Tuesday 17 February 2015

Where, Oh Where, Are The Left's Heroes?

The Face Of The Resistance: Yanis Varoufakis, Greece's Finance Minister, is leading the fight against the European Commission's brutal austerity programme. Policies which, as applied to the Greek people, Varoufakis  condemned, memorably, as "financial waterboarding".
“WHERE, OH WHERE is our James Connolly?” I’ve lost count of the times I stepped forward to ask that question. Every 16 June, for the best part of a decade, would be my guess. The song was a regular feature of the annual “Bloomsday” celebration organised by Auckland playwright, Dean Parker. Achingly sad, the Lament for James Connolly offered a brief respite from the raunch and laughter more usually associated with these perennial tributes to James Joyce’s literary hero, Leopold Bloom.
Unlike the central character of Joyce’s celebrated novel, Ulysses, James Connolly was a very real Irish hero. A staunch nationalist, firebrand socialist, and peerless trade union organiser, Connolly was the darling of Dublin’s hard-pressed working-class. Seriously wounded in the Easter Rising of 1916, he was sentenced to death by a British court-martial. Because he was too injured to stand and face the firing squad, the British authorities, undeterred, tied Connolly to a chair and shot him sitting-down.
It is difficult to conceive of an act more calculated to inspire a nation’s poets and balladeers to passionate outrage. Neither in Ireland, nor in any station of the great Irish diaspora, has the name of James Connolly, or the manner of his death, been forgotten. The Lament For James Connolly is always heard in sobering silence.
Yanis Varoufakis is no James Connolly. Far from being the slum-born son of impoverished immigrants, Greece’s new Finance Minister was raised in one of Greece’s wealthiest families. Indeed, with his expensive private education, and his industrialist father’s money, Varoufakis could very easily have ended up as just one more pampered member of the global 1 Percent. Looking down at their new-born son 53 years ago, his parents almost certainly did not see him growing into the firebrand Marxist leader of Greece’s fight against “financial waterboarding”.
What makes Varoufakis even more remarkable is his former status as an academic economist. It’s been a very long time since the economics profession was renowned for producing either firebrands or Marxists. On the contrary, most contemporary economists seem content to function as the high-priests of neoliberalism, reconciling the ways of the almighty market to its hapless human victims. That one of their number has not only turned rogue, but armed his critical vision with political power is as surprising as it is encouraging.
And no one can accuse Mr Varoufakis of setting about his mission in a dull or conventional fashion. His flamboyant disdain for sartorial convention (he visited the British Chancellor of the Exchequer wearing a tie-less blue shirt, knee-length riding coat and biker boots) is only matched by his disdain for the “Troika’s” (European Commission, European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund) demand that Greece’s newly-elected left-wing government adhere to its predecessors’ self-destructive austerity programme.
After detailing the exploits of the close-cropped and darkly handsome Varoufakis for the ZDF network, German television news-anchor, Maria Slomka, commented: “he is someone you could imagine starring in a film like Die Hard 6”.
That Varoufakis possesses a Bruce Willis-like potential for blowing things up is something of which Europe’s finance ministers are only too aware. “Grexit” – or a Greek exit from the Eurozone – is one deeply troubling possibility. Another, even worse, is “default”. But, as Varoufakis commented on his blog back in May 2010: “Simple logic dictates that if you cannot even conceive the possibility of leaving a negotiation, then it is preferable never to enter one.” In other words, if Europe is unwilling to take what Greece is offering, then Greece will exercise its right to leave.
Following Finance Minister Varoufakis’s European tour with a mixture of trepidation and exhilaration, the opponents of neoliberalism in this country are asking themselves why New Zealand’s opposition finance spokespeople are so unwilling to embrace the erstwhile Greek professor’s uncompromising economic radicalism.
One explanation may be found in Varoufakis’s social origins. Like Franklin D. Roosevelt, whose 1930s “New Deal” policies broke sharply with economic convention, Varoufakis is a member of his country’s upper class. Being one of them, he harbours no deep psychological need to win their acceptance. Indeed, it is very easy to imagine Varoufakis echoing FDR’s famous boast: “They are unanimous in their hatred for me, and I welcome their hatred!”
Such morale-boosting confidence is also accessible through conviction: from the certainty that one’s programme is not only the right thing to do, but that it will also work. It hardly seems fair that Varoufakis has both – in spades!
Part of the reason for the New Zealand Left being in such a deep funk at present is the absence of any progressive leader displaying even half Varoufakis’s confidence and conviction. Thirty years of political compromises and the ruthless application of a Labour/Green version of the “Tall Poppy Syndrome” has left this country's hero-deprived Left lamenting: “Where, oh where is OUR Yanis Varoufakis?”
A version of this essay was originally published in The Press of Tuesday, 17 February 2015.


