Beware of Greeks bearing bonds

After an hour on a plane, 2 in a taxi, 3 on a decrepit ferry, and then 4 more on buses driven madly along the tops of sheer cliffs by Greeks on cell phones, Vanity Fair writer, Michael Lewis, rolled up to the front door of a vast and remote monastery.

According to the author, the spit of land poking into the Aegean Sea felt like the end of the earth, and just as silent. It was late afternoon, and the monks were either praying or napping, but one remained on duty at the guard booth, to greet visitors. He guided Lewis, along with seven Greek pilgrims, to an ancient dormitory, beautifully restored, where two more solicitous monks offered ouzo, pastries, and keys to cells.

Lewis sensed something missing, and then realised: no one had asked for a credit card. The monastery was not merely efficient but free. One of the monks then said the next event would be the church service: Vespers. The next event, it will emerge, will almost always be a church service. There were 37 different chapels inside the monastery’s walls; finding the service is going to be like finding Waldo.

He’d gone to Greece to get to the bottom of that country’s debt crisis; all in the aftermath of the IMF and European Central Bank having loaned Greece — a nation of about 11 million people – up to $145 billion. In the short term Greece had effectively been removed from the free financial markets and become a ward of other states.

That was the good news. The long-term picture was far bleaker.

Add it all up and you got about $1.2 trillion, or more than a quarter-million dollars for every working Greek. Against $1.2 trillion in debts, a $145 billion bailout was clearly more of a gesture than a solution. And those were just the official numbers; the truth is surely worse.

Read the full article at Vanity Fair …