My reply to Olaf von Rein at The Financial Times

I have as much interest/concern in the Free Market as I do in Social Contract Theory! As an object of study both of these concepts/constructs have historical/philosophical interest. Both of these are, in my mind, situated in the realm of  theologies: the product  of revelation rather than empiricism. Not to speak of my obvious Left politics.

Before I got up this morning I read your reply to my comment. I immediately thought of these two essays published at Spiegel Online International. The first titled ‘Greece’s Referendum: The Price of Five Years of Cowardice’ by Christian Rickens:

The decision over the weekend by the Greek government to hold a referendum on Sunday on the reform measures being demanded by its creditors threatens — within just a few days — to destroy the illusions of five years of policies aimed at saving the euro. The easy way out is to cast blame on Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras and his government.

After months of negotiations and just before the expiration of the deadline in question, the Greek government has now decided that it is unable to take responsibility for a clear “yes” or “no” to the results of negotiations on its own. Why didn’t the Greeks says weeks ago that they wanted to put the negotiations up for a vote? That would have been the democratic way to go about it. In the very best case scenario, Tsipras’ about-face on the referendum is a populist move (assuming the decision was taken with any political calculation). In the worst case scenario, it is a cowardly one (if the head of government got cold feet about making such a difficult decision).

But “constant cowardice” is also the answer to another question — namely how the rest of the euro-zone members, Germany above all, could have allowed a situation to develop in which the erratic leaders of an economically insignificant country with a population of just 11 million people could bring the currency union to the verge of collapse?

Another case of the German historical amnesia, by which I mean this:

For a couple of minutes Friedman then offered a brief review of western financial history, highlighting the unprecedented nature of Europe’s single currency experiment, and offering a description of sovereign and local government defaults in the 20th century. Then, with an edge to his voice, Friedman pointed out that one of the great beneficiaries of debt forgiveness throughout the last century was Germany: on multiple occasions (1924, 1929, 1932 and 1953), the western allies had restructured German debt.

Another essay from Spiegel Online International under Opinion titled: We Are Living in the Anti-Europe by Dirk Kurbjuweit. A bit more measured, even low key, but still sharing in the German Amnesia, combined with the idealized Myth of Europe, not quite as conceived by Monnet, yet being infected with neoliberal rationalism, post Thatcher/Reagan.

After the political anguish and recriminations come these paragraphs that indicate that the German Amnesia is not a permanent idee fixe: that misplaced idealism can give way to a completely necessary pragmatism, while the German bailouts of the 20th Century remain subtext?

It’s Time for the Alternatives

Things can’t stay the way they are. The admirable idea of a unified Continent cannot be allowed to be destroyed by the Greek crisis. And there are indeed alternatives to this politics of exhaustion, even if they do entail risk. Still, they would be better than what is happening right now.

One is the Grexit, which would see Greece leaving the euro zone and attempting to get by with its own currency. The second would be a debt haircut, meaning Greece would no longer be required to pay back a part of its debt. Both alternatives would trigger large tremors, but they would also provide the opportunity for a new beginning and an end of the crisis.

Those who still consider themselves to be Europeans at heart will speak out in favor of the second alternative, for stricter controls in exchange for generous aid and, ultimately, binding budget policies for all. That does come with a price tag, but also with the possibility that we still someday get the Europe that we were promised.




About stephenkmacksd

Rootless cosmopolitan,down at heels intellectual;would be writer. 'Polemic is a discourse of conflict, whose effect depends on a delicate balance between the requirements of truth and the enticements of anger, the duty to argue and the zest to inflame. Its rhetoric allows, even enforces, a certain figurative licence. Like epitaphs in Johnson’s adage, it is not under oath.'
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