Wayne Mapp said...

The reason why the mainstream left (by that I mean Andrew Little's Labour Party) is not racing for a Greek like solution is because we are not in the disastrous position of Greece. In fact we are doing quite well. So suggesting a radical shift in direction looks like a very high risk for most New Zealanders.

We only take such risks when there is a deep seated crisis, as in 1935 and 1984.

I am sure that the Greens and Mana would like to see a radical approach, but that is about 10% of the electorate. If you added in some of the left part of Labour it might reach 20%. Then a portion of non-voters, maybe another 10%, to make-up 30%.

So at best 30% of New Zealanders want a radical approach. That means around 70% who do not. and right at the moment the great majority of that 70% have their champion in John Key. They will turn to Labour if they look reasonable, but they certainly would not if Labour decided it wanted to be Syriza.

Bollo said...

...the ruthless application of a Labour/Green version of the “Tall Poppy Syndrome”

Can someone provide some detail about this? A few examples would be nice.

Anonymous said...

Why are Lefties obsessed with 'Tall Poppy Syndrome', and why do they believe it to be a peculiar NZ concept? It is merely jealousy, or more frequently imagined jealousy - a human universal.

Apologies for the tangent Chris!
Here's something not so tangential to your post
Why do so many lefties have such a romantic yearning for a 'great leader' in their 'great struggle'?

BTW, I think the Euro is a failed experiment, and one doomed to failure from the start.
Perhaps the Greeks should exit. But given the appalling way they have run their economy at every level, it's hard to see how they could find anyone to give them credit if they do.

Anonymous said...

Mr Trotter,

What are your thoughts on Ms Harre's 'Rethink the System' tour?



Personally I think her recent ill spent time in the limelight has given her a drug like yearning for more. That and delusions of relevance.
They aren't taking any money , they say - to make them closer to 'the people'. Why a well off pair of women are touring the country sponging off others is beyond me.

Forgive me for the off topic post.
(Where) do you take suggestions?

Bollo said...

Some good points Wayne but the jump you make between '70% don't want radical change' to '70% consider John Key their champion' is laughable.

Nick J said...

Bollocks Wayne. I see beggars on Lambton Quay daily. My daughter and her recently graduated mates are all still unemployed. There's a true divide between haves and have not in NZ. And we, like Greece, like the whole Western World the facade is propped up by funny money issued by kleptocratic bankers. Open your eyes and stop being so bloody cock.

Wayne Mapp said...

To Bollo and Nick,

Look at the last election. 47% voted National. That is around two thirds of the 70% that I have referred to.

And to Nick,

While each persons circumstances differ, based on what is happening in the economy I am sure your daughter and friends will soon find employment, even if it is not exactly the job of their dreams. The growth in jobs bears that out.
The annual GDP growth rate, the unemployment rate, the growth in average incomes, and the latest retail spend show a growing economy. It does not look like an economy in crisis. And the inequality measures have hardly shifted since the mid 1990's

Guerilla Surgeon said...

The thing is, Wayne doesn't care about your kids being unemployed. His kids will be taking care of, just like the Prime Minister's chief of staff was.

Loz said...

As has been mentioned before on this site that the greatest indication of GDP tends to be the Economic Complexity Index of exports. The 2009 Complexity Index showed only four countries (Costa Rica, Moldova, India and Brazil) between Greece’s standing and our own. Both countries are dependent on relatively unsophisticated primary products for export earnings.

