Thursday, May 24, 2012

It's Quiet...Too Quiet

Anon asks me for my "sense of the situation on the ground" in Greece.  Anon flatters me.  Recall that I'm a tourist which means that I have about as much "sense on the ground" as I would if I stayed home and read The Economist--which is to say, as much as Thomas Friedman on a good day ("one Athens taxi driver said...").
But of course, invincible ignorance never stopped a pundit so I venture this thought: from my vantage, you'd never guess we were gazing into the abyss. The place seems almost on the edge of a little spooky.  It could just be the tourist biz: it is perhaps a tad early in the season, and I gather they are doing a roaring trade out in the islands but here on the mainland people (not just taxi drivers) do complain that business stinks.  Apparently the Germans are staying home which doesn't sound like much of a surprise, except if they are really feeling unwelcome, why would things be going well in the islands?   But whatever: traffic is light, restaurants are often empty.  And in particular, nobody seems crabby or frantic or on edge.  They're just happy to scoop up our tourist Euros with the usual air of stoic acceptance.

In short, you could be excused for thinking that the Greeks have decided that either (a) Angela will blink; or (b) it won't be so bad after all.  Of course I have not the foggiest notion whether (a) Angela will blink.  As to whether (b) it won't be so bad after all:   I surprise myself by thinking that you could actually make a case for that view.  Short term, the Greeks would have a hard time.  The new Drachma would trade at confetti prices, and the won't be buying much of anything from overseas.  But they could still ship farm products--or eat them, which is not the worst fate.  And if tourists are staying away now, at new-drachma prices, they certainly wouldn't stay away for long.

The 900-pound moussaka in the room is, of course, the domino effect.  If Greece then Portugal and Ireland blah blah---leaving Germany high and dry like those monasteries around Kalambaka.  And it is hard to see why one of the world's great export economies would want to try subsisting on a diet of nothing but the world's most overpriced currency.  Which makes me think that (a) Angela will blink may not be all that crazy, I'll be passing through Frankfurt next week, I must try to find a cabbie.

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