1 Nov 2011, 12:40pm
economy
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  • Greece – Cradle of Democracy once again?

    The good citizens of Greece lived in a military dictatorship within my living memory. That was along time ago, but it seems that in the transition to a democracy they didn’t get round to sorting out all the paraphernalia necessary to a modern nation state. Like collecting taxes and all that jazz.

    Everybody looked the other way when Greece entered the euro, but it seems the old boy Warren Buffett had a point when he wryly observed

    After all, you only find out who is swimming naked when the tide goes out.

    A lot economic skinny-dippers may be caught out soon, but the Greeks were way ahead of the pack. They have got a shedload of serious economic pain coming their way, but so far it seems that everybody else  has been trying to stall things to shift their money out of harm’s way and protect their own interests.

    So far most of this has been done behind closed doors, and it seems to be loading eye-watering future economic pain onto the Greeks. It seems that finally politics has met finance.

    The Greeks would have to endure decades of austerity if they want Germany’s money. That’s fair enough, it’s always the people with the money who get to call the conditions, since money is crystallised power over other people. You want mine, well, it’s on my terms or not at all.

    However, at least now the people will be asked whether they are prepared to pay the price for Germany’s money. The alternative, in which their financial system implodes and the country grinds to a halt, is unknown and probably pretty rough.

    The favoured choice depends – for the young it’s almost a no-brainer. If you have hardly any assets, vote no – and be prepared to move, if necessary. For the rich, well, presumably you’ve spirited your money out of the country and turned it into hard assets, like London property 🙂 For the old, well, perhaps Germany’s money is worth the price. For those with fixed assets, well, it’s a hard one to call, as those assets may be confiscated by taxation if you take the money, or destroyed in the upheaval.

    Whatever happens, though, it is about time that the people that are going to have to endure the downside of these options get the choice in which option they take.

    The original Common Market was created to bind Germany and France together after the Second World War. It’s been extended to bind all sorts together, and perhaps people sleepwalked into the Eurozone without realising that it would necessitate a United States of Europe.

    Now Europe is a collection of nations with differing languages, cultures and long histories. There is less common cause than say in the United States of America. There the states had been settled over a century or so, and even there the culture of the North and South were different enough to necessitate a grisly Civil War before Union.

    I’m not sure the people of Europe are ready for a United States of Europe. There is no common language, and not really a common culture. Yes, the countries of Europe are culturally more similar to each other than they are to, say, China or Japan. But I think it is coming clear that they aren’t similar enough to be prepared for the sort of intra EU transfers of money that go on in the US, or even in the UK from London to everywhere else.

    And it’s about time that they were asked. Would have been better before the creation of the Eurozone, but at least the Greeks are returning to the principle. They have no good options, because in using borrowed money to finance their lifestyles they have become debt-slaves. But it is right to ask them which of the bad options they want to live with in future. It’s called democracy.

     
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