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Welcome to the Great Depression-Greece

Written By: Dan Truitt  |  Posted: Wednesday, September 26th, 2012

            With its latest reported unemployment rate of 24.5%, Greece entered, this summer, Great Depression territory. The worst year for unemployment in the US was 1933, at 24.9%. Things are expected to get worse here.  A chief problem is that Greece has one of the most closed, sclerotic business climates in Europe. A friend of mine told me once of someone he knew who wanted to open a pizzeria in downtown Thessaloniki. The building was older, and protected from demolition. In the US, the job of getting permits for renovating a place like that, and fitting it with tables, chairs, and ovens, with regular inspections, would take a few months at worst. Three years after signing his rental agreement this guy was still trying to open. He had to give up, throwing away three years of rent payments plus whatever other startup costs he had incurred.

            The funny thing about all of this is that it doesn't feel like Greece is in a depression: people are still going out and having a good time. You don't see anything resembling those grim black and white Dust Bowl portraits out of the 1930's that made America look like sub-Sahara Africa. There are two things that would make a passing visitor think that all is not well here: one is the high number of closed small shops-at least a couple every block or so. The other is the proliferation of non-gypsies pushing makeshift carts made of empty refrigerator boxes fastened to baby carriage chassis, poking around in dumpsters with roller-less paint rollers for recyclable trash. This trade used to be monopolized by gypsies.

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