Jens 'n' Frens
Idle thoughts of a relatively libertarian Republican in Cambridge, MA, and whomever he invites. Mostly political.

"A strong conviction that something must be done is the parent of many bad measures."
  -- Daniel Webster

Saturday, May 08, 2010 :::

A few days ago, my brother posted a link a few days ago on Greece's tax-evasion problem. Here's a New York Times piece with more on that:
In the wealthy, northern suburbs of this city, where summer temperatures often hit the high 90s, just 324 residents checked the box on their tax returns admitting that they owned pools.

So tax investigators studied satellite photos of the area — a sprawling collection of expensive villas tucked behind tall gates — and came back with a decidedly different number: 16,974 pools.
When I was in Greece, the occupied "unfinished buildings" mentioned at the site Dean linked to didn't strike me, but I was aware of the cash nature of the economy and the broad lack of respect for law in general.

I don't think I would have expected something quite as blatant (i.e., verifiable) as lying about one's swimming pool until the fires a couple of years ago, when I learned that Greek land records are so bad that it was common for developers to start fires on public lands to clear the trees so they could build on the land and sell the buildings before anyone noticed that they didn't own the land.

I and my cobloggers tend to focus on issues that the government involves itself in when we think it shouldn't. But I'm not an anarchist; there is a role for government in enforcing contracts, keeping land records, preventing coercion, and collecting the taxes it needs to perform those tasks, and it is important that the government perform those functions well.

There is some concern out there that, given our high and increasing deficits and levels of public spending, we could go the way of the Greeks. I don't think those fears are entirely misplaced, but Americans do have more respect for public institutions than the Greeks, and that's an important difference. I think it's fair to worry that interest rates on American bonds a number of years from now could demonstrate behavior similar to the recent behavior of interest rates on Greek bonds. But I think Greece's future is darker now than America's future will be at that point, both because we control our own monetary policy and because Americans are more likely to comply with a resolution of the problem. The rioting class makes up a much smaller portion of our population than of the Greeks'.


::: posted by Steven at 12:25 PM

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Idle thoughts of a relatively libertarian Republican in Cambridge, MA, and whomever he invites. Mostly political.

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