Professor Varoufakis Proposes a Silent Axis between France and Greece Contra Germany

By Con George-Kotzabasis May 10, 2012

It’s interesting that you don’t mention one word about your one night stand with your inamorata Tsipras, the Radical Left leader of Syriza. But it’s obvious that Hollande replaced the latter in your gyrating amours, after the politically and economically inane and embarrassing post-election statements of Tsipras. And it won’t be long before you will be disappointed with President Hollande too with his dealings with Germany and you will be looking for a still more exotic paramour.

You are mired in the past when you still consider that the European leaders continue to push the austerity programme for the southern European countries as the sole measure of getting them out of the economic crisis. In the new economic orchestration of Europe the ‘soloist’ austerity no longer jingles. All the major European leaders, Jose Barroso, Olli Rehn, Chancellor Merkel, Wolfgang Schauble, the top technocrats, Christine Lagarde, Mario Draghi, and Mario Monti, are talking now about economic recovery and growth without which austerity cannot succeed. Thus they have all taken their cue from Antonis Samaras who was the only statesman that sounded this syndrome of austerity and growth two years ago and had quarrelled with Merkel and Sarkozi, for which he had been severely criticised and disparaged by politicians and the media, such as The Economist. All of them however admitted subsequently that Samaras was right. Hence there is already a sounding axis between Greece and the whole of Europe due to the intercession of Antonis Samaras. Moreover, Samaras warned the European leaders that the policies of the first Memorandum would change the political configuration of the country, as they would both give rise to the forces of the extreme left as well as lead to the break-up of social cohesion which in turn would make the country un-governable. These warnings were tragically verified in the elections of May 6. And I pose the question, why Professor Varoufakis you lack the nobility and courage to give credit where credit is due, to Samaras?

You seem to be obsessed with your toy The Modest Proposal that would drag Europe out of its crisis, and not finding any other children to play with it, you have turned into a surly and cantankerous little boy. Since, as its sire along with Stuart Holland, you flagged it more than a year ago you have made so many ‘bastard’ revisions to it, that it has become difficult to identify the ‘true father’. But one thing is for sure, that in your vainglorious pursuit to persuade governments and bankers to adopt it, you will miserably fail. Your Modest Proposal was always a flying kite that would inevitably take its nosedive.

Radical Liberals Condemn and Disparage Technocrats

The following exchange took place between an American radical liberal and me on the appointment of the two technocrats Mario Monti and Lucas Papademos as prime ministers of Italy and Greece.

Bruce Wilder says,

You seem to have lost the essential premise: the “looming economic catastrophe” is largely the creation of the technocrats, and “all the misery that implies” has been embraced by the technocrats with all the enthusiasm an 18th century physician had for purgatives and bleeding.

Con George-Kotzabasis says,

Bruce Wilder, your “essential premise” walks on crutches. In a physical crisis in which you might lose your leg you don’t stop from going to a surgeon just because there are bad surgeons about. To label all surgeons (technocrats) as incompetent and refuse to go under their knife is to lose your leg. That is why your argument, factually and intellectually, waddles on crutches.

Bruce Wilder says, 11.13.11 at 6:09 pm

Con George-Kotzabasis @ 105

If your life was threatened by a growing cancer, affecting your lungs or your kidneys, and you went to a surgeon, and the surgeon said, “To save your cancer, I recommend amputation of your leg,” I would hope you would run from the room, with your legs still intact.

These particular neo-liberal technocrats are just these sorts of mad incompetents, prescribing senseless maiming in place of a treatment plan. There are, apparently, no politicians available, to stand up and veto the insanity, “brave” and “charismatic” or otherwise.

The corruption and incompetence of the politicians—indeed, the whole polity—in Greece and Italy—played nearly as critical a part in the epidemiology of crisis as the neoliberal technocrats. It is worth remembering that the popular support for the European project has often rested on the hope of improving the quality of governance and institutions. For all the grousing over the minutiae of Brussels and the trivia of Strasbourg, the hope of European Union was always to promote high-minded, principled liberal institutions as a prophylaxis against authoritarianism and populist corruption. This was, I suspect, always a very big part of the appeal of the euro: German monetary policy for the South, an internationally respected currency immune to runaway inflations, etc. The Italians, as I recall, embraced the euro ahead of every other country; they were overjoyed to be rid of the lira, the joke currency of Europe, so inflated in value that coins were impractical—phone booths required a special token and street vendors gave candies in place of change. The euro is very popular in Greece as well, and I suspect that that popularity, as much as the fecklessness of politicians, is a factor in preventing Greece from taking the obvious step of unilaterally embracing default in abandonment of the euro. (Purely from a technocratic point-of-view, the equivalent of a competent surgeon would be a technocrat doing the preparations in secret, which would make a unilateral return to the drachma feasible. That’s the “right” thing to do for Greece, from a “technical” standpoint and from the standpoint of protecting Greece from the “amputation” of privatisation and a prolonged deflation. An efficient calculating machine would have been crystal clear from the outset that, on the numbers alone, Greek default was inevitable; delay could only prolong and intensify the suffering.)

The Big Picture, here, may well be that economic and institutional centralization has found its limits, at least for the moment. Certainly, the neoliberal architectural principles employed over the last 25 years are a bust. Are we so stupid that neofascism must follow? Many would say that authoritarianism was always an implied part of the neoliberal agenda.

110

Con George-Kotzabasis says,11.14.11 at 2:10 am

Bruce Wilder
In serious discussion it is wise to enter it carrying a sieve in one’s hands to separate the wheat from the chaff.

Your crystal clear “efficient calculating machine” that would implement your proposal of default, would be no other than a wise, brave, imaginative, and humane TECHNOCRAT. So what exactly you have against technocrats? They are OK if they adopt your plan and only transported to Hades in toto for their mortal sins, if they don’t! Default was and is always an option. The distinguished economist Deepak Lal and exponent of the Austrian School of economics, long ago suggested such a schema. Lucas Papademos and Mario Monti both presumably have this option in their arsenal to be used as a last resort if everything else fails. But before they use this ‘nuclear’ option, they must try, and be given the right by all objective analysts and commentators, to resolve this economic crisis by ‘conventional’ means that could avoid a default which would open a big hole in their countries GDP and throw their people into pauperization for decades to come.

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Bruce Wilder says, 11.14.11 at 2:37 am

Instead of “support the troops”, we are now asked to support the neo-liberal technocrats.

Con George-Kotzabasis, are we to take no account of the part the technocrats played in “designing” the euro? Are we to take no account of the failure of the ECB to carry out bank supervision or to regulate derivatives? It is a little late in the progress of neoliberal disaster capitalism to be attributing good faith, let alone expertise, to these bozos.

 
 
 

The Fallibility of Technocrats No Reason to Debunk them

By Con George-Kotzabasis

“We work in the dark—we do what we can—we give what we have.” Henry James

Science has been built on a “mountain” of errors. No correct policy has arisen—like Athena out of Zeus’ head—from an immaculate conception but from a compilation of corrected mistakes. The task of a wise, imaginative, and intrepid technocrat is not to despair before mistakes, like professor Yanis Varoufakis, and be pessimistic about the future, but to overcome them. This is the task and challenge of both Mario Monti and Lucas Papademos, whom both professor Varoufakis disparages, as well as, in the case of Greece, of the statesman, Antonis Samaras. But obviously, it is not the task that can be consummated by professor Varoufakis. Although one must admit that in his Modest Proposal, with Jonathan Swift’s title, co-authored with Stuart Holland, surprisingly, he takes a positive and optimistic view how to resolve the European crisis.