GDP in Greece fell 29% from the start of the GFC in 2008 to 2014 while New Zealand’s GDP rose 34.96% during the same period – largely on the back of record breaking dairy prices. New Zealand benefited from a fair wind in commodity prices but remains as vulnerable as Greece to sharp changes in fortune. Dairy products account 30% of the nation’s export earnings and worryingly, global milk prices have fallen 50% over the past year.

The differences between Greece and New Zealand are more myth than substantive.

Greece has spent on the Public Service proportionately less than the UK, France or Denmark. In 2011 the level of Government Spending was comparable to New Zealand with an expenditure of 46% of GDP compared to our own 41%.

Successive governments in Greece failed to collect a mountain of tax although most people (wage and salary earners) have tax automatically deducted from their income at the time they are paid. The five percent of the population of Greece who are responsible for 85% of tax avoidance are business owners and corporates. Greece had a 32% corporate tax rate prior to the GFC which was reduced to 20% in 2012 (in spite of corporation being the benefactors of tax avoidance in the first instance). New Zealand has also reduced its corporate tax contribution from 33% to 28% during the same period.

Prior to the Global Financial Crisis, Greece has an effective the two party system for 40 years with the main parties holding 80% of all votes prior to its collapse in export earnings. Syriza could only muster 5% of the vote in 2007 but the failure of neoliberal economics to deal with the unfolding catastrophe has created the conditions for Yanis Varoufakis to appear.

There is no cause for New Zealanders to be smug about Greece’s situation.

Anonymous said...

From a recent blog:

"Varoufakis objected in particular to language in the EU draft stipulating Syriza’s adherence to the “current programme” of debt repayment. His opposition, and that of Syriza as a whole, amounts to pleading for terminological window dressing to obscure the capitulation of the Syriza-led government in substance to the current “bailout” programme and the brutal austerity agenda that has already reduced millions of Greek workers and youth to poverty.

Syriza desperately needs such a fig leaf, having campaigned on a pledge to end the current debt-repayment regime, which is hated by the vast majority of Greeks."

And also from the same blogpost:

"Syriza, in fact, speaks for privileged sections of the Greek upper-middle class that want a better deal within the framework of Greek and European capitalism and the EU. It advances policies favoured by sections of the Greek and international bourgeoisie to confront a deepening breakdown of the capitalist system—at the expense of the working class. It has formed a bourgeois government in coalition with the ultra-right, rabidly nationalist Independent Greeks."


Anonymous said...

Failure to persist with austerity will lead to ejection from the euro and the readoption of a hugely depreciated drachma.

given that most of greeces debts are denominated in euros this will lead to a huge increase in the already vast debt mountain and inevitable default.

Debt default will leave greece shut out of international debt markets, requiring internal financing either through massive tax increases, spending cuts or hyperinflationary financing.

The depreciation and default will surely lead to an immediate (hopefully temporary) cessation of investment and very deep recession/depression.

What greece will need at the very least is to stay in the eu (ie have trade links with europe with its newly depreciated currency), this is far from certain and will require Greece kneel in supplication to the dreaded troika - or face complete economic obliteration.

So Greece has a choice between austerity slow and painful and austerity short sharp and excruciating. Im guessing they go for the latter - why vote for the far left if your not willing to throw caution to the wind.

Why does NZ left not have a pampered marxist as leader - they want to win the conservative centrist swing voter who dont do marxism and have a hero in the affable John Key who is delivering prosperity, growth and stability in a world of chaos and mayhem, long may he continue

Guerilla Surgeon said...

Interesting how the right wingnuts always bring up the mid-1990s a point from when we should start looking at inequality changes. Of course things haven't changed a great deal since then, because all the damage was done between 1984 AND the mid-1990s. Take it back to 1984 Wayne and see what's happened since then.

Chris Trotter said...

To: Anonymous@12:51

If ever there was a comment capable of inciting murderous political rage it is yours.

This is a nation we're talking about, a nation of human-beings. And yet you talk about the Greek people with no more compassion than a microbiologist discussing bacteria in a Petrie dish.

It is people like you who cause revolutions - and die in them.

With attitudes like those displayed above, I doubt if you'll have many mourners.

Wayne Mapp said...

