Thursday, 30 June 2011


Many thanks to @TheStalwart for reposting and taking the abuse from commentators.

Readers will know by now that I have little sympathy for the Greek Indignados and the Syntagma protests. 

Today’s events, however, are proof that something is deeply wrong with our Government. While markets cheered our new austerity programme being voted through, this sort of thing was happening: 

Don’t get me wrong, I think the Greek Indignados are wrong on so many levels. I resent their politics, their economics and a good deal of their misguided civic values. I don’t believe the majority of the country wish to see an end to parliamentary democracy as some of the Greek Indignados do, nor do I think the majority are opposed to austerity and privatisations. I'll take parliamentary democracy over rule by circle-jerk any day. And I certainly don’t think protesters should be allowed to storm Parliament. But apart from this, the People must have the right to protest peacefully and I’ve seen enough from my safe perch here in London to know they are being denied this right by force.  [Too tame or patronising for you? Well I just ate a working class baby, but I've saved room for your sarcasm. Keep it coming.]

Given a choice between disorderly default and a carte blanche to the police to disperse even non-violent protesters I know what I would opt for. I’d rather every last bank in Europe failed and every Greek pensioner, both my parents included, had to beg for food.  You see, there has to be something worth saving for any adjustment programme to be legitimate.

I don’t believe the State owes anyone a living but it does owe them freedom. I’m sure they don’t teach you that at Socialist camp but in the better parts of the world it is a given.

The brutal repression of peaceful protest makes a mockery of democracy and equates any rejection of populist policies with a rejection of the people’s constitutional rights. We have crossed a threshold past which all hope of civilised, evidence-based public debate has ceased to exist. We have to somehow regain that space.

It is time to secure the People’s mandate for objectives far greater and more important than this government’s continued rule, or the opposition’s ascent to power. And we must build whatever coalition we can to pursue them. More importantly, we need a line drawn in the sand past which the People take responsibility for their choices. The Indignados claim to stand for the Greek people; I believe they do not. But as long as there is no formal evidence of the people's will, sympathy for the people beaten up by police will tend to relegate this question to irrelevance.

We need a referendum. Now. 

The way I see it, there are two questions we need answered by the People, once and for all, and which we cannot deduce from the results of past elections.

First, what should we do with the national debt? 
  • Default now on all Greek government debt
  • Default now on whatever amount of debt is deemed necessary to make Greece solvent
  • Achieve a primary surplus as soon as possible and then default [+1 from me]
  • Achieve a primary surplus as soon as possible and then proceed to pay down the national debt
  • Proceed with current memorandum commitments
Second, which of the following changes should we make to the current system of representative democracy?
  • Introduce Proportional Representation [+1 from me]
  •   Devolve a substantial amount of Parliament’s powers, including the power to levy some taxes, to People’s Assemblies at the local level
  •  Drastically reduce the number and compensation of representatives [+1 from me]
  •  Drastically reduce the provisions of immunity for ministers [+1 from me] 
  •  Introduce stricter term limits for representatives and ministers [+1 from me]
  •  Introduce constitutional limits on spending and fiscal deficits [+1 from me]
  •  None of the above
    In passing, I would urge all Greek readers to sign up to the No More Taxes! Primary Surplus Now! cause. We’re still far short of 1m members but we’ll get there!

    Many thanks to the anonymous commentator discussing the Greek Crisis blog. Frankly, you've made me realise I have not read it in more than a year, so for that reason alone it's off the reading list. I cannot check whether what you say about them is accurate, though it's certainly plausible. A request; if you're going to make accusations (except those aimed at myself of course), I would urge you not to do so anonymously. Once again, thanks.


    1. >> I don’t believe the State owes anyone a living but it does owe them freedom.

      There's a gray area, not a sharp line, between those two concepts.

      How much "freedom" would they have after their elected officials sell off enough of their infrastructure that they have to pay a tax from their wages to rich foreigners (colonizers) to drive on the road and drink clean water?

