Austin Bay

Greek governments, on the other hand, have lied about debt, violated EU fiscal agreements and borrowed money they cannot repay. The Greek people, who voted for the governments, enjoyed the benefits of the borrowed cash. Now French and German taxpayers say no more freeloading.

The extended Franco-German peace tells us a European "common market," the old EEC concept, makes sense. The euro-zone's common currency union? Letting the dishonest borrowers fleece honest lenders then avoid consequence seeds conflict.

In or out of the euro-zone, Greece faces an extended and painful period of political and economic change. The bills are due, whether paid in euros or devalued drachmas. The change Greece needs, in order to first revive then fully modernize its economy, requires a definitive and very public moral and psychological commitment by the Greek people.

Papandreou knows this, hence his call for an up-or-down referendum. A "YES" vote gives Papandreou the popular imprimatur to make the necessary structural reforms, confront embedded special interest groups and sideline the violent policies he indicates he will pursue. A "NO" vote? Then the Greeks themselves sever the euro-tie, not spiteful French and German bankers.

Papandreou has made a gutsy move, a shrewd gamble on democracy. The democratic clarity the vote provides is itself a tool for reform, potentially for Greece, but ultimately for the entire euro-zone. Either the euro-zone has rigorous economic standards or it doesn't. Member nations are responsible for meeting those standards.

Austin Bay

Austin Bay is the author of three novels. His third novel, The Wrong Side of Brightness, was published by Putnam/Jove in June 2003. He has also co-authored four non-fiction books, to include A Quick and Dirty Guide to War: Third Edition (with James Dunnigan, Morrow, 1996).
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