This started off as a comment on another blog, but became too long for a story that was only a few lines long, in a blog that specialises in short items. It’s a blog I generally enjoy and admire, Kids Prefer Cheese, a joint authored blog by two libertarian academics in the US which has a strong humour element mixed with outrage about big government intrusions on personal liberty and markets, and the movements on left and right that enable this. However, as with quite a lot of American libertarian stuff, there is an undertone creeping in sometimes of sneer at Europe. I think the authors would say its just a joke, but the kind of jokes people tell say something about underling attitudes.
Please do go and check out the blog, which I do constantly through my RSS feed. The item which grated my cheese (as Homer Simpson might say) is ‘One step closer to sending the gunboats’, and refers to German tax collectors who have volunteered to assist Greek colleagues in administration of taxes. Do please check it out, and stay to check the better posts (to my mind).
Alright I had a laugh about this, but really the underlying assumptions are just awful.
No this is nothing to do with gunboats. Advising Greeks on how to improve a dismal level of public administration, with regard to a key issue in Greece’s financial problems, tax is not collected on a very wide level, is not an act of aggression. Of course there will be loud mouths in Greece who will try to make something of this, but I’m sure most Greeks have the sense to ignore it. These are volunteers advising Greek administrators, not thugs strong arming Greek citizens. Given how very very poor tax collection in Greece is, I’m sure we’re talking about low hanging fruit in terms of improving tax collection, not extreme measures of Teutonic intrusion to squeeze every last Eurocent of possible tax liability out of cowering Greeks. The idea that everyone in Europe is in the grip of ancient hatreds, ready to boil over, at any provocation is what is assumed here and is wrong. Given the extreme economic distress in Greece, I think we should the Greeks some credit for maturity. Leaving aside inevitable loud mouths, demonstrations by the relatively strong but still minority Greek radical left, and trade union actions, I would say Greeks have shown considerable restraint in terrible circumstances. Enough to suggest that this will not be taken the wrong way by most people.