Austerity in Greece a Remedy not a Penalty for Self-made Ills

By Con George-Kotzabasis September 23, 2016

My short reply to a political theorist of the Jurgen Habermas School of Critical Theory

It is rather surprising to see a votary of Jurgen Habermas in using an analytic blunted tool that leads to the false inference that malevolent Europeans wilfully imposed upon Greece austerity measures to punish it. The truth is, that these measures were saddled upon Greece as a result of a consumer’s binge and an exuberance of public spending, fuelled, by a profusion of borrowed funds which inevitably pushed Greece into the quagmire of bankruptcy. Austerity therefore and the economic structural changes imposed on the country were a remedy, not a penalty, for the self-inflicted ills that past government policies, mainly of Pasok, engendered.

My question is, why you have not mentioned anything of the pledges, that Kyriakos Mitsotakis had made in his speech at the Exhibition of Thessalonica last Saturday, with their great potential to pull Greece out of its long economic crisis. In my opinion, a government, under the strong and astute leadership of Mitsotakis, will pull Greece out of its immiseration—as the Samaras government was close in achieving. An immiseration that the totally inept Tsipras government is exacerbating, with its historically obsolete neo-Marxist fixations and panaceas.

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Smart Politicians Stand Naked Before Labor’s Master: Ideological Stupidity

By Con George-Kotzabasis June 28, 2016

Since the economically profligate Whitlam era, the only Labor government that was bracketed off from Labor’s inveterate stupidity was the Hawke-Keating government. The present leadership of Shorten-Bowen taking a leftist turn in its politics, like the Rudd-Gillard administrations had done, as adumbrated in its pre-electoral commitments of “big-government,” is repudiating the prudent policies of Hawke-Keating and wilfully adopting, retrogressively, the stupid and disastrous paradigm of European socialism that had sunk Spain, Portugal, Ireland, Greece and Cyprus into the abyss of bankruptcy, economic crisis, and political instability. Moreover, it is doing so in the face when even the Scandinavian haven of the social democratic Welfare state is severely clipped of its largesse, as at last has been realised to be no longer economically viable. Anders Borg, the wunderkind as finance minister of Sweden, initiated the incremental dismantling of the Welfare state, lowered taxes in the private sector, which has galvanized the creation of new jobs.

Returning back home. The leftist political editor of The Sydney Morning Herald, Mark Kenny, is forecasting “dire trouble” for Labor on the debt and deficit front. Terry McCrann, of The Daily Telegraph, ominously declares “Shorten would plunge the country into greater debt”. And Henry Ergas, of The Australian, claims that even the latest backflips of Labor will not be sufficient to close the deficit gap and its “mythmakers” will be tempted “to conjure revenue increases out of thin air, just as the Rudd-Gillard governments did pointing to a golden future time when receipts would soar.”

But to believe in myths and tales of future increases in revenue, when The World Bank and the International Monetary Fund slash hopes of economic growth in the near future, is highly precarious, as it would lead the country into complacency and prevent it from taking the necessary measures to countervail a looming long recession. Furthermore, such a possibility is strengthened with the present event of Brexit, which could ominously beget both the dismemberment and the disintegration of the UK and the European Union, whose widespread ramifications upon the geopolitical and economic spheres of the world would devastate any prospects of economic growth for many years. And it is most unlikely that there will be, like in 2008, another China to save Australia from woeful economic distress.

Further, Labor with egregious lack of imagination and foresight is not factoring-in such imponderables as a precipitous fall in world prices of minerals in a context of world recession and the calamitous consequences that would follow, hitting public finances to smithereens and engendering a seriality of deficits with no hope of being reduced, with the outcome of plunging the country into the abyss of bottomless debt and insolvency. Is Bill Shorten going to be the “Maduro” of Australia, who, as the world price of oil dropped to lower depths, as a socialist president of Venezuela, continued the dissolute economic policies of his predecessor, Chavez, that turned the country from contrived prosperity to real poverty, once the government coffers were emptied, and indeed, into a hunting ground for dogs and cats to feed his people?

