You shall not crucify mankind upon a cross of gold, raged William Jennings Bryan against the punitively high interest rates imposed by the gold-based monetary system of his day. Bryan lost the election, but arguably he won the debate. FDR took the United States off the gold standard during the Depression, and since then the Federal Reserve has characteristically been the least hawkish of the world’s major central banks, with easy money and cheap credit a principal feature of American political economy since World War Two.These days, it is a cross of euros on which European countries like Greece are being hung. The austerity programs that Germany and its colleagues demand of the Greeks as the price of more bailouts impose savage cuts that Greece’s fragile social order may be unable to withstand.Via Meadia does not see the PIIGS, and especially the serially and intentionally dishonest Greeks, as innocent victims in the euro-imbroglio. These countries were happy to take the benefits of euro membership but they did not take the necessary steps to protect themselves against the kind of crises they did not face. Many of them already had very high debts; their borrowing costs fell sharply with euro membership, and instead of using the windfall to ease the structural economic problems that made them uncompetitive, they chose to party.This was more than unwise, and it is neither possible nor desirable for these countries to avoid paying the price of folly. Democracies, like individual human beings, grow wise from experience; in the United States as well as Italy and Greece, voters won’t get smarter and insist on responsible leadership until and unless they understand the cause and effect relationships between demagogic politics and economic pain.But you can have too much of a good thing, even pain. Greece is a fragile society in some ways; two generations of featherbedding public sector jobs, cash transfers from government and networks of patronage and favoritism grew up in part as mechanisms to enable Greek society — and Greek democracy — to work at all.As the seeming inevitability of Greek default approaches, and as the price of austerity required to keep Greece in the eurozone keeps rising, we are approaching a point when it makes no sense for Greece to remain in the zone.The Via Meadia view is that if Greece wants to stay in the eurozone, it needs to drink the cup of austerity to the dregs — but that if it leaves, its EU partners and the international financial institutions should smooth the path. The effects of leaving the eurozone could be shattering: bank runs, an absence of physical currency, mass failures of businesses and mass bankruptcies of individuals all swelling into a huge economic depression.Helping Greece make a smoother transition back to the drachma would be something the IMF and the ECB could do — should do, in Via Meadia’s opinion. The shame of being forced out of the euro, and the unavoidable and long term economic penalty to be paid for state bankruptcy and mass bank failures will provide more than enough pain to “teach Greece a lesson”. Neither the Greeks nor anybody else will think that they got away with anything.Doing what we can to help Greece make an orderly if not an honorable retreat from the euro increasingly looks like the most practical as well as the most prudent and most humane course. The discussion on Greece needs to shift from how to keep it in the eurozone to how to help it leave.There is another reason to start planning Greece’s exit. There may be other countries who need to take the same step in the not-too-distant future; the Greek exit can serve as a trial run for the larger and more difficult transitions that may lie ahead.