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Why Greece Should Vote 'YES'

Greek voters are fed up, angry, and desperate. Their dreams have been shattered, their honor has been compromised. How should they vote in the upcoming referendum?

They should vote "YES."

Our government is depicting this referendum as an expression of democracy. The sad truth is that it is the product of political brinkmanship.

Our government argues that a "no" vote will not risk the exit of our country from the Euro, that banks will reopen the day after, and that Greece will be further empowered in its negotiations with our European partners. They are either living in a fantasy world or deliberately misleading our people.

Others -- including Messrs Krugman and Stiglitz -- argue that Greece should vote "no" to reject endless austerity, leave the Euro, and "grasp its destiny in its own hands." This argument may be more sincere. It may also sound as music to Mr Varoufakis' ears and add ammunition to Mr Tsipras' domestic rhetoric. But it is incorrect. It confuses a prescription error with the underlying illness: we got an overdose of austerity, but we are still in dire need of deep structural reforms. As importantly, it ignores Greece's political reality.

To put this in a historical perspective, consider the '80s or early '90s. Controlling our destiny at the time meant important gains in terms of social cohesion and equality. But it also meant the growth of an inefficient and politically-controlled public sector. It meant raising the burden of public debt from about 20 percent of GDP to about 100 percent in less than a decade. It meant a reduction in competitiveness and exports despite repeated devaluations. It meant a sclerotic labor market, a distorted financial system, and little entrepreneurial activity. It meant a culture that stigmatized hard work and promoted corruption.

This path was partially reversed in the late '90s and early 2000s, thanks in part to our participation in the EU and the Euro. Not only did this participation tame inflation, facilitate important reforms, and boost exports; it also helped reorient our economy and our culture.

Now, let's fast-forward to the day after the referendum. What will happen if a "no" leads to Grexit? There are the likely calamities in the short run: markets will freeze and government revenue will collapse; large losses in bank deposits, wages, and pensions will follow; and any immediate improvement in the exchange rate may be dwarfed by the ongoing economic and political uncertainty. But the gravest consequences could actually be in the longer run -- especially if it is in the hands of those who dream a return to the "good old days."

When Syriza came to power, it was handed a golden opportunity: it could offer a serious commitment on implementing the needed structural reforms and on fighting tax evasion in exchange for less austerity and more debt relief. They blew it off. They wasted five months either showing sheer incompetence or lecturing our European partners about democracy -- as if they have the monopoly of being the only democratically elected government. Their concrete actions were to undo earlier structural reforms, undermine our legal and political institutions, and attack meritocracy. Our education minister portrays academic excellence as a social stigma; others want a love affair with Putin, presumably because of his unrivaled commitment to peace and democracy. Is this the way to a prosperous future?

Greek voters should not give up on their demand for less austerity. But they should also condemn the failed strategies of this government, safeguard their position in Europe, and invest in the future. They should vote "YES."