I’ve been following the news from Greece with horrified fascination. A few quick thoughts:
1) I don’t think there’s any legitimate argument in favor of austerity anymore – even the IMF admits that austerity is incredibly harmful.
2) And yet, the IMF is one of the entities forcing austerity down Greece’s throat. Because the IMF is about helping the wealthiest countries, not about doing what’s best for the economies it’s “helping.”
3) It’s also obvious that using the Euro, rather than having an independent currency, has been incredibly harmful to Greece’s ability to recover.
4) But, given that they are in the Euro, I don’t have an opinion on what Greece should ideally do. There’s an theory that they should leave the Euro, suffer through a couple of years of economic collapse, and then use their devalued currency to leverage a recovery fueled by tourism and manufacturing. As bad as it is, it’s better than the alternative, which is an unending depression fueled by imposed austerity policies.
That theory sounds appealing to me, and to many other progressives. The trouble is, the theory might not work out in practice. I definitely don’t feel certain enough to feel comfortable advocating for this outcome or that outcome, when all these outcomes will be associated with so much suffering.
5) I do feel very strongly, however, that the decision should be made by Greek citizens, through Democratic procedures. And it’s obvious that is not being allowed to happen. Instead, the decisions are being made by people with absolutely no democratic accountability:
Days before Varoufakis’s resignation on 6 July, when Tsipras called the referendum on the Eurogroup’s belated and effectively unchanged offer, the Eurogroup issued a communiqué without Greek consent. This was against Eurozone convention. […] After a handful of calls, a lawyer turned to him and said, “Well, the Eurogroup does not exist in law, there is no treaty which has convened this group.”
“So,” Varoufakis said, “What we have is a non-existent group that has the greatest power to determine the lives of Europeans. It’s not answerable to anyone, given it doesn’t exist in law; no minutes are kept; and it’s confidential. No citizen ever knows what is said within . . . These are decisions of almost life and death, and no member has to answer to anybody.”
This isn’t just a matter of the “unelected judges” US conservatives often complain about. Judges in the US, even when they’re not elected, are appointed by elected officials who are accountable to voters. Plus, the judges making the decisions, and the politicians appointing them, are themselves Americans.
But in Greece, the most essential decisions are being made by people with absolutely no accountability to Greek voters. That’s a travesty, and not compatible with any real commitment to democracy.