Groundhog Day in Greece (Part Two)

[This post is follows up on Part One from last week].

Last week I brought up the question: why have the parties negotiating the future of Greece allowed a seemingly needless series of near catastrophes (followed by last-minute resolutions) to occur? One answer might be the reason why you (probably) write your essays the night before they’re due. Collin’s great article from last year delves into an economics-flavored analysis of procrastination. If you don’t have time to give it a read–which you should definitely do–the gist is this: “…given the choice between having a good thing ($100) now or later, we tend to prefer having them now… We as humans tend to have a temporal preference for present consumption, rather than future consumption.”

Greece-related dealmaking requires onerous concessions from both sides. German taxpayers fund a significant portion of Greek bailout deals and they seem to be increasingly skeptical of shouldering this burden. As demonstrated a “resounding no” vote in an officially-sanctioned referendum on the topic, the Greek political grassroots are also skeptical. Mechanized security shutters, installed on some storefront windows in Athens to protect against riots, are another clear sign of political stress in Greece. Clearly, making the deal is a huge political stress to leaders on both sides. Just like (okay maybe not quite “just like,” but still…) sitting in from of a computer screen doing something besides the internet is stressful to most students. In both situations, the actors can’t stomach swallowing the pill until the consequences of inaction–a Grexit or a failing grade–loom large and immediate. The media frenzy that only really picks up as political dealmakers’ deadlines approach, perhaps, reinforce this last-minute solution phenomenon. A plethora of stories headlined with words “nightmare” and “catastrophe” that probe the potential consequences of Grexit, one would assume, are a pretty good kick in the pants for dealmakers. This would be like turning on CNN the night before your essay is due to see an endless stream of pundits argue about the potential for you to end up with a career in Port-A-Potty cleaning. While CNN’s wall-to-wall coverage might not make you less likely to finish your essay a week before it’s due, it would (probably) make you more likely to actually wrap up your essay instead of letting it slide. Perhaps these deals are so stressful to that they cannot (or are unlikely to) occur in the absence of this type of pressure.

A tangible indicator of political instability in Greece. Source: NPR Planet Money.
A tangible sign of political stress in Greece. Source: NPR Planet Money.

Stay tuned for more next week!

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