By Nordstjernan columnist Ulf Nilson, March 2010

From Rome to Lisbon, from Dublin to Riga and particularly from Athens, reports have been coming in for a long time of governments spending money they didn't have, and—worse by far—doctoring official statistics to hide their misdeeds.
Well, we live in democracies. And in democracies the most important thing, if you want power, is to be elected. And when do you get elected? Well, of course, when you are popular, more popular than the other guy. And how do you become popular? Well, give the voters money. Not outright, that would be vote buying, which is indeed prohibited. Cash can not be used. But you can promise lower taxes, cheaper education and—you might have noticed—better health care. As well as various subsidies, grants and what have you.
In other words—forgive me for sounding cynical—you pay people to vote for you. And, best of all, you don't have to use your own money. It is all done over the state budget. And, better than best: You can do it whether the aforementioned budget has any money or not.
So did the Greeks. So as not to be caught flatfooted, they doctored the books. This they did for a long time ... but suddenly, when the crisis broke, people started to notice. Banks and other institutions started to demand repayment and all hell broke lose.
So what did the Greeks do? They did not want to raise taxes, which, as any politician knows, is a sure way to get unelected. Instead they started to beg their neighbor, specifically Germany (the largest and richest in EU-rope). The Germans were not amused, and the chancellor, Angela Merkel, told the continent that maybe, just maybe, countries who behaved in fraudulent ways ought to be kicked out of the community.…
That's about where we are now. The euro is in trouble and the so-called European Union (which was, of course, never a union at all), is even less of a union today, but rather 27 states with huge differences and very little interest in helping each other when the going really gets tough. I mean, if a Swedish finance minister helps Greece with a huge loan, he might become very popular—in Greece. In Sweden, on the other hand … well, you get it.…
So, what will happen is that the Greeks—and quite a few others—will have to raise taxes and even PAY THEM, which has not been a national specialty. Discipline and frugality will be the order of the day. People will complain, political heads will roll and in the end, we will most likely muddle through, not exactly gloriously, but somehow, anyway.
So far, so bad.
But there is another thing to consider, and this on a more positive note. Many of the countries of Europe are badly run. Sweden, I would rank among the better, although I have no trouble at all keeping my enthusiasm within bounds. But it should not be forgotten from where we came. The U.S. had its civil war in the 1860s. Europe had much, much deadlier wars 1914-18 and 1939-45, when millions were killed and maimed and a brutal dictatorship (remember the Soviet Union?) took command over a great stretch of the continent.
The EU ended all that. After the first six got together with the Rome Treaty of March 1957, there has been a couple wars, but smaller, not really world affairs. Europe, certainly helped by the U.S. (and in a way by the Soviets), has chosen to live in peace and—as a wonderful by-product—prosperity.
This should be kept in mind. Today's bickering (and lying and cheating) are rather reprehensible, but it could have been worse, much worse.