I’ve been a keen follower of Greek news over the last couple of months. In some ways it’s better than a John Grisham novel: interesting characters, weird plot twists, lying politicians, good and evil. Anyone who has read “Why the World Sucks” will recognized that the unfolding Greek drama was something that would suck me in, body, limbs and all.
But with all of the commentary about Greece concentrating on its position as a European anomaly, why do I think it isn’t so atypical? Because virtually every other democratic Western country has the same fundamental issues as Greece. And, of those issues, the most obvious one is its handing of its public service.
There have been many articles about Greek civil servants’ compensation, specifically their pensions. But inappropriate public service pay is a problem in most democratic countries. In the United States, cities have gone bankrupt because of public sector pay, pensions and health care costs. In most other Western countries, it is common knowledge that public servants are underpaid and under worked compared to their private sector peers. In many countries public sector workers are unionized and are permitted to strike against the government. But all of the original reasons for unionization, including the need to protect workers from employers’ unfair safety practices, no longer exist. And, besides, what can the argument be to strike against the government in a democratic country? In a way, the workers are striking against themselves.