Sunday, 12 July 2015

Solidarity, the DIY-aid movement and civil society >>> transitioning to a sustainable society, a resilient economy

This blog has already looked at the current situation in Greece:
Futures Forum: Alternative currencies >>> responding to market and government failures

The Transition model perhaps shows one way ahead:

Although this is putting it a bit simplistically, the more localized our food systems become, the more local currencies we implement (like the Tem in Volos, Greece), the more we strengthen our local democratic systems, the better we’ll be able to deal with the upcoming collapse of our national and global economies.

Is Greece planning to print energy? | Transition Network
Greece | Transition Network
WORLD NEWS Finding hope among the ruins | Transition Free Press

In nations such as Greece, essential goods like fossil fuels, food, and pharmaceutical products make up a large share of imported goods, which present serious obstacles to opting out of the eurozone. Polls also suggest it is not the will of the majority of Greek citizens to opt out either. So is there a way for nations to exit austerity without having to exit the eurozone? And can they do so while building a regenerative, locally based economy at the same time? We believe there is, if citizens can persuade their policy makers to take a few lessons from the Transition Town Movement, and begin to build Transition Nations, or even Transition Regions. 

Exiting Austerity, Entering Transition Nation: A Solution to the Greek Crisis

Meanwhile, in another debt-laden Mediterranean country, the Transition model might also offer some hope:
Transition in Spain - Transition Research Network
How to Speak Transition in Spanish
Spain in Transition?: Answers from the grassroots facing a collapsing country

This weekend is crunch-time for Greece - but how are people coping on the ground?

Back in January, out of necessity, all sorts of 'self-help' schemes seemed to be part of a 'solidarity movement':

Citizen-run health clinics, food centres, kitchens and legal aid hubs have sprung up to fill the gaps left by austerity – and now look set to play a bigger role under a Syriza government

Greece’s solidarity movement: ‘it’s a whole new model – and it’s working’ | World news | The Guardian

And it's happening more so:

As Greece nears bankruptcy, residents self-organize food aid

With sky-high unemployment amid financial austerity, Greeks are helping one another on the streets

June 17, 2015 by Lauren Zanolli

ATHENS — Between the throngs of ice cream-licking tourists and Greek teenagers strolling along central Athens’ crowded pedestrian Ermou Avenue, Constantinos Polychronopoulos stirs a vat of soup on a portable gas stove with a wooden spoon the size of a kayak paddle.

For the past few years, Polychronopoulos and other members of Oallos Anthropos —a mobile soup kitchen formed by unemployed Greeks — have come here every Friday afternoon to distribute hot meals beneath a banner that reads: “Free food for all.”

OA is one of many informal, citizen-led “solidarity groups” now offering up food, clothing and community as part of a burgeoning DIY aid movement in Greece. As the Greek crisis has lingered, along with distrust of NGOs fueled by corruption scandals, these organizations — often led by would-be welfare recipients — are helping to mend a social safety net attenuated by years of austerity.

As Greece Nears Bankruptcy, Residents Organize Aid | Al Jazeera America

Greece: 'The crisis has brought out solidarity, love and collective action'

Maria Kottari and Christina Kanata Monday 22 June 2015 

The plight of the Greek economy has been devastating, but it has also led to a flowering of civil society. Here two young activists look at five new initiatives

Shedia, meaning raft or float, is the first Greek street magazine. It’s modelled on the UK’s Big Issue and is now distributed by homeless people in Athens and Thessaloniki, who earn part of the sale revenues.

VouliWatch is the brainchild of six young men and women who decided to channel their collective energies into policy monitoring. It’s a technological tool that allows citizens to pose their questions directly to MPs, allowing them to become the “watchdogs” of political virtue, honesty, effectiveness and transparency.

Another recent youth-led tool of democratic participation is YouRule. It is an open-source, free of charge digital platform that records the problems citizens face in their everyday lives. Anonymity ensures all problems are treated equally. YouRule urges its members to become active citizens, exchanging know-how and best practice as they attempt to find solutions for every registered problem, a form of crowd-funding that collects ideas, information and knowledge instead of money.

Democracy Reborn is a Greek campaign for democracy supported by Dimokratia Ideon, a nonprofit political organisation. Democracy Reborn aims to raise awareness about the democratic deficit in Greece and inform the public by presenting democratic policies, applications and tools that have been proven successful across the world. At its heart, it is advocating political transition through the drafting of a new Constitution by the people. The vision of the project is ambitious and has a global perspective as it supports “direct democracy” over today’s established republican forms of government.

