Ποιειν Και Πραττειν - create and do

Diary of the Crisis till Nov 2011

6.11.2011 Sunday

There is one question in need to be answered, especially since many do not understand the situation in Athens, Greece anymore: why did Jorgios Papandreou call for a referendum and for a vote of confidence after returning from Brussels where an agreement was secured to make possible the bailout payment of 8 Billion Euros? This bailout Greece needs, in order not to default in December. The call for a referendum jeopardized all of this in one single stroke. Here a possible answer:

Jorgios Papandreou may have thought one way to ensure he gets the necessary vote in the Greek parliament for the next austerity measure is to expose the opposition parties who have until now played the game of fundamental opposition and refused to share any responsibility. To some extent he succeeded with the call for a referendum to do precisely that since it differs from going to general elections. For it would mean not so much his stay in power is in question, but what should influence his negotiating power with the European partners who are willing to bail out Greece, but then under very, indeed not only specific but harsh conditions. 

Nevertheless it was hard to see what the referendum should answer to, especially if the details of the Oct. 26th / 27th (that long night in Brussels) agreement need still to be worked out. To do so in a new atmosphere of uncertainty does not make sense.

Presumably Jorgios Papandreou was already under extreme pressure from a part of his own party. They demanded from him to make major, even personal concessions once he would come back from Brussels, and this in exchange for their vote to the new package of austerity measures linked with the need to secure the second bailout. Here lawmakers within PASOK such as Vasso Papandreou have been most vocal as part of the inner party opposition. There seems to be a problem within the party when it comes to inner regulations for the transition of power from one president of the party to another.

One should recall as well that Jorgios Papandreou likes to use unconventional methods. Thus he altered suddenly the question of his legitimacy as leader of the PASOK when challenged by Venizelos by letting suddenly also non members of the party vote. When foreign minister under Simitis, he was keen to solicit the social media for bringing about greater engagement. Yet to what extent this is authentic participation, remains at best doubtful. He never used this method once he had become Prime Minister. By the way, something similar happened with Barack Obama. The facebook generation which became engaged on his behalf for the first time during election time, it vanished once Obama was installed in power. This generation was never consulted again and informed in the same way as during the pre-election phase.

Upon returning from Brussels, Jorgios Papandreou may have felt trapped for many reasons. However, he may have felt as well safe enough to make his next move. Afterall Europe i.e. all 27 member states including Slovakia had agreed to the second bailout package for Greece to the amount of 8 Billion. In addition to that, Merkel and Sarkozy had found at the summit in Brussels a solution with the banks insofar as the latter agreed to accept a semi-voluntary 50% hair cut of the Greek debt. So everyone was relieved in Europe to have finally found a possible solution to the satisfaction of everyone. Slovakia was most uncertain in its agreement to this bailout package, but in a second vote they did come through. So why the unexpected move by Papandreou which came like a shock to all that he would ask first of all for a vote of confidence and then call for a referendum? He may have felt certain about the outcome on the one hand but most uncertain what was his political future as Prime Minister of Greece.

Given the analysis that Greece is especially after the last visit by the Troika already in a situation where only one thing counts, namely full compliance, there is really no political freedom left for any manoever. This new totalitarian situation leaves hardly any escape route. It should be furthermore remembered that debt is no longer just an issue of repayment of the loans taken to cover the debt, but has become a matter of character: are the Greeks reliable enough to uphold their commitments? Naturally a demand to improve the civil service and to make the economy more competitive goes hand in hand with the belief that the Greek character has to change. There may come, therefore, a point when it is no longer sure that this possible. Since everything started off from a mere economical approach, no one seemed to have notice when this was no longer the case. Already for some time now negotiations are not only about debt and payments, but have entered the more dangerous area of character change or not. That means all politicians have entered fully the cultural domain without realizing what it means to demand of the other to change values, dispositions, behavior etc. in short, character.

All this reminds of what Cassandra says to the Athenian advisor to the people of Troy when faced by the Athenian army and who had recommended if they want to win they must become like the Athenians, namely liers, treacherous, devious etc., as reaccounted in the narrative by German writer Christa Wolf: "but what do you think we are fighting for?" Not to change character may mean doom as much as changing character in order to win may mean to risk the loss of everything worth standing for. Thus a true Greek dilemma war surely in the making when perceived in that way! Jorgios Papandreou may have thought to free himself from this dilemma by acting alone in calling for a referendum. It did send shock waves through the whole of Europe: what if the people in Greece would not agree to the bailout package?

Oddly enough no one wants to admit that while economic transitions from one financial model to another might be done over night, this is not the case with change in character. In other words, the missing cultural dimension explains why another time frame is not being taken into consideration. The latter is not at all compatible with what especially the financial market seeks and asks for. The time required for different changes are no longer conjoining in one development but contradict each other. No wonder when patience is replaced by growing impatience. It goes hand in hand with an unwillingness as to what is being asked for, namely to shut up and to comply fully.

Just like the austerity measures do not allow for economic growth, so people are being punished and pushed into poverty even if not their own doing. Still, it takes maturity to assume responsibility for all what happened before while finding a way out of the dilemma.

All along, it should be said that the Greek situation is made far worse by loss of confidence and trust the markets have in the ability of the Greek state to manage the debt.
Aside from wishing to do the impossible, namely to have still some freedom of choice where there is none in a totalitarian situation, Jorgios Papandreou knew all along that the real problem of Greece is so huge, that there is really no solution for it. The New York Times reported yesterday in an article that this was already realized by internal investigations in 2009, that is before Jorgios announced officially that the deficit is not 6% but 12%. But Jorgios Papandreou did not acknowledge in public the IMF internal report predicting a default of Greece, but angrily denied it and suppressed it by preventing its publication. The NYTimes article calls the debt crisis an outcome of a growing spiral of denial of reality. By suppressing the report insofar as it was not made public, Papandreou managed to suppress a truth. If this method of mendacity is continued in the form of constant denial, the real problem will not be dealt with in time and therefore spin out of control one day - first at individual, then at collective level.

Last week was presumably too much for his psyche to take. Jorgios Papandreou may want to have believed the old method of deception could still work. In part it was a theatrical move to expose the opposition parties. But he acted without knowing what to do anymore in a thought through manner, except to assert himself still in the belief not that he is in power and full control, but that he has still himself to count on to do the unexpected.
In his speech to the Greek Parliament prior to the vote of confidence he prided himself as being always ahead of his times. Often others would chide him and only later on see he was in the right. And in so doing the unexpected, he characterized himself as a breaker of taboos. And he prided himself by claiming that he was not clinging to his post as Prime Minister but could go away anytime. All this can be understood as someone unable to see through his self deception. Equally he does not seem to realize that he poses therefore a high risk in governance as he can discard all the investments made by others out of a wish to save Greece, the Euro and the European project by reducing it merely to a question of clinging on to power or not. That is not the virtue asked in such a critical moment. Yet he prided himself to be able to walk away from such a job anytime. In such a form of arrogance he seems not to realize what he has done. Only once the reactions set in, did he admit that the call for a referendum had been a mistake. Yet he did not return to the fact that he had not consulted anyone beforehand and acted alone. Merkel and Sarkozy were exposed as much as his Finance Minister Venizelos. This indicates that he thought only of his wish to be in line with his own consistent character, namely to break still another taboo.
As a result of the crisis provoked by this unusual manoever of Jorgios Papandreou, it has merely strengthened the impression of the Greeks being highly unreliable. Never will they stick to something agreed upon. Already in the next minute something else comes up and thus uncertainty continues to prevail. The sociologist Agrafiotis said back in 1988 when Greece was on the verge of becoming a full member of the European Union, that the only thing to be experienced in this country is 'the continuity of discontinuity'. Consequently after making the experience that this still holds in 2011, the demand for full compliance has been sharpened and thereby change in character ranks higher in priority than sheer economic matters.
No wonder when the totalitarian situation is taking on an ever more threatening tone. This includes Barroso and can be linked to the much sharper tone Merkel has adopted even though the NYTimes article attributes to her the many delays and the refusal to recognize early enough the full dimension of the problem which is affecting the entire Eurozone.

Europe is at best an unsustainable system, if there is no governance and hence no real interest to make it work in the sense of having its full capacity disposable to legitimate power as way to govern. European leaders ignored the problems for too long but they did so as long as things were going well, apparently, and the real problems could be denied as existing. In all of this, the logic of denial of obvious truths is never good to follow through with a kind of behavior which would be consistent with the demands of conscious governance.
To this has to be added that Soros plays a key role in what is his wish and demand, namely that Greece should default. What he has to gain from the situation being unresolvable, this may be speculated upon, but certainly hedge fund bettors have a lot to gain if things get worse. That is the unethical dimension in the entire matter. It is directly linked to the role hedge funds play in the financial markets. Certainly Greece has through this crisis lost a lot of political capital and Jorgios Papandreou personally in his standing as being a courageous politician who is willing to see through measures, even if unpopular. After he had won the vote of confidence, it may be merely his last act as prime minister. In politics, it is called preparing for a 'soft landing' - a method to keep face.
The debt dilemma is still in need to be resolved and the Greek crisis becomes still more obvious due to the absolute 'no' of Samaras who insists on nothing short but an election. The way he, Nea Demokratia and the other political parties have played their role in opposition bewilders everyone who is not Greek. Despite being at the brink of disaster, they prefer to bicker rather than shoulder any responsibility. None of them wants to get stuck with the odour of having passed and implemented such austerity measures which encompass hardships for the people. Venizelos admitted when taking up the post of financial minister that this equals to political suicide. No one likes the party and government which has to cut things back in order to save the budget and the position of the state. And they are severe. Senior civil servants have lost 60% of their salaries and are now down to 700 or 800 per month. They are getting now less money than some people who receive their pensions. The system will change but there is no focus on how to be just and fair especially to those who are not affiliated with the one or the other party.
The problem of incompetence besetting the entire system is that too many have received their posts through connections and not by qualification. As a result those who are overpaid do not know how to work and yet they block everyone else out. The structural changes initiated so far are not working or even worse inflicting too much harm. No wonder when the mood of many is growing by the day more ugly. Samaras is here the most dangerous indication of even worse things to come.


