European Parliament President Martin Schulz shakes hands with new Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras in Athens, January 29, 2015.
Kostas Tsironis / Courtesy Reuters

It may be odd to use a Roman metaphor to describe a Greek political event, but in this case, it’s apt. Just as Julius Caesar crossed the Rubicon river because he could, in spite of the warnings of the Roman Senate not to, so Alex Tsipras, leader of the anti-austerity party, Syriza, has decided to try to end austerity in Greece, in spite of Europe’s leaders saying he shouldn’t. Whether Tsipras will succeed is still unclear, but whatever happens, his victory represents a crucial turning point for Europe—a signal that time has run out on austerity policies.

A “Tsipras” had to happen somewhere eventually, because there’s only so long you can ask people to vote for impoverishment today based on promises of a better tomorrow that never arrives. If voting for impoverishment brings only more impoverishment, eventually people will stop voting for it—and the

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  • MARK BLYTH is the Eastman Professor of Political Economy at Brown University. CORNEL BAN is Assistant Professor of Political Science in the Frederick C. Pardee School of Global Studies at Boston University.
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