MacroScope

The Law of Diminishing Greeks

April 13, 2012

The Law of Diminishing Returns  states that a continuing push towards a given goal tends to  decline in effectiveness after a certain amount of effort has been expended. If this weren’t the case, Usain Bolt would be able to run the mile in  less than 2-1/2 minutes.

From an economic standpoint, this law now seems to be fully in force in Greece. The latest jobs figures from the twice-bailed out euro zone country paint a bleak numerical picture of the impact of unrelenting austerity in ordinary Greeks, regardless of whether it was self-inflicted or not. To wit:

More than one in five Greeks is unemployed.

There are more young people without a job than with one.

The record 1.08 million people  without work in January was a  47 percent tumble  in a year.

Putting aside for the moment the question of what such a condition means for political dissent, there is now the issue of whether any of this austerity-fueled pain is actually helping the Greek economy.

Austerity mixed with the inability of euro-tied Greece to devalue its currency  means  Greece is now in its fifth year of recession. As for job-creating small and medium -sized businesses, the latest projections are that more than a net 130,000 of them will have shut down over two years by the time 2012 is over.

The biggest example of the Law of Diminishing returns, however, is the impact all this is having on what ails Greece in the first place — its budget.

Unemployed people offer no revenue to the government in terms of income tax and far less in sales tax than they would if they were working.

More to the point, they cost the government. As our correspondent Harry  Papachristou wrote this week:  ”As an increasing number of people claim unemployment benefits, the government is finding it increasingly difficult to meet its budget targets.”

Usain Bolt can’t keep his pace for much more than 100 or 200 metres before exploding. Can Greece?

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