      Broke people have less freedom after the commons are divided up and auctioned off.

      >> I’m sure they don’t teach you that at Socialist camp but in the better parts of the world it is a given.

      I'm sure you weren't taught everything at Plutocrat camp either. Like maybe the people of Greece as a whole shouldn't have to sacrifice their standard of living (via austerity) because of the criminal behavior of a few of their bankster leaders lying in bed with Goldman Sachs in order to enter the Eurozone. And like maybe Greece wouldn't be in as bad a situation if there weren't rampant tax evasion by wealthy Greeks. And like maybe the wealthiest capitalists should take their losses first rather than turn Greece into a colony owned by international capital.

    2. I'm surprised you have the Greek Crisis on your blogroll, as it's composed entirely of plagiarized copy/paste material and is being used without written permission.

    3. >>I certainly don’t think protesters should be allowed to storm Parliament.

      Of course you don't. Parliament must be made absolutely secure in its ability to completely ignore its constituents. That way it can lavish all these new freedoms on the 99% of the country who have less political influence than a handful of international rent seeker.

      These stupid Indignados; don't they understand the value of freedom from work, freedom from one-man-one-vote, freedom from ownership of their own infrastructure and sovereignty? All this and more is now theirs! And at least they have your blog giving them permission to protest in a futile manner. Otherwise it would be chaos!

    4. Popular initiative referanda (local, regional, national, depending on issue)?

      Recallable representatives?

      More checks and balances and greater transparency - maybe independent auditing and hearings, citizen panels - for certain critical issues, such as debt, regulation of industry and banks, environment, police operations, and the like?

    5. biz markie desade30 June 2011 at 18:00

      It's easy to maintain a weak-willed commitment to the supposed liberties and values of liberal capitalism while standing against substantive change.

      But when capitalism abandons even the pretense of liberalism and regard for civil rights -- and it will continue to do so -- which will you fight for?

    6. Nice snark, Ben Wolf. +1

    7. Keynesian policies have destroyed not only Greece but a lot of western economies including USA! Thats what is happening when you create huge public sector, debts and deficits so that politicians get votes and serve bankers!Taxed Enough Already!

    8. Unfortunately peaceful protesters are all to often mixed with violent far leftist and anarchist troublemakers. Much like terrorism it can make it very difficult for police to determine who is and isn't a public nuisance. (especially in the middle of a riot where the police are heavily outnumbered) If anything I'd argue Greek police have been remarkably restrained considering the massive disruptions and violence (consider government response in places in the middle east to compare).

      As for the debt and high taxes, that debt was caused precisely because of the big government anti-business intrusive policies far leftists support. (although to be fair Nea Democratia was incompetent as it allowed debt to further balloon under its watch and did little to streamline the bureaucratic nightmare).

      Unfortunately far lefitsts foolishly believe they are "owed" a standard of living similar to to Germans and others. They don't realize those countries actual produce wealth to allow for those level of governments services (which we do not)

      Constantly raising taxes will not solve debt as it only takes money out of one pocket and puts it in the other. If anything it will have the opposite effect. It will just drive more of the economy underground and lead to high unemployment. It's common sense businesses would rather invest in more profitable nations (cheaper labour or higher productivity)

      What we should be doing is just focusing on catching tax cheats, reducing spending to sustainable levels, encouraging capital investment in Greece. (to create jobs... that pay taxes), and focusing on shifting our economy from a low productivity tourism industry to a high tech knowledge based economy. (including manufacturing goods) Tourism is a curse not a blessing for Greece. It focuses our energy on low skilled, low paying jobs (which no one respects - see name dispute)

      Unfortunately an anti-business attitude is still all to common amongst some Greeks who seemingly prefer to waste their time whining about the government, the banks and anyone else they can think to scapegoat for their own life mistakes.

      Its far easier to parasitically demand money from the government than focus on actually producing something with one's mind... that someone else is willing to pay for.


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