All Cretans are liars, says the Cretan philosopher Epimenides. Epimenides’ paradox, a paragon of irresolvable circular logic, sounds even nastier as rehashed in Saint Paul’s Epistle to Titus: “One of Crete’s own prophets has said it: ‘Cretans are always liars, evil brutes, lazy gluttons.’” The paradox has now taken a political turn: everyone is aghast that the Greeks lied. That they are living above their means, incurring more debts than they’ll ever be able to repay, and counting on the rest of Europe – or more precisely, part of the rest of Europe – to foot the bill. Not unlike all those banks that put Greek bonds in their portfolio, presumably on the assumption that a state can go bankrupt, but not an EU member.

But this whole hullabaloo itself is part of the lie. We’re all Cretans, at least as far as lying is concerned, though not so much in matters of self-incrimination. Athens has to keep on economising, Europe says. But there isn’t a single European state that doesn’t leave its taxpayers in the dark about its fiscal situation. Nor is there a single people that doesn’t sanction cash for clunkers, tax-cutting pipedreams and euphemisms for the government’s running up new national debts. People make a bit of a fuss now and then, but that’s all. And there isn’t a politician who would not stoop to the cheapest tricks in the run-up to elections – like the one now in North Rhine-Westphalia – to lead taxpayers right up the garden path and into the polling booth.

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