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A Greek Tragedy

One feels an enormous amount of sympathy for the Greek people but the birthplace of democracy and the cradle of Western civilisation has suffered and will suffer for its profligacy.

Greece is insolvent, broke, bankrupt: its government cannot repay its debts and will never be able to do so.

What happens next will be interesting but it may well be painful for Europe and fatal for the Euro.

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Categories: General
  1. January 26, 2015 at 9:30 pm

    Putting on my Commonwealth hat, I will say this is to be expected. Greece should never have been allowed into the eurozone to begin with. In fact, the euro should never have been established. Even the EU’s economists argued in 1995 that 2015 would be the first date they could launch a common currency and that was being optimistic almost past reason. Europe is a continent, not a country. Greater leaders from Julius Caesar to Charlemagne to Charles I/V have tried and failed to unite the continent, what could the present lot of mediocrities expect to achieve?

    Putting on my continental hat, I will say that things should never have turned out this way. We knew it was all too much, too soon. But we were in this together and we tried to make it together. We might still make it, but sometimes it doesn’t look promising. We wanted peace, we wanted friendship rather than war and animosity. It’s difficult for Britons to understand how desperate we are for peace and stability — for order. We’ve had precious little of it. If this goes badly, we will have to try something new from the beginning if anything can be salvaged.

  2. January 26, 2015 at 9:41 pm

    Hello, Christopher.

    Your first paragraph echoes my thoughts exactly.

    Regarding your second paragraph, yes, it started off with the best of intentions, I agree, but it turned out to be an impossible dream, in my opinion.

    You are right though, I don’t think the British have ever felt part of mainland Europe in many ways, and we never did take the plunge and join the Euro Zone. On reflection, I don’t think this was a bad decision.

  3. January 26, 2015 at 9:58 pm

    Minty: British empiricism betters continental idealism every time. My views on the project have matched conservative (small “c” intended) British views from the beginning. Churchill said it well, as he often did, when he said that Britain was of Europe, but not in Europe. I simply hope that post-1960s policies haven’t wrecked Britain’s prospects globally entirely.

  4. January 26, 2015 at 10:08 pm

    Yes, as you say, Churchill was right, Christopher

    I suspect that globalisation means that we will be affected, it is inevitable, but I have confidence that we will recover.

    So will Europe, but it may end up with a divide between the prosperous economies in northern Europe, and those in the south.

    Goodness knows what will happen to the newer members if this all ends in disaster.

  5. January 26, 2015 at 10:33 pm

    More specifically, I meant repairing damaged relations with more “natural” allies and trading partners such as Canada, Australia, New Zealand, the Caribbean States and others. Many people saw their lives ruined by the UK’s entry into the EEC. I’m involved in a number of pro-Commonwealth organisations. There is still a lot of goodwill in the Commonwealth for the UK, but there has to be a concerted effort put into strengthening relations.

    The continent will, of course, survive. I am more optimistic about Southern Europe’s prospects. Spain has regained much of the creativity that it lost during its Golden Age, Italy has many high quality industries. One worries, however, if Russia will take advantage of the chaos and make their “point” in Estonia or Latvia.

  6. christinaosborne
    January 27, 2015 at 12:41 am

    Surprised it all lasted this long really.
    If they have any sense they will renege on the debt, get out of the EU, reintroduce the drachma, deport undesirable immigrants and start again.
    Be grim for a while but no worse than it is for many at the moment.
    They always have the advantage of their historic sites that could be marketed to great advantage to bring in the tourists.
    One might also suggest they find an alternate way of taxation to income tax as there appears to be such an anathema to paying such!
    They might also refrain from wasting what little they have on hosting crap like the olympics, unless naked in the original buildings!! That will generate some much needed loot!

    There is a wonderful silver lining if Europe goes back to what it does best, fighting their neighbours, the immigrants will leave in droves! Can’t see them lining up to volunteer or sitting waiting to be drafted for any putative protagonists..

  7. January 27, 2015 at 2:58 am

    The zone has been dogged by its members’ greed and disingenuous ‘ideals’, typified by France for which membership has presented yet another chance to cheat its allies. Why have the EU’s accounts never been signed off by auditors? Why do moribund industries continue to be subsidised? Why does the charade of two HQs continue? Because the lust for political power among the unelected leaders exceeds the democratic will to moderate the zone’s ambitions.

  8. January 27, 2015 at 5:26 am

    Once again we find the filthy stench of Wall Street bankers and Goldman Sachs in particular. They created the credit crisis and profited from it immensely, consolidating their near monopolistic position. Here we can see the results of their handiwork. Why Europe does not do to US banks and rating agencies what the US has done to BP, is beyond me.
    http://www.spiegel.de/international/europe/greek-debt-crisis-how-goldman-sachs-helped-greece-to-mask-its-true-debt-a-676634.html

    Read The Big Short and The Flash Boys, both by Michael Lewis for insight into the ways of those people.

    Ok, that is enough melodrama for one morning.