Guerilla surgeon

Yes you are right about the period 184 to early 1990's

New Zealand now has average inequality for the OECD. But we had too much equality pre 1984. Taxes were too high, not enough actual business activity, too few skills in the workforce, not enough incentive to get more skills, too large a government sector feather bedded jobs (Post Office, NZR, MOW).

Changing these things post 1984 meant more inequality, but a more dynamic and prosperous economy.

And to get back to 1984 levels would mean top tax rate of 66% as it as then, a state sector of around 45% of GDP, and massive state ownership. Sounds like Greece.

Guerilla Surgeon said...

There are 3 things we know about austerity.
1. It doesn't work.
2. Well off people tend not to suffer during austerity, so they don't care.
3. It doesn't work.

unaha-closp said...

Austerity is low spending and high taxation, neoliberals hate it just as much as you do. The thought of rich and very rich people being highly taxed is toxic to neoliberals.

You find yourself in agreement with the neoliberals, treasure the moment.

Guerilla Surgeon said...

Taxes aren't usually increased a great deal during austerity are they? Particularly not on the well off. Usually just on ordinary people. And it seems to be neoliberals that introduced the whole austerity thing anyway. So I'm calling bullshit on that one :-).

Guerilla Surgeon said...

Too much equality – yes of course that must be it. Yet when you look at our state sector as a proportion of GDP, it's just below the average for the OECD. And when you look at the countries that actually spend more than us as a proportion of GDP, most of them seem to have done better than us since 1984. Interesting that.
And when you look at tax rates, that's really interesting to, because some places with higher tax rates than ours also seem to have done better than us in the last 30 or 40 years. Countries with lower tax rates than us include places like Albania – which hasn't. However, there doesn't seem to be any relationship at all between high or low tax rates and prosperity.
Naturally, in typical right-wing fashion you have ignored the fact that although we had a 66% tax rate, it fell largely on those who could afford it. Then we introduced a 15% – well actually 10% and "we have no plans to increase it" goods and services tax which is completely regressive. So impacts mostly on those less able to afford it.
And if we suffered from a shortage of skills, that should have been cured right? Yet the right wingnuts on this site are always complaining we don't have enough skilled people. So obviously it's done nowt :-).
You also forget that those for the better jobs were actually jobs. Those people pay taxes and bought stuff – at a time when we actually produced stuff. That's what you capitalists always forget. Without money people can't buy your shit. And people on a benefit, or people on the sort of macjobs that have been produced by YOUR economy have bugger all money.

So I suspect you're not the real Wayne Mapp, simply because you're distortions of the truth simply aren't good enough to pass muster. Google is your friend :-) :-).

Anonymous said...


What good does getting 'passionate' about something do?

In my experience, it just make emotion cloud your judgement.
Yes, it is people lives. All the more reason to be clear headed and rational.

( I'll avoid the 'Why do lefties always..'!)

pat said...

am not sure where you get your skills statistics Wayne but I think you might find your claim about skills is neither borne out by the facts and certainly not supported by the employers groups....a more dynamic economy ?, yes in the true sense of the word...and more prosperous?yes again for an ever decreasing sector of society.....where does it lead if you continue the trend Wayne?

Olwyn said...

Wayne the complacent tone of your comments goes some way toward explaining why revolutions occur, and why they are accompanied by cries of "Why don't they like us? We're nice people," and "I'm just an ordinary guy - my mum worked at the dry cleaners," and similar wails.

This "more dynamic and prosperous economy" of yours excludes far too many people from the nation's wealth, and they are not all "not-like-me" types with prison tats, etc. Most in fact get around disguised as middle class while chewing their arms off about what to do now the landlord's sold or the rent's gone up or the job's evaporated.

The inequality you acknowledge is not simply inequality in holidays and dining experiences. Those on the have-not side of the ledger do not earn enough to live on, have no job security and are denied welfare benefits on grounds that have nothing to do with their ability to fend for themselves. It is absurd to insist that thinking that this matters is purely the result of a "hard left" stance. We may end up needing our own Varoufakis sooner than you like to think, and this will be in no small measure due to the kind of complacency that you yourself display.

Guerilla Surgeon said...

