Lord. However, it is another area we have abandoned to the empiricists and materialists. As it is now, what is out there owes more to a reading into Orthdox theology the materialists vision rather than proclaiming the salvific message of the Incarnation. Philip Sherrard’s work on it is the worst as he lapses into out right earth worship.

        Ultimately though it still comes down to working our our salvation in fear and trembling. The more we allow ourselves to be transformed and transfigured, the more whole creation will be.

        On one level it is, IMO, blazingly simple but we have to work to reclaim the ground we have abandoned without even token resistance.

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        Chrys says:

        Kevin, I can only concur. With Michael I would say that we can only offer a genuinely transfigured vision of the world when we see with genuinely transfigured eyes. How we approach everything – the environment, our neighbors, our families, our enemies, our responsibilities, ourselves – is reflected and rooted in a view that is either ego-centric or transfigured.

        In that sense, I believe that we already have a “theology” of environment – or care for anything else, for that matter. It is written in the lives of the saints.
        When I read about St. John Maximovitch or Elder Piasios, I see a very different posture toward all of life than the one I see in me.

        Theologians may be able to express the concepts well enough, but Elder Piasios – to pick but one example – showed it in his approach to everything. By giving himself over completely to God, he made the kingdom present in his life. It was this that healed both broken creation and desecrated hearts. The living presence of God abiding in a transfigured heart will effect the healing for which creation cries out.

        For the creation eagerly waits with anticipation for God’s sons to be revealed. For the creation was subjected to futility not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it — in the hope that the creation itself will also be set free from the bondage of corruption into the glorious freedom of God’s children. For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together with labor pains until now. And not only that, but we ourselves who have the Spirit as the firstfruits — we also groan within ourselves, eagerly waiting for adoption, the redemption of our bodies. (Romans 8:19-23)

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    cynthia curran says:

    California is about 37 percent hispanic and only 7 percent black. So, Bush admitted he wanted to expand hispanic home ownership during his adminstraton to get them to vote more Republician. The Democratics also wanted this since by 2050 hispanics will be 29 percent in the nation and 56 percent in California. Defaults in California occured higher among hispanics than non-hispanics whites.

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    Fr. Johannes Jacobse says:

    Well, I am not in the business of defending George Bush and I don’t really know if your claim is true or not. My point was that the Bush administration tried to put the brakes on Congress as the NYT article points out.

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      Chrys says:

      Father, you are correct. While the Bush Administration did work to expand the “ownership society,” they also tried to address the concern about the GSE’s credit-blind policies on multiple occasions.

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      George Michalopulos says:

      Fr, you’re right. The Bush Administration tried to stop this back in 2003 but were derided as “racists” by the ever-execrable Barney Frank and the Congressional Black Caucus.

      BTW, do you know how you’re winning an argument with a liberal? When he calls you a “racist/sexist/bigot/homophobe.”

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        Michael Bauman says:

        George, you forgot greedy capitalist. Hey, that means conservative are always winning doesn’t it?

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    George, You forgot the “right-wing” and “intolerant” labels!

    In my opinion, there are very few real “liberals” out there. Most are statists, hardcore leftists, Marxists, communists, radical environmentalists (ie: man is subservient to nature, man is a plague on the earth, etc.) and/or “progressives” (whatever that means).

    And yes, you are quite right, the argument is won once the leftist resorts to name calling. Another self-defense mechanism of the leftist/statist is to immediately switch the subject or launch into a different rant, dropping the original argument and running to another canned smear. If you insist on continuing the original argument they either start shrieking, tell you to “shut up,” or get “offended” and walk/run away. :)

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