5.11.2011 Saturday

Papandreou started talks in the office of the President of Greece, namely Papoulias. He has been called most recently 'traitor' when performing his duty i.e. presiding over the ceremony to mark independence day of Greece on Oct. 28th in Thessaloniki. Papandreou referred to that in his speech late last night. It is an indication how far are apart those who throw everything possible at the politicians out of a belief they are only thieves and those who do not wish to abuse power while upholding the most important ingredient of democracy, namely decency and honest behavior.

At the same time, Samaras continues to demand total defeat. He wants not only that Papandreou steps down, but surrenders completely. The idea negotiated out in the backrooms was to make way for a short-term transitional government, in order to ensure that the next bailout package is not jeopardized and once that has been resolved, to proceed then to snap elections. Once again Samaras proves to be both ruthless and hard to the point of cruelty. Unfortunately he and Papandreou know each other only too well. They shared a common room once when studying in the United States.

Foreign newspapers call it the bickering of the political parties in Greece. To indicate how bad things are getting, they cite Greek citizens either in despair or sheer angry at the sight of the politicians. No one seems to understand anymore why they are unable to come to any agreement despite Greece hovering at the brink of disaster.

The New York Times article of today iterates that this crisis is an outcome of a series of denial. The prospects of Greece defaulting was already perceived by an internal report of the International Monetary Fund back in 2009. However, it provoked a denial by an angry Jorgios Papandreou, who as a prime minister just elected wanted to negotiate with his European partners on other than sheer hopeless terms. This denial was aggravated by various factors, including Merkel's delay in responding even when it was clear that Greece was heading towards default.


The debate in the Greek Parliament reaches a climax once Jorgios Papandreou speaks. He makes once more clear that he is not glued to the chair of prime minister. In other words, he is free to dispose of it as he likes to suggest, but that can convey an air of arrogance. Naturally full sympathy is given to him not only by those who understand the complexities of inner Greek politics and who share his desire to go beyond the obstructionist viewpoints of many lawmakers and even just ordinary people who do not really care as long as their interests are preserved. Of interest is that Papandreou is respected even amongst the anarchists who may consider him a bit stupid, but still see him as being basically honest. This is an important difference who become themselves fantatical when denouncing him as if he is to be blamed for the entire mess, deficit and intervention by the Troika and others like Merkel and Sarkozy. All this can be said to be a result of the deficit acknowledged by Jorgios Papandreou once he came into power after the election in 2009. No only the deficit, but how it has been handled, and reformulated as austerity measures in an apparent need to be taken, that has become the element crippling so much Greek society and politics.

It was well known opposition to Papandreou came not merely from the other opposition parties in Parliament, from the trade unions and other interest groups in society, but as well from within his own party. It seems as if PASOK has really no proper rules on how to elect or to dispose a leader. Always powerful factions within the party are formed to oust the current leader. This was also the case when a leading group of four ousted Andreas Papandreou although he had been the founder of the party. Now a similar fate awaits Jorgios Papandreou, his son. Some more remarks will need to be made about the inner workings of Greek parties as the system itself does not allow for anything but to entrust political power to socalled dynasties e.g. besides the Papandreou family, there are others like Karamalis, Mitsotakis and as well Samaras (whose father was a famous surgeon). If taken further, this can mean but the reformation of an elite known otherwise as the oligarchy which knows how to use power to rule out any other kind of government but that of their own wish and making. This is itself a complex web of interests and scaffolding in the best of all times when it comes to wishing to gain not so much the upper hand, but an open window of opportunity to show to the rest of society of having made it. That reminds of the Pope waving from the window of the Vatican after having been voted into office by the concil.

Papandreou did try to point out where his intentions to make reforms failed due to some obvious reasons, but the most apparent one to his mind is a lax attitude amongst law makers and others who do not perceive at all what is in the interest of the country. He claimed that often he has been derided in the past for his ideas but which are today common practices. He stated that he is a man who has no fear to break taboos and be derided for doing precisely that. If he had in mind also the strong and very negative response by Merkel and Sarkozy to his call for a referendum, he did not say that. Yet he did admit this had been a mistake.

In his speech he rejected the idea of holding an election as demanded by Samaras. Papandreou is of the opinion at this stage in time holding an election now would lead the country into still bigger disaster than what it is in already now. Samaras continues to play the role of the obstinate opposition. He accepts nothing less but Papandreou stepping down and new elections be held as he favors gaining complete new power for himself and to renegotiate the entire bail-out package and what agreements were made in terms of implementation of agreed upon austerity measures. As this goes into the substance of political discourse and outside interventions, it means Greece has moved well beyond the stage of just agreeing to accepting a bailout and obliging itself to pay back these loans. Since these loans were given at an interest rate of 5,5%, already Greece paid back something like 8,9 Billion while being obliged to move towards fixing some of the biggest problems such as tax collection. On top of it all, there are demanded of Greece to initiate and to make such structrural changes which promise that the economy shall be in near future more efficient and competitive. As all of this reflects what politicians like Merkel and Sarkozy expect from Greek politicians, there is naturally a dispute going on as to what these austerity measures mean when they amount merely to the opposition to these measures growing stronger by the day? The breaking point comes when patience with Greece has run out.


Late afternoon

News is coming in that indicates Papandreou will withdraw the referendum, talk with Samaras, leader of Nea Demokratia, the main opposition party, and perhaps there will be a kind of care taker government made up of technocrats. The latter has been demanded by the Conservative forces, and this as well within PASOK.

One alarming news item has been the announcement to replace the entire military general staff. It is said Nea Demokratia did the same in 2009 just before leaving office. As if by tradition those leaving office want to make sure they remain protected by the new forces having now the power to govern the country. All this reminds of fears another military putsch could be in the making. It shows as well that those who have some influence never really believe in democracy but only in sheer power. If it cannot be done indirectly, then there will be a resort to direct force. Naturally commentators reporting on this think 2011 cannot be compared with 1967. The Greek military forces are far removed from similar tendencies as existed back then. Still, the main problem is political instability kept under control by just making sure the military power of the country does not spin itself out of control. A safety precaution like this can have, however, still further ramifications. One needs only to think about the huge amount of money being spend on the military with 15% of the national budget being earmarket for this society within society.

Written in the morning

While still the question is being discussed why Papandreou opted for both a vote of confidence and a referendum, events are overturned once again. Again late last night or early in the morning, Sarkozy and Merkel stood in front of the cameras, this time not in Brussels, but in Cannes where the G20 summit will take place in the subsequent days. Their faces told more than what they said. Papandreou's surprise move has angered them. Patience was already running thin. Now 'Ende der Geduld' (the title of book by youth judge Heisig who died mysteriously in Berlin) draws the line to what extent a bail-out for Greece is still in the works or not.

Crucial are several factors when others are not informed, never mind consulted prior to making a lone decision as this does jeopardize not only everything, but shows the character of a man who lacks curiosity or the wish to know beforehand what shall be the case if one does this and not that. Papandreou lacks this essential quality to go around the corner to see further ahead. Maybe it was the only choice. Someone in his position had to take a hard beating ever since he opted for an open declaration to the extent that the Greek deficit was no longer manageable within the constraints of the financial markets. That admission that the deficit was much higher than originally thought after taking over power from Nea Democratia in 2009 revealed already the gap between political economy still an expression of an ability to govern and whatever mysterious mind may think of as a solution.

Put in favorable terms, if Greece was to become more efficient and competitive as the Troika proposed and put forward as precondition to obtain the first and now the second bail-out, such as opening up the professions, making the civil service more efficient etc., then it was not merely a matter of adopting a Western approach to economic and especially financial matters. Here even the USA has failed to adopt such measures that the out of scale payments in especially the banking sector would cease. Rather it was setting constraints and conditions under which it would be conceivable to search for new solutions. Some may want to call it a change in the mind set as if it is that easy. Precisely the underestimation of what it takes to change habits and even at a much deeper level value systems, in short culture to change in order to adapt for the future, that becomes now clear. For the issues are no longer just payments or financial deficits, but it has become a full scale examination of character and by extension a matter of virtue or not to let the Greek state stay within Europe and the Euro-zone as full member.

As with the referendum, it is a matter of how the question is put. Interestingly enough, Sarkozy and Merkel believe they are in the driver seat to pose an ultimatum to Papandreou, but that is exactly an indication that they do something without having the full legitimacy. They speak and negotiate as representatives of the two most powerful member states, but they are nationally elected and therefore not European leaders in the proper sense of being a part of the European governance.

Of course, some may want to argue but given the construction of the European Union, this is precisely the case: national leaders have next to Barroso and others who have recently been appointed due to the Lisbon Treaty, full legitimacy as the method of open cooperation is the basis of all decision making affecting Europe as a whole but also the individual European member states and their constituencies. Yet this argument is weak on the basis that the ratification of the EU Constitutional Treaty failed in 2005 and that the Lisbon Treaty was a top down papering over of the cracks and to which Jürgen Habermas criticized correctly as a failure to bridge the gap between institutions of the European Union and citizens. Many of these citizens are without a voice at all even though mobility and living in one country but having the tax and work base in another has become as well common European reality. One needs only to think of the many British people living part time of their lives in France or elsewhere.

