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Ralph R. Reiland

Ralph R. Reiland

The B. Kenneth Simon Professor of Free Enterprise at Robert Morris University

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Reflections

Greeks, Germans and Flying Crockery

by Ralph R. Reiland
 

"Rather go to bed without dinner than to rise in debt," advised Benjamin Franklin.

That seems to be not exactly how the Greeks see things, where Franklin's cautionary advice on borrowing is likely to be swapped for an ethos that's more accepting of short-term satisfaction and long-run deficit spending. Here's a modification of Franklin's advice, as evidenced in Greece:

Rather than heading off for a good night of sleep and a full wallet of cash, better to take the money down to zero and run up a debt in order not to skip a party that begins with chilled Ouzo and maza samplings of phyllo cheese triangles, tzatziki, hummus, stuffed grape leaves, falafel, fried calamari, baba ghanoui and spanakopita, followed by Moscofilero white wine and a mixed grill kabob of beef, chicken and kafta, and a main course of spit-roasted lamb and oven-baked layered eggplant along with spiced meat topped with creamy bechamel.

The partying concludes with the daybreak squawking of seagulls and the throwing of dozens of plates against the wall, with the bill for the entire evening's fun of food, drinks, carousing and breakage forwarded to Berlin.

Reported The Telegraph in London a few years back, "The tradition of smashing plates at Greek restaurants is disappearing because of the 'compensation culture' which hundreds of owners fear will lead to them being sued by customers hit by flying crockery."

On the hazards of Greek flying saucers, Chris Toumaz, operator of Trois, a Greek eatery in London, told The Telegraph: "It's a nice Greek tradition, but what can you do? All these claims now, everyone's just looking for an excuse to sue you. We have stopped doing it."

Pragmatically, some Greek restaurateurs in London have replaced plates with less dramatic alternatives. "We're throwing flowers now," said Nikos Constantinou, manager of the Apollo Restaurant Taverna. If you hit someone, "it doesn't matter."

Others say they'll continue to throw plates.

Meanwhile, May's jobless figures showed Greece's unemployment rate was 25.6 percent, more than double the European Union's average, with joblessness among the young especially severe at an estimated rate of 50 percent for those aged 15 to 24 years.

In November, Greek Labor Minister Yiannis Vroutsis told Parliament that approximately 75 percent of Greek pensioners were trying to secure an early retirement, prior to age 61.

"In the public sector," reported Vroutsis, "7.91 percent of pensioners retire between the ages of 26 and 50, 23.64 percent between 51 and 55, and 43.53 percent between 56 and 61."

In contrast, the employment of older people in Germany in recent years has continuously increased, with the portion of 60- to 64-year-olds expanding from 28 percent in 2005 to more than 50 percent in 2013. The Federal Statistical Office in Germany reports that "among 65- to 69-year-olds – that is, among people beyond the statutory retirement age – 13 percent were still working in 2013, up from 6 percent in 2005."

Ralph R. Reiland is an associate professor of economics at Robert Morris University and a local restaurateur (rrreiland@aol.com).