By Robert A. Vella

In a provocative op-ed today, economist Paul Krugman urged the Greek people to reject further austerity demands from its international creditors and if necessary exit the euro.  Furthermore, he accused the forces behind the austerity push as being politically motivated against Greece’s left-wing government.

From The New York TimesGreece Over the Brink:

Greece should vote “no,” and the Greek government should be ready, if necessary, to leave the euro.

To understand why I say this, you need to realize that most — not all, but most — of what you’ve heard about Greek profligacy and irresponsibility is false. Yes, the Greek government was spending beyond its means in the late 2000s. But since then it has repeatedly slashed spending and raised taxes. Government employment has fallen more than 25 percent, and pensions (which were indeed much too generous) have been cut sharply. If you add up all the austerity measures, they have been more than enough to eliminate the original deficit and turn it into a large surplus.

So why didn’t this happen? Because the Greek economy collapsed, largely as a result of those very austerity measures, dragging revenues down with it.


So have I just made the case for “Grexit” — Greek exit from the euro? Not necessarily. The problem with Grexit has always been the risk of financial chaos, of a banking system disrupted by panicked withdrawals and of business hobbled both by banking troubles and by uncertainty over the legal status of debts. That’s why successive Greek governments have acceded to austerity demands, and why even Syriza, the ruling leftist coalition, was willing to accept the austerity that has already been imposed. All it asked for was, in effect, a standstill on further austerity.

But the troika was having none of it. It’s easy to get lost in the details, but the essential point now is that Greece has been presented with a take-it-or-leave-it offer that is effectively indistinguishable from the policies of the past five years.

This is, and presumably was intended to be, an offer Alexis Tsipras, the Greek prime minister, can’t accept, because it would destroy his political reason for being. The purpose must therefore be to drive him from office, which will probably happen if Greek voters fear confrontation with the troika enough to vote yes next week.

Related stories:

Greece Closes Banks, Limiting ATM Withdrawals To Only 60 Euros Per Day, Global Market Shudders

Greece Imposes Capital Controls as Fears of Grexit Grow

2 thoughts on “Paul Krugman on National Referendum: “Greece should vote ‘no'” and if necessary “leave the euro”

  1. I can’t resist commenting on this, Robert. It’s so absurd that anyone thinks it makes sense to pay banks “interest” on loans for things they should have funded with taxes on their profits. It’s part of what citizens so. And “austerity” is such a ridiculous name for robbing people of their pensions and rights to public services. Geees – even successful parasites know it’s unwise to kill their hosts.


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