The fate of Papandreou is being decided as the day progresses. Venizelous has sided with Merkel and Sarkozy that a referendum at this time would be disasterous. If this is to go through, then Papandreou will have to go. That is the clear message of the ultimatum. Whatever may have been his motive to opt for the solutions he proposed, it has furthered only the process of a much needed clarification in a negative way.

Greece is now really at the brink of being ousted from Europe and in so doing Europe shall be haunted that it will be without its birthplace. After all in Ancient Greece started Western Civilization and Sarkozy made reference to this great culture which existed once. Yet reference to Ancient Greece in the name of democracy is only possible if politicians heed what Cleisthenes did to bring about democracy. According to Robert Payne in his marvellous book 'Ancient Greece', "Cleisthenes issued the decrees which brought about a revolution in the art of government...for the first time, he announced the concept of the sovereign people, and so arranged the forms of government that they were able to rule freely." (p. 188) Nothing less is demanded for today's world as Europe looks ahead into the twenty-first century.


All day the pros and cons of the referendum were discussed not only by the media, but between friends who either wrote letters or phoned to find out more what was happening in Athens.


Today Greece has sent shock waves through the financial markets. This is at least the impression the TAGESSCHAU got from how stock markets behaved and how the Euro fared against the dollar. The reason is that Jorgios Papandreou opted for a solution to avoid an absolute confrontation with the old PASOK members. They managed to squeeze a concession out of him: for the vote in Parliament last Thursday, Oct. 20th, they wanted something in return. Now they have got something: a referendum along with a vote of confidence in his premiership. That double opportunity to cast a decisive vote may in the end prove nebulous in the light of the turbulances it causes on the financial markets. It is a decoy. Instead of talking about the problems which need to be resolved, all concrete issues are postponed as the inner political debate shall hing now only around these two decisive votes. Already it will put further uncertainty in how Greece shall negotiate the details in need to be worked out after Merkel, Sarkozy and others had put something together during that long night in Brussels last week. Now it is like an undoing of everything which was agreed upon since a precarious consensus requires everyone goes along for the ride even if in disagreement with some the basic principles and priorities set to make the EU look as if still capable of moving ahead together. That is no longer the case. And it is not about rifts but clearly that the common assumptions about reality are no longer shared. Rather different assumptions lead to preconclusions and in the end to false conclusions. This is because stigmatization and superficial analysis has intensified over the course of recent months and does not allow for a 'common sense' solution.


Alarming are certain anti German tendencies made explicit in various forms of Greek protest which taint Merkel as being the equivalent to Hitler. Besides wishing to invoke once again enemy pictures which allow an over simplification of the other as if this would resolve things, the sad thing is that real human pain experienced during the Second World War and therafter in the Civil War has not entered the collective memories of World War II. The East-West dialogue and Cold War ensured that Greece and its people were blended out. Only people with a special love for Greece in modern times would know the details. Yet there is Karina Raeck who lived in Crete for ten years and created as gesture of redemption the Andartis or the resistance fighter who was wounded by German soldiers and survived in a cave. This miracle is explained that the cave contained pencillin similar ingredients so that the wounds did not turn into gangrene like deadly diseases. Her peace work is linked to the creation of a museum to remember what happened in Crete during Second World War. It has also to include the story of my hair cutter whose father was spared by German soldiers once they realized he was an artist. The sudden shift from hostility to protecting the artist was not unusual since many German soldiers did realize coming to Greece meant also being close to the birthplace of Western Civilization. Still, it is most alarming when demagogy gains the upper hand in protests. And Germany is not solely responsible for the Greek debt nor for the bail-out package. Again the complex negotiation going on in Brussels and elsewhere is like anything a complex process. One has to be careful to distinguish between sideshows and truly progressive attempts to find solutions. The economic and social woes by many people is not a single experience of the Greek people. Everywhere people throughout Europe are deeply preturbed and uncertain about the future.

27.10.2011 Thursday

Early in the morning the European leaders, in particular Sarkozy and Merkel, reached a deal with bankers to accept a 50% hair-cut for the Greek deficit. Everyone had waited for a bold outcome when the European leaders started to convene Wednesday evening. Merkel had just obtained a favorable votum from the German Bundestag. She had to scuttle back from Brussels to Berlin, in order to seek and to obtain from the German Parliamentarians their vote of acceptance of the bail-out.

Similar dramatic moments were experienced in Slovakia, the last of the 27 member states, to accept the bailout package for Greece.

Europe had come around and there was a sigh of relief something had been decided upon that was bold enough to catch a breath of air and feel a certain relief everyone had come together and acted in the most responsible manner.

Jorgios Papandreou on behalf of Greece said this was indeed a historical turning point for the bailout agreement for Greece. After the crueling examination by the Troika with growth forecasts lower than expected, many sceptical people had to be convinced not to let Greece default and thereby trigger off in the rest of Europe, and fore mostly ín Italy and Spain, still another round of aggressive speculation against those economies being able to hold out.

Fire walling against new waves of speculation doubts was one of the most common slogans leading up to this decisive meeting lasting from Wednesday well into the early morning of Thursday. It was an indication that while wishing to bail-out Greece, there were already afoot precautionary measures in need to be taken what if Greece defaults, can that be contained and not reach the other economies also in need to be propped up once they can no longer keep their own state deficits under control while the market grows ever more sceptical.


21.10.2011 Friday

Two things stood out on the second day of the Cultural Forum: the presentation by Pier Luigo Sacco from Milano high lighted a possible explanation for the crisis of Greece and the information received from the European Commission about the structural fund for Greece being blocked could alarm anyone since at least 200 000 jobs were on the line.

Pier Luigo Sacco described a kind of index leading to the ranking of countries in which the correlation between cultural participation and innovation were the highest or vice versa the lowest. Greece ranked last in such a scale. It stands in contradiction to the original sense of innovation as known in Ancient Greece when the culture at that time was open to new ideas and by exploring them became highly innovative i.e. improved upon them. One possible explanation for the low level of cultural participation has to do with lack of motivation and thus it diminishes the overall sense of well being. On hand of one good example he could illustrate this point: waste management. Only those who would participate in cultural events, they would equally be willing to go out of their way in order to dispose their waste in designated places i.e. discard paper in special designated containers even if a bit further away from where they would live. Each of these special acts requires an investment in time. There needs to be overcome that negative cutting edge with regards to activities insofar often scepticism and cynicism predominates and reinforces preclusions such as that will not make any sense or what is the use. It reflects a negative valorization process and diminishes the prospects of finding within society solutions which do make sense.

The information about the structural fund for Greece is serious. Newspapers do not report about it. Only Merkel referred to it once when she was interviewed by a Greek journalist insofar as she mentioned the absorption rate of EU funds by Greece is very low. In this case the explanation why this is so has to be extended. Apparently the mechanism foreseen by the EU regio policy is back firing. Recent reforms have given for the financial management of structural fund projects far more leverage to banks as they have a bigger say in the release of funds. Since the Greek state has not the means to give guarantees to the banks, the money is not released. Efforts are being made by the European Commission to unlock the funds by engaging the European Investment Bank, but it is only an attempt to unlock a serious situation since without these funds at least 200 000 jobs are on the line.

While discussing the situation in Greece with Greeks living in Brussels, one remark provoked a strong reaction by one person. After I said 'everyone' is responsible for the crisis in Greece, one woman asked back sharply: "everyone?" And she continued: "would I agree if she said everyone in Germany was responsible for Fascism?" After I replied with 'yes', she left the round without saying anything further, not even good bye. Obviously she was annoyed and angry, even insulted. This is the problem of individual versus collective responsibility, something Germans had to work out after 1945. Wherever one went, it was possible to have strong reactions against one because of being German.

In Greece 'everyone' makes sense when it is said 'everyone does it'. Even my daughter pointed out that she would not have gone to extra lessons to help her improve the grades of her entry exam papers for university if the others would not do this, but since 'everyone does it', she concluded rightly so that she had no other choice but to do the same. And this means also everyone profits off inefficiency since the entire myth about the public education system being bad justifies the parallel existence of all kinds of institutions and private tutoring to provide this additional service but at a huge cost to Greek families. It amounts to the golden rule money can be made off inefficiency.

The same applies to doing something 'illegal', but because 'everyone does it', it is not really a breaking of the law, may that be in making transactions or payments without receipts or interpreting building and planning regulations in a way that there is still something illegally done e.g. the law stipulates a certain percentage of the plot should remain as free land, in reality it is build over and some fake garden constructed on top of the entire cement base. That means the basic ground surface where rain water could sinker into the ground to feed the underground water reservoirs is being steadily reduced throughout Greece. In future this shall mean a threat to water supply, but again what individual actions result in altogether, that no one thinks of when everybody does it. By simple deduction it can lead to the thought that there is nothing wrong if everybody does. Yet as pointed out repeatedly by Anna Arvanitaki, a cultural change in Greece is much more difficult to come by. She knows as planner working for the Greek Ministry for the Environment.


20.10.2011 Thursday

The absence of a real notification of the pending crisis at the Cultural Forum was almost self evident. Speaker after speaker referred to the age of digitalisation as if the economy, and in particular the creative industries were going strong. Yet in reality this discussion took place already during the early stages of 1992-96 when EU related research was done within the framework of ARTICULATE and LOGOS to examine not only the impact of the Information Society, but how this would alter the learning tools.

Simply said, Greece seemed far away from the world as perceived in Brussels. It seemed to be treated more as an exception to the rule. There was even at risk that Greece was being singled out in order to be excluded.