The idea of the 'solidarity economy' has been looked at as part of the Guardian's Sustainable Business series:

This endless quest for growth will see Greece self-destruct

The contradiction of capitalism is that growth just feeds those who are already wealthy. Instead Greece should regain the drachma and keep for-profits at bay

Jennifer Hinton in Athens Co-director of the Post Growth Institute Tuesday 7 July 2015

A woman withdraws money from an ATM machine in Thessaloniki, Greece next to a beggar and graffiti reading “no to fear”.

For many following the crisis for the last five months, it has become clear that it is not just about Greek debt. Beneath the cultural tensions and ugly stereotypes, an ideological war is taking place. This battle is happening because the current economic system has only two answers to debt crises, recessions and slow economic growth: stimulus and austerity.
Stimulus is about the government pumping money into the economy to encourage consumer spending, which will theoretically lead to economic growth. In recent times, stimulus efforts have taken the form of the government spending money on infrastructure and other socially beneficial projects (think the New Deal) and quantitative easing. Austerity is a set of measures that aim to cut government spending and shrink the public sector to make the economy less dependent on it, which in theory should make room for and encourage a burgeoning free market (ie neo-liberalism).

The argument against government-led stimulus asks how the economy can grow if the government has to keep expanding its debt and/or money supply in order to start new projects and stimulate the economy. Surely the stimulation it provides will never compensate for growing levels of debt? Anti-austerity advocates, on the other hand, ask how the economy can grow if people make less money and taxes are higher – people will save, not spend, and economic growth is based on consumer spending.

The issue of austerity versus stimulus is often framed as the entire debate – if you don’t support one, you must support the other, because there are no alternatives. This is the same binary debate that has been going on for more than 100 years between the state versus the market. Yet, these dichotomies distract people from thinking about what’s really important – the goal of these policies, which is to grow the economy.

No analysis I’ve read thus far has questioned the damaging role that the endless quest for economic growth plays. Neither austerity nor government stimulus will ever be able to address the debt crises and recessions of the twenty-first century because what we’re dealing with here is an inherent contradiction of capitalism.

This contradiction comes from the surplus of the system (profit) being taken out of the real economy (the economy of physical goods and services) and put into the financial sector to generate more wealth for people who are already wealthy. This requires the economy to continually grow to compensate for the extraction of profit, which is essentially the extraction of the economy’s surplus.

However, this extraction of profit is the same mechanism at the root of soaring levels of inequality. A recent Oxfam report estimates that, by 2016, the richest 1% of the world’s population will own more than the other 99%. If the average person is making relatively less every year, or struggling just to maintain the same financial state, they can’t afford to buy ever more products and services, so the economy can’t grow as it did when we had more financial equality. Thus capitalism has always carried the seed of its own demise.

We are seeing this self-destruction in Greece. The current Syriza government wants to go back to the negotiating table and create a new bailout agreement that will cut the debt to a more manageable size and reform the public sector in ways that won’t affect the most vulnerable. This would still be austerity, albeit a much milder version than that of the past five years. Yanis Varoufakis resigned from his post as Greek finance minister to allow for smoother negotiations between Greece and its European partners in the hope of reaching such an agreement.

If an agreement can’t be reached, Greece might well go back to the drachma. However, the government has no clear plan for this and an unplanned exit from the euro would be painful, with the poorest hit the hardest.

In all of these scenarios, the government’s goal would still be to re-start economic growth, even at the cost of creating more inequality. None of these options gets to the roots of capitalism’s inherent contradiction. There’s no way to grow ourselves out of this crisis; not for Greece, not for the rest of the world. What we are witnessing is the beginning of the collapse of capitalism.

So what is a sustainable path forward for Greece? If the Greek government could see that it won’t be able to re-start growth, and that GDP growth is a means to an end, not an end in itself, there are steps it could take to start paving a new path to prosperity for its people.

In addition to the basics – restructuring the Greek debt, deep reforms in the public sector to make it more transparent and accountable, and the strengthening of the solidarity economy – I suggest the following:

> Greece should go back to a national currency to have more autonomous decision-making with regards to its own economy, which it needs if it wants to pave a more sustainable path. This is not a simple move, so the government will have to have a plan for such a transition, with safety netsto protect the most vulnerable.

> The government should nationalise the banks and encourage people to start credit unions. This will re-align the banking sector with the needs of citizens and make the banks more resilient. Credit unions would empower people to take financial matters into their own hands.

