By Aris Melissaratos
This article can also be seen in the Hellenic News of America here.
International dramas are seldom what they seem to be at the time they unfold. Fast-changing news reports generally focus on politicians performing for the cameras. This theater of geopolitics makes for absorbing television and gripping headlines but often masks deeper realities. So it is with the Greek debt crisis, which contains much food for thought for everyone concerned with the nature of national prosperity.
While it’s true that the road to Greece’s problems was paved with fiscal mistakes by multiple parties, there’s a good deal more to the story than fiscal mismanagement. Economic well-being doesn’t depend only on sound accounting. It’s also shaped by political agendas and psychological climates which influence national and regional productivity strategies. Although money must of course be managed wisely, countries and regions need not only skilled wealth managers to prosper, but creative wealth generators whose innovative ideas are encouraged and nurtured by civic leaders with the political will to create new eras of prosperity by challenging the status quo even if this means upsetting entrenched power groups.
These truths, explained in a book I’ve co-authored, INNOVATION, were demonstrated to me by a long career at Westinghouse, one of America’s biggest and most creative technology corporations. I then saw them reaffirmed during my tenure as Maryland’s Business and Economic Development Secretary and my years as director of Johns Hopkins University’s intellectual capital commercialization. These environments showed me repeatedly that while there are often overlaps between managing wealth and creating it, the two tasks are qualitatively different.
As economist Aristos Doxiadis has observed, Greece’s economic development has been handicapped by over-regulation, bureaucracy, the protection of power groups, and an unwillingess to transcend a small-business mentality. These obstacles have been exacerbated by a lack of political will, and a political culture devoted to squabbling rather than bold initiatives. Instead of a determined national mission to chart a new era of prosperity for the country, there has been a sense of entitlement and an expectation that prosperity and economic health must somehow appear on demand without cultivation. In short, Greece has been crippled by a lack of entrepreneurial action, an aversion to innovation, and an apparent inertia which has tragically prevented this land of historically majestic creative imagination from thinking big about its 21st-century future.
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