The case of Greece and the riots there speak to a seeming paradox within the leftist dream. That dream is one of people seeing themselves as members of a larger community first and as individuals second, of the state supporting workers before entrepreneurs, and ensuring that everyone has high pay, plenty of vacation time, medical care, and generous pensions, by taxing and redistributing heavily. A society structured that way is supposed, we are told, to lead to an end of selfishness and greed and an end to poverty and inopportunity–a society where we care about each other and not just about ourselves.

What the Greeks have learned–and what the rest of Europe is quickly learning–is that such a system is terribly expensive, and that the money has to come from somewhere. Every person living entirely off of the state is a person not putting money into the pot from which the state makes its payments. It’s quite obvious that if your paycheck had to support my family in addition to your family, both our families would be broke. That simple math doesn’t go away when we scale up the number of people both producing and consuming tax revenue. The Greeks forgot this. Their politicians over promised and the system can no longer provide.

But the riots speak to a more tragic element than the basic economic problems of a massive redistributionist state, as well. They show that even the idea that, with the state providing for all, everyone will think of community first is fatally flawed. The rioting Greeks are not rioting and burning and killing because they have a sense of community. They are each, individually rioting and burning and killing because they don’t want to make the tiny sacrifice, to take the relatively small cut in pay, Greece needs to continue to function. The Greeks are behaving exactly the opposite of how the leftist dream says they should. They are thinking of themselves first and their community not at all.

Believing in social justice is only meaningful when you have to sacrifice for it. The Greeks, contrary to the dream, are behaving like the worst progressive caricature of a greedy capitalist: what’s theirs is theirs, fuck the consequences. The leftist dream has lead not to moral enlightenment, but to moral repugnance.