> Greece should keep for-profit interests from buying up its common wealth. This could be done via land trusts, not-for-profits and amending the constitution to make it unconstitutional for the government to sell off the commons.

> The Greek government should start using a wellbeing or happiness index to measure success, as Bhutan does. In this age of inequality, working class people and the unemployed can easily slip through the cracks of GDP growth.

> Businesses and the government should shorten the working week and encourage job-sharing, so more people can have part-time employment. This would counter the current problem of some having no work while others work 50 hours a week.

> Finally, the government should create legislation and encourage not-for-profit enterprise in every sector to prevent the extraction of profits from the real economy and encourage social entrepreneurs and innovators to start up their own not-for-profits. These enterprises would help alleviate the humanitarian crisis in Greece, create a more stable economy and keep the financial surplus in the real economy. By building an economy around social purpose, Greece could usher in the post-capitalist era, rather than fall victim to the unavoidable collapse of capitalism we are witnessing.

Jennifer Hinton is the co-author of How on Earth: Flourishing in a Not-for-Profit World by 2050, which will be published in October 2015

This endless quest for growth will see Greece self-destruct | Guardian Sustainable Business | The Guardian
And at the centre of all of this is 'finance'.

Malaysia has been here before:
Life after default: Malaysia's tips for Greece | Considered View | Breakingviews

We could go digital:
Why Greece should befriend its bitcoin foes | Fusion

We could try crowdfunding:
Working together to change status quo - Cape Argus

And there is debt-forgiveness - common enough when it comes to consumer credit:
Greece is a reminder of the fragility of money and the need to deal with debt

There are some even more radical solutions:

“Guerrilla Warfare Against a Hegemonic Power”: the Challenge and Promise of Greece 

JULY 10, 2015 by ELLEN BROWN

On July 4, 2015, one day before the national vote on the austerity demands of Greece’s creditors, it was rumored in the Financial Times that Greek banks were preparing to “bail in” (or confiscate) depositor funds to replace the liquidity choked off by the European Central Bank.

The response of the Syriza government, to its credit, was “no way.” As reported in Zerohedge, the government was prepared to pursue three “nuclear options” to protect the deposits of the Greek people:

* nationalize the banks,

* launch a parallel currency in the form of electronic California-style IOUs, and

* use the Greek central bank’s printing press to issue euros.

Ambrose Evans-Pritchard wrote in the UK Telegraph:

"Syriza sources say the Greek ministry of finance is examining options to take direct control of the banking system if need be rather than accept a draconian seizure of depositor savings – reportedly a ‘bail-in’ above a threshhold of €8,000 – and to prevent any banks being shut down on the orders of the ECB."

Government officials recognize that this would lead to an unprecedented rift with the EU authorities. But Syriza’s attitude at this stage is that their only defense against a hegemonic power is to fight guerrilla warfare.

The Hegemonic Power of the ECB

The Greek crisis is a banking crisis, and it was precipitated largely by the Mafia-like tactics of the European Central Bank and the international banks it serves (notably Goldman Sachs). As Jeffrey Sachs observed in the Financial Times in 2012:

"The Greek economy is collapsing not mainly from fiscal austerity or the lack of external competitiveness but from the chronic lack of working capital. Greece’s small and medium-sized enterprises can no longer obtain funding. . . . The shutdown of Greece’s banking sector brings to mind the dramatic shrinkage of bank lending during 1929-33 in the Great Depression."

Economist James Galbraith explains the critical role of the ECB in this shutdown:

"A central bank is supposed to protect the financial stability of solvent banks. But from early February, the ECB cut off direct financing of Greek banks, instead drip-feeding them expensive liquidity on special “emergency” terms. This promoted a slow run on the banks and paralyzed economic activity. When the negotiations broke down, the ECB capped the assistance, prompting a fast bank run and giving them an excuse to impose capital controls and effectively shut them down."

In December 2014, when the Greek Parliament was threatening to reject the pro-austerity presidential candidate, Goldman Sachs warned in a memo:

"In the event of a severe Greek government clash with international lenders, interruption of liquidity provision to Greek banks by the ECB could potentially even lead to a Cyprus-style prolonged “bank holiday”."

And that is exactly what happened after the anti-austerity Syriza Party was elected in January. Why would the ECB have to “interrupt liquidity provision” just because of a “clash with international lenders”? As noted by Mark Weisbrot, the move was completely unnecessary.

