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By Thomas Young, Volunteer
In the latest of many election surprises in the past year, Greece has elected a new majority centre-right government for the first time in a decade. The New Democracy party, now led by Kyriakos Mitsotakis, had been narrowly ousted as part of a coalition in 2015 by the radical anti-austerity socalist party Syriza, led by Alexis Tsipras. Mitsotakis stood on a platform of serious tax reform, which would make them both lower and simpler. New Democracy were swept back into power with their largest vote-share since 2007. Meanwhile, Syriza’s vote share sank to just 31 per cent.
In his victory speech Mitsotakis vowed to bring back “transparency and meritocracy” to Greece, to increase ‘growth, job creation and security’, and to, crucially, lower taxes.
In contrast to Mitsotakis’ vision, the previous socialist government comprehensively failed to address Greece’s dire financial situation. They left behind a dreadful legacy: four in ten younger Greeks unemployed, an economy that remains $136 billion smaller than it was in 2008, and monthly pay that has fallen by a quarter since 2010. Tsipras’ humiliating climb-down over the Greek debt crisis was the final nail in the coffin. When Syriza first came to power in 2015, they did so on a platform of opposing any further bailouts. Yet within months, they had agreed to further loans of €86 billion - one of the biggest government bailouts in history.
Beyond the bailout U-turn, Tsipras’ promises to end austerity turned out to be a pipedream. It became clear to the Greek people that a change of direction was needed. The only way to fix the damage wrought by Tsipras’ high tax, big state government, was to cut taxes and embrace economic freedom and responsibility. When the cost of living keeps rising, with unemployment rampant, the public expressed their anger at the ballot box. That should come as no surprise in Greece, the ancient home of democracy.
Tax cuts now enjoy political support with the Greek public, who have grown exasperated with the failure of the state and yearn for economic and social freedoms to be returned to them. After all, choice in how we spend our own money is one of life’s great freedoms. In the words of Margaret Thatcher, “the larger the slice taken by government, the smaller the cake available for everyone.” The Greek people apparently want to take back that large slice. As so often happens in democracies which elect hardcore socialist governments, taxpayers now want their money back.
As Prime Minister Mitsotakis legislates for tax cuts later this month, with promises in office to reduce corporate and income tax, he will be giving back to the individual what they have rightfully earned. Finally, Greece can take a step back towards the lower tax and pro business model which has created prosperity across Europe and beyond.
It has been tragic to see a proud country, like Greece, brought to its knees in the global recession. But as the Syriza experiment has shown, radical socialist government is not all it is cracked up to be. Making endless spending pledges, threatening to tax the country into oblivion and promising the world is all well and good, but all too soon the public’s desire for economic freedom will come home to roost. Democratic socalist parties around the world, including here in Britain, would do well to take note.