The Hungarian scientist and philosopher Michael Polanyi once wrote that 'there is no indication whatever in facts ... [that] governments can establish a perfect economic optimum by exercising their legally unlimited executive powers.'
This insight has particular resonance today as the newly elected Greek government is about to embark on large scale social engineering, a project that has long united the radical left and political right. At the heart of this project is not just Syriza's promise of milk and honey for everyone, but the fundamental belief that government can and should eradicate economic inequality by dislodging market principles in the economy. Their calculation is as simple as it is false. As laudable as the intention to pay everyone a living wage is, the logic feeds on a misunderstood sense of fairness, presuming that there is dignity only in equal poverty for all.
The irony of worshipping at the altar of economic equality whilst refusing to take the oath of office in the presence of the Orthodox Patriarch has so far escaped Greek new Prime Minister. Nor has the fact that Syriza's socialist government is propped up by the right wing, xenophobic Independent Greeks brought on any misgivings about the scope of the socialist creed of equality. For Syriza, equality extends to everybody who is Greek, yet no further.
But then again, perhaps we shouldn't be surprised. Socialism has always been an easy bed-fellow of right wing extremist movements throughout history, notwithstanding any wreath laying in Athens. Their shared dislike for individual freedoms and its economic consequences will always overcome any alleged ideological distance.
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