The crisis to which it has led was described by Evans-Pritchard on July 7th:

"Events are now spinning out of control. The banks remain shut. The ECB has maintained its liquidity freeze, and through its inaction is asphyxiating the banking system.

"Factories are shutting down across the country as stocks of raw materials run out and containers full of vitally-needed imports clog up Greek ports. Companies cannot pay their suppliers because external transfers are blocked. Private scrip currencies are starting to appear as firms retreat to semi-barter outside the banking system."

The Tourniquet of the Central Bank

It is not just Greek banks but all banks that are dependent on central bank liquidity, because they are all technically insolvent. They all lend money they don’t have. As the Bank of England recently acknowledged, banks do not actually lend their deposits. Rather, they create deposits when they make loans. They do this simply with accounting entries. There is no real limit to how much money they can create, so long as they can find creditworthy customers willing to borrow it.

The catch is that the bank still has to balance its books at the end of the day. If it comes up short, it can borrow from the banks into which its deposits (whether “real” or newly created) have migrated. Banks can borrow from each other at very low rates (in the US, the Fed funds rate is 0.25%). They keep the difference in rates as their profit.

The central bank, which has the power to print money, is the ultimate backstop in this money-creating scheme. If there is leakage in the system from cash withdrawals or transfers to foreign banks, the central bank supplies the liquidity, again at very low bankers’ rates.

That is the way the system should work. But in the Eurozone, the national central banks of member countries have relinquished their critical credit power to the European Central Bank. And the ECB, like the US Federal Reserve, marches to the drums of large international banks. The central bank can flick the credit switch on or off at its whim. Any country that resists going along with the creditors’ austerity program may find that its banks have been cut off from this critical liquidity, being branded no longer “good credit risks.” That damning judgment becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy, as is now happening in Greece.

Turning the Credit Spigots Back On

The problem now for Greece is how to restore bank liquidity without the help of the ECB. One way would be to leave the Eurozone and return to its own national currency, as many pundits have urged. Its central bank could then issue all the drachmas needed to fund the government and provide cash for the banks.

But that alternative comes with other major downsides, including that the drachma would probably plummet against the euro. Greek leaders have therefore sought to stay in the Eurozone, but that means dealing with the bank runs that are bleeding the banks of euros. It also meansbowing to ECB regulation, something the ECB is attempting to impose on all Eurozone banks.

Assuming, however, that Greece stays in the EU, might there be a way that the government could restore the liquidity necessary to keep its banks and the economy afloat, without the help of the ECB and while continuing to use the euro?

Consider again the Bank of England’s bombshell 2014 report called “Money Creation in the Modern Economy.” According to the BOE, 97% of the money supply is now created by banks when they make loans. British banks create digital pounds. US banks create digital dollars. And Greek banks create digital euros.

How it all works is explained by Kumhof and Jakab in an IMF paper called “Banks Are Not Intermediaries of Loanable Funds — And Why This Matters.” They note that the chief practical limit to the digital creation of money is simply the willingness of banks to make loans. The central bank can create massive “excess reserves” (as the Fed did with “quantitative easing”), but bank lending to local businesses will not increase if the banks do not see a profit in it. The problem is called “pushing on a string”: there is no mechanism for forcing banks to make loans.

That is true in a private commercial system, but in a nationalized system, the government can “pull” on the string. It can manage the lending of its state-owned banks, as China and Japan have done for decades. Loans to local businesses can be guaranteed with government letters of credit in lieu of capital; and if some loans turn out to be “non-performing,” they can be written off or just carried on the books, as China has also done for decades. The money was created as accounting entries and can be carried on the books as accounting entries.

The Greek government could follow China’s lead and nationalize its private banks, all of which are insolvent. It could then use their digital money machines to pump liquidity back into the economy, by making loans to all those once-viable businesses now starved of funds. Restoring their credit lines would allow them to pay for workers and materials, generating purchasing power and sales, increasing employment and the tax base, and generally reversing the economic death spiral induced by insufficient money in the system to keep the wheels of production turning.

In an All-Digital System, the Books are Always Balanced.

Balancing the books can easily be achieved in a closed, nationalized, digital banking system, so long as liquidity can be kept from leaking out in the form of physical cash withdrawals or transfers to foreign banks. Money transferred digitally within the system can always be found somewhere and borrowed back by the bank from which it was transferred, balancing its books.

The remaining question is, how to deal with leakage in the form of cash withdrawals or transfers to foreign banks? One radical possibility would be to go all digital: cash would no longer be official legal tender after some designated date. President Roosevelt did something similar when he took the dollar off the gold standard and ordered people to cash in their gold for paper dollars in 1933.