I'm quite happy to have clearheaded and rational people in charge anonymous. But they also need to have empathy – rather than passion let's say. You're dealing with people's lives here. You could be "passionless" while people are starving. And it may well be good for the country as a whole :-). But it would also be unconscionable.
The problem of Wayne is of course that he never sees the results of his policies. (Assuming it is the real Wayne :-) which I doubt.) Those of us that do know exactly what the results are. My income was pretty much halved by neoliberal policies. My cousin, who had a good job in a factory, where they made stuff, now works 60 hours a week driving for three quarters of what he used to for a 40 hour week. And hardly ever sees his family. Never gets to watch his kids play rugby or netball. He had skills, but they were no match for the skills of people who are willing to work for $10 a day.
All this when we were promised a high skill, high wage economy that produced sophisticated goods exported for a considerable profit. After 30 years of neoliberal experiments we're still exporting milk butter and fucking cheese. And they can buy THAT cheaper in Britain than you can hear. So where's the gain – Wayne?

Nick J said...

Wayne: last election somewhere near a third of the electorate never turned up. You might assume their tacit support for Key....you might not!

Your comment on the "crisis" of 1984. What crisis? I do remember a political heist followed by dubious economic measures. There is ample evidence of this : reference the Scandinavian option who have significantly out performed the neo lib countries.

All that and your Marie Antoinette stance reminds me that we argue yesterday's reality. Imagine if you can standing ready to board S'S Titanic. You are told it is unsinkable despite historic evidence to the contrary. Do you believe the hubris? If not do you as a precaution count the life boats?

We are at that juncture. All the evidence is before our eyes. What the 70% you mention means is that they are a cocky self secure bunch. They tend to act like spoilt brats when their reality changes radically. The signs are all there. None are so blind as those that won't see: they are yesterday's men.

Nick J said...

Thanks Olwyn and G Surgeon. Funny thing is that I have never met a Tory who was not sincere in their beliefs even when the evidence to the contrary was overwhelming. So few of them have ever tasted and experienced that adversity they advocate, the broke and homeless Yan of their padded palatial Yin.

Anonymous said...

Greeces decent into default will be analysed in depth by economic and finacial historians. There is hope - england defaulted around 800 years ago and is a prosperous modern society now.

Those who are saying austerity dosnt work are wrong - it can and has worked in specific cases - most recently latvia lithuania and estonia and ireland all encased in the euro straight jacket sucessfully (and painfully) did the structural adjustment boogie.

Normally its a bad idea as the slack demand from fiscal cuts leads to contractions in private spending and falling tax receipts, rising deficits and persistent unemployment.

Greece has few options, Chris seems to hugely resent being told the facts of economic life - he is hoping the brave warriors in syriza create a counter revolution which spread world over against fiscal realism.

Unlikely, Greece be joining that large club of economic basket cases (soon to be joined by that other hero of the left Venesuela) who act as if money grew on trees - or poured out of wells in the case of caracas.

Chris Trotter said...

Clearly, you are beyond shame, Anonymous. Indeed, your clinical cruelty bears a striking resemblance to that of Joseph Mengele.

Like him you focus your attention on the practicalities of your own perversity, ignoring the fact that the environment which allows you to do this is, itself, grotesquely pathological.

Greece is offering to trade her way out of her problems and is asking Europe to help her in this process.

Europe's answer is more of the same - i.e. continued adherence to austerity measures that have already imposed much greater sacrifices on Greece than any of the countries you cite have had to bear.

Economists around the world are united in their judgement that yet more austerity will not solve Greece's debt problems. But, neoliberals of your ilk are not economists, they are cultists - as impervious to the demands of evidence as they are to the calls of conscience.

The only positive aspect to your comments here is that they allow our readers to get a good view of the vicious core of perversity that neoliberalism's faux rationality is intended to mask.

That you have failed to adequately hide what you and your ideology truly stand for is very reassuring.

pat said...

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/comment/ambroseevans_pritchard/11421500/ECB-risks-crippling-political-damage-if-Greece-forced-to-default.html..... from that well known hotbed of socialist thought.

Nick J said...

Chris, you will note that the whole Greek issue is:
* from the Greek perspective about people, its expression is political and social.
* from the "European" perspective about money, its expression is the hard hearted greed of the banks and their institutions (IMF). It goes all the way to Wall St.

