Changing times need new words. Until you can accurately describe what is going on, you lack the agency to fully understand it and the capacity to respond to it. In this spirit, the Académie Franciase has invented a word for hashtag (#): mot-dièse. And in this spirit, I’d like to introduce a new term into European vocabulary: getting troiked.
“Getting troiked“ is the process by which European member states on the brink of insolvency are forced to cut down on public spending by restructuring, reforming and reorganising every aspect of their public sector in exchange for the liquidity required to stay afloat. The measures have only deepend recessions, and each tranche loaned needs to be met with further spending cuts until either a miracle happens or they are bled out in the streets for all to see.
Slovenia has started selling all its publicly held companies in order to improve its liquidity and avoid “getting troiked”. Greece and Portugal, we know, won’t be so lucky, and will be requiring a further tranche after the general German election in September. They know that further austerity measures aren’t in their best interests and so does the rest of Europe. They’ll be forced to implement them anyway. We don’t talk about this. But we need to.
When the crisis first struck, bringing in the powerful Troika of the IMF, ECB and European Commission to enable and control bailouts seemed a necessary temporary measure. Dictating the internal policies of sovereign states can be tolerated in a brief time of emergency. But seven years down the line and with no sign of times changing, our continued tolerance of the Troika suggests that we have given up on national democracies and no longer understand democracy’s fundamental principles. The idea that people are sovereign and should be governed transparently by the leaders they elected to enact their will, and whom they can vote out when they fail to do so, seems to have become a naïve utopia.
It is also wrong to assert – as the Troika does – that fiscal sovereignty can be distinguished from “real sovereignty”. A government with no power over how it spends its money is not governing. Creating “mobility schemes” that drive people out of public and private employment, closing down public services and applying comprehensive spending cuts, wiping out all investments in your country’s future: these are the most fundamental of governmental decisions. The Greek graduates that have moved back in with their parents, the rioters that have stopped rioting because they have lost faith in the ability to create change, the shop owners that have closed their stores, the mother forced to choose between food and schoolbooks; they all understand how ‘real’ fiscal sovereignty is. Somebody needs to tell them that their vote has been outsourced.
A Thrifty Swabian Housewife
If we truly believe that people are incapable and undeserving of governing themselves, we can have the big “technocracy v. democracy“ debate. But this debate has not taken place. Instead democratic rule has been outcast silently. The argument for technocracy is that it achieves better outcomes – it is the rule of good ideas. But the Troika fails by this standard. The IMF has admitted to miscalculation. The ECB still feels that its primary job is price stability and not restoring economic prosperity. And the Commission quite openly has a “thrifty Swabian housewife“ bias. The Troika’s one big idea, austerity, is the most destructive force to sweep this continent since… you know what.
There is no practical reason the Troika should not be phased out. The money it is distributing is already held by the EU’s own IMF: the European Stability Mechanism. Irrespective of who paid what towards it, the money is meant as a safety net for all Europe’s citizens, and is meant to be spent in good faith, and in the Union’s citizen’s best interests. The unelected Troika’s interventions are destroying Europe country by country and it shows no signs of the solidarity and respect for sovereignty currently needed in Europe. #troiked
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