Wednesday, November 02, 2011

Greece:If you tolerate this, then your children will be next?

I've seen a few things recently that underline the way that ideological warfare constantly struggles to avoid the kind of conclusions that good democracies reach.

Take Greece, for example. Unless Pete / Alex / Snowflake et al (below) haven't pulled these arguments out of their jacksies, then we have to conclude that Greece has been the butt of one of the most effective ideological assaults any of us have seen in a long time - world opinion being softened up to accept the long-term smashing of an economy to protect what the Occupy movement call the 1%.

It's a warning to us all. Ideological assaults happen. History is rewritten and reality is fabricated to protect and support the beneficiaries of the failures and shortcomings of democracy. Ideological assault seems to me to be something that the left rarely arms itself against, preferring to perfect it's own analysis. It's the equivalent of ignoring the opposition's team sheet and formation before a match.

I've got a few links below (bookmarks for myself as much as anything), but what's my conclusion? It's a lightly-held one, but it seems to me that Europe's problem isn't poor economic management. If the quality of democratic decisionmaking were better in the EU, we'd be able to share the pain of the little PIIGS fairly easily.

Europe's problem is the falling standards of liberal democracy that the EU is prepared to accept. This mess is the result of bad decisions that were forced by the unbridled demands of pressure groups.

Italy is the real problem - it should never have been allowed in the EU (never mind the Eurozone) and it's done plenty in the past decade alone to warrant expulsion (as I argued in one of my earliest posts here). If Italy were a functioning liberal democracy, we wouldn't be worried by the contagion from a Greek default. If Greece were one, it wouldn't be defaulting.

In the cases of Ireland, Greece and Italy to my certain knowledge, we've seen the consequences of a debased democracy - not a fundamentally malfunctioning economy. This is not restricted to those countries either. It's an explanation that fits the whole post-Lehmans crash, and right-wing populist movements such as the tea party have been given free rein to campaign for it's continued existance.

We've seen democracies and corporations distorted in their aims by the overwhelming demands from powerful interests groups and mangers respectively. This is the problem - and the EU's decision to sidestep it (not least with the individual culprits within Greece) while demanding unpayable penalties from the Greek people speaks volumes.

I don't know why the Occupy movement are thrashing around for a set of demands to unite behind. Surely 'a good democracy' and all that it entails is the answer?


Anyway; a few links. Firstly, this from Sturdyblog, written back in June during the demonstrations in Syntagma Square:

"The first bail-out was designed to stabilise and buy time for the Eurozone. It was designed to avoid another Lehman-Bros-type market shock, at a time when financial institutions were too weak to withstand it. In the words of BBC economist Stephanie Flanders: “Put it another way: Greece looks less able to repay than it did a year ago – while the system as a whole looks in better shape to withstand a default… From their perspective, buying time has worked for the eurozone. It just hasn’t been working out so well for Greece.” If the bail-out were designed to help Greece get out of debt, then France and Germany would not have insisted on future multi-billion military contracts. As Daniel Cohn-Bendit, the MEP and leader of the Green group in the European Parliament, explained: “In the past three months we have forced Greece to confirm several billion dollars in arms contracts."

... and..

"The figure of 53 years old as an average retirement age is being bandied about. So much, in fact, that it is being seen as fact. The figure actually originates from a lazy comment on the NY Times website. It was then repeated by Fox News and printed on other publications....... Looking at Eurostat’s data from 2005 the average age of exit from the labour force in Greece (indicated in the graph below as EL for Ellas) was 61.7; higher than Germany, France or Italy and higher than the EU27 average. Since then Greece have had to raise the minimum age of retirement twice under bail-out conditions and so this figure is likely to rise further."

That post did get a bit of blowback on some of the numbers though (here)

And then this from Snowflake 5:
"Why the consternation in the rest of Europe? Because a bailout will still have to take place - of the banks, shorn of the "cover" and pretence that they were really bailing out the Greeks. In turn this will accelerate the need to re-regulate the banks and separate retail banking from investment banking - in other words reversing the trend set in course by Margaret Thatcher when she de-regulated in the 1980's, and then exported the idea to the world."
Again, read the whole thing if you have time.

And surely Big Pete has something to say on this? This comment on Will Hutton's enthusiasm for the deal last week that was supposed to draw a line under all of this unpleasantness:
"I rather think that Hutton's enthusiasm gets the better of him, mistaking centralisation of power for federal integration. The view from much of Greece is of an economic dictat that will impose endless austerity. Maybe this is overstated and the debt write down certainly gives some breathing space. But what this deal does not seem to do is to reform the structural problems of monetary union and redistribute trade imbalances (as Yanis Varoufakis argues here). Instead it still suggests that the cause of the crisis lies in the moral failures of the peripheral states, requiring the constant supervision of the enlightened technocrats at the centre, whatever their previous record.

Even that would be acceptable if it were not for one thing. The theory - austerity and orthodoxy. Faced with the incontrovertible evidence of failure, they are insisting on implementing their plan with a renewed intensity, even as the social fabric of the indebted nations tears apart."

Then there's this (but do read the whole thing if you have time)
"There’s only one word that adequately describes the majority of Dutch media reports on Greece right now: a witch hunt."

It concludes:
"In a solidary (sic) Europe, the question shouldn’t be: how do I get my money back with maximum profit? It should be: how do I help a country get out of a recession for which I am partly responsible, and who will foot the bill for that? In the first place, part of the money should be taken from those responsible for causing this mess — from the elite. The Greeks who have committed fraud for years on end, who evaded their taxes, who obfuscated their money and who speculated irresponsibly, are going free, partly thanks to a recent law on parliamentary immunity. It’s an eyesore to he Greek people that Papandreou has failed to sue even a single corrupt politician, to punish even a single entrepreneur or ship owner, and to recover even a single penny from the billions of euros that have disappeared into various pockets. And in no way does Brussels seem to be pushing for such measures. In fact, on this subject, Brussels has remained silent as the grave."
 I got a few of these links from Pete's roundup here from a while ago.

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