Alberto Mingardi  

The birthplace of democracy

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Italian newspaper Corriere della sera has featured a piece on Greece that included an interview with Feano Fotiu, presented as the person responsible for "solidarity" (meaning the organisation of a parallel safety net, something in itself rather interesting) with Syriza.

So Fotiu explains the success of his party:

People were paralyzed by the guilt induced by the dominant narrative on the recession. North Europe and the Right painted us as lazy, corrupt Southerners, inferior to virtuous Germans. Greeks felt burdened by the moral responsibility for the national bankruptcy, until Syriza told us of the role played by bankers, of the deception of loans that enslaven us, of rapacious neo-liberalism. And we rose again.

I find this a phenomenal testimony of how democratic politics often works, all the more relevant because it is a (clearly self-righteous) confession. When people are forced to face problems and make tough choices, it can provide them with an easy scapegoat.

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CATEGORIES: Eurozone crisis

COMMENTS (8 to date)
Fazal Majid writes:

Bankers are hardly scapegoats, rather willing accessories. Goldman Sachs conspired with the Greek government to hide the scope of the borrowing, and the fact the Greek deficit was higher than that allowed by Eurozone rules. I'm surprised EU authorities did not levy massive fines on GS when Standard Chartered, BNP et al were being hit up by the US.

That does not absolve the Greeks of their collective responsibility for the crisis.

Cliff Styles writes:

You've provided grounds for an apt aphorism: 'Democracy is better at making popular scapegoats.'

ThomasH writes:

Syrzia should have told them that being in a monetary union with an incompetent central bank -- still falling farther and farther behind its inflation target -- and having lenders that did not understand that not having an independent central bank increases country risk is risky business for a small country.

Athanasios Ghikas writes:

Fotiou is a she. And the first name is Theano not Feano (unless you are russian speaker).

Richard Besserer writes:

I think reasonable people can agree banks had a role to play in the Greek tragedy. Nobody stuck a gun to the heads of Europe's banks and made them lend money to the Greek government or Spanish and Irish real-estate developers (for example) at rates that didn't fully reflect the risk involved.

Considering as well some of Syriza's competition for the votes of desperate Greeks, things could be far worse. Golden Dawn are even less shy about scapegoating Jewish bankers along with anybody of obviously foreign appearance, much less about what their dreams of settling scores.

Tsipras will drive a harder bargain than ND with Brussels, and use any relief to repair Greece's social services. Hysteria aside, that's all that's likely to happen. String up bankers? Syriza doesn't want to leave the euro! So much for the revolution!

Hazel Meade writes:

Fortunately, it is rather hard to sacrifice a goat that isn't in your possession. What do they intend to do when their creditors stop lending them money? Sooner or later, reality has a way of making itself known.

Greg G writes:

it's not like autocratic regimes lack for scapegoats but it is true that democracy does not eliminate the human preference for blaming other people for your problems.

Mr. Econotarian writes:

The problem with Greece is Economic Freedom! You can have high debt and deficit spending if the world expects you to have reasonable private economic growth, which is what is missing.

Greece is ranked 40th out of 43 countries in the Europe region on the Index of Economic Freedom, and its overall score is below the world and regional averages. It is worse now than in 2011 and rated “mostly unfree.”

The Index tells us "Its score has declined by 1.7 points since last year due to a substantial deterioration in the control of government spending and smaller declines in business freedom, labor freedom, and fiscal freedom...The rule of law remains problematic, with property rights weakly enforced, tax evasion on the rise, and corruption pervasive. Despite efforts to create a more business-friendly regulatory environment, the labor market remains rigid and slow to adjust to market realities."

In case anyone wants to claim "austerity" in Greece, public expenditures equal 58.5 percent of domestic output.

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