Thursday, March 22, 2012

Three on Greece

First up is a longish piece in the London Review of Books. It has carries the stamp of LRB fashionable pesimism, although there is, of course, much to be pessimistic about. John Marakis looks at the political causes of the Greek crisis, laments the loss of sovereignty and charts the impact of austerity being imposed by the 'troika' of lenders. With elections looming he concludes:
A coalition of the same parties in parliament rubber-stamps the measures the troika demands while proposing to compete for a ‘fresh mandate’ in elections planned for April. Recent opinion polls show that more than 60 per cent of the electorate wish a plague on both their houses. The choice could hardly be less appealing: vote for the same crew, or don’t vote at all – an incitement to violence if ever there was one.
Then here comes the optimists, this in a review in the Financial Times of a new documentary by two young Greek film makers, Krisis. They are absolutely clear about the social impact of the crisis, but then they see some hope.
“There is not a single conversation I had with a person who didn’t see the bright side,” said Katsaounis. “Greece has been through a lot of shit. Compared to the second world war, the civil war, the dictatorship, this is a bump in the road.” 
Finally, the realists.  Simon Johnson and Daron Acemoglu write about the impact of the partial Greek default on the financial system and reckon that it has been minimal. They conclude that the all-pervading apocalyptic prognosis of total financial collapse which would be the result of any policy that didn't impoverish the Greek people to avoid default was not analysis, but special pleading by those who stood to lose as a consequence of their bad investments. And this capture of the policy making elites by the financial ones is deemed to be one of the reasons why the EU leaders have "mismanaged their way into a deep crisis".  They conclude,
The Greek default has turned out to be the proverbial dog that didn’t bark. The lesson for Europe – and for the US – is clear: it is time to stop listening to what banks say, and start focusing on what they do. We must re-evaluate the distorted political economy of the financial sector, before the excessive power of the few imposes even larger costs on everyone else.
All three are worth reading in full.

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