Then the news came from Athens that one demonstrator had died. At first, the circumstances thereof where unknown. Only later some explanations were added: a Communist trade union group curtained off parliament and as a result clashed with anarchists; one man died not due to police force (which would have ignited a huge protest wave) but due to a heart attack.

The bills needed to enforce further austerity measures as wanted by the Troika were passed.  It was done in anticipation of the EU summit to be held this coming Sunday. Greece needs the next tranche of 8 Billion if it is to be able to continue payments to its civil servants.

19.10.2011 Wednesday

The mother of all strikes - to follow news on television does not need much interpretation, especially if one knows the situation in and around Syntagma. The usual media images of police and hooded protesters dominate. Then there is blended in one woman who runs a busy with honey and who claims it is more expensive to ship honey to Greek islands than to Italy. She underlines the need for privatization. The editorial line is clear: the austerity measures to be passed in parliament is justified, unjustified are the strikes since instigated if not by hooded protesters, then by trade unions who want to retain privileges and the status quo. There is no talk about the failure to convince the majority of Greeks that all the measures so far taken have been fair.

18.10.2011 Tuesday

The story of getting still a flight out of Athens before the airport shut down due to the general strike is worth telling. As always in situations like these special circumstances help one to find the way. My luck started when learning that I have a seat on a flight departing for Brussels at 16.25 that I was already packed and could therefore rush to make it to the airport. A taxi driver nodded that it would be better for me to walk to Syntagma rather than take his cab as traffic had already crawled to a halt. Once at Syntagma there were taxis lined up where usually the airport bus would wait. I decided to take the Metro. Within 15 minutes I was at the end station where the regional express continues to the airport but there again someone pointed out today no such train was going. I went upstairs and took a taxis. The driver was very kind. We talked about the situation. He felt already as he had work, but he was worried about his three children as to what would lie ahead for them. A good education was difficult to attain and costly and then no guarantee to find a job thereafter. But the man was extremely kind. Still the short ride did cost 23 Euros. Once at the airport I did check in rather quickly. No problem. My seat was indeed reserved in my name. And I was checking in one hour prior to departure, that is on time. I made it to the airport in half a hour. Surely taking the Metro saved me. Until then I had always relied only on the airport bus.

The extraordinary circumstances when a general strike hits an airport was made only official per email to the airlines at 12.00. Till then airlines and booking agents cannot make any change in the booking unless one wants to pay for it oneself.

Once in the air with Aegean it was as if flying out of a danger zone. The apprehension as to what will happen once the General Strike unfolds were written all over the newspapers quoting those saying 'the mother of all strikes' shall grip Athens.


17.10.2011 Monday

Some of the rubbish on Skoufa has been removed by a private company hired to do the job. This includes the rubbish in front of the bars at the corner of Skoufa and Omireou.

It has rained and is unusual cold but always the sun does come through the thick layers of clouds - eventually. That is the reverse of skies in Northern Europe where the sun is usually squeezed out once the clouds have settled into their usual grim position.

Today the rumors about a likely 50% hair cut pending have been confirmed by the conservative newspaper Kathimerini quoting Soros as suggesting a debt restructuring is inevitable. Asked by a businessman trading with chemicals, what this will mean, the answer is not easy. It will bring some relief in the short run, but will have many negative ramifications in the long run. This is especially the case due to the weakness of the Greek banks. Some suggest they should be merged while Gabriel of the Social Democrats in Germany is of the opinion that the larger banks should be dismantled or even smashed / broken up (it depends what political term one prefers or what he said really).

Here a look at the Canadian Banking system, and decisions taken by Konrad von Finckenstein when heading the crucial decision board overseeing mergers in the name of upholding competition, might be helpful. The Canadian Banking system has proven to be most stable and sound in these times due to prudent judgment by management, so the reputation and saying around the world.

Still, what can a man or woman in the street decide in face of these likely prospects that the words of someone like Soros has more influence than many others? And the irony of it all is that his source of power comes from precisely hedge funds.

So Greece goes into another decisive week. There shall be the crucial vote this Thursday with PASOK MPs in need to hold out even though that bondage can no longer be called a vote of solidarity with the government. As to those who will join the general strike, they will want to retain not only old Rights but also their levels of payment has was known to be enjoyed until the crisis hit home.

Most telling is a simple comparison. The businessman talked to this morning on the way to work had just returned from Italy. He said that an expresso costs there 0,70 and a cappucino 1,50, while here in Athens you pay 2.50 and 3.70 respectively. "Why?", he asked. My reply: "because Greeks are crazy!" He laughed.

Meant by craziness is also the belief to make money is possible only in the short run, that is quickly and as much as possible. But it includes as well the notion of craziness about which Ritsos, the poet wrote, and how he defined freedom, namely as being free to live your own craziness - provided it does not harm the other. And as long as money was around, it did not hurt anyone. No pain, no consequences. Now that story will change.

A big change is attempted by those who occupy Wall Street in New York, for a link see

16.10.2011 Sunday

While everything is presumed to be more quiet on a Sunday, rumors have it that Ackerman from the 'Deutsche Bank' is holding talks about a 50% hair cut for loans made by German banks to the Greek financial system (presumably that includes Greek banks and the Greek state either directly or indirectly).

How serious can it get when an entire country of the Euro-zone is driven into such a plight?

Often we sang: "I know a place where no one knows your face! It is called Hernandoz's place". Presumably many bankers remained for long anonymous. The digitalized world made it possible to transfer huge sums of money at the click of a button. But human nature has it things need to be made concrete and visible, if they are to be dealt with. Maybe that time has come.

Rosa Naparstek in New York sends one message in reference to what has driven many into the streets and onto open spaces: they have no future ahead of them since studies to qualify at university or college level means for the majority already accrueing so much debts because they have to take loans to finance the studies, while the prospects of having a job after graduation have diminished to zero. Thus one protester describes the plight quite well as found through the following link:


Interestingly enough Michael Kimmelman writes in today's Sunday edition (16.10.2011) of the New York Times about a 'sense of place empowers protest'. "Occupy Wall Street" expresses itself fore mostly by meeting at a public square called Zuccotti Park as did before the movement in Egypt on Tahrir Square. He underlines not only the importance of public space where people can meet face to face as being a bedrock of democracy, but also how often public space has been diminished over time by all kinds of restrictions. Oddily enough the Zuccotti Park is privately owned and open 24 hours (in comparison to other public parks which impose a curfew at 23.00).

In Protest, the Power of Place
Published: October 15, 2011

Only the events here in Athens can foretell the fate of those tent villages with their own infrastructure as was the case on Syntagma Square that once politicians label them as gypsy tents who are an eye sore for the tourists wishing to see clean squares and monuments, but not the reality of the people facing hardships, they shall be removed in the name of public order and public hygiene.

Jean Pierre Faye in his analysis of the Parisian Commune after the French Revolution came to the conclusion that reactionary forces set in once there was created a health police.

It is interesting how restoring public order does not help people find their own voice once these public places cannot be used anymore to express in public truths which might be most unpleasant for those in power. That is why the paper by Bart Verschaffel about 'public space and public truth' is so crucial. He directs much of his criticism against philosophical tendencies which end up to silence precisely those who one really loves but who hurt one the most for telling one straight into the face the bitter truth.


Saturday morning - it rained heavily in the morning. The water had to find a way past the rubbish piling up wherever trash containers are standing. It is amazing how water runs down the streets like Dafnomili - since on a slope of Lycabettou Hill overlooking Athens. It reminds on how the streets are cleaned in Paris.

Only in Athens, when it rains, it comes down heavy but then only for a short while. A few hours later it is already over and the sun comes out again. That makes the weather in this city so special and this during all seasons.

Yet this time around the dark clouds seemed to signify the gloomy situation altogether.

This past week passed without resolving anything. Rather things seem to head to even harder confrontations.

The taxi drivers continue the strike, but Samaras from the opposition party Nea Democratia has dismissed Thymios Liberopoulos, president of the taxi drivers’ union, from being any further member of the Nea Democratia Party. Some call it a clever move on his part. As if he wants to signal that his party does not always side with the protesters in opposition to the government, still the opposition party position itself in this debate about the crisis way beyond any practical reason.

The Greek government is forced by the demands of the Troika to make structural reforms in order to move towards an open and competitive economy, one more conduicive to growth. At least this is always the claim by those advocating such a reform package.

Among other structural reforms, it means the government has to take on the closed shops of many professions within Greek society. It includes lawyers and doctors, truck drivers and others who keep a tight grip on their profession as to who may enter, and if so for what price. Taxi drivers who bought their concessions and permits for a high amount do not wish to face open competition, for then it would devalue what they had paid to get these permits. The same goes for the truck drivers.

Naturally that is not the only battle line being drawn up between those favoring reform in the name of efficiency equals privatization and competition and those who fret about a free and open market no longer regulated but on the hard side of reality. One can sense a sharpening of the tone in the debates between trade unionists or representatives of strikers and those who have assumed governmental responsibilities.

So while the threat of a 'hair cut' continues to loom in the air, the debate about the rubbish strike was shown last night on television. It showed an ever harder confrontation between the government and those on strike. There is now a threat in the air that if they do not stop, private companies shall be hired and take up work needed to be done for 'health reasons'. Indeed, health reasons are cited to justify the intervention. But then once the trucks arrive at the rubbish site, the gates will remain shut. The strikers have closed down any possibilities to manage in an orderly fashion the rubbish piling up in the streets of Athens.