We are dealing with mountains of debt that are becoming unsupportable: Greece has called "enough"! The fear of the bank(st)ers is default in Greece creating a chain reaction. Toxicity spreading, the worlds of "anonymous" and Wayne tumbling into the abyss of an even bigger 2nd GFC.

Meanwhile we (those with a heart) must talk about the primacy of people, not money. Because, despite what the worlds Waynes think people come first.

unaha-closp said...


Why do you persist in calling the anon a neoliberal when they obviously are not?

Anon is supporting austerity.

Greece has been forced by austerity to tax its middle class and rich people at rates of over 40%, soon to be over 50%. After decades of paying no tax the wealthy are being forced to pay lots. Anon thinks this is a good policy and result of economic reality.

Can you point to a single neoliberal that thinks tax rates of over 50% are good neoliberal practice?

Guerilla Surgeon said...

As usual, a quick Google search rubbishes the neoliberal bullshit. Ireland has a broad unemployment rate of 21%, according to one of its business magazines. Hardly a hotbed of left-wing ideology :-). At least half of the economic growth has come from contract manufacturing overseas, which has no impact on the employment rate in Ireland. And the Irish government has consistently understated the unemployment figures since 2007. I really can't be arsed looking at the other countries mentioned, but I wouldn't be surprised if it was the same.
And fuck me even the Economist admits that the Irish bounce has more to do with the recovery of its 2 major markets and not much to do with austerity. It's like a fucking religion with them isn't it :-)? It's like banging your head against a brick wall. Nothing penetrates.

Anonymous said...

New Zealand's export base is meagre and undiversified and faces serious risks like the inevitable arrival of synthetic milk. We have a housing crisis with severe negative effects on business and the cost of living, and which poses the risk of a crash. New Zealand is deeply indebted. The Clark government wanted higher house prices for reasons of realpolitik, and the current National caucus is full of property investors. Our government effectively intentionally created the housing crisis through malign neglect and the importation of so many immigrants. Nearly every business and household is dragged down by it. Going back to the "Knowledge Wave" there has been lip service to economic diversification but nothing memorable done. If the government, councils and the balance of trade struggle to pull out of deficit in the "good" times, imagine what the next global recession or earthquake will do to us. In the case of bankruptcy New Zealand would be treated with ruthlessness by other countries wishing to take as much political and economic control over us as possible.

Economic debate has become a chronic failing of the contemporary political left. It used to be front and centre of left wing politics but at some point got replaced by identity politics. If we're honest most activists know little about economics beyond that they don't like capitalism. Economic debate in the left has become broken because there's an intense emotional reaction to attack new, variant and contrary ideas and voices as being "right ring". Neoliberalism persists because in most cases the left's only counter offer is an exponential increase in government spending.

Tim Mallory said...

Curious comments here!

I have just returned from a trip to Ireland (bludging of me rellies) and I can tell you that it ain't doing so well at all, rather to opposite. The lower unemployment there is because they are doing what they have been best at, namely exporting their best and brightest.

I visited Greece on my way back and I can tell you that Greece is knackered! Their economy is dead, so how are they supposed to pay off the loans? Syriza is wanting to re-negotiate the loans and get the economy working again so the loans can be paid.

The wealthy Greeks have moved their money offshore in truck loads and the middle class there are burdened down to much that they can hardly afford to live. The poor can't even buy a loaf of bread anymore and rely on charity to survive.

Think carefully all you austerity dreamers. Better still go and see for yourself!

Guerilla Surgeon said...

Of course anonymous is a neoliberal. Austerity is what you do to someone else – not yourself.

unaha-closp said...

"Of course anonymous is a neoliberal. Austerity is what you do to someone else – not yourself."


Noeliberalism is: low lax + low government intervention + magic beans = high growth happiness and everyone wins.

Your definition is of someone who doesn't think that neoliberalism will work. Yours is not a definition of a neoliberal, it could be the definition of anybody except a neoliberal.

Anonymous said...


Different Anonymous here. Your comments regarding Josef Mengele were completely out of order. Would you consider withdrawing them?

