Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Strikers should be fired

A general strike is crippling Greece today.

In principle, strike may be a legitimate tool of the employees to show or try to show that their work is more important and valuable than what the employer seems to indicate by her behavior. This claim may turn out to be right. However, this claim may also turn out to be wrong. Only if the strikers bear some responsibility for their decisions and behavior and if they are at risk of losing advantages because of their decisions, strikes may turn out to be a tool that improves the life of the society.

Once a nation enters the mode of thinking in which the employees are always right - because the government and the employers who are in charge are just reflections of the same striking employees - the nation is just destined to drop to the bottom of the sea. Glub glub glub. Such a nation is going to give ever greater advantages to the employees for ever smaller amount of work.

Tomorrow, there will be a strike in the Czech Republic. Trains and various cities' public transportation systems will be among the sectors that will make many consumers upset. Of course, the strike won't occur in as dramatic conditions as Greece but it's still annoying.

While I don't claim that my homeland is perfect, I see a striking difference between the atmosphere in Czechia and the atmosphere in Greece. In Czechia, most of the population realizes that the striking unionists are lazy assholes who just protect their own interests. Facebook is flooded with groups claiming that the "unionists don't speak on behalf of me". General population realizes that it has nothing to do with them. More importantly, it really has nothing to do with them.

Czech President Václav Klaus has urged the Czech government to hire private bus companies to do the job previously done by the unionists, and tell the strikers "good-bye". That means to fire them. I think that most people who are not directly involved in the strikes agree with our president. Some people will surely disagree. Some hardcore communist and/or socialist voters will always support lazy unionists, regardless of the context, as a matter of principle - but they're fortunately a small minority.

The situation in Greece looks very different. As far as I can say, the political confrontation in Greece is about a disagreement between lazy parasites and even lazier and more parasitic parasites. It's a battle between socialists, hardcore socialists, and communists. I am not sure whether there is any top politician in Greece who dares to say that as many of the strikers should be fired as possible. It's a job for any sensible employer to minimize the expenses and an employee who doesn't work much but who would surely love to be getting lots of money is not such a positive contribution to a company, or the mankind, for that matter.

Even if Greece were forgiven the USD 0.4 trillion debt, what's really wrong about the country - which already has the lowest Standard and Poor's rating among all countries in the world (and don't forget that some of them are really screwed!) - the main problem is that the citizens have lost their sanity. Their way of thinking is incompatible with the creation of wealth. It's not just the case that a majority of the Greeks have lost their sanity. It seems that almost no one who realizes that what they're doing is really intolerable is able to survive in that country. I think that everyone who would loudly say that the strikers have to be fired and replaced would be harassed or beaten in Greece.

Business as usual in Athens. Sara Firth of Russia Today is offering us a pretty peaceful, relaxed report. :-) Good idea to send them EUR 100 billion to have more money for Molotov cocktails and yogurts to throw at the cops. See two more minutes of some drama. The Telegraph can only shoot such things from a safe distance. ;-)

Greece is totally captured by insane conspiracy theories claiming that their debt is not real and that their unsustainable fiscal situation is just a numerical trick perpetrated by the evil global banks and others. It is just totally crazy. It is a country that is importing about 3 times more stuff than it is exporting. It is a country where people eat 3 times more than what they produce. How can these shocking and comprehensible coefficients be hand waved away by references to big foreign banks?

Obviously, a solution has to be radical if there's any hope for Greece to get back on the track. All government employees should see their salaries and pensions drop by something like 50 percent because it's really the government employees who are the source of the problem. That wouldn't reduce the living standards by 50 percent; it would only reduce them by about 30% because there would be a corresponding 20% drop in the prices as the bogus wealth of the people is erased and brought closer to the reality. But a radical change of this magnitude is necessary.

Slovakia has agreed to participate in the second wave of the likely waste of money but they have several conditions:
  1. the Greek government should make more savings
  2. it must start privatization and the opposition has to promise to continue in the privatization as well
  3. the loan should be guaranteed by the state Greek property
  4. the private sector should agree with delaying the maturity of the bonds by seven years
I have some doubts about the ability of Slovakia to assure that its viewpoint will be adopted but they're still perfectly sensible demands. The budget cuts have clearly been extremely far from being sufficient so far.

Privatization is needed. Together with that, Greece has to liquidate pretty much all of its "achievements" giving special rights to all the employees who are pretty much guaranteed by the law to be un-firable and to have salaries that are much higher than the work that they actually do. The business environment in Greece is suffocating because of the anti-employer and anti-prosperity socialist garbage regulations that so many Greeks still have the chutzpah to defend.

No wonder that the unemployment has increased from 11.6 to 16.2 percent in the last year and the unemployment between less-than-25-year-old folks, around 40%, resembles countries like Zimbabwe. Who would like to employ people under such conditions? The strikers pretend not to realize that the very demands they're defending during their strikes are the source of the high unemployment and the misery (which will inevitably get worse).

Because it's otherwise way too likely that all additional loans will be thrown to the trash bin, they should be actually backed up by some actual assets such as islands and the remaining state companies that have some value.

Finally, the private sector must share a burden because the taxpayers in the countries of creditors - and even in countries that have nothing to do with Greece (except for having entered the same currency union) - shouldn't be the only ones who suffer and who lose their money. Obviously, the rating agencies will have to decide whether such a forced collaboration means a "default". If I were working for a rating agency, obviously, I would think that it does. But the default of Greece is really unavoidable. All these extra ideas are just ideas how to make it more organized, following some predictable rules, and to give Greece chance that it will start to function as a proper country again in the near future. They're not ideas how to avoid any default because this would be an impossible goal.

If I were not personally able to see a Greek political party which is supported by dozens of percent of the population and which loudly emphasizes that the way of life that Greece was choosing in the recent decades was unacceptable, unsustainable, and has to be abandoned, and that it was unforgivable for the Greeks to repeatedly vote for pernicious left-wing populist parties such as PASOK, I wouldn't pay a penny to that country. Unfortunately, it seems to be the case. It is a nation brainwashed by idiotic utopias about a paradise where employees may have all advantages without doing the corresponding work. Such a nation has no future and shouldn't have any future.

It sounds very unpopular and I know that many people won't like it but I am convinced that at this moment, Greece vitally needs someone like Pinochet to take over, save the country and send it in the essentially right direction.


  1. Lubos, good balanced point about this issue - especially the framing of the principles and the big picture. Of course workers aren't always right, and neither are employers nor governments, etc.

  2. There is another solution for Greece and that is reducing unemployment benefits and retiree payments by 50%. Changes in business laws and bureaucracy have to be made to save the economy.

  3. You are right. Its people who get average wages and decide to rip off their tax collectors because they want a good German car who are the real parasites. CEOs and analysts who sold and advertised junk stocks and toxic bonds screwing up the world economy in the process are not. Whatever our problems in Greece are, you are surely not the one to figure them out.

  4. Sorry, Greek reader who lives outside the reality, but an average Greek surely doesn't deserve and shouldn't have money for a "good German car". It's just your fantasy.

    The real question is how many millions of Greeks should starve to death and not which good German car they should buy. You're a failed nation, the Achilles heel of Europe. You've been living for money that you didn't produce and you will be redirected back to the reality whether it will be in a more or less controllable manner.

    I don't actually want to figure anything out. I just want to prevent another scenario in which hard-working people such as those in Slovakia are sending billions of euros to arrogant worthless parasites who think that they have the right to buy a good German car.