Two things can be mentioned in this conjunction. While it has become a subject of studies at university level, waste management is a real problem in Greece as there are more illegal land fills than properly supervised ones. For instance, when the Miriad 21 European project was realized in 2003-2008, and which dealt with the implementation of the SEVESO II directive, we discovered that in an industrial area like Elefsina where over 120 companies operate, and some of which reaching risk level 3, the highest, that two companies operated there to manage industrial waste, and did so without any proper lisence. More so the local community council did not wish to enter a project with the aim to increase citizens' participation in safety regulation and controls of industrial plants. As to the second point, once you have a block in waste removal, people and organisations will resort ever more so to illegal practices and create on their own illegal dumping grounds. It can mean plastic bags just piling up simply by the road side. This is one of the negative side effects of the strikes but also of the punitive measures. The latter are not communicated well enough to be carried through on the basis of some mutual understanding and acceptance that they are needed, if Greece is to get out this debt crisis.

As this and other strikes show, people are enraged by the working people having to suffer the most in cut backs while the speaker of the Greek parliament can allocate over one million euros to restore in his voting district a building, and justify in doing so by linking it with commerations of events linked to the Civil War. That became publically known during yesterday's evening news. As someone puts it, some of these politicians do things which goes beyond being just audacious. To imagine the money spent on restoring that building and at the same time a father of three who cannot pay his electricity bill. Such discrepancies cannot be simply bridged. They do underline, however, a fault in the system with the privileged ever more clever in how they take money, and in the Greek case protect and privilege mainly their own family members, relatives and friends. That favoritism is driving those who seek jobs by means of qualification and experience simply crazy as there are no words for such flagrant abuses of the system and injustices.

Right from the start of the Greek crisis, there was invoked the image of the Medusa raft: while many are thrown overboard, the privileged few remain with all the resources to make it through the rough seas ahead.

The discrepancy between those who suffer cut backs in salaries till they no longer know how to make ends meet and a system of special privileges and exemptions could not be greater. In response to this growing gap, the reactions of many show signs of growing anger and furry.

As if but a spark is needed to let things explode.

Already there have been shuffles, some politicians attacked, or else threatened verbally. It is naturally the hope of the trade unionists by calling for a 48 hour general strike that some MPs will buckle under the pressure and leave the PASOK party, in order to bring down the government. The general aim for next week is to prevent the vote on the new austiery measures planned to take place in parliament on Oct. 20th.

No wonder when predictions have it that next week is going to prove to be even harder.

Certainly a 48 hour general strike on Oct. 19th and 20th is expected to put everything to a test. This includes the politicians who are going to vote on Oct. 20th on the new package of measurements. It includes, as said before, a cut across the board measure which aims to send 30 000 civil servants into reserve or into early retirement, that is they are two years or less before retirement at the age of 65. They shall be paid 60% of what they originally earned.

As to other developments especially in the arts and culture, there appears in today's New York Times an article which reports about the vibrant art scene in Athens. The article suggests as if artists relish the crisis or find at least vibrant energy to do something out of protest but also out of sheer burst of new energy.

More can be said about the art forms being developed, for a lot is done in public spaces especially by the Contemporary Art Museum with Anna Kafetsi as director and some new and very competent curators, I am told. However, when visiting some of the performances, then it appears more like a replacement art for what had happened before in these public spaces when the assemblies convened. Then they were alive, now it is only a decent performance with a much smaller, indeed tamed audience listening passively.

This art from above is not at all convincing. It is just a way to dress up a city as if civilized and everyone expected to behave in a decent way. Such politeness may be an effective aesthetical code to bring about submissive behavior but it does not serve the purpose of articulating the real grievances people have with the entire system.

It is interesting that the moment the assembly died down in Athens, there began this past September the 'Occupy Wall Street' movement in first New York, but on this day it has reached already 5000 cities world wide.

As to Athens, this city is often underestimated as to what energy it does have. Some of that finds itself like the handwriting on the wall in graffiti form specially powerful like this one to be found in the Exarchia area and near the spot where Alexandros was killed on Dec. 6th 2008.

Graffiti in Exarchia October 2011

14.10.2011 Friday

A bad smell lingers in the air. The rubbish strike lasts by now for more than one week. Even though everyone tries to place their garbage into big blue or black plastic bags, still at some spots the smell is becoming unbearable: on Skoufa, corner Omirou and direkt in front of the Triblenca and Rosebud bars. It seems as if rests of food stuffs emit the penetrating stench.

People are forced to walk in some cases due to the public transport strike. Cars upon cars head down Ippokratous. On other roads it must be a similar scene. It poses the question but whom the strikers intend to hurt, certainly not the government, for the common people have to bear the brunt of all strikes. And it drives up costs.

When it rained, the rubbish was in the way and flooding of many streets the result. My friend says the clever way of organizing these strikes is that only a few do it e.g. by blocking the entrance to the rubbish dump. This means those who gather the rubbish daily and mainly in the evening hours cannot work, but officially they are not on strike and therefore shall continue to receive their payments. He thinks people will only stop striking if it begins to hurt their own pocket books.

Many strikes seem not to make any sense, at least not in this situation when the state is faced with such a huge debt. A collective action should address much more the question but how to save money together, in order to take Greece out of this crisis? On the other hand, there dominate political attitudes which have prevailed over time, and they are determined not to change their conviction that the bad guys are always those in power, including the politicians and if not they, then the bankiers or generally speaking the Capitalists. By extension, rhetorics in this sense can be extended as in the case of the famous composer Theodorakis who speaks about the 'Führer' of finances and who end being the rulers by means of chaos. This demonization of the factors which have caused apparently the crisis does not allow for any critical self-reflection. Guilty are only and always the others.

What lies ahead? The general strike next week promises to cause still further havoc, and this in conjunction with the crucial vote to take place in the Greek Parliament on October 20 when the new austerity measures affecting fore mostly civil servants will be passed. Since the Cultural Forum is to take place in Brussels, Oct. 20 and 21, with flight planned out on the eve before, that is on Oct. 19th, there is right now no information from either e-dreams where I purchased the ticket or from Brussels Airlines, the flight I want to be on, what will happen in case of cancellation. Repeated phone calls to Barcelona where there is the office of e dreams produce but the same answer: so far no confirmation of the cancellation, hence the airlines cannot undertake anything officially vis a vis an anxious customer like myself.

There has been announced also that officials at customs shall go on strike for the next ten days. The government imposed a cap on fuel prizes out of fear shortages in oil supplies will lead to various gasoline stations attempting to exploit the situation. It is just another example of the problems gathering speed like a snow ball gathering speed as it gains in size.

The same applies to the striking electricity workers who sabotage in this way the collection of the extra property tax which the government has linked with payment of the electricity bill.

Also it is odd that the tax collector officials are on strike. Venizelous, the finance minister, appeals to all to come to their 'senses'. He sees the country is not going to make it out of the crisis if there is obstruction everywhere and thereby driving up all the costs.

As a friend working in Brussels and who wishes to pick me up from airport writes in response to my not knowing if I shall arrive at the said time due to the pending general strike, it is so difficult to plan anything when only havoc reigns. Yet this inability to anticipate and to plan has always been akin to life in Greece. It is as if people would say to meet at a certain time but then never keep the appointment. Unsure then if the commitment really stands, the focus is more on the wind as if the person coming to meet you lives on an island and there is always the uncertainty about strong winds coming up and which prevent the ferry from sailing. It takes another kind of dexterity to work through these uncertainties.


In particular, the civil servants or at least some of them are going to be badly hit. The Troika has pointed out not only does the entire civil service absorbs too many public resources, but it also claims ownership over too many public resources. The latter is deemed to be better in the hands of private companies who can make more profitable use of these resources. Thus the entire attack on the civil servants for being corrupt, inefficient and too costly, goes hand in hand with this neo-liberal position in favor of privatization.

A twisted part of this approach taken is that civil servants shall be paid 50% or even less from what they used to have as monthly salaries. The new measure foresees as well sending 30 000 into a reserve for two years and where they shall receive 60% of their original salaries. That measure is said to be needed to show to the Troika something is being done to lower the costs of the inflated state apparatus. Politicians and parties in the past used to make sure their own people would get not only these safe jobs, but take up lucrative posts such as directors of entire sections. The political influence upon the civil service goes far and deep, so that whenever one party loses power and is replaced by another, rather than working with the civil servants as independent body, they stock up the existing number of civil servants by simply adding more of their own kind i.e. of similar political affiliation and therefore to be trusted. It is said PASOK has hired 25 000 new civil servants since attaining power in 2009. This may explain why the figure of 30 000 has come up as first measure to cut back the size of those working for the Greek state.

Interesting is that the representative of the European Commission in the Troika, Matthias Mors, would perfer a much more differentiated reform rather than a cut-across measure to be implemented now if the bill passes on Oct. 20th. It would mean those civil servants who are two years shy of retirement insofar as they will have then served 35 years, shall go into reserve, if they do not voluntarily retire themselves. Such a measure leaves certain departments depleted of the necessary experienced civil servants badly needed if the approved legislation is to be put into practice.

Since rumors and different opinions swirl in the corridors, it becomes clear that everyone seeks advice. Many go to lawyers who give in turn their interpretation of the measures. In the meantime, radio and television stations all have their talks shows and expert rounds to discuss the new measures. And naturally care is taken to strike a fair balance between all the political parties represented in Parliament. No one seems to be bothered that neither young people or those who participated in the Assemblies on Syntagma Square until late June 2011 are not heard in the spaces offered by both public and private media.

There is the one danger looming for ERT 1: it has been decided to close that public TV station even though 90% of viewers prefer the public to private stations like Star, Mega and Sky. One right wing politician has also his own TV station and attract a number of people due to his mix of dogmas and seeming statesman like remarks on current issues.

