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Midnight approaches…

I read this

Leaders of the three biggest [Greek] parties met at the presidential mansion for a final attempt to bridge their differences, but the talks quickly hit an impasse as they traded accusations on a deeply unpopular bailout package tied to harsh spending cuts

…and…

Polls since the election show the balance of power tipping even further towards opponents of the bailout, who were divided among several small parties but now appear to be rallying behind Tsipras, a 37-year-old ex-Communist student leader

…and was then reminded of this by H.L Menchen which I have often quoted…

Democracy is the theory that the common people know what they want, and deserve to get it good and hard

Greece is often credited as being the place where formal democracy was first practised in antiquity and so it seems fitting that it is Greece where the current social democratic order of regulatory statism enters its terminal state of Maenad frenzy, perhaps proving beyond all doubt that social democracy is unreformable via democratic means.

But do not kid yourself that the tragicomic indigent collective derangement on ever more florid display is something peculiar to the Hellenic world.

16 comments to Midnight approaches…

  • What is both irrational and illogical is that the vast majority of Greeks want to be part of the EU and the Euro but don’t want austerity to continue.

    Since Greece joined the EEC in the 1980′s it has been one of the greatest recipients of infrastructure funding, without which it would still be essentially a 3rd world nation.

    Although the flood of funding has slowed to a trickle since the Eastern expansion of the EU since 2004 the Greek electorate see EU membership and the Euro as part of the emblems of the modern Greek state.

    Austerity, they view as little more than the impoverishment of the Greek people by ‘the Germans’. While this view is utterly ludicrous, it is widespread.

    The fact that it is only the massive injections of bailout money that is keeping the overpopulated Greek public sector running is irrelevant to your average Stavros in the street.

    I am honestly hoping that there is a further election and that the Greeks firmly elect Alexis Tsipras and his Syriza party into power or at least as the head of a leftist coalition as I can think of nothing that will guarantee the necessary catharsis that Greek needs.

    When the Greeks are back with a Drachma free floating at some (much lower) level against the Euro, with all previous bonds defaulted and no likelihood of foreign investment for the foreseeable future, then the Greeks will have to learn again how to build an economy.

    To balance the books they will either have to undertake all of the cuts that they’ve long promised (but lied about) or force massive reductions in the new Drachma salaries, probably both.

    If they think austerity is bad, then this will be worse, but it will be a severe shock from which their economy will eventually recover, although they will all be a lot poorer than they were.

    If the Greeks had defaulted back in 2007 then they would probably already be on the road to recovery and we wouldn’t have blown billions in wasted EU/IMF bailouts.

  • Mendicant

    When a nation is in crisis, nationalism is the logical conclusion. The first thing to do in a crisis is assert your identity and rediscover yourself, so it is with nations.

    Tsipiras is popular because he actually has a functioning spine. People tend to like that.

    The EU demands austerity while simultaneously demanding that immigrants be given free handouts by the Greek government. The absurdity of a country massively in debt still absorbing a flood of immigrants beggars belief.

    Nationalism in Greece is a very welcome, wonderful development, and hopefully will lead to a rising up of patriotism and nations asserting themselves.

    Greece is not part of Europe, it is not part of the artificial construct which does not actually exist, that brainwashed people call “the West”. Greece is Greece.

  • Nationalism in Greece is a very welcome, wonderful development, and hopefully will lead to a rising up of patriotism and nations asserting themselves.

    There is no sentiment more certain to lead people into insanity and evil than nationalism and that you think otherwise surprises me not in the slightest.

  • Mendicant

    This from the comment pages of the Telegraph:
    “Thats just the thing – ordinary Greeks don’t “crank up the credit card”, they never have they have some of the lowest private debt in the western world. They are taught from birth to save and not take on debt.

    This govt debt is nothing to do with them – it’s the creation of oligarch families who controlled the govt for private gain for decades, and who also borrowed to lavish the military with F16s and other toys to sweeten them against coups.

    Why should ordinary people pay for this stuff?”

  • AreW

    This is good. A few years of flailing about should get the parties to choose higher quality leaders next time.

  • “Why should ordinary people pay for this stuff?”

    They shouldn’t. Indeed I have long called for as many states as possible to simply turn to sovereign default as the preferred way I would like to see them clear their debts.

    But the fact many in Greece are supporting a party lead by a communist indicates that far from demanding the state stop spending money, there are a great many people in Greece, not just oligarchs and apparatchiks, who are robustly in favour of the state spending vast quantities of money, no doubt under the impression if ‘their guy’ gets in it will not be their money getting spent but rather someone else’s.

    So I find myself exceedingly unsympathetic towards a great many ‘ordinary people’.

  • Jordan Keith

    This govt debt is nothing to do with them – it’s the creation of oligarch families who controlled the govt for private gain for decades, and who also borrowed to lavish the military with F16s and other toys to sweeten them against coups.

    Puh-lease. You and I both know that the vast majority of Greek government spending is on welfare and lavish public salaries and pensions. And just watch how the average Greek reacts when someone proposes cutting those benefits. Ordinary Greeks don’t charge up the credit card; they just shift all of their costs onto others.

