The 44-year-old Greek prime minister is barely recognisable as the leftwing firebrand who threatened to denounce Greece’s eurozone bailout, ban German politicians from visiting Athens and pull the country out of the euro if its creditors rejected his demands for debt forgiveness.As a result, Tsipras is no longer popular and his party is expected to fall from power in the next election.
Four years after his first narrow election victory for his radical Syriza party, Mr Tsipras has become a surprising anchor of Greek financial discipline. His government is generating the sort of budget surplus that Athens’ creditors could once only have dreamt of. And he has reinvented himself as a southern European pragmatist, committed to being a co-operative EU partner while deepening relations with Washington in the interests of regional security.
“Tsipras now has a new international profile, that of the mature leader ready to incur political cost to carry out unpopular policies, whether it’s over Macedonia or the difficult economic reforms needed to keep Greece in the eurozone,” said Aris Hatzis, an Athens university professor of law and economics.
You can say, well, it's a good thing he failed to follow through on those threats because withdrawal from the Eurozone would have been a disaster for Greece. And maybe that is correct, although I think it is far from certain. But over the long run this sort of thing can breed toxic cynicism.
Consider the background to the revolution of Hugo Chavez in Venezuela: twenty years in which the leaders of both political parties called for reneging on the country's debts while out of power and then never did, in which anti-foreign, anti-banker, pro-people rhetoric never led to any changes in actual policies. Eventually the people got sick of it and fell for Chavez.
I think this is the big lesson for anyone who wants a world led by rational technocrats: if you persistently lie to and otherwise ignore the masses, they will turn to any available alternative, no matter how crazy.