But Athens has suffered already the loss of the Municipal Radio Station 104,4. It was created for the Olympic Games to provide information to athletes in different languages, and has remained to be a true voice of multi-culturalism in Athens. The local programmes were broadcasted in English language while BBC, Radio France, Deutsche Welle and many other language programs complemented the main trunk of programs. It was always a pleasure to walk through the streets of Athens with ear plug linked to the mobile phone to listen to comments of the BBC about events in Libya or in Brussels. In an age of mobile communication, it seems even odd to close such a station which could pass on official information to the various migrant / refugee groups while supporting in a cultural way the large foreign sector in this 4 million city. Athens lacks really an international institute like the UNESCO in Paris and thus it can end up isolating itself in a way which is not really conduicive to what is needed if the economy is to become more competitive i.e. outwardly orientated. And this does not even take as of yet into consideration the needs of tourists who would like to find access to what is going on in Athens and Greece.

People are becoming more distressed not by the day, but by the hour as they realize what lies ahead is but an ever darker future. Like the heavy clouds hanging over the city or when someone has a hair cut, then the joke is made well you've got one before the country shall have one - a metaphor for the kind of orderly or disorderly default envisioned as one possible solution for the woes linked to this huge debt.


When walking back home with a friend, we passed by Syntagma Square. Gone are the tents and the people who had come to attend the assembly and filled the square with life. Instead, the politicians and the current mayor of Athens got what they wanted: a clean but empty main square so that tourists can enjoy the sight of parliament. A combination of aesthetical and health factors were cited to justify the cleaning up operation. All tents were removed in the end. For nothing should disturb the tourist sight seeing tour and meant were those 'gypsy tents'. I wonder what they will think when seeing images of tents going up now in a square in New York as part of the massive demonstration called 'Occupy Wall Street'?

We went to see a dance performance by Paul and Christine dancing their interpretation of Theseus and Ariadne in a piece called 'together + her'. The interesting thing is that they did this performance out of charity reasons. The proceeds of the evening shall go to an organisation in India which attempts to free children from the prison of the street and trafficking. Despite the National Dance School having to cut their teaching staff from 34 to 8, these dancers care about human solidarity and not merely about what money they have in the end to survive. Also when they heard that one of the piano teacher now without any salary had run out of money and hence his electricity was cut, they collected money to pay that bill of 200 Euros. Small signs of solidarity, but how long will it last if the crisis is but at the beginning and yet starting to affect people's lives in the most severe way. Being without money makes even the strongest person be completely weak.

Exchange of letters with economic historian Louis Baeck


Athens 12.10.2011

Dear Louis,

I agree with your analysis and conclusion.
One thing you point out - the time factor: consumer buying products
before they are produced - that was analysed by Kenneth Galbraith in
'The New Industrial State': Ford produced his car in three days
(collecting materials, assembling and selling) while modern cars with
all their technologies require at least four or five years at least
before they reach the market. Thus no company undertakes the risk of
investment in something new unless someone - mainly the state - covers
this risk at a minimum to make the production worthwhile. Hence
production is stabilized on the demand side by the state. This has
developed into a system which makes all ideologies of the private market
absurd. A best example is the growing war economy which Eisenhower had
called after World War II as being the most inefficient one. There is
plenty of proof how money has been wasted on expensive weapons
purchasing programs with no real use at all. Moreover, the only rational
argument for a war economy is that it has proven to be innovative in
terms of new products, but that is a very weak rationalization and does
not name the real problem. It has been a major source of the Greek debt
with spending for the military amounting to about 15% of the GNP. 
I also strongly agree with your historical reference to Spain
especially in the 16th century. Jean Paul Sartre cites this example as
well when talking about the difference between abstract and concrete
richness, the former the gold the King of Spain was accumulating at that
time and the people thinking their country is getting rich, hence they
can expand. As this meant importing things which had to be paid for in
gold, to the surprise of everyone over night the treasury was empty.
This caused the production of unemployment to regain some of the
purchasing power lost in the meantime. It is an example of what
imbalance in trade can do to a country. Certainly that had been hidden
as well by the Euro with no system in place to counter the deficit
between the various member states. A discussion on this point takes
place only on the basis of the question whether or not Greece should
return to the Drachmen or else a new kind of economic governance will
allow the kind of compensation as already it exists within Germany
between the richer and poorer Länder.

I heard two days ago the current Greek minister of finance, Venizelous
speak. He does make a lot of sense but it will be difficult for him to
push through measures against the resistance of trade unions and left
wing as well right wing parties. There is a denial in Greece to see the
problem at all. This requires further understanding while we shall see
what the recommendations of the Troika will do. Already a spokesperson
in the German Finance ministry expressed scepticism about the report. In
the meantime there was this German delegation in Greece headed by FDP
Rößler and who brought with him 80 of his business friends ready to buy
up things here in Greece.

I agree it is about 'political economy'.
How refreshing to read your reflections.

Many thanks


On Tue, 11 Oct 2011 21:53:24 +0000, "Baeck, Louis" wrote:
Dear Hatto, The Greek debt crisis is only a small part of the financial crisis of the western economies. The roots are to be found in the the financialisation of the economy in the US (in the second half of the 1980s) and Europe followed. In the West the agricultural tempo was declining and the desindustrialisation set in so that the service sector took a leap forward, more precisily the financial sector (capital markets, insurance, banking). To cover up the change in growth model the US launched the idea of innovation (Silicon Valley myth) but the real growth motor was the"debt-engine". Technological innovation represents only 15% of the growth impetus. The Western economy needed stronger push: indebtedness. People had to buy the products before they were produced: on debt, in order to keep the engine going: households, firms and governments. The alchemists in the financial world created wonders (new products that after a while were so complicated that even the bankers did not undertand them) and everybody became rich (on bad paper) and the economy kept artificially in high gear. But after a while (after 2006) the machine got out of hand; in the US the total debt of the three mentioned above households, firms and government were in debt for 300% of GDP. This means that debt is 3 times GDP!!! In Europe, it is the same. The financial crisis of 2007 was a sign on the wall but nothing was done really but talk: in G7, in G20, in the papers, on television, etc. Then came the more shocking warning after 2009, but especially in 2010, that the debt cycle was exhausted and that it had switched from houshold to banks and since the banks hat to be saved, it switched to the governments and their state debts. Much ignored is the fact of the international trade balances: 1. The US has a huge deficit in the balance and becomes more and more indebted to the Asian countries that cover the breach with buying treasury bonds in tons; 2 In the Eurozone the Southern countries have have a trade deficit with Germany, Austria, Finland, the Netherlands. The creation of the eurozone made the disparity between the two groups wider...This explains that the banks of the surplus group lend to the states of deficit groups to fill the gap. So the problem is also a trade-balance-problem of the eurozone. In the media you hear almost nothing of ths disequilibrium between euromembers. Another problem is that the two leading partners (Germany and France) are on a different side looked at from the trade balance. Germany is a surplusser and France suffers since more than seven years a wider deficit and still growing wider with the surplus partners of the eurozone. So Merkel and Sarkozy cannot be on one and the same line and this explains some of the dicords between the two with more talk than solutions. The Greek problem is only a minor part of all this. But it is an easy scapegoat. With their trade surplus the Germans have been buying hotels and businesses in the Club Med countries. In other words there is also a conflict of interest between the eurozone partners; Germany and Austria, Finnland and the Dutch play strong on the export-model, the Southern countries and also France much less. The big and powerful US can afford a huge trade deficit, the small European Southerners not at all. This is a question of power in the economy. Do not forget that economics is also called political economy. Conclusion: the financialisation filled the gaps up to 2007 but then the debt economy had outreached the limit. A pertinent historical example is the Spanish empire in the 6th and 17th century. Historia magistra vitae. But our 21st century does not read history any more. Best greetings Louis Baeck



The second bailout payment is still pending. All depends right now on the 'compliance report' the Troika will issue. The three members of the Troika team are still in Athens. There was already once before this incidence when they left. It sent shock waves through the world as thoughts about Greece etching closer to default grew stronger. Like the rating agencies, whenever they downgrade state bonds of now as well Spain, Italy and Portugal, it has consequences on the stock markets, so it is with the Troika. They are closely watched. Most telling is one critical point mentioned by the German member of the Troika: it is not enough to pass progressive laws to ensure that the austerity program is going ahead, but that these laws are implemented and that takes take since there are obvious structural deficiencies which delay the process. In other words, a real reform takes time, and more so, without change in attitudes, or a change in the culture of how to view work, guidelines, adaptation to certain methodologies etc. no outcome is ever secure. This plight has been known for 30 or more years, but only now, at the insistence of the Troika, they are being dealt with not only at a much more consequential level, but in the open. The outside world is beginning to notice certain aspects of Greek society and how its state functions, or does not, when demands linked to the bailout are made but are not met. It is a matter of confidence and conviction that commitments made really hold not only at verbal level but much more so in the way the society as a whole responds.

At this time, it is no telling whether or not the Greek government, in particular Venizelos, is able to convince the Troika that reforms are implemented in earnest.

There are some indications that things are going down the wrong path of development. For instance, the volunteer servive for preventing and fighting forest fires is being dismantled, in order to give the sole charge to the professional fire fighters. Poiein kai Prattein has made sufficient experience with civil protection to know in countries like Italy the volunteer services are well organized and highly trained. It is inconceivable how the many forests in Greece can be protected without these services. What the reason is for this new law dismantling the volunteer service is not clear, but it seems as if lobby interests inside the civil service sector have prompted this serious set-back.

A crisis can be used to justify many things, but if things are done in hectic and out of panic, then they are mostly the wrong measures which are proposed and then wildly, if at all implemented.

