Tuesday, November 1, 2011

How Many Ways to Skin a Cat Are There, Any Old How?

Today, it seems, the inclusion of political processes to decide economic matters leads to a market "slide." In the linked article, the Greek Prime Minister Papandreou wants to put both the bailout and the related austerity measures up for a vote and let the people decide their own fate. Naturally enough, transnational finance is aghast. As I mentioned, I have been reading Neoliberal Hegemony in it Dorthee Bohle and Gisela Neunhoeffer provide a nice narrative history of the depoliticization of economic decision making in Poland's late communist regime and early democratic polity. As they make clear, neoliberal economic reformers made common cause with the Communists around the depoliticization of economic policy making, in order to cut market socialism out of the picture.  The theorists of market socialism, clustered around the Solidarity movement, were, consequently, unable to resist the march to neoliberal shlock or shock doctrine. It stands to reason, therefore, that a socialist politician offering the people the opportunity to weigh in on the economy terrifies the "experts" who seek to organize society around a set of economic theories and nostrums that created the problems in the first place.

To be sure, Greece has all manner of political problems that cannot be laid to the feet of the neoliberal consensus. However, the first step in creating a decent polity is bringing politics back in and granting or more precisely recognizing the people's right to rule themselves.

(see also: Johanna Bockman and Gil Eya, "Eastern Europe as a Laboratory for Economic Knowledge: The Transnational Roots of Neoliberalism" in American Journal of Sociology , 108/2, 2002, pp. 310-352)


For a similar discussion but by someone famous, in bloggy terms, go here.


John Cassidy, speaking for all the baffled economist types in blather land takes the part for the whole
Greeks, too, are outraged. Six of Papandreou’s party colleagues called on him to resign. One quit the PASOK party. “They must be crazy,” a senior executive at one of Greece’s biggest companies told Reuters. “(T)his is no way to run a country.” With a parliamentary vote of confidence in his government scheduled for Friday, it is quite conceivable that by the end of the week Papandreou will be out office.
I count 7 politicians and businessman, which makes Greece's total population considerable smaller than one might expect. To say nothing of the fact that using democracy to run a democracy would seem to be the ideal way to run a democratic polity; but what do I know not being a senior executive at a biggest company in Greece or elsewhere.

Not happy with reducing Greece to handful of a politicians he than argues that
Faced with two unappetizing choices, Greece seems intent on choosing neither. Papandreou, for reasons of his own, is intent on forcing it to choose. But rather than doing that, it may well get rid of him and put together a new “national unity” government that will give the Greeks what they want: a European bailout and the right to complain and protest about it.
Reasons of his own? Yes on what grounds would a democratically elected official ever have for asking his constituency what they wanted to do? It's not like the Greeks have some kind of a democratic past nor is it the case that they once decided what the best use of huge sums of dough was and thus saved themselves from Persian overlordship. Oh, wait.

Matthew Yglesias, whose minimal appreciation of the role of politics in policy making is well documented, comments:
Looks like Greece is now bailing (using the fig leaf of a referendum) from the Euro rescue plan that even had it been implemented wouldn’t really have solved the problem.
And there you have it; using democratic processes to decide the future of democratic polities is a fig leaf not, let's say optimistically, the first step in a returning. sovereignity the people, which may or may not be a good thing but clearly rule by technocrats has been a bad thing.

It seems the Greeks aren't profligate monster after all.

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