It goes without saying, of course, that this is an exaggeration and one could hardly imagine Australians shooting dogs and cats to feed themselves. It is merely used as an example to emphasize the dangers overshadowing an economy, when its Stewarts, the government, insouciantly do not take in consideration future possible events that could dramatically affect the economic course of a country and do not take prospective measures that would shield the country from such catastrophic effects.

One asks the question why the smart as they come politicians of Labor, such as Andrew Leigh, the assistant shadow treasurer of Labor, let their guard down and are reluctant to prepare themselves for these uncertainties of the future, believing that Australia somehow is protected by divine mandate from the ills of world recession and that Australia’s “economy is indestructible”, to quote Rex Connor, a minister in Whitlam’s government? For people who have studied the policies of Labor over a number of years the answer is simple and obvious. All their major policies are motivated by their passionate belief in the socialist utopia. And the implementation of these policies requires, according to this ideological schema, big and interventionist government and hence, high taxes; and the redistribution of wealth and not its greater increase are their priority. Despite the glaring evidence showing that augmenting the size of wealth is the only and sure way to enhance the standard of living of the ordinary people. The latter proposition has indisputable historical precedents, as it was the flourishing and ever increasing wealth of capitalism, that for the first time in history, pulled millions of people from the hovels of poverty onto peaks of prosperity. But Labor is blind before this historical fact. Like a drug addict Labor is fixed to its socialist doctrine and lives in a stupefied world of unreality and wishful thinking.

The matchsticks foundations of socialism are collapsing all over the world, especially in Europe, yet Bill Shorten’s Labor continues adamantly to believe that from this wreckage one could still build the just and equal society as envisaged by Labor’s quixotic visionaries. It is under this standard of socialist ideology that Shorten undermines and repudiates the prudent and pragmatic policies of the Hawke-Keating government, whose “Accord” between employers and workers engendered a congenial milieu for investments and the creation of new jobs with the consequence of increasing the living standard of Australians. Bill Shorten’s silence about these productive structural reforms and fiscal frugality of the Hawke-Keating era that had put Australia on a track of prosperity is a contemptuous affront to the two architects of these reforms. It was therefore rather surprising and amusing to have seen the two conductors of this inimitable political and economic performance sitting on the front-row of Shorten’s Launch of the Labor campaign, clapping at a leader who had mockingly renounced their wise policies. For Paul Keating, especially, standing next to Bill Shorten who had adopted and announced policies that would lead to a “Banana Republic,” it must have been an exceedingly painful occasion. Perhaps as painful as replacing Placedo Domingo with rock-and-roll.

I rest on my oars: You turn now

How the Good Intentions of a Left-Wing Economist Lead to Bad Results

By Con George-Kotzabasis May 19, 2016

The following is an unconsummated reply to professor Andrew Leigh’s lecture with the title, “Markets Monopolies and Moguls…” held at Melbourne University, on May 19, 2016. This was due to the chairman’s instruction that only a sprinkle of questions would follow the end of the presentation and there would be no debate

I’m overly distrustful of people who use scarecrows, in this case the “mogul” Richard Pratt, to make their argument. Moreover, it is a term associated with sinister practices and easily tantalizes and incites the feelings of the crowd to purge the evildoers. But more dismally it is wrong in your case, as it is an exercise in a fallacy of composition: Just because there are few rotten apples in the cart it does not mean that all apples are rotten. The unprecedented prosperity of capitalism was not engendered by rottenness but by the creative, innovative, and dynamic spirit of entrepreneurship.

