27 October 2011

Greek debt and German concern

No doubt, the Greek financial crisis is due to, among others,
(i) politicians' greed (they did put a lot of money in their pockets, and still possess them),
(ii) the politicians' slackness in collecting taxes (they didn't want to, they themselves and their friends would have to pay taxes and that was not in their plan),
(iii) Europe's turning a blind eye to Greek financial reports (everybody and their mother knew that Greeks were faking their papers, come on!) .

However, here is an alternative piece of information which should make Germans, now pointing fingers towards Greece, reflect upon their recent history.

According to Albrecht Ritchl, professor of Economic History at LSE, the largest debtor of all times is Germany. In the June 2011 issue of Der Spiegel, Ritchl gave an interview (original German version here) pointing out that
during the 20th century, Germany was responsible for what were the biggest national bankruptcies in recent history. It is only thanks to the United States, which sacrificed vast amounts of money after both World War I and World War II, that Germany is financially stable today and holds the status of Europe's headmaster. That fact, unfortunately, often seems to be forgotten.
This happened twice. First, during the Weimar Republic, and then after WWII. The US helped Germany on both occasions tremendously, but it was also agreed that
there wouldn't be a repeat of high reparations demands made on Germany.
That is, that Germany would not have to pay its war victims. This was the actual financial basis of the German Wirtschaftswunder.  In fact,
[w]ith only a few exceptions, all such demands were put on the backburner until Germany's future reunification.
As we know, reunification took place, but Germany did not pay reparation. I don't think it's only Germany's fault. It's likely that Greek politicians didn't ask for it loud enough for they didn't want to. They had money pouring in their pockets via Europe, why should they want to make their benefactors unhappy, reminding them that Greece lost 10% of its population due to WWII casualties (one of the largest losses in the world, after Poland and Soviet Union)? As Ritchl says,
[c]ompared to [the Weimar Republic] default, today's Greek payment problems are actually insignificant
and that
[i]f the mood in [Greece] turns, old claims for reparations could be raised, from other European nations as well. And if Germany ever had to honor them, we would all be taken the cleaners. Compared with that, we can be grateful that Greece is being indulgently reorganized at our expense. If we follow public opinion here with its cheap propaganda and not wanting to pay, then eventually the old bills will be presented again. 
This is something to keep in mind. The Greek elite consists, of course, of unreliable politicians and their buddies who have faked papers, stolen money, avoided taxation, asked Greeks to borrow more, made them believe they live and can live in luxury without working, numbing their brains with false hopes... But, on the other hand, who is shouting to whom? Read some history and see that the whole of Europe has been a mess.

I don't know what "the solution" could be. I'm afraid that one of the most difficult things to acquire is not money, but the right mentality (what does work mean?). And this is lacking in Greece. But, at the same time, lack of the right mentality of different sorts is encountered in other countries as well. By shouting and finger-pointing you cannot eliminate history. Unless you can make people forget it, and this is something that frequently happens. In history. (History is being constantly revised to reflect the point of view of those in power, the winners.)

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What measure theory is about

It's about counting, but when things get too large.
Put otherwise, it's about addition of positive numbers, but when these numbers are far too many.

The principle of dynamic programming

max_{x,y} [f(x) + g(x,y)] = max_x [f(x) + max_y g(x,y)]

The bottom line

Nuestras horas son minutos cuando esperamos saber y siglos cuando sabemos lo que se puede aprender.
(Our hours are minutes when we wait to learn and centuries when we know what is to be learnt.) --António Machado

Αγεωμέτρητος μηδείς εισίτω.
(Those who do not know geometry may not enter.) --Plato

Sapere Aude! Habe Muth, dich deines eigenen Verstandes zu bedienen!
(Dare to know! Have courage to use your own reason!) --Kant