That approach, however, is highly controversial. Ideally, it could be avoided by simply paying an attractive digital bonus for depositing physical cash in the banks, and paying an attractive interest rate to keep it there. A sizable fee could also be charged for cash withdrawals or transfers outside Greek banks. This would not actually be a “haircut,” since the digital euros would be available for use at full value so long as they were transferred by bankcard or check within the digital banking system. The transfer penalty could be phased out over time as cash deposits were built up. In effect, the money would just be on loan at interest to the banks for several years.

Another alternative would be to run the euro printing press at the Bank of Greece, something that is apparently being done quietlyalready. As precedent, Ireland’s central bank quietly printed €51 billion in 2011.

Another much-discussed alternative would be for Greece to leave the EU and simply issue drachmas. But as of this writing, it looks as if the creditors have strong-armed Greek leaders into accepting their harsh austerity measures in order to stay in the EU.

Greece blazed the trail globally for political democracy, but modeling a sustainable economic democracy may have to wait for another day.

Ellen Brown is an attorney, founder of the Public Banking Institute, and author of twelve books including the best-selling Web of Debt. Her latest book, The Public Bank Solution, explores successful public banking models historically and globally. Her 300+ blog articles are at EllenBrown.com.

There's a lot of history too.

Peter Oborne in the Telegraph pointed out in 2010 that the Euro would not necessarily herald prosperity for all:
Margaret Thatcher knew the single currency would devastate Europe – Telegraph Blogs

Predictably, George Monbiot in the Guardian this week does not mince his words:
Greece is the latest battleground in the financial elite’s war on democracy | George Monbiot | Comment is free | The Guardian

Nor does Greece's former Finance Minister:
Germany won’t spare Greek pain – it has an interest in breaking us | Yanis Varoufakis | Comment is free | The Guardian

Here is an even more critical view of how we have arrived at this situation:

Between Berlin and a Hard Place: Greece and the German Strategy to Dominate Europe

Andrew Gavin Marshall - 7 July 2015


“They just wanted to take a bat to them,” said former U.S. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner, referring to the attitude of European leaders towards debt-laden Greece in February of 2010, three months before the country’s first bailout.

As the United States and the rest of the world would learn, the European strategy for the debt crisis that began in Greece and spread across the eurozone would be dictated by Germany, “the undisputed dominant power in Europe.” More than five years later, the Americans are still pressuring the Europeans to resolve their debt crisis problems, but to little effect. The stakes are now even higher as the U.S. fears the possibility of losing Greece to Russia, a conflict in which Germany is increasingly involved.
The U.S. spy agency, the NSA, was even wiretapping the phone calls of German Chancellor Angela Merkel, top officials of the Finance Ministry and the ECB, with a particular interest in economic issues and Greece.

Merkel’s powerful Finance Minister, Mr. Schauble, was one of the chief architects of the German strategy for Europe’s crisis. In March of 2010, he wrote in the Financial Times that, “from Germany’s perspective, European integration, monetary union and the euro are the only choice.” But aid comes with strings attached and harsh penalties for violations. “It must, on principle, still be possible for a state to go bankrupt,” wrote Mr. Schauble. “Facing an unpleasant reality could be the better option in certain conditions.”
“We need to take big steps to get that done,” Mr. Schauble said in 2011. “That is why crises are also opportunities. We can get things done that we could not do without the crisis.”
Financial markets were happy to oblige the German-EU strategy, as the crisis would force the reforms long demanded by banks as a solution to the irresponsible spending of governments: austerity and structural reform. From 2002 to 2012, Josef Ackermann led Germany’s largest bank, Deutsche Bank. In 2011, the New York Times described Ackermann as “the most powerful banker in Europe” and “possibly the most dangerous one, too,” standing “at the center of more concentric circles of power than any other banker on the Continent.”
After he left Deutsche Bank in 2012, Ackermann delivered a speech to the U.S.-based think tank, the Atlantic Council, where he outlined Germany’s overall strategy for Europe’s crisis. When asked why Germany simply didn’t say that it would do whatever it took to protect the euro and eurozone nations from bankruptcy (thus ending the financial crisis), Ackermann explained that it was largely due to a “political tactical consideration.”
But another major problem, noted Mr. Ackermann, was that if Germany made such an announcement, other eurozone nations “would then say, well, why then go on with our austerity programs? Why go on with our reforms? We have what we need.” Thus, he said, “I think to keep the pressure up until the last minute is probably a – not a bad political solution.” 

