2.3.2010. Why did the banks go after the poor Greeks, Daddy? Good question …

2.3.2010. Why did the banks go after the poor Greeks, Daddy? Good question …
Σημ. Με το γνωστό Βρετανικό χιούμορ το άρθρο που ακολουθεί λέει πολλά και ενδιαφέροντα. Απλά εγώ περιορίζομαι να τονίσω πράγματα που γράφω εδώ και δύο δεκαετίες στις δημοσιεύσεις μου:
Πρώτον, είναι αδιανόητο το βάθεμα της οικονομικής και πολιτικής ολοκλήρωσης χωρίς ένα πανευρωπαϊκό ανθρωπολογικό σύστημα. Και επειδή τέτοιο πράγμα δεν προέκυψε, ο ορθολογισμός του ευρωπαϊκού πολιτικού συστήματος εξαρτάται από τον ορθολογισμό του εθνοκρατοκεντρικού Κοινοτικού συστήματος της ΕΕ. Τουτέστιν, μηδενικές ανεξάρτητες αρμοδιότητες των υπερεθνικών οργάνων (όριο ο ουρανός οι εξαρτημένες από τα κράτη αρμοδιότητες), πιο αποτελεσματικό διακυβερνητικό και εποπτικό σύστημα, συναινετικές αποφάσεις και βάθεμα της δημοκρατίας στο εθνικό επίπεδο.
Δεύτερον, ο οξύνους δημοσιογράφος του άρθρου εξηγεί γλαφυρά το πόσο παράλογες είναι οι ιδεολογικές παρακρούσεις περί «παγκοσμιοποίησης». Ούτε λίγο ούτε πολύ η πλειονότητα των θαμώνων των ιδεολογικοπολιτικών εκπαιδευτηρίων μας έλεγαν ότι ο οποιοσδήποτε Σόρος και οι πολυπληθείς διεθνικές παρέες του θα μπορούσαν να συγκροτήσουν μηχανισμούς διανομής των πόρων εν τη απουσία συστήματος διανεμητικής δικαιοσύνης κοινωνικά-ανθρωπολογικά εμποτισμένης και νομιμοποιημένης. Οι ασυναρτησίες που ακούσαμε είναι ατέλειωτες. Εισρέοντας μέσα στα πολιτειακά συστήματα ροκάνισαν τον πολιτικό ορθολογισμό τους, γεγονός που δεν πρέπει να εκπλήττει κανένα. Προαναγγελθείσα είναι η κρίση, όπως λέω και στην κεφαλίδα της παρούσης σελίδας.

February 15, 2010 The Independent
Why did the banks go after the poor Greeks, Daddy? Good question …

Daddy, Daddy, who are the «financial markets» who are bullying the Greeks and the euro? Well, son, they are hedge
funds, pension funds and the trading arms of the big banks.
But Daddy aren’t those the same banks which the world’s governments have just spent billions of euros, pounds and
dollars to rescue from the consequences of their own greed and stupidity?
Er, yes son. And, Daddy, aren’t those banks now betting those same billions to try to make money from the fact that
some of the governments are over the heads in debt? Er, yes son.
And these countries, including Greece, would not have been so deeply in the red if they had not given all those billions
to the banks who are now attacking them? Or if the world economy had not been dumped off a cliff by all that
bank-inspired debt and bank-led speculation in bad debts?
Well, son, yes, that’s partly true but some countries, especially Greece, have been living beyond their public means
for years. In Greece, for instance, lawyers, doctors, restaurant owners and wealthy ship-owners, pay virtually no
income tax but expect to live in a properly functioning, modern state.
OK, Daddy, I understand that. It’s very naughty of them. But isn’t this still a case of the banks biting the hand that fed
them?
Er, no, son, it’s worse that that. It’s like the banks complaining that governments are naked after taking their clothes.
But the markets (i.e. banks) don’t think that way. If they smell blood, they pile in like hyenas after a limping zebra. It’s
called a market opportunity.
But why did they suddenly go after the poor Greeks, Daddy? Haven’t their olives been stuffed for years? Yes, son, but
the markets noticed two things. First, that a new Greek government had confessed that the country’s budget deficit
last year was 12.7 per cent of GDP – double the number the previous government had thought of. It probably wasn’t
that high actually. The new government in Athens reckoned that it would be a good wheeze to inflate the number so
that they could gain credit for bringing it down rapidly in 2010. It is called a mythical Greek figure. Mythical or not, it
was enough for the markets to smell blood – or money.
And the second thing that the markets noticed, Daddy? I was coming to that, son. They noticed that Greece no longer
had a currency of its own. It was a member of the euro. It could not devalue or print money. Worse, under the rules of
the euro, the European Central Bank could not intervene to help a member state in difficulties. It was as if Greece –
and other euro countries with big debts, like Spain, Portugal and Italy – had no central bank to help them through a
crisis.
So what did the «financial markets» do, Daddy? They started a gambling game in which they bet on a possible Greek
«default»: that Greece would go bankrupt and not be able to pay its debts. By doing so, they made it more likely that
Greece would go bankrupt by increasing the cost to Athens of rolling over (ie finding new takers for) its €300bn in
accumulated debts. In other words, it was, for «the markets», a one-way, no-lose bet – unless the EU intervened.
So what happened, Daddy? The EU made a statement last Thursday that it would stand shoulder to shoulder with
Greece … but not yet. If the markets continued to bet on Greek default, the EU leaders said, they would lose because
the other euro members would find some way of bending their collective rules to give Greece money. In return,
Greece had to agree to painful changes to reduce its budget deficit by at least four per cent this year.
But, Daddy, that will be quite easy for the Greeks because the 12.7 per cent figure for 2009 was exaggerated in the
first place. Er, yes, son, but «the markets» chose to accept that figure so they are now stuck with it. We are talking
about «market reality» which is not the same thing as real reality.
And, in fact, the new Greek government is taking, by Greek standards, very tough measures, including a plan to make
lawyers and doctors and restaurant-owners pay some income tax.
But Daddy, why did the EU not just give the Greeks the money and tell the markets to … Shh, son, no rude words.
That’s where we come to another kind of reality – «political reality». The other EU governments, especially the stern
Germans, wanted to make sure that Athens would start to take its medicine before they gave them any sweeties.
Remember Aesop’s fable about the ants and the grasshoppers, son? Well Aesop was an ancient Greek but, according
to the Germans, the modern Greeks are grasshoppers.
Is that all, Daddy? No, son. The «crisis» was pushing down the value of the euro against the dollar, which was
something the Germans and others rather liked because it would help their economies. Like the sinner who wanted to
be good but not yet, they wanted the Greek crisis to end but not immediately.
Isn’t that a dangerous game, Daddy? Yes, son.
So what happened? It’s still a bit unclear. The «markets» – thousands of people playing poker at the same time – are
still trying to see how best to make money from the new situation. Should they carry on betting on Greek default? Or
should they now bet on everything being OK?
Is this a sensible way to run the world, Daddy? No, son, but consider this. The crisis has scared the Greeks. They
may now finally put their house in order which will, in the long run, be good for the Greeks.
The crisis, which is a Greek word, son, has also scared the EU, even the stern Germans. The original rules of the
euro – good rules for good times but bad rules for bad times – will probably be changed. Something will be done to
permit the EU to help struggling states, so that, in future, the markets will not smell blood and worsen the problems of
stragglers.
So good can come from bad? What do you call that, Daddy? A «paradox», son. Is that also a Greek word? Yes, son,
now go to bed.
j.lichfield@independent.co.uk [j.lichfield@independent.co.uk]

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