How Greece Could Change the Future of Europe

Source: Vice News

The Syriza party’s big win in Greece’s legislative election last weekend is a turning point in the long political fight over Europe’s botched recovery from the financial crisis and world recession of 2008-2009. The occasion presents a milestone for the eurozone, which has been plagued by mass unemployment and economic stagnation, but it remains to be seen how much this election will speed up the reversal of the destructive policies that brought the eurozone to its present state.

“Democracy will return to Greece,” declared Alexis Tsipras, the charismatic 40-year-old leader of Syriza who will become the country’s youngest prime minister in 150 years, as he cast his vote in Sunday’s election. “The message is that our common future in Europe is not the future of austerity.”

His remarks provide a concise political statement that goes to the core of the main problem afflicting both Greece and the eurozone. Simply contrasting the economic recovery of the United States — the epicenter of the earthquake that upended global finance in 2008 and 2009 — with that of Europe makes plain what a difference democracy makes.

Even the limited-accountability, Wall Street-dominated form of democracy that prevails in the US proved vastly superior to the economic autocracy of the eurozone. Although the Great Recession was America’s worst downturn since the Great Depression, it lasted just 18 months before the recovery began. The eurozone had a recession of similar length, then lapsed into another one in 2011, and has only recently begun a sluggish recovery. As a result, unemployment in the region stands at 11.5 percent, more than twice that of the United States (5.6 percent).

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