Grécia e a fome na Irlanda

Ainda é cedo para fazer o apuramento de culpas da crise grega. Em Greece and denying responsability, Simon Wren-Lewis faz um provocador e interessante paralelo entre a Grécia do século XXI e a Irlanda do século XIX.  A ler também The sharp but effectual remedy.

I wanted to make the parallel with the Irish famine for three reasons. First, there seemed to be the same type of deflection of blame going on today as at that time. Second, ideas about what could and couldn’t be done in terms of economic relationships were central. Third, the verdict of history is pretty clear with the Irish famine. The British government did provide some famine relief, but what history remembers is that it was not nearly enough. History remembers the action and inaction of the British government, and not the inefficiencies and inadequacies of Irish agriculture.

One response to my criticisms is that without Troika or IMF support, austerity would have been much more immediate and intense. This is of course true: unable to borrow at all, the Greek government’s primary deficit would have had to fall to zero even if all interest payments on debt had been halted. But as I noted above, the headline from history is not that the famine would have been worse still if the British government had not provided any relief, but rather that it did not provide enough.

Troika assistance to Greece made two major mistakes. First, wishful (at best) thinking about the amount of government debt Greece could support. Second, the Troika imposed a front loaded austerity programme that was far too severe. How much of the subsequent collapse of the economy was due to this is unclear, but few seriously doubt it played a major role. As I noted here, the estimates by the Troika of the impact of austerity that were made at the time ignored basic and widely accepted macroeconomic analysis.

Mistakes get made, particularly in a crisis. When these mistakes become evident, as they did pretty quickly in the case of Greece, there are two possible responses. The first is for those who made these mistakes to admit responsibility, and try and learn the lessons. I think the IMF has to some extent tried to do this, as I noted in this earlier post. The second possible reaction is denial, and to seek to blame others. It is this response that history does not look too kindly upon.


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