  9. January 27, 2015 at 11:12 am

    Thanks Sipu for that link. The banks including the ECB certainly bear a good deal of the blame. Greece in common with many other newer members of the EZ never actually fulfilled the Maastricht convergence criteria in the first place so this was a disaster waiting to happen.

  10. January 27, 2015 at 11:18 am

    Hi Tina.

    Yes that is one obvious solution to the problem, and frankly I cannot see any sensible alternative – there is little point or enthusiasm for throwing yet more money into Greece.

  11. January 27, 2015 at 11:22 am

    Janus.

    The whole bureaucratic mess has grown like topsy, and the single currency built on sand. Without closer political union it was never going to work.

  12. January 27, 2015 at 11:29 am

    I thoroughly agree with Janus.
    This is a long term, ill thought out, stupidly bureaucratic attempt to create a single nation state which doesn’t exist. A state that will never exist because half of it doesn’t trust the other half and the whole of which has been hijacked by the short term ambitions of politicians for the furtherance of themselves, to be achieved any means possible, including, (but not limited to) the offering utterly unsustainable promises to the electorate, corruption and cronyism.

    Tnar
    (Which for those of you not into cryptic crosswords is “rant” over)

  13. January 27, 2015 at 6:11 pm

    Hello Lecky.

    I take it you will not be in favour of the UK staying in the EU should we be offered a choice? 😉

  14. January 27, 2015 at 6:38 pm

    Ara
    Waddever makes you think that?

    I’m entirely unbiased and ready to listen to any intelligent opinion as to why we should remain in the EU. Little things like it being run by a load of faceless and self serving (and self appointed ) gits doesn’t bother me at all. 🙂

  15. January 27, 2015 at 6:45 pm

    Thought so! 🙂

  16. January 27, 2015 at 8:11 pm

    The EU is run by technocrats not to be confused with technicians.

  17. January 27, 2015 at 8:28 pm

    Yes, you are right, Jazz, it’s all methodology.

  18. January 27, 2015 at 10:46 pm

    Yes, you are right, Jazz, it’s all methodology.

    Technicians are generally assumed to be competent.

  19. January 28, 2015 at 7:10 am

    CO: Greece has relatively few problems in regards to “undesirable immigrants”. They don’t have the economy for it, and Greeks aren’t known for their love of moral relativism or having things dictated to them by those outside their own society. I’d really rather we avoided war. Instead, it might be a good idea to borrow from the Chinese. Do you have something to offer? Yes? Okay. No? Don’t boffer.

  20. January 28, 2015 at 7:11 am

    Sipu: that’s terribly typical of the Americans, though. They do whatever they bloody well please to people at home and abroad, but if someone dares challenge them on it they turn nasty.

  21. January 28, 2015 at 7:46 am

    Actually Ara,
    I’m very much in favour of what we originally signed up for; ie “a common market” without the massive over regulation that the EU seems to find necessary. I believe that most people are bright enough to buy a product labelled French Brie when they want to buy French Brie! It only becomes difficult when, (due to labelling regulations) beef grown in Argentina, shipped to the UK and put through a British slicing machine can be called British beef.
    You don’t have to love the culture or adopt the lifestyle of your trading partners or their immigrants, you just have to want to buy their products. If that was the reality, we could do away the vast majority of the EU infrastructure and all those people actually producing the goods that we buy would be receiving a far greater proportion of the wealth they are creating; as opposed to funding a vast professional gravy train.

  22. January 28, 2015 at 8:38 am

    I have a slogan for you, JL: Free trade, not free lunch

  23. January 28, 2015 at 8:48 am

    Janus,
    Like it.
    I used to laugh when Citizen Smith punched the air with his clenched fist and shouted
    “Power to the people”

    Now I might be beginning to think that it wouldn’t be a bad battle cry 🙂

  24. January 28, 2015 at 8:51 am

    James: Switzerland, Norway, Liechtenstein and Iceland are certainly not suffering from their lack of EU-membership. They have also negotiated more free-trade agreements than the EU as they have far fewer conflicting interests to consider.

  25. January 28, 2015 at 9:10 am

    In the film Bitter Lake it is said that western governments virtually handed the world economy over to the technocrats in the big banks. I have no doubt that this was true ….given what happened, and it would explain why neither the BoE or FSA did anything as it became apparent ( some time before the 2008 crash) that things were running out of control.

  26. Boadicea
    January 28, 2015 at 11:35 am

    I, too, have some sympathy for the Greeks. But, when I read that they retire at 55 and expect the rest of Europe to fund their life-style – my sympathy declined rather rapidly!

    I think Christopher is right, the British never, ever understood European fears about war. Hardly surprising, since apart from the odd border war with the Welsh and Scottish, we have not suffered from the true horrors of invasion for nigh on a thousand years. Three cheers for the English Channel!

    I was quite stunned to hear politicians recently claiming the EU was established to avoid future European wars… I wish they had told me that when I was enticed to vote ‘Yes’ to a Common Market. I feel cheated. Rumour has it that I will be allowed to vote in a forthcoming referendum… I’m not sure that is right and proper. But, at least, it would give me the chance to reverse my original decision.

