Smarter Works Better Than Tougher – Stairway Postscript

The French phrase “l’esprit de l’escalier” refers to that unpleasant moment when you realize what you should have said. According to the usual source, Denis Diderot originated the expression:

During a dinner at the home of the statesman Jacques Necker, a remark was made to Diderot which left him speechless at the time, because, he explains, “a sensitive man, such as myself, overwhelmed by the argument leveled against him, becomes confused and can only think clearly again [when he reaches] the bottom of the stairs” (“l’homme sensible, comme moi, tout entier à ce qu’on lui objecte, perd la tête et ne se retrouve qu’au bas de l’escalier“).

Hence, the wit (not the spirit) of the stairs.

The phrase doesn’t quite apply to what happened this afternoon, but it’s close enough. I was driving to the grocery store when I realized what I should have included in my previous post. I should have mentioned Greece’s ongoing financial crisis. Sensible people understand that Greece will never be able to pay back everything it owes, partly because the economic austerity demanded by its creditors has slowed the Greek economy, making Greece poorer and even less able to pay off its debts. Even the International Monetary Fund, one of Greece’s creditors, understands this. The Greeks need debt relief, like the Germans received after World War 2.

The Germans, however, believe they and the other creditors need to get tougher with Greece. More austerity and more pain will eventually convince the Greeks to get their fiscal house in order or drive Greece out of the eurozone, leading to who knows what consequences for the Greeks, Europe and the rest of the world. In this case, the Germans, like the Republicans, prefer tougher over smarter.

But how was I going to get Germany’s bad behavior into a post about the Republicans? (Believe it or not, I’ve got literary standards.) Then it hit me, probably when I was making a right turn. Remember that rabid speech given by arch-right winger, modern-day fascist Pat Buchanan at the 1992 Republican National Convention? The late Molly Ivins said “it probably sounded better in the original German”.

See, it fits together after all. It’s what I should have said.