The great economic historian, Fernand Braudel, depicts the shifts of capitalist centres and their entrepreneurial moguls, from Venice, Genoa, Antwerp, Amsterdam, London, to New York, spreading boundless prosperity to these metropolises and their environs by means of the ceaseless division of labour, international trade and the capitalist dynamic ethos of entrepreneurial creation. It was the sun-king of entrepreneurial capitalism that had pulled millions of people out of the sunless caves of poverty into the sunlit vistas of capitalist plenitude, heightening their standard of living, for the first time in history, on ever-higher plateaus.

(The scientific writer, Arthur Koestler, contends that the great discoveries of science were motivated by ambition, competition, and vanity, which happen also to be the inherent characteristics of capitalist moguls.)

You have mentioned a lot of negatives about “bigness” and market concentration but not the fact that they rather have a short life since there is no blockage of entry in a competitive economy to other entrepreneurs into these concentrated areas. One example, the entry of the innovative entrepreneur ALDI into the food-chain services and its reduction of the prices of its products in comparison to other chains, not only attracted many consumers to its stores but also forced the other two major super markets of COLES and WOOLWORTH to reduce their prices at the feel of the competitive pinch of the newcomer. Competition does not discriminate between big and small but it equally affects both.

But to deal with your argument that inequality should be a major consideration in competition policy, and regulating mergers and prices would be beneficial to the consumer. The competitive market in itself, without the need of regulation, spreads its cheaper products to an ever-greater number of consumers and therefore decreases inequality. The competition of Telstra and Optus is an example. The same applies to iPods. Ride a train, a bus, or a tram and you will see even the lower classes fully equipped with these cheaper gadgets of a competitive technology and once again the line of inequality is lowered down for the less wealthy consumer.

It is not the business of government to regulate mergers and pricing. This is the bailiwick of entrepreneurs who decide if such a merger will be profitable, whether it will be able to compete with an already established corporation producing the same product, and setting its price on such a level that it will attract consumers to buy its product en masse. Furthermore, as far as the regulation is close to the estimates and interests of the entrepreneurs it is superfluous; and as far as it is distanced from these estimates and interests, it is destructive. No businessman will invest his money in a venture where profit is unattainable. Hence, your regulation, that aborts the setting-up of a merger that would produce cheaper products for the consumer, by depriving the latter from having these goods, increases the inequality of the mass consumer. Not surprisingly, as often happens, good intentions lead to bad results.

Therefore, your proposal of government dirigisme as a panacea in regards to competition and regulation is inutile, fanciful, and fallacious, and more perniciously may turn out to be a destructive force.

I rest on my oars: Your turn now

 

 

 

Open Letter to Former Greek Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis

By Con George-Kotzabasis November 27, 2015

A few days ago, Reuters ranked the Tsipras government as the worst ever government of all times amongst the developed and Western world. It was this government that you served with overweening pride and engendered, by your unprecedented irresponsibility in the annals of politics and quack economic policies as its finance minister, this historically ignominious rank in which Reuters placed Greece.

Strutting, in an extraordinary theatrical performance, the European corridors of power clad in the mournful colours of a mortician with a red ribbon around your neck symbolising that you were no run-of-the-mill mortician but a proletarian one (It was this red ribbon that within the short span of six months would strangle economically both the proletariat and the bourgeoisie in Greece) who had come to slay and bury the “Minotaur” of capitalist exploitation and save the peoples of Greece, and indeed, of Europe, from the grisly and greedy fangs of their exploiters. But in an ironic twist of fate, after the guffaws for your thespian performance on the stage of Europe by your European confreres and the kick-out from the economic portfolio by your comrades for your total failure as finance minister, you have finished-up not as a saviour of Greece and Europe but as a slaughtering gladiator. Killing the beasts of capitalism in your global performance of panem et circenses before an audience of bien pensants and nipple-fed intellectuals, AKA the lost generation, who have learnt nothing from recent history and who lack the spiritual and moral fortitude to free themselves from their childish obsession of the socialist nirvana.     