As to the austerity measures, what is happening within the civil service cannot be imagined. The crude measure of ousting at least 30 000 civil servants over 60 years of age and just within two years of retirement, and this to counter the 25 000 new civil servants PASOK has hired after assuming power in 2009, means just a trade off of a simple kind, but does not alter the horrid practice of the civil service being always at disposal of politicians who use it to reward their supporters and to have their own persons of trust within the services. The lack of an independent civil service from politics is the real problem.

Many economic aspects have to be dealt with at political and conceptual level while the cultural dimension of it all should not be forgotten.

There is also the shift in mood in the population. The most recent general strike this past week was not as strong. People see no longer strikes as a very effective tool, while they are also much more worried and preoccupied with the question on how to make ends meet. Families will pool all their resources together and work in a complementary way. This is the strength of the Greek society as there is also generally speaking a kind of definance of the crisis. Rather it is more a matter of not wishing to be humiliated. Moreover Greeks are like gamblers, says Spyros Mercouris, if they loose, well they get up from the table and say that is it, and leave. No regrets, no grumbling - the fate of the gambler is to take risks and the consequences.

30.9. 2011

One month later the same question remains: can Greece avoid default?

Given the situation in Greece, with austerity measures affecting many people, the crucial question is right now: what lies ahead? To avoid that Greece defaults, and as a direct consequence thereof be thrown out of the Euro-Zone, as some economists and others demand especially in Germany, it is important to understand the nature of the crisis and to communicate to people outside of Greece, what is the real situation inside Greece. The aim should be to avoid further misunderstandings and to regain some of the trust and confidence lost once the size of the state deficit became known late 2009.

As in all critical situations, to remain objective is crucial. Otherwise anti politics will influence attitudes and make rational politics impossible. Thus one crucial task for a NGO within civil society is to give orientation by taking a stance entailing an interplay of cultural, economic, political, philosophical and social understanding of things. Empathy may not translate into immediate moral actions, but understanding the others includes a gain in knowledge about real needs and the real situation.

As stated by Michael D. Higgins, political solutions have to be based nowadays on a world wide ethical vision of governance. In part they can stem on practical actions such as the one undertaken May-June on Rhodes, when a group of people was brought together by curator Haroula Hadijnicolaou. They discussed the water /wetlands related isses on the island during field trips, workshop sessions and a conference. As a result a biotop of ideas was created while interactions took place with school children on how to save a drop of water and with the local communities on how to safeguard their land, including the wetlands. It is directly linked to help adapt the EU water directive of 2000 to the specific Greek landscape.

Altogether any solution should embrace an ongoing learning process and embrace both a 'flow of ideas' and a 'flow of people'. Once people start to interact to make possible a fully functioning of democracy from below, then setting a practical agenda becomes the prime need. Needless to say, such a practical orientation has to be linked to seeking and sustaining social and economic justice.

Citizens want to be heard. As events in Tunesia and Egypt, but also in Spain and Greece have shown, people wish to live in freedom and have their human dignity be respected in all walks of life. This means also women can walk streets at night without fear of harrassment.

A life based on non violence is not easy to come by, nor is it self-understood. Yet this 'soft power' of non violent actins is being practiced ever more in a convincing way. It explains the recent gains made by the Palestinians when instead of throwing rocks or even bombs, they plant trees in a heroic effort to stop the expansion of the Israeli settlements on the occupied territory.

As a result of these actions, not merely dictatorships like the one of Mubarak are disposed, but also dirty business deals with these dictators are exposed. Too much business has been done at the expense of the people.

Till now the world has been dominated by those moving within powerful structures which allow them to combine technology, capital and organisational capacities, all to the advantage of a privileged few. The tradition of refining endlessly mere technology to gain power over people, but to do so without any ethics, that has been already critized by Bertrand Russell. In his essay 'The Fathers of German Fascism' he mentioned during First World War, there was discovered what power over people technology entails. Subsequently after the war ended in 1918 many highly intelligent men threw themselves into scientific research. They did so but with one fault line: they did so without any morals. Thus if humanity is to be safeguarded against abuse of power, any future work has to be altered to fulfill the ethical dimension. In short, such work has to be supportive of peace efforts and be based on the highest standard of ethics. This constraint needs to be observed, if a human vision of life on this planet is to be sustained by practical decisions and lived through experiences (le vecu).

Changes must include as well the tackling of hierarchical, equally dysfunctional structures. A new form of governance presupposes as well reform of public administration. It should gurantee a functioning of the whole society, so that political measures do not go against, but are supportive of an active civil society and thereby can safeguard the welfare of the people. Only participation at both informal and formal levels in social life and political decision making processes can make security measures by means of mere surveillance and police superfluous. The same applies to military actions on a larger scale. Peace must come from below and has to be based on empathy i.e. understanding of the others as to their needs but also fears.

In order to be able to reach out and to practice a social dialogue, it means to activate the imagination as key source of creativity and to retain that while seeking practical solutions. It is the imagination which allows the questioning of reality without ignoring real facts.

Always there is a confusion about easy solutions since it implies any complex is by definition negative or bad. Rather complexity entails the working through of all contradictions and requires that the pertinent questions are brought out before they can be answered. It means as well dealing with multiple stories and questions at one and the same time. The handling thereof requires entering a process of deliberation requiring active memory work and innovative thinking. When it comes to making investments, it is worthwhile to use scientific methodology as it furthers knowledge about how to make policy measures progressively adaptive to real needs. Thus articulation of ideas which work seeks in terms of public-ness validation. It goes without saying this is only possible by respecting and recognizing the opinions of others. As to easy or over-simplified solutions, they are proposed by those who seek to restore a normal order by harsh measures, and this without ever so much resolving the deeper issues of injustices.


At the beginning of the month of September, that is when everyone wishes the other 'kalo mina', have a good month, this may be an even more important wish for what lies ahead.

The Greek economy is hovering at the brink of default in the opinion of some. If it can be avoided, that depends what consequences have been drawn since the general strik on June 28 and 29 and what everyone has thought about during the months of July and August when Athens was empty due to everyone being at their second homes, at the beach or away on vacations or more so earning some extra money from a good year for tourism. It is said about 16.5 million visitors have come so far in 2011, a record in comparison to previous years.

There is naturally the odd thing to speak about a 'sovereign debt' in an age of global economy and with not having a single national currency, but one shared with other EU member states who have all adopted the EURO as their common currency.

The problem to be faced is how to communicate what is happening in Greece when culture is very much left out of any economic discussion at all levels, including at EU in Brussels?

At the same time, there is missing a kind of multiple approach or a ready at hand working method which would allow to deal with all the complex issues at one and the same time and which any mayor, ministry or section of the EU Commission have to face. It is to be recommended to create in addition to lively cultural scenes as well a bio-top of ideas. Cross references when facing complexity would allow for the speaking of many different voices. For this is needed cultural space in search of public truth about the true state of affairs.

There is, generally speaking, a lack of theoretical background to substantiate debates. This is mainly due to the absence of such political-philosophical terms which could help to distinguish between various areas in need to be researched and invested in, and before it becomes possible to propose some reasonable policy measures promising a solution.

For instance, when it came to help improve upon the protection of water / wet lands, as long as she was the Greek Minister for the Environment, Tina Birbilli did collaborate with WWF on a scientific basis, in order to initiate complementary legislation to the EU directive on water (2000). The latter was written for a Central and Northern European landscape, but not specific enough to be adapted to the Greek landscape, one with a huge diversity and special conditions as faced on all Greek islands. A new draft law was issued but she was removed before it could become a law.

The lack of adaptation may reflect that Greece has not always the intellectual resources or the political attentivity to deal with all legislation coming out of Brussels, but then this is a work in progress and can be admended, provided political forces in Greece would allow such a process to take fruit. But the fact that Tina Birbili was replaced in the last cabinett reshuffle Jorgios Papandreou undertook to secure support for the austerity measures agreed with the Troika and replaced by the former Minister of Finance, namely Papaconstantinou has to be perceived in a highly critical manner. For the first measure he proposed to introduce as new Minister for the Environment was the illegal legalisation of illegally constructed buildings. People could pay a fine according to a set of different degrees of violations and therefore be at peace with themselves as the state would then not demolish their homes or building for at least 40 years. That judicial trick had to be added since it is really illegal for a state to declare in retrospect as something being legal when it was obviously a violation of building and planning law.

To understand this political-administrative trick, that would mean entering much deeper in understanding as to what constitutes really the misery of Greek bureaucracy. Problems are not due mainyl because of the widely acclaimed inefficiency, but rather this 'mess' is intended to exist. It is created in order to have enough loop holes, so that despite construction being forbidden when in a forest area, there is still a way around it. Basically the prime attitude in Greek politics is to find a way around everything as nothing is impossible, if you really want it. And generally speaking, this is not typical Greek as many people everywhere consider only then politics to be good, if it can be influential in terms of their own interests. There is no longer any public or objective truth to distinguish between private and public truths, never mind a refutation of the self acclaimed truism as if private interests are the only genuine or true ones.

If real reform was to be initiated to overcome the crisis, then these new measures are anything but progressive. Rather they take things still further back by reaffirming the very bad practices which have led Greek development astray in the first place, and this already for some time now. Naturally there is at risk that both eyes are shut when the state stands a chance to obtain some extra money, in order to close the gap between meagre revenues and looming deficit. Yet precisely to get out of a crisis, it would be important to heed the wisdom, that not everything should be allowed, in order to just make way for investments. Here the debate about the causes for the Greek deficit are highly misleading. It is not just merely that it is difficult to invest due to bureaucracy; rather, the wish for a free for all investment opportunity or the doing away with any restriction would come close to just raping the country.

