This from Megan McArdle, in a piece (which you should read) on the impending collapse of the Eurozone:
Government, like soylent green, is people.
Oh, and more excerpts related to the four-letter friend getter (I speak of the eff-word “fair”):
The things that fix economic crises are not always intuitive. As Brad De Long himself once remarked to me, it is nearly impossible to bail out the financial system without also bailing out people who are long assets–aka financiers and rich people. But oh, how that flies in the face of our intuitions!
One can name dozens of examples of things that violate our sense of fairness and obligation, and thereby make us all richer, from limited liability to bankruptcy. But people most won’t believe it. Oh, they may believe the part of it that supports some larger “fairness” agenda they’re committed to. But their support is almost always piecemeal: try getting a liberal who loves easy bankruptcy to give a second chance to bankers who made a few stupid money decisions, or convincing conservatives who are avid for tort reform that debtors who ran up credit cards with unwise investments in expensive but rapidly depreciating motor vehicles and consumer electronics might also need legal protection from the fullest extent of their past mistakes.
So it is in Europe. The German people feel that it is not fair that they should be asked to pay for the bloated public sectors of nations where tax avoidance is an Olympic event. The Greeks feel that they should not be asked to take a 40% paycut so that a bunch of rich Germans don’t have to bail out their banks. Berlusconi no doubt feels that he is entitled to keep a job to which he was duly elected.
You can try to explain to all of them why their sense of outrage is rather beside the point in the face of a looming financial explosion which is going to make everyone much worse off if it reaches critical mass. You can also go home and try to explain this to your microwave, for all the good it will do. As anyone who has ever spoken to a five year old knows, the sense of fairness is one of the most primal and intractable cognitive instincts we have.
I am very much afraid that the euro zone is about to plunge us into phase two of the global financial crisis–and that as with the Great Depression, phase two may be even worse than the dismal years we’ve just endured. In search of fairness, we may all get a lot more justice than any of us really wants.