The events and patterns of the 20th Century have made it difficult for politicians to assume heroic roles. People have seen so many promises of transformational change go badly wrong, to say nothing of the quotidian failures to competently manage the status quo. I hardly need mention any names.

I think the centre left needs to rediscover the resonance that hard truths - the unpleasant lessons of human experience - can have in progressive political messaging. Regardless of the merits of the points under discussion, some of the left's current communication styles come off as utopian and sanctimonious (present company excepted, of course).

People want to believe in a better world but you have to earn their trust in specific, verifiable terms.

Chris Trotter said...

I think not, Anonymous (but not THAT Anonymous).

The statements of the Anonymous in question were offered at such a remove from their actual effects that the Mengele comparison is, I believe, entirely justifiable.

Mengele perpetrated the most appalling atrocities, not because he was a sadist, but because he believed implicitly in the ideology he was seeking to validate with the "empirical" data he was obtaining from scores of helpless experimental subjects.

In exactly the same vein, the other Anonymous seeks to validate his neoliberal beliefs by offering us the spectacle of Greece's economic disintegration as proof of what happens to those who dare defy the "realties" of neoliberal economics.

The real human consequences of this sort of experimentation are ignored as simple irrelevancies.

The only thing that matters is that observers grasp the impossibility of stepping outside neoliberalism's ideological boundaries.

Anonymous said...

While I take your point about the abstract structure of neoliberal argument, I don't see that the Auschwitz comparison advances the discussion.

Without wishing to minimise the hardship austerity can cause, if the Greek state were an individual it would be facing the forced sale of its assets and an investigation into the dubious representations made to the parties that advanced it funds. There is nothing right wing about the fact that a state's expenditures are ultimately determined by its income.

Paul Krugman and Joseph Stiglitz have encouraged the EU to modify the terms of the bailout to relieve the suffering of the Greek people. I'm comfortable with that recommendation (which I take to be based on orthodox economic theory) but am mindful that it's easy to be generous with other people's money.

Guerilla Surgeon said...

I think that's a utopian definition of neoliberalism.:-) Neoliberalism has low taxes on the wealthy, and usually higher taxes on the poorer members of society. No matter what they SAY, that is what they DO.

Jambo said...

In spite of the Armchair Economists here, there is a simple equation that needs to be understood.

Greece must be able to build up it's economy to be able to meet the loan repayments. As it stands there is no possibility that it can. That is what the Syriza Government is trying to explain to it's critics.

Austerity is simply a way of the 'Carpetbaggers' getting hold of Greece's assets at fire salvage prices and the ordinary Greeks will pay the price not the wealthy.

6 years of austerity has all but ruined Ireland and it will take generations to repair the damage to that economy if it ever does. The same is very likely for Greece.

One could argue that Germany is just as culpable after all their banks poured money into Greece so their wealthy could build their "Baches by the Beach". When the economy of the EU imploded, those people walked away from those "baches" and left the Greek Government to carry the can.

The German Banks poured lots of funds into the Greek banks to lend out to their own country people who then abandoned Greece to the wolves. The ordinary Greek workers are paying the price as did the Irish, Spanish and the Portuguese workers have been forced to do.

None of this is true Capitalism where if a business or country failed it was allowed to crash and burn. This 'Neoliberalism' is to protect the wealthy at any cost.

pat said...

Annon...you are among the group that persist with the myth that those that benefited from the funds forwarded are the one ones who are now expected to pay for them....quite clearly this is not the case

Tim Mallory said...

This is Ireland:


pat said...


Anonymous said...

Unfortunately the left has learned the wrong lessons from the Greek fiasco by pinning all the blame on austerity. The crux of the problem for the sick eurozone economies is not austerity but the euro itself. A national currency provides economic equilibrium; the downward spiral Greece faced from the downturn was because the currency they use does not alter to compensate for their economic conditions. Imagine how troubled the New Zealand economy would be if we used the US$.

Believing being "anti-austerity" i.e. increasing government spending as being a "good" is the right solution for all circumstances is erroneous and a dangerous delusion.

"Of course anonymous is a neoliberal."
I'm not. I use capital letters and punctuation.