 

The Tsipras Government’s performance since its ascension to power on January 25 can be described by its three basic characteristics, infantilism, naiveté, and insouciant irresponsibility, which, as its finance minister, you embodied to the highest degree. Don’t expect to be treated kindly, at least by me, for the most unkind cut you inflicted upon the Greek people. Within the short time of six months you managed to destroy the economy by closing the banks and bringing in capital controls, and nipping in the bud the positive results of the Samaras Government that slowly but decisively were pulling the country out of the crisis. For the first time after the long economic stagnancy and recession, growth was recorded to be 0.8% and expected to be 2.5%-2.9 of GDP for the years 2014 and 2015 respectively, according to the IMF; also, unemployment was prevented from rising to 35%, as was predicted by eminent analysts, and indeed, had fallen by 2%, from 26% to 24% by the end of 2014. And all these heartening results happened within two and a half years under the prime ministership of Antonis Samaras. But you, like a revengeful immortal Olympian god full of envy for these mortal achievements of the Samaras Government, destroyed them with ambrosial delight. Your ludicrously eccentric policies and your barren and inflexible arrogant stand in your negotiations with the European Union brought the country back into recession and you capped this with a bill to Greece of an extra 90 billion to be paid to its creditors, which would come from the pockets of future Greek taxpayers. This was your enviable success story in contrast to the real success story of Samaras.

And yet blind and callous before this stupendous calamity that you delivered upon Greece, you proudly and insensitively claim to be “sitting on top of the world.” (I would add in your first word “sitting,” an h, so to make it a better fit to your ravishing pleasure: It must have been a relishing sensation to you, almost an aphrodisiacal one, defecating on “top of the world”.) You should be instead sitting in a dock charged with high treason for the great hurt and harm you afflicted, with such insouciant irresponsibility, upon the ordinary people, whom with unheard hypocrisy you claim to represent. And no wonder that your European confreres were not listening to the bullshit you were emitting in your negotiations with them on the Memorandum, and their justifiable rebuke of your crank economic policies delivered to them in the form of lectures, in an aura of omniscience.

You claim to be a “liberal Marxist.” But you seem to be oblivious of the dismal fact that “Marxism” with any epithet before it, is “a skull that will never smile again,” to quote the ex-Marxist Polish philosopher, Leszek Kolakowski. You are not a denizen of the real world but a denizen of the phantasmagorical world of Marxism whose legacy left behind not the Eden of Marx’s polytropos, many-sided, man, fishing in the morning, playing the flute in the evening, and writing poetry at night, but the police state of the NKVD, Gulag Archipelagos and Killing Fields.

In a footnote of the history of the twentieth-first century you will be described as a crank economist, a cowardly chicken gamester–taking risks not with your own but with other people’s money– and intellectual highjacker, who filched the writings of Marx and Keynes for the purpose of making your hybrid mulish economic doctrine, on whose back, as finance minister, you carried Greece to perfidious treasonable economic and political destruction.

Alas, after your pernicious mischiefs and gross offences toward the Greek people, you stand between the ferryman to Hades, Charon, and the butt of Aristophanes. Whom of the two would you choose, an afterlife of torture in the underworld for your ill deeds or a present life of ridicule in this world?

Open Letter to Former Greek Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis

By Con George-Kotzabasis October 14, 2015-

The Tsipras Government’s performance since its ascension to power on January 25 can be described by its three basic characteristics, infantilism, naiveté, and insouciant irresponsibility, which, as its finance minister, you embodied to the highest degree. Don’t expect to be treated kindly, at least by me, for the most unkind cut you inflicted upon the Greek people. Within the short time of six months you managed to destroy the economy by closing the banks and bringing in capital controls, and nipping in the bud the positive results of the Samaras Government that slowly but decisively were pulling the country out of the crisis. For the first time after the long economic stagnancy and recession, growth was recorded to be 0.8% and expected to be 2.5%-2.9 of GDP for the years 2014 and 2015 respectively, according to the IMF; also, unemployment was prevented from rising to 35%, as was predicted by eminent analysts, and indeed, had fallen by 2%, from 26% to 24% by the end of 2014. And all these heartening results happened within two and a half years under the prime ministership of Antonis Samaras. But you, like a revengeful immortal Olympian god full of envy of these mortal achievements of the Samaras Government, destroyed them with ambrosial delight. Your ludicrously eccentric policies and your barren and inflexible arrogant stand in your negotiations with the European Union brought the country back into recession and you capped this with a bill to Greece of an extra 90 billion to be paid to its creditors, which would come from the pockets of future Greek taxpayers. This was your enviable success story in contrast to the real success story of Samaras.

