Greek Lessons

When you do stuff with other people's money, you relinquish freedom. As simple as that. When you borrow, you're paying with freedom (and interests) the ability to do more. If things go right, you may not even notice. If things go wrong, it becomes obvious.

It's interesting to see how this balance works at a corporate level. It is generally accepted that borrowing money to finance your activity creates value for the owners. This assumes that you'd rather do things with other people's moneys instead of your own. If you do more stuff, you get more return out of the money you invested in that company, and all you are doing is including some interests as a cost. You are leveraging your company, as they like to say. But then you will find extraordinary entrepreneurs that will simply not accept that math. Think Steve Jobs, or Amancio Ortega or Bill Gates. Their companies run on no debt. I know they don't need the debt because they are so profitable, but still, leveraging would have increased the value of those companies at very little risk and they simply won't do it. I can only sympathize with their view, despite I know the theory too. Even at very little risk, what's at stake is so crucial that you'd rather have inner peace than considering that a remote event can take away your hard won freedom.

At personal level too, we've been tought hard lessons on borrowing to do more (purchase a house), and losing your freedom to repay your mortgage. The hidden trade offs went unnoticed for years, when things were right and loans were paid. It is only in difficult times when we become aware of the dynamics, and I kind of feel grateful for the wake up call early in my lifetime to recallibrate my appetite for freedom risk.

At state level, thought, we keep on ignoring this fact. Today, I'm interested in knowing what your political party proposes to do, and how are you intending to pay for that. What the hell, I'm more interested in knowing how will you pay for all the things you want to do than knowing what you want to do! And I am more interested in that because it surely has a key influence in the ability of a state to autonomously take decisions, and that seems to me like a relevant state matter (and I say influence because it is just one more factor in the equation). But when I hear people coming up with solutions and proposals I hardly ever hear where are you going to get the money from or, for that matter, how will it affect our debt levels. And it scares me because social protection and all-those-things-that-everybody-wants come at a price (higher every day) and I'm not sure how to balance that with my eagerness to protect our freedom. But that balance is never referred to in the speeches. And yes, I will also like to think that you can finance all that out of corruption and inefficiencies, but nobody has showed me a convincing figure yet. (Don't get me wrong, let the corrupt rot in jail forever, but don't fool me with the figures).

Greeks have learned the hard way that, when you need other people's money to run, you no longer have full control of your decisions, no matter what anyone will tell (leave the euro, put your money printing machines to good use, and throw new dracma bills out the window? scares me big time in the short run). So let's raise the discussion of the actual cost of running a country the way you propose, and where will you get the money from, now that we are aware of what's at stake here.

Have a nice weekend all, hopefully at something short of 40 degrees in the streets.