“It is undisputed that the Greek people have to suffer from the consequences of decades of neglect.”
-German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble, May 14, 2012
“Everyone realizes that to control debt, competitiveness needs to be increased, and — too bad for the population — it is translated into some form of impoverishment linked to lower wages[.]”
-Belgian Finance Minister Steven Vanackere, May 14, 2012
“I do not know of any banking group that would be put in a situation of difficulty by an extreme scenario in Greece.”
-Bank of France Governor Christian Noyer, May 14, 2012
“The British recovery has been damaged over the last two years not by Britain getting a grip on its public finances but by uncertainty in the eurozone. It is that uncertainty, not austerity, that is doing the real damage to the European recovery, and indeed the British recovery.”
-UK Chancellor George Osborne, May 14, 2012
“I don’t like the way of dealing with Greece of those who are threatening Greece day after day. This is not the way of dealing with partners, colleagues and friends, and citizens.”
-Luxembourg Prime Minister Jean-Claude Juncker, May 14, 2012
Greece’s three-year odyssey through the seas of austerity has been a long, strange, and bad trip. If the country were to comply with the ever-more sadistic terms the Troika has imposed on it as a condition of continuing financial rescue, economists predict that in 10 years it would still be in recession. The bankers of Europe and the political prostitutes in Berlin and Brussels who serve them address the Greeks much in the same way the jealous God of the Old Testament addressed the errant Hebrews: “If you abandon the LORD and serve foreign gods, he will turn and bring disaster on you. He will destroy you, although he has been so good to you.”
Greece’s long-suffering people, we’re told, must choose between the Scylla of continued austerity and the inevitable feedback loop of stagnation it entails, and the Charybdis of abandoning the European currency altogether and striking out on its own. Economic policy, perhaps for the first time in modern Western history, is being openly discussed as a penological theory, and one that privileges retribution and deterrence far above rehabilitation. If John Maynard Keynes and Milton Friedman agreed on one thing, it was that economic growth is good and should be the ultimate purpose of any economic policy for a nation. The debate among the capitalists used to be between austerity and stimulus as two alternative vehicles for achieving growth. Today, the debate is between austerity and growth itself!
For the citizens of Attica, whom a jury of Europe’s peerage has convicted such capital crimes as high wages, paid holidays, an early retirement, and generous pensions, this debate has become essentially one of clemency. What is slowly dawning on the Greek people, however, is the freedom—and immense power—that their having nothing left to lose confers upon them. The extent of the social misery in this country has reached such absurdly extreme proportions that the prospect of leaving the Eurozone actually sounds a great deal better for Greece than staying in under the current death-spiral of austerity. Returning to the Drachma, we are told, would be acutely terrible for the country for about two years or so, and then maybe growth will explode, kinda like it did in Argentina, or something.
All around the world, the markets today have spoken in a unified voice that the consequences for Europe and beyond of a “Grexit” would be nothing short of catastrophic—a kind of Lehman Brothers on steroids . . . and PCP. Yet Chancellor Merkel is taking as unflinchingly hard a line toward the fiscal and monetary inmates financially incarcerated in the old world Attica as Governor Rockefeller took toward the inmates who were literally incarcerated in the new world Attica. The difference is that whereas Rockefeller was willing to spill the blood of as many prison guards as was necessary to subdue the restive population in his Attica, Merkel appears to be willing to annihilate the entire global capitalist system as we know it in order to show her Attica who is boss.
The question, fellow citizens of the Earth, is whether we shall continue to play the role of the market’s “correctional” officers.