And yet blind and callous before this stupendous calamity that you delivered upon Greece, you proudly and insensitive claim to be “sitting on top of the world.” (I would add in your first word “sitting,” an h, so to make it a better fit to your ravishing pleasure: It must have been a relishing sensation to you, almost an aphrodisiacal one, defecating on “top of the world”.) You should be instead sitting in a dock charged with high treason for the great hurt and harm you afflicted, with such insouciant irresponsibility, upon the ordinary people whom with unheard hypocrisy you claim to represent. And no wonder that your European confreres were not listening to the bullshit you were emitting in your negotiations with them on the Memorandum, and their justifiable rebuke of your crank economic policies delivered to them in the form of lectures, in an aura of omniscience.

You claim to be a “liberal Marxist.” But you seem to be oblivious of the dismal fact that “Marxism” with any epithet before it, is “a skull that will never smile again,” to quote the ex-Marxist Polish philosopher, Leszek Kolakowski. You are not a denizen of the real world but a denizen of the phantasmagorical world of Marxism whose legacy left behind not the Eden of Marx’s polytropos, many-sided, man, fishing in the morning, playing the flute in the evening, and writing poetry at night, but the police state of the NKVD, Gulag Archipelagos and Killing Fields.

In a footnote of the history of the twentieth-first century you will be described as a crank economist, a cowardly chicken gamester–taking risks not with your own but with other peoples money– and intellectual highjacker, who filched the writings of Marx and Keynes for the purpose of making your hybrid mulish economic doctrine, on whose back, as finance minister, you carried Greece to perfidious treasonable economic and political destruction.

On Wise Vote of Undecided Hangs Hope of Greece

The conjunction of dreaming and ruling generates tyranny. Michael Oakeshott

By Con George-Kotzabasis January 22, 2015

All the pre-voting polls show that the radical party of Syriza leads the liberal party of New Democracy by three to four percentage points up to this moment. This is because a sizable part of the electorate has been gravely wounded by the austerity measures of the Samaras’ government that were necessary for Greece’s economic resurgence, and therefore has been easily duped by the populist spurious promises of Syriza in its fixed-all campaign that will presumably pull out the country from the quagmire of austerity. If there is no reversal of this lead of Syriza in the next few days, then this party of neo-communists by taking power will throw the country into the vortex of economic destruction and bankruptcy, as a result of their barren, sinister, and deadly ideology, whose consequences will plunge Greeks into mass poverty and political enslavement for at least a generation.

This intransigent Marxist ideology is readily encapsulated in the  preannounced inflexible and inexorable hard stand of Syriza’s position toward the negotiators of the Troika, i.e., the lenders of Greece, by threatening to repudiate and shred basic tenets of the second Memorandum that had already being agreed by the Greek government and its European partners. The latter have made it limpidly distinct that any action by a future Greek government that would imperil fundamental clauses of the Memorandum, could lead to the cessation of funds going to Greece that are so vital for the economic stability and resurgence of the country, and indeed its survival. Hence any unyielding rigorous stand on the part of Syriza’s negotiators with the European Union would lead to the economic rigor mortis of the country. Therefore, the elections of Greece next Sunday are tragically Shakespearian, “to be or not to be.”

