German Kettle Calls Greek Pot Black

German Chancellor Angela Merkel is the Eurozone’s chief austerity enforcer. (Photo: European Council / Flickr Commons)

German Chancellor Angela Merkel is the Eurozone’s chief austerity enforcer. (Photo: European Council / Flickr Commons)

We will leave it to better economic minds than ours to determine the extent to which the Greek government capitulated to the European Union. But, the tremendous strides in humanity that German has taken since World War II aside, let’s take a moment to examine the hypocrisy the German government has demonstrated during the Greek debt crisis. The Nation posted An Open Letter From Thomas Piketty to Angela Merkel, which called for — in vain, apparently — “a humane rethink of the punitive and failed program of austerity of recent years and to agree to a major reduction of Greece’s debts in conjunction with much needed reforms in Greece.”

Piketty points out:

In the 1950s, Europe was founded on the forgiveness of past debts, notably Germany’s, which generated a massive contribution to post-war economic growth and peace.

He expands on this in an interview with a German publication that was excerpted at Salon which reads, in part, that “Germany’s current insistence on Greek repayment [is] ‘a huge joke,’ because Germany ‘is the country that has never repaid its debt,” and therefore “has no standing to lecture other nations.’”

To wit:

“Look at the history of national debt,” he began. “Great Britain, Germany, and France were all once in the situation of today’s Greece, and in fact had been far more indebted.”

… Germany is particularly worthy of shame in this regard, Piketty argued, because it never paid its debt after the First or Second World War, but “it has frequently made other nations pay up, such as after the Franco-Prussian War of 1870, when it demanded massive reparations from France and indeed received them. The French state suffered for decades under this debt.”

It behooves Germany to remember, as Piketty says, that “the German ‘economic miracle’ was predicated on the very kind of debt relief the country currently wants to deny Greece.”