Misha Glenny has an important piece in the FT that puts the Greek mess in more of a historical context and assigns much of the blame for Greece’s financial problems on oligarchs, business conglomerates, cheats, and criminals. A handful of wealthy families control the commanding heights of the Greek economy, he argues, and many of the distortions in the Greek economy result from their entrenched power. Now, Glenny claims, these families hope that forced sales of public assets at fire sale prices will help them consolidate their hold on the troubled Balkan country.A pan-Balkan smuggling ring that outgoing Prime Minister Papandreou and others believe costs Greece about €3 billion a year illustrates another dimension of the problem Glenny identifies: large organized crime syndicates have sunk their claws deep into Greek politics and into the economy. Glenny’s analysis goes much deeper than the conventional journo-speak short takes on Greek unions, pensions and tax problems to get at some of the structures that make Greece what it is. More, his analysis of the Greek political scene takes us deeper and helps us see more.
Glenny goes on to chastise his fellow Europeans for their hypocrisy: on one side they endorse good governance, transparency, and fiscal responsibility but on the other turn a blind or or actively engage with crooked businessmen and politicians. The Greek oligarchs who helped ruin their country can use the European banking system to transfer their money out of Greece and into the London property market.People can and will argue with some details of Glenny’s analysis, but it is infinitely meatier and more focused than the conventional wisdom that permeates this article in the NYT. The failure of most newspaper coverage to look under the hood in countries like Italy and Greece has been an ongoing problem. The crisis has gone on so long, and so much is at stake, that the press should by now have found richer and more meaningful lines of analysis than the simple, endlessly recycled story lines that mostly fill the pages even of the elite publications.More insight, please. And Misha: keep writing.