Thus, the crisis is very much also about how problems are perceived. Here one needs to remind of an old saying of Marx who spend two years in Brussels and lived there at Rue Jean D'Ardenne in Ixelles, namely that 'people are only then willing to recognize problems, if there is a solution for them'. That means, they do risk living in a tautology, or two worlds are set apart: the one without problems, and the other full of problems. Communication is determined very much along those lines: problem compared to 'no problem'. To relieve tensions naturally always the latter is preferred, but for too long has been practiced just that: you want more loans, no problem!

Any discussion will have to problematize first of all what problems are in need to be faced, and this even if there are no solutions for them. Such an open ended attitude would have a deep impact especially on how politicians deal with the practical agenda set by themselves and their advisors. Most of the time the real crucial issues are postponed endlessly. In the end, even the consultative deliberation process of the European Parliament does not seem to come to terms with the fact, that there exist problems for which there are right now no problems, but which does legitimize all the more investments - research, studies, projects, learning out of experience - in order to work on them in all out effort to try and find some solution. But this qualitative term of learning out of European projects has evaporated as EU policy downgraded programmes to being mere proof the adopted policy has been successful. There is no longer any learning taking place.

Current debate shows that no research of economic policy is taking place. It has been replaced by think tanks which want to promote certain strategies and therefore interests. That differs greatly from giving governments an independent knowledge as to what works within a range of various policy options. Only genuine independent knowledge allows for an open ended questioning, a process which may allow the finding in a creative way new solutions. In both cases things cannot be known a priori, therefore politicians and investors must take a true risk. Naturally there are ways to refine investment decisions by picking up again philosophical reflections of framework conditions thereof. For what is a promising theory with a fruitful hypothesis is also a question in which future to invest in. It is like a commitment to a theory not known to work as of yet, but which does determine existence to some extent.

This reminds of the old definition of theory by Aristotle, namely theory as the knowing of the goals while the research being really about how to get there e.g. full employment. It is quite another thing to live and to work in society which has over rationalised the fact why full employment cannot be attained or even worse is not desirable as it would not give corporations enough bargaining power when it comes to setting wages. In short, there is a reason for unemployment and that obstacle has to be named as much as overcome. In Germany the Hartz IV reform of the Schröder/Fischer government was intended to keep wages low while dealing with unemployment to lower its statistical evidence but with the prime aim to keep German companies from outsourcing work to other countries offering cheaper labor.

Therefore, it is also a matter of injecting into the system, into public debate, some useful thoughts, in order to raise the level of discussion. Michael D. Higgins advocates the need to become inspirational, so as to think further than be just worried about one's own job and how money can be earned?

Indeed, too many live with a very reduced horizon and still politics is perceived negatively most of the time. This means Western democracies have not learned governance as also knowing a fruitful concept by which it is possible to give recognition to those making a contribution. Yet everyone can become a mediator between needs and answers worked on, even if in the short run there is no solution in sight. This is why feed-back is so important as part of good practice since it stimulates the learning process. Yet too many send out thoughts and receive no answers.

The economic debate needs to open up to cultural considerations about cultural diversity. This is expressed by Nikos Konstandaras, editor of the Greek newspaper Kathimerini, in an article he contributed to the International Herald Tribune, 1.9.2011


under the title 'The road we left behind'. He quotes the saying of an old man seeing the only television in the village being at his son's coffee shop: "This devil will be our ruin. It will make us all the same." James Clifford, in his book 'Predicament of Culture' raised a similar concern for what happens when we travel and no longer find cultural diversity, but instead coca-cola everywhere. Economic solutions are not solutions if they flatten all differences in life just as straightening of a river by making it into a channel would mean destroying all the ecological niches and their rich biodiversity. If ideas are to come forth, then with an openness for different solutions, solutions which do not profit but a mere few, but gives new perspectives for different people to enjoy a life made up of different solutions.

There is at risk a loss of European integration efforts, if economic governance is again determined by solely misconceived equally eclusive economic ideas linked to understanding of how the financial world works. Kafka saw himself unable to exist amongst all those business men. For integration is needed a new cultural impetus to respect the other as a fellow European citizens, something Melina Mercouri was capable of when she initiated the idea of having every year a European Capital of Culture so that people could meet and discuss. How far that idea has been distored by European Capitals of Culture becoming an expression of cultural industries relying merely on devices by which a city can be branded with a new image, that has been shown by Liverpool '08, Linz 2009 and Essen/Ruhr 2010, since they leave hardly anything behind once the European carawan moves on to the next golden opportunity to make money out of consultation.

Integration fails when national media and politicians fall back into plakative statements e.g. Chancellor Merkel suggesting the Greeks should work more. To take recourse to such terms as 'the Germans', 'those lazy Greeks' etc. suggests that stereotypical thinking has not been overcome. Interestingly enough it resurfaced once it was declared that the economic and hence state affairs of a member state of the EU as being just a matter of  'Greek sovereign debt'. This delineation has to be understood, for if sovereignty is linked to debt, it covers up the fact of not wishing to take responsibility for the mess but to which everyone has contributed. The term does, however, reveal like the peak of an iceberg all the hidden dependencies in a globalized world. The plain truth is that all economies depend heavily on all kinds of financial deals to make things work. Hence the failure of Greece is a failure of EU economic and cultural governance.

It has always been thought at least economic cohesion is the foundation upon which the European Union can rest. Cultural cohesion was ignored. Now the crisis has proven quite the opposite. Not only is there no economic governance in place to back up the Euro, but cultural sophistication is missing in all of the communications. That means European diversity has been destroyed in the process. As a result it leaves everyone not wanting merely to safeguard their own economy from the problems of the other, but to be different i.e. Finnish, Danish, Flemish etc. and therefore not be a part of European citizenship, one based on different cultures and appreciation thereof that there are still other cultures in need to be respected.

Europe has to face a huge crisis in governance despite the fact that all the EU mechanisms are affecting the lives of millions of people. Yet those living and working in Brussels are often not the least aware what is happening in reality. Without staying in touch with what is happening on the ground, no policy or program can be effective.

At the same time, as shown by discussions, viewpoints, sentiments, opinions expressed within Greece, they are highly incompatabile with what outsiders perceive and appraise as being the nature of the Greek economy and its problems. Naturally they do so according to an abstract model, and not one to be lived, even if all alone, on the road, outside any support system.

Things can become really interesting once perceived from different angles.

Articles about Greek economy and the deficit crisis 1.8.2011
Bruegel economist sees only two options for Greece
In an interview with Kathimerini, the Hungarian economist stated that private sector involvement is “at best inadequate, as it cannot change the dynamic of the Greek debt.” Darvas noted with concern the recent market attack against Italy, whose economy ...


Comment send to Kathimerini after reading the article about Breughel's opinion:

Athens 1.9.2011

Most opinions by economists are flawed as they do not perceive the economic crisis as being equally a crisis of economic theory. In the case of Greece, there are added grave mistakes in judging differences between financial mechanism, state governance, European cooperation and world wide factors affecting global markets. If it is slowly becoming a consensus that mere austerity measures do not work, and that no way out of the dilemma almost all states find themselves in right now except by refocusing on job creation, it should be clear we have not as of yet entered a real debate about intergovernmental possibilities to bring about such policy measures which do include the creation of jobs and allow a working of the world economies with a degree of social and economic justice, that deserves the word 'solution'. Thus new premises have be set. The new Green Premier of Baden Württemberg dared, for instance, to say to car makers that they cannot continue thinking to produce ever more cars shall be the solution. Indeed, readjustments are needed in qualitative terms - while the world has been subjected to mere quantitative measures of success. That is why linking solutions to economic growth are also misleading. As to Breughels two options, it is a hypothesis whether or not the private sector in Greece can off-set the negative dynamics stemming from all the debt related measures, but certainly this free for all investors is not the solution. There is no positive development without some set of constraints and thus it is too easy to put all the blame on an inefficient bureaucracy while suggesting the private sector is the knight in shining armor. At the same time, any debt related discussion will not go very far if there is not taken into consideration the shift in purchasing power as a result of changes in economic powers throughout the world. Thus the IT sector in Greece is doing surprisingly well, but why this is not internationally recognized, this depends again on what kind of image Greece wants to project and be perceived by. Here it is a matter of communicating honestly to others the real state of affairs and not to manipulate reports to gain just some extra advantages when it comes to obtaining sitll more EU funds, but which end up being unaccounted for as to where they went. In today's International Herald Tribune your editor Nikos Konstandaras writes about the "road we left behind". He portrays Greece as having leaped from archaic into luxury times within two to three generations. Indeed, this rapid transition to a high consumer society without knowing how to cover the payments for all the imports is at the root of many problems, but then Jean Paul Sartre analysed Spain in the 15th century as having gone already through such an experience: while gold was coming in from the colony, and everyone thinking the crown and Spain were getting rich, they started to expand, to build, to consume, but all these things needed to be paid for and thus suddenly the treasury was empty over night. In order to restore the purchasing power of the currency, what happened was that unemployment was produced, so that instead of paying ten workers to do the field work, only one was paid while he subcontracted the other nine to do the same work as before. Nothing else than this is the myth of the current Greek 'sovereing debt' in a game played out between concrete and abstract wealth. And anyone wishing to correct it, must first of all step out of the shadow of Milton Friedman since he linked consumer behavior to a life time income. Interestingly enough Greeks have many more assets to feed their consumption than what they earn all by themselves and this makes any economic policy application to bring about a rational behavior that much more difficult, especially if the land is known for an inefficiency, which does provide indeed jobs and golden opportunities, just see how many make a living off an inefficient educational sector.

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