Free Markets, Free People

Estonia Asks Why It Must Help a Basketcase That Isn’t Part of the Former Soviet Union

CNN has noticed Estonia, a remarkably astute observation only a decade and change overdue. Apparently desperately looking to milk some additional footage out of the never-to-be-fully-solved Greek crisis (also known as “Greece”), CNN went to the fastest-growing Eurozone country and essentially asked its prime minister, You have worked and slaved out from under socialist tyranny to become a fast-rising economic powerhouse; how do you feel about sending your hard-earned money to support a country that willingly chose a soft socialist tyranny?

The answer, which cannot surprise anyone at all familiar with this brave little country or human dignity in general, is Not very happy at all.

“It is very difficult to explain to our poor Estonian people why we have to help rich Greece people who are always drinking the ouzo and dancing the syrtaki,” he said. “This is public opinion,” he hastened to add. “In fact, they are hard-working people in Greece.”

In January 2011, Estonia became the first ex-Soviet state to start using the single European currency, joining the eurozone as Europe’s debt crisis was deepening.

Shouldering the financial strain of the European Financial Stability Facility had been “very unpopular” among Estonians, said Ansip. “They would like to get higher salaries today, right now here in Estonia — they cannot understand why we have to have all this.”

Nevertheless, joining the eurozone had been the right decision, he said. “All people they can understand how beneficial euro was for Estonia,” he said.

Estonia, like the rest of the Baltics, suffered terribly after the Soviet invasion. Like its Baltic neighbors, it took the chance at independence after Moscow loosened its grip and has made a hard charge West, never looking back — despite a sizable Russian population in its borders. It worked hard to regain its reputation as a safe place for Jews to live after decades of Nazi and Soviet occupation and policy aimed at deliberately destroying that reputation.

Its democracy indices are and have been high since independence, and it has become prosperous by embracing Milton Friedman’s theories of liberalization and the euro. Anyone who has done business in Estonia and in, say, Russia, is struck by the enormous differences on display; not coincidentally, Estonia is a target for high-end foreign direct investment and capital formation aimed at high-tech companies.

It cannot be surprising then that these hardworking, talented people are less than enthused about bailing out a country that has made its modern economy predicated on the idea of retirement some time in one’s fifth decade of life, and then after a job that never requires more than six hours of semi-solid work per day.

Nevertheless, credit CNN for noticing brave little Estonia. Hopefully they will remember it when the Greek crisis enters it fifth or sixth year, as well.

Image © Shutterstock.com