Describe an economic basket case in the developed world and Greece is that definition. Five austerity programs have slashed vacation time, wages, retirement income and the minimum wage. Taxes have increased as these cuts have been imposed. Plus, there are cuts to welfare programs, health care and defense. Government services and companies have been privatized while corruption and tax evasion are pursued with diligence.
Some of these developments are positive. For example, corruption is not good in any economy. The attempt to squeeze every tax dollar, either by cuts or more efficient collection, does have a negative impact though. The people are the real victims. They lose faith in the government. They lose faith in the economy. They even lose faith in the euro, the one-time great unifier of European nations. No wonder riots rocked Greece.
In Greece, there is a snapshot of what can happen to the rest of Europe or even the United States if something should happen to turn the economies downward again. Greeks are increasingly turning to the old system of bartering. This isn’t bartering on a small scale, as just between two people. That happens all the time even in prosperous economies. In this case, Greek communities are setting up organized systems to trade labor and goods.
This is the antithesis of a global economy. Bartering does not cross national lines well. It is a grassroots response that bypasses everything large from governments to large corporations. In this BBC story, bartering has an egalitarian, almost communistic approach, where every person’s labor is counted equally. It’s hard to see how this works when comparing the labor of a doctor to a janitor, but the comparison used in the story between a caregiver and a therapist almost does that. The second BBC story with the video below has more of a free enterprise tone with scripts of paper signifying credits replacing paper money.
Hopefully, Greece is an aberration and not a model. This works in Greece only because the rest of the world is not copying the same idea. Expand this concept worldwide and global trade plummets. Nations and communities would need to be more self-sufficient, but few of us are trained to think or operate that way, especially in urban areas.