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  • Writer's picturePhilip Ammerman


What strikes me with every visit to the Acropolis Museum is how intensely our ancestors believed in a common set of values and ethos, and how absent these values appear at the system level today.

For a brief but relevant time, perhaps 200 years, these values created something more than history, despite all the failures and shortcomings of the system that framed them.

Perikles assigned three geniuses—Iktinos, Kallikrates and Phidias—the task of building the Parthenon, which they completed in 9 years. Construction began in 447 BC and ended in 438. That structure has lasted and inspired for nearly 2500 years.

The contrast with our public system could not be greater. Today our society strives for handouts, βολεμένους and the pablum of bureaucracy. Today, I can’t see any geniuses being appointed in a public tender process. We can’t even build bicycle paths properly, let alone sidewalks.

We are building instead a sclerotic and untouchable public sector that strangles creativity and initiative while draining society through taxes and meaningless regulations. When it comes time for absurd bureaucracy—like GDPR or cookie warnings or energy efficiency certificates—our public sector outperforms.

Whenever it comes time to actually do meaningful work - for example, to put out a forest fire or catch criminals or educate our children or deliver justice - we are surprised when it fails. Why are we surprised?

Today, 2500 years later, we remember Perikles. What politician are we going to remember 20 years from now, let alone 120 years from now? Except as a bad joke?

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