The Euro that failed: a Greek tragedy

23 Jul 2015

The West sees words like justice and liberty tossed around frequently. The struggle to uphold, glorify, export, explain and expand liberty and to engineer, legislate, improve, monitor and protect justice is an endless one. And it's apparent we can't have both—or either one, rather—to the extent where it's really desirable. Partly because a just Europe—or America—is one where the liberty to do bad is suppressed. The left-right, liberal-conservative spectrum is partly a debate on what you prefer: your freedoms, or your justice. Somehow amidst that debate, a macroeconomic tragedy perpetrated by the Euro institutions takes place, and sends an entire sovereign state down the road of neither liberty, neither justice. The Greek tragedy is just now unfolding.

It's surprising how unconvincing the assurances of politicians, left and right, have been regarding the Euro. A common currency project—staple of the mission to unite Europe; to preserve peace and promote cooperation among Europeans. Oh, but if only it were that simple.

Somehow the sensible notion of a pan-European partnership, originating as an economic project in the fifties, got hijacked by the false notion that executive powers need to be centralised. It is not enough to merely create a legislative union or a common piggybank; now what is being presented is the false urgency to unite behind a common currency.

It is perfectly reasonable to eliminate protectionist policies when it comes to trading among the European countries, and perhaps strengthen them towards the outside. (That itself is not working well, with a disastrous trans-Atlantic trade deal on the table.) But the unfeasibility of the Eurozone as it is (and this pertains to Greece) is staggering. A monetary union now exists between countries with a common currency, a common exchange rate, left for the European Central Bank to fiddle with. But how (and why) should two sovereign states with their own budget and their own fiscal policy (and let's face it: their own economics) share their money supply? Greece is not in sync with Germany, nor will it be that way for decades to come. Clearly, the Eurozone is a peculiar hybrid between the neutral option and a full-on federalistic approach to Europe. There are two ways out.

The first is the obvious one—go for a complete transition. Create a political union. Eventually, federalise the Eurozone and redistribute wealth in a manner of solidarity. Subsidise, essentially, the little guy, much like Greece's former finance minister Varoufakis would like it.

The second one, for which I advocate, is to disband the Eurozone completely. If you look past the doomsday scenarios the Euro institutions want you to believe, there is a possibility of a proper legislative union in Europe with minimal merging of executive power—a rigid path to build a competitive international body that is so far ahead on the environment, education, science and research, workers' and civil rights.

What we see unravelling now is a culmination of what will continue happening if we let the 'neoliberal' experiment to go as it is going. The troika of European institutions—Greece's creditors—continue to stipulate conditions associated with loans to Greece which are (according to the ECB's own analyses!) not sound. Greece's national income will shrink and the prospect of it actually repaying the debt is dubious. Greece has become a debt colony to the Euro-establishment: the bullies and the dogmatists out to perpetuate the fallacies of recovery via austerity, the disaster capitalists.

It is particularly sad to see prime minister Tsipras of Greece cave in to the troika's demands. Scenario one: Greece faces a prospect of remaining in the stranglehold of European institutions for three more years, due to the disastrous reform proposals. Scenario two: the Greek debt crisis is falsely presented as a cautionary tale for anyone who dare suggest an alternative to austerity. Let's face it, when the troika proposes impossible reforms, it is for Greece to fail in the implementation. So, while Greece is treated as a debt colony, its assets privatised and its public sector disintegrated, the Greeks can only derive comfort from their bold and courageous 'NO' to austerity from the sixth of July. If only it had meant anything to the troika.

So when we debate justice and liberty as the cornerstones of our society, let's remember that as we speak, a proud European nation is being stripped of both and becoming a debt colony.

d. n.