Alex Tsipras Greece Wassilios Aswestopoulis/ZumaPress

Tsipras in Dreamland

Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras seems to have forgotten the Marxist tradition’s emphasis on the unity of theory and practice. If you want to negotiate a change of tack with your creditors, you are unlikely to succeed if you destroy your own credibility and rant and rave about those whose money you need to avoid default.

BERLIN – One can only feel sorry for Greece. For more than five years, the “troika” (the European Commission, the European Central Bank, and the International Monetary Fund) has made it the object of a failed experiment with austerity that has exacerbated the country’s economic crisis. And now Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras’s government seems hell-bent on plunging Greece into the abyss.

It never had to be this way. By the time Tsipras’s leftist Syriza party came to power in January, a new, more growth-oriented compromise had become possible. Even hardcore German proponents of austerity – and certainly Chancellor Angela Merkel – had begun to reconsider their position, owing to their policy prescriptions’ undeniable adverse consequences for the euro and the stability of the European Union.

The Tsipras government, with some justification, could have presented itself as Europe’s best partner for implementing a far-reaching program of reform and modernization in Greece. Measures to compensate the poorest met with considerable sympathy in EU capitals, and favorable sentiment would have strengthened had Greece started to cut its bloated defense budget (as a leftist government might have been expected to do).

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