    Christopher – having lived in Oz now for 27 years I don’t think that Oz and the UK will ever return to the cozy relationship that the UK smashed when it joined the Common Market – despite our crazy, anachronistic PM deciding to give Prince Philip an Ozzie knighthood! The UK cut Oz and NZ adrift and we have survived – very well thank you! We also have a very different ethnic make-up – from people who do not have any allegiance to the UK. I’m quite sure we will trade with the UK if she decides to pull out of the EU – and so will the EU. But I think that Britain needs to understand that Oz will only trade on equal terms rather than on the ’emotional’ ties that the UK severed so brutally.

    As to Greece. I’m sure that the new government is not so stupid as to renege on its commitments – who will support Greece if she does? But it’s about time that European economic institutions understood that no country can thrive when half (or more) are dependent on hand-outs paid for by the rest of the community. Greece’s debts have to be renegotiated – at the moment they are as onerous as war reparations.

  27. January 28, 2015 at 12:00 pm

    Jazz I think it’s a lot closer to the truth than most people want to imagine.
    What is the difference between a monopoly dollar and a US dollar? The belief that one is worth something, while the other isn’t. In monopoly you get a fixed amount of money, lose it all and you’re out. You can’t say hang on a minute I’ll go photocopy some more. Which, when it happens in the real world, if done by anyone other than a bank is known as counterfeiting, but when done by a bank it’s known as quantative easing

  28. January 28, 2015 at 12:07 pm

    But I think that Britain needs to understand that Oz will only trade on equal terms rather than on the ‘emotional’ ties that the UK severed so brutally.

    You needn’t have said that because I don’t know what other terms the UK would expect.

    Aussies and Kiwis were not the only people who were cruelly deceived and disadvantaged when Britain joined the Common Market. Most of the UK population hadn’t the faintest idea what they were voting for, not surprisingly as they had been subject to a huge propaganda campaign run by some of the finest practitioners of the black art i.e. their own Foreign and Commonwealth Office. The actual department was called the Information Research Department (IRD) and I believe it still exists though under another name.
    So if the Aussies and Kiwis feel sore about what happened ( and I don’t blame them ) they should realise that it wasn’t the British people that did this to them, but their duplicitous and treacherous politicians, who might just be about to get their comeuppance.

  29. January 28, 2015 at 3:17 pm

    Boadicea: I do not believe for a second that Australia or New Zealand would return to the status quo ante when the UK restores sanity and leaves the EU. Nor do I advocate this. The old “hub-and-spoke” economic model of the past was unhealthy and it should never be returned to. What I meant was that the states should pursue further economic ties and bolster trade relations. I also think it is worth keeping in mind what Jazz said — the British people were lied to and in a moment of economic desperation fell for a well-crafted deception. The UK, Canada, Australia and New Zealand are far more similar economically and legally than they are with their neighbours.

  30. January 28, 2015 at 3:26 pm

    …..and I would add culturally, whatever the political and demographic changes of the last 50 years.

  31. January 28, 2015 at 3:35 pm

    Janus: all 3 countries have matured and developed their own cultures, but there are a number of similarities. Many of these changes have been positive, some not. At the same time, people can still understand each other and it isn’t that difficult for them to easily integrate. I am fond memories of having meat pies with a Finnish-born Australian, 2 Anglo-Celtic Australian sisters and an Australian of Polish extraction. I also had coffee with a Chinese-born New Zealander in Sydney who is more confidently British than many Britons, despite his being younger than me.

  32. January 28, 2015 at 4:28 pm

    Ah well – britishness is popular affliction…. 😜

  33. January 28, 2015 at 4:35 pm

    It is, although it’s far less severe and debilitating than others! As for Abbott giving Prince Philip a knighthood… Bob Hawke gave him honours in 1988 and Prince Philip has received numerous awards from world leaders. Prince Philip also served alongside Australian servicemen in the Pacific during the Second World War and was even present when the Japanese surrendered, so the award isn’t necessarily unmerited however tone-deaf Abbott was in giving it when and how he did. The manufactured outrage made me sick to my stomach. Shorten is acting like an American Democrat. If that’s what Australia has to look forward to, panic.

  34. christinaosborne
    January 28, 2015 at 6:42 pm

    I note the new fellow in Greece has stopped the sale of the electricity supply company and the port of Piraeus to foreigners. Quite right too!
    I think it is absolutely disgusting that property belonging to the state should be sold to outsiders. I cannot see that selling off most of the UK to assorted wogs has bought any great benefit to the UK. I seriously bloody object to paying 6.00 plus to get to my own country over that bloody Severn bridge and to make it worse its owned by the Frogs!!!!

  35. January 28, 2015 at 7:48 pm

    That’ll teach the Welsh to be good at rugby and choral stuff! 😳

  36. January 28, 2015 at 10:14 pm

    The Severn Bridge

    Two Nations now united, across the surging tide,
    all the tolls collected …………on the English side.

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