  • Mendicant

    The point is, Merkel has demanded the Greeks waste money which they don’t have on her precious little German defence contractors, which makes her look at best a hypocrite, at worst a corrupt, sleazy scumbag.

    The people creaming the Greek benefit system are overwhelmingly ageing baby boomers and immigrants, the same immigrants the EU forces onto people who don’t want them.

    In short, the pensioners and immigrants are stealing the future of Greece’s young people.

    The Greek election results are not shocking; who would vote for the two utterly corrupt old parties and their spineless leaders?
    In fact, the most important thing for Greece is to smash the old parties, ND and Pasok, into a million pieces. Things won’t get better so long as the old men are still in power.

  • JohnB

    Mendicant. Nationalism has a different spirit to communism and can sometimes seem like a refreshing change.
    As the National Front seemed to some in a Britain collapsing under socialist policies in the 1970s.

    But it is truthfully just more of the same collectivist identification, mob-rule and group-think, instead of individualist effort and enterprise.

    More individual responsibility, and individual freedom to exercise that responsibility (and creative freedom), is what is needed not re-submerging things into a collectivist responsibility.

    One needs to get away from group identity as a way of thinking wherein to find solutions.

  • Snorri Godhi

    Perhaps I fail to understand Greek logic: it does not seem to be Aristotelian anymore. Or perhaps there is something I don’t know. Anyway here is my question, and answers would be welcome:

    How can the Greeks reject both austerity and the bailout?

    The only possible answer that I see, not violating Aristotelian logic, is that the Greeks (or most of them) think that they can reject the terms of the bailout and still blackmail the Germans (AND the Dutch, and the Austrians, and the Finns, etc) into giving them more money.

  • Andrew Duffin

    “reject the terms of the bailout and still blackmail the Germans…into giving them more money.”

    It would be well to await further events before writing off that possibility completely.

    You won’t have to wait long.

  • “reject the terms of the bailout and still blackmail the Germans…into giving them more money.”

    This is most certainly how a great many people in Greece appear to be playing it.

  • The only possible answer that I see, not violating Aristotelian logic, is that the Greeks (or most of them) think that they can reject the terms of the bailout and still blackmail the Germans (AND the Dutch, and the Austrians, and the Finns, etc) into giving them more money.

    Yes. This is exactly the problem, even though they are two contrary positions the majority of Greeks believe exactly this.

    Given their experiences of the EEC/EU magic money tree since 1986, why wouldn’t they? Vast amounts of EEC/EU capital has been poured into Greece since they joined up, so the natural (though misguided) viewpoint is that why should this stop when they need it most.

    Greece has been borrowing money far in excess of its income since – basically it’s entire history. Equally it has been in default for about half that time. In recent memory they have never had to operate a 1st world country backed by a 1st world economy, they’ve just taken EEC/EU money on the never, never and now find that their creditors would let them have anymore without a firm commitment to repayment.

    Boo Hoo!

    However, the ECB (and prior EEC institutions) have always been able to undertake to fund the profligate as they were able to avoid the moral hazard that usually accompanies lending to the uncreditworthy.

    Even if (as I hope and pray), the Greeks default and go back to a Drachma free floating against the Euro, it won’t be the ECB that goes bust because of this, they will just pass the bill back to national governments via the EU crisis fund (attributable to all EU members, not just the Eurozone) and the IMF.

    Sure some of these debts may eventually be settled after negotiations between the Greek government and the Paris Club, but any such settlement is years, possibly even decades away.

    In the meantime EU taxpayers will pick up the tab for the ECB’s Greek adventures.

    But you knew that, didn’t you.

  • PersonFromPorlock

    Why should ordinary people pay for this stuff?”

    Posted by Mendicant at May 14, 2012 02:42 AM

    Because ‘going along’ is also a choice.

  • Snorri Godhi

    “reject the terms of the bailout and still blackmail the Germans…into giving them more money.”

    It is gratifying to see a sentence of mine quoted 3 times, but perhaps I should explain why I mentioned the Dutch, Austrians, and Finns after “the Germans”: these countries, and possibly Slovakia, have the potential to play a bigger role than Germany itself.

    Given Germany’s image, I think it unlikely that Germany will be the first to leave the eurozone, no matter the cost of staying in. A more likely scenario is that “far-right” (i.e. anti-bailout) parties will get an absolute majority, or at least a controlling minority, in one of the above small countries. That country would then leave the eurozone. If and when that happens, I expect a chain reaction, with the German government either leaving the eurozone of facing electoral suicide.

    What I do not expect, is Greece leaving the eurozone voluntarily: surely the Greek political class knows that the likely result would be that Greeks keep using euro cash in the private sector, reserving drachmas for tax payments.

  • Mike James

    In the hopes of helping our Greek brothers, the Mencken quote, translated into Greek using Babylon:

    Η δημοκÏατία είναι η θεωÏία ότι το κοινό οι άνθÏωποι ξέÏουν τι θέλουν, και αξίζουν να τις αποκτήσετε καλή και σκληÏή.

    I have no Greek whatsoever. Hope this didn’t come out too mangled.