The world’s financial elite think that Greek prime minister Alexis Tsipras is insane for holding a referendum on the country’s economic future. But there is method in his madness. Greece’s crisis has gone on for too long and caused too many innocent people too much pain. It’s time to end it. If Europe’s lenders can’t come to terms with the simple fact that Greece has borrowed too much and can’t pay it back, then Greece has to come to terms with it for them.
The conventional wisdom holds that the 40-year-old Tsipras is irresponsible, impulsive, and volatile. He sure looked that way last week when he walked away from Europe’s latest offer, which was for Greece to slash spending and raise taxes in return for the cash to make a $1.7 billion debt payment to the International Monetary Fund (IMF) on June 30. Tsipras responded by closing the country’s banks, defaulting on that debt payment, and abruptly calling an election: Greek voters will decide Sunday whether to accept Europe’s terms. University of Athens economist Aristides Hatzis called the decision to hold a vote “irrational.” The Financial Times complained that Tsipras is “wielding” an “unjustified . . . referendum as a weapon against his Eurozone adversaries,” and counseled Greek voters to “listen closely to the words of Ms. Merkel.” The German chancellor and French president François Hollande have warned Greek voters that a vote against budget cuts and tax hikes is a vote to leave the euro.