Tuesday, May 08, 2012


They were hardly a surprise, but no wonder the powers that be preferred unelected technocrats. That pesky electorate just can't be trusted. And we have the Irish referendum still to come.

Paul Krugman, amongst many others, gets it.
The French are revolting. The Greeks, too.
And it’s about time. Both countries held elections Sunday that were in effect referendums on the current European economic strategy, and in both countries voters turned two thumbs down. 
Angela Merkel is more resistant to it.

Jeffrey Sachs gets something else.
French and Greek voters have rejected Europe’s current macroeconomic framework.  The headlines cry that voters demand growth rather than austerity.  Yet growth is not a policy but an outcome.  A vote rejecting the incumbents does not define the policy alternatives.
And this is where Aditya Chakrabortty's complaint about the disengagement of academics from policy comes in. And I would add another. Even where there is engagement, with some notable exceptions, much of the writing is incomprehensible to non-specialists. Absence combined with poor communication has created a double vacuum, one that is exploited by crude populism, xenophobia or a terrible uncertainty. Bad times can lead to bad choices - and just under 7% of Greek voters made the worst one possible. Golden Dawn are often referred to as neo-Nazis. There is nothing neo about them at all.

Maria Margaronis sums it up well:
The message of Sunday's election in Greece is clear: the Greeks have said no to more of the cuts and austerity measures that have devastated the country, pushing unemployment above 20%, shattering the healthcare system, tearing families apart and leading some to suicide. It was above all a vote of rage against the two major parties, Pasok and New Democracy, which between them ran the economy into the ground, signed up to a disastrous austerity programme in exchange for dead-end bailouts from the EU and IMF, and then allowed the blows to fall on the most vulnerable.

The medium, though, is more confused and troubling. 
Is austerity now dead? Or will the new French boy be tempted into a compromise by the German head girl? Can the Euro survive? Each episode promises to be a cliffhanger. And just how high is that cliff?

It seems that the time is approaching when the contradictions inherent in a flawed monetary union and the wrong-headed policy adopted to deal with the resultant problems will have to be faced and resolved. An interesting few months are in store.

Yet in the midst of all the discussion of macroeconomic policy following the election of Hollande, which I welcome, something momentous has been missed. The internationalism of the anti-totalitarian left has been abandoned to the accompaniment of silence. Amongst Hollande's election pledges is an early withdrawal from Afghanistan. The people of Greece may now have a moment of hope, for Afghans there is only the prospect of another long, dark night of suffering.

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