Greece Starts Firing Civil Servants For First Time In 100 Years

The CS Monitor has a story on the Greek canary-in-a-coal-mine (Hat Tip: Parapundit):

The Greek government began its first mass-firing of public-sector workers in more than 100 years this week, part of an effort to lay off 180,000 by 2015 under Europe-imposed austerity….

The first two civil servants were let go on Wednesday under a new law that speeds up the process – one, a policeman, for stealing debit cards, and the other for 110 days of unexcused absence.

The inherent logic of Greek-style political power and largesse is a case study in public choice theory & the Law of Unintended Consequences:

Civil servants’ jobs have been protected by a law that dates back to the 1880s, which became enshrined in the century-old Greek constitution. Until that provision became law, each newly elected government would sack the civil servants hired by the previous government to replace them with their own party members, creating civil unrest and a dysfunctional state.

“The logic [behind this law] was that the public administration has to be politically independent, feel secure, and ensure the state’s continuity,” said Dimitris Charalambis, professor of political science at the University of Athens.

Even though the 19th-century law was initially intended to fight nepotism, it caused its own problem: Each successive government hired its own people, adding to a continually expanding civil service without making the public sector any more effective. As a result, the Greek public sector became infamous for being dysfunctional and bureaucratic.

I had always thought Greece had the highest % of public sector employees, so I was a bit taken aback when I read:

Still, despite its reputation of being overgrown, the Greek public-sector workforce is actually smaller than the European Union average. According to ECB statistics from 2011, Greece employed 29 percent of its labor force in the public sector – smaller than Belgium’s 38 percent and France’s 31 percent during the same period.

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