Until yesterday, we were inclined to believe that the Greek population had been kidnapped by some disturbed political forces from the fringes of the political spectrum. Today we know it for certain: the Greeks have chosen to be governed by these forces and are pushing hard to gain some kind of advantage.
You might be tired of these arguments, blaming only the Greek population for the quagmire it finds itself in; but I have often enough written on this topic and argued that no European should ever have to remain hungry. But rest assured: the Greeks aren’t not starving because we, the lender countries, treat them ruthlessly.
No, people in Greece are starving because contrary to Spain, Portugal, Ireland or even Germany, when it undertook the Hartz reforms, the Greek state does not want to accept reform when it is so urgently needed. A country that does not even have a properly functioning land registry office, does not fulfill the requirements for a well-functioning economy. This is the truth, and it speaks volumes. Without land registry office, you can neither have a proper land tax nor an effective capital tax.
The Greek government doesn’t even know what land it owns. It couldn’t even sell some of the Greek islands to pay off its debt, as is sometimes tauntingly suggested. The government also cannot introduce a real estate tax like the Italian government did when it ran into financial difficulties.
The truth of their ideology
Greece lacks the ability to participate in the concert of European nations. It is a lie that the Germans are responsible for Greece’s dire situation. It is nothing more than a tub-thumping statement by a demagogic government. Germany’s mistake, Merkel’s only mistake was to believe that Tspiras would cast aside his ideological election promises that ruled out further adjustment programs whilst requesting more financial aid and become a pragmatic, reasonable politician. He did not. Greece is run by ideologists, none of which care about the wellbeing of the population. They only care about the truth – the truth of their ideology.
It is of course Greece’s good right to negotiate the terms of the bail-out deals. It would be illusory to believe that economic growth can be created through heavy spending cuts. But this is not at the heart of Greece’s plight. The problem is that the country that was once the cradle of European democracy and home to the most influential thinkers, was turned into a country riddled with flaws. The country’s past was key in the decision to let it join the Eurozone. It weren’t the bad guys from Goldman Sachs that pushed for that, they merely translated the political will into numbers. The decision to let Greece join the Eurozone was a wrong decision, spurred by the bloated self-confidence of the European partners. This optimism has amounted to a shocking €200 billion bail-out – so far.
An erroneous choice by stubborn people
I am a great admirer of the writer, scientist and anarchist David Graeber who, by way of his groundbreaking book “Debt: The first 5000 years”, laid the foundation for abolishing the debt system as we know it today. But Greece is not the place to prove Graeber’s thesis of not paying back debts. Credit card debt or public debt that has been traded on flawed markets are no longer Greece’s main problem. They were the problem of the whole Eurozone five years ago. The haircut that Greece was granted in 2012 cushioned the effects of a potential collapse of government bonds prices and lowered the interest rates the country would have faced in the event of further bail-outs. Europe displayed solidarity to the point of self-mutilation.
The Greek government, that likes to label others as terrorists but tolerates blackmailers in its own rows, represents the popular opinion that the current way of dealing with the crisis is acceptable and that further changes are therefore unnecessary. It also speculates that these changes are not important enough to the lenders to accept the risk of having to kick out the cradle of democracy from the European club.
But what happened yesterday wasn’t a signal of the spirit of the downtrodden Greek population, standing up to international financial institutions, the capital, Angela Merkel or whatever. Yesterday, stubborn people made an erroneous choice because they are mislead enough to ignore the fact that their corrupt and inefficient domestic system is breaking their backs – and not an evil-spirited Europe.
Translated from German
Read Newest From Column Alexander Görlach: When Religion is taken Hostage