The Greek public broadcaster showdown, and when do people finally snap?

There is now a chance that the Greek coalition government will collapse, and in some manner re-form, due to the controversy over the possible shutdown of Greece’s public broadcasting outlet (now suspended by the Greek High Court).  Here are comments from Matt, and also from Open Europe.  Here is a long update on the story.

There is a broader point about the possibility of countries on the periphery leaving the eurozone or otherwise choosing a radical change, such as outright default or capital controls or an illiberal government or a blatant renegotiation of the current deal.  Many observers seem to have in mind a path where things get really bad, economically speaking that is, and then a country leaves the eurozone (or makes some other radical choice) because they can’t stand it any more when things are at the absolute bottom.  Once things are looking up, it is assumed that countries are on board for the foreseeable future.

Without wishing to rely too heavily on Tocqueville’s analysis of the French Revolution (pdf), that’s not how things usually work.  Very often there is an ongoing history of major problems and depredations.  Then things seem to get better or perhaps they really do get better.  Expectations start to rise.  Then some small events come along and those events are blown out of proportion, leading to the crisis in public opinion that didn’t quite happen in the first place.

The current Turkish crisis was set off by a dispute over a public park, and the recent demonstrations in Brazil seem to have been prompted by a 7% hike in bus fare prices, which is about ten U.S. cents.  Yet in neither case is the small trigger the ultimate cause of the discontent.

Many deconversions from religion, or from fandom, or even from marriage, work the same way.  Big lies are told and those lies inflict some damage.  The institution in question soldiers on.  A bit later, an apparently smaller slight or problem brings the whole thing crashing to the ground, precisely when things appeared to be getting better.

I’m not saying it always runs that way, only that it is a very common path.  Furthermore the steepest period of decline is very often when people are too preoccupied with coping to make the major adjustment.

The bottom line is that one should not dismiss the importance of small events, especially these days.

Addendum: Edward Hugh argues that Grexit is not off the table.  Here is a short piece on the Tocqueville thesis and China.


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