Is there a force that could prevent this tidal wave of Syriza from destroying the country? My answer is in the affirmative. It is the force of intelligence that is embodied in that part of the electorate that has not decided as yet for which party to vote next Sunday. The major part of this undecided part of the voters consists of former supporters of New Democracy who are grievously angered with the policies of the Samaras government but who nonetheless perceive the small improvement in the economic magnitudes that have been accomplished by these policies in the short span of two and a half years since New Democracy was elected. It is inconceivable to imagine that these voters will let fly the one bird that they have in their hand for the two birds in the bush promised by Syriza. Nor could one imagine that this middle class would cut their nose to spite their face and vote for the neo-communists. It is on the wise vote of the undecided part of the electorate that hangs the hope of Greece. The return of New Democracy into the government benches under the insuperably strong and astute leadership of Andonis Samaras will ensure that Greece will overcome all obstacles to its economic recovery. In times of severe crises only the strong and intelligent can indulge in hope.

Return of Troika to Athens to Consummate Negotiations with Greek Government a Compulsion

By Con George-Kotzabasis November 19, 2014

The Greek Opposition and the media in general by demonizing The Memorandum with its austere measures that has been imposed upon Greece by the Troika, i.e., the European Commission, the ECB, and the IMF, as a condition for the flow of funds from the latter to the Greek Treasury for the purpose of saving the country from insolvency and gradually placing it on a trajectory of economic recovery, has made it impossible for anyone to reasonably argue, or even to imply, that this necessary austerity, after a mindless profligate spending by previous governments that sunk Greece into an unfathomable debt and debarred it from the financial markets and threw it into an unprecedented spin of economic crisis since the ending of World War II, would generate beneficent results and would pull the country eventually out of its economic crisis.

History has repeatedly shown that countries in critical situations, almost like a law of nature, give rise to extraordinary men/women of stupendous wisdom, mettle, and will power that saved their nations from destruction. Themistocles at the battle of Salamis that saved Greece from Xerxes’ despotism and his barbarian myrmidons, Lincoln in the American Civil War, and Churchill in World War II, are outstanding examples. Likewise in contemporary Greece from the ashes of its economic holocaust, a phoenix, in the figure of Antonis Samaras, had risen to salvage the country from its tragic economic mess. In the short space of two years the Samaras government accomplished an unprecedented feat, that no other government in the world was ever able to consummate, i.e., to draw the country from the edge of a precipitous calamity and place it by gradual firm steps on the solid ground of inchoate economic recovery. This was achieved by a series of structural reforms that made the country more competitive, and by painful cuts in the budget that generated for the first time a primary surplus in the current year, after many years of budget deficits that was the embedded malaise of the policies of previous governments and were the major cause that pushed Greece into bankruptcy. Also, for the first time after forgetting, but not forgiving, many years of negative growth, the country’s GDP in 2014 has increased by 0.7%, and unemployment has decreased from 28% to 25.9%, in the same year, and is estimated to decrease to 25% by the end of 2014.

It is because of these achievements of the Samaras government, that I believe that the TROIKA will be compelled to back down from its severe and apparently unyielding demands, in its impending negotiations with the Greek government in a few days, and will render a positive review of the policies implemented by the latter as stipulated in the Memorandum, which is the sine qua non of Greece’s exit from the strictures of the Memorandum by the end of 2014. It is inconceivable that the TROIKA will persevere with its hard position and put in jeopardy these successes of the Samaras government, that after all, emanated from its own austerity measures that were contained in its own directives as designated in the Memorandum. The TROIKA cannot be so foolish as to throw  a spanner in its own works! Hence, the nonsensical fear, that has been so gloomily and frivolously fanned by the Greek media that the TROIKA will continue its hard-line toward the government and place in predicament, and waste, all the sacrifices Greeks had made to turn their country into a modern economy and fecund with prosperity, will dissipate with the softening and compulsion of the TROIKA to withdraw its hard stand.

I rest on my oars: your turn now.