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Innovation Blog

 Greeks and Arabs are Greeks and Arabs Only in America:

The REAL Greek Debt and Arab Spring Crisis

By Shlomo Maital

      Here is an ongoing mystery:  

 ● In the United States, there are 1.5 million persons of Greek descent (Wikipedia).  There are also 1 m. Greeks in Britain.  They are known for their entrepreneurial energy, especially in the food business but extending far beyond.    

● In America, there are 4 million persons of Arab descent. According to a study by Samia el Khoudry,  “Arab-Americans are  younger, more educated, more affluent and more likely to own a business [than native-born Americans].  In general, Arab-Americans are better educated than the average American.   More of them attend college, and they earn masters or higher degrees at twice the average rate.  Median household income is strikingly higher for Arab-Americans in the Pacific, Northeast, New England, and South Atlantic regions, exceeding $50,000 annually.  Arab-Americans are significantly more likely to become entrepreneurs than native Americans.”

   The mystery is,  why are Greek Americans, and Arab Americans, more dynamic, entrepreneurial and business-oriented in America, than are Greeks and Arabs in their own countries?

   It’s no mystery.  The simple answer:  Because they can. Because the social and economic context of America permits their native culture to flourish, while the social and economic context in their native countries stifles entrepreneurship.  Greek bureaucracy is horrendous, starting a business there is a nightmare.  In many Arab countries, like Syria, the regime doles out business fiefdoms like pieces of candy to its supporters; small entrepreneurs don’t have a chance. 

   Writing in his NYT column, Tom Friedman quotes an Athens Univ. business professor Dimitris Bourantas, who says that “Greeks, when they move to the US, unleash their skills and entrepreneurship in ways that enable them to thrive in commerce.  But here in Greece, the system encourages just the opposite.  Greece is the only country in the world where Greeks don’t behave like Greeks.” 

   The short-run solution to the Greek debt crisis, and to the Arab Spring’s economic crisis, is to provide funds.  The long-run solution?  Help Greeks and Arabs be Greeks and Arabs in their own countries, to unleash the nuclear energy of enterprise.   It works – America is proof.

    “Become who you are,” Nietzsche once said.  Let’s hope Greece and Arab Spring nations will help their citizens to become who they truly are.  That is the true, and simple, solution to their economic woes. 



Blog entries written by Prof. Shlomo Maital

Shlomo Maital
July 2011
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