As Chancellor Merkel and other German leaders would frequently remind the rest of Europe and the world, with 7% of the world population, 25% of global GDP and 50% of world social spending, Europe’s economic system was unsustainable and uncompetitive in a globalized economy. Germany’s vision for Europe was aimed at introducing “rules to force Europe’s economies to become more competitive.” But competitiveness was defined by Germany, and thus, “the rest of Europe needs to become more like Germany.”

“The current strategy of the EU,” wrote Wolfgang M√ľnchau in a November 2009 article for the Financial Times, “is to raise the political pressure – perhaps even provoke a political crisis – with the strategic objective that the Greek government might eventually relent.”

In early 2010, European banks held more than 141 billion euros of Greek debt, with the largest share being held by French and German banks. The first bailout largely went to bailout these very banks. Karl Otto Pohl, the former President of the German Bundesbank noted back in 2010 that the Greek bailout was about “rescuing the banks and the rich Greeks,” especially German and French banks. As the Troika bailed out the banks, these institutions took on the Greek debt.
The second bailout organized by the Troika largely went to paying interest on Greek debt owed to the Troika. Thomas Mayer, a senior adviser to Deutsche Bank, said, “the troika is paying themselves.” Between May 2010 and May 2012, Greece had received roughly $177 billion in bailouts from the Troika. A total of two-thirds of that amount went to payoff bondholders (banks and rich Greeks), while the remaining third was left to finance government operations.
In 2015, a study by the Jubilee Debt Campaign noted that of the total 252 billion euros in bailouts for Greece over the previous five years, over 90% ultimately went “to bail out European financial institutions,” leaving less than 10% for anything else. At the time of the first bailout in 2010, Greece had a debt-to-GDP ratio of roughly 130%. As a result of the bailouts and austerity, the debt ratio has risen to 177% of GDP at the beginning of 2015. Thus, after more than five years of supposed efforts to reduce its debt, that debt has grown substantially.
But the banks are no longer the largest holders of Greek debt. Today, the Troika owns 78% of the 317 billion euro Greek debt. Greece now owes the IMF, ECB, and eurozone governments a total of 242.8 billion euros, with the largest single holder being Germany with more than 57 billion euros in Greek debt. And now the Troika wants to be paid back. “In short,” wrote Simon Wren-Lewis in the New Statesman, “it needs money from the Troika to repay the Troika.”

Thus, the German-Troika strategy of prolonging the debt crisis to reshape Europe has resulted in a human, social and political crisis that threatens the future of democracy in Europe itself. Germany has, in effect, established an economic empire over Europe, largely operating through the Troika institutions, all of which are unaccountable technocratic tyrannies.

The ECB played a central role in the debt crisis, pushing Greece into a deep crisis in late 2009, making “an example” of the country for the rest of Europe, blackmailing Ireland into accepting a Troika bailout program, thenblackmailing Portugal into doing the same, and putting political pressure on Italy and Spain to implement austerity measures.
In late 2014, ECB President Mario Draghi rebooted efforts to advance integration of the economic and monetary union. When the anti-austerity Syriza government came to power in Greece in early 2015, the ECB was placed to be “the ultimate power broker” in negotiations between the country and its creditors. A member of the central bank’s executive board welcomed the democratic victory in Greece by warning, “Greece has to pay, those are therules of the European game.”
The ECB took a hardline approach to dealing with Greece, increasing the pressure on Athens to reach a deal with its creditors, with The Economist referring to the central bank as “the enforcer.” This unelected and democratically unaccountable institution holds immense, undeniable power in Europe.
The European Commission is the third pillar of the Troika based in Brussels, functioning as the executive branch of the European Union overseeing a vast bureaucracy of unelected officials with responsibility for managing the union. Throughout the crisis, the Commission has been given sweeping new powers over economic and spending policies and priorities of member nations.
Brussels was to be given the centralized power to approve and reject national budgets of eurozone nations, establishing a technocrat-run ‘fiscal union’ to match the ECB’s role in managing the monetary union. EU institutions would have “more powers to serve like a finance ministry” for all the nations of the eurozone, potentially with its own finance minister, “who would have a veto against national budgets and would have to approve levels of new borrowing,” said Mr. Schauble, the German Finance Minister.

“In general,” wrote Gideon Rachman in the Financial Times in 2007, “the [European] Union has progressed fastest when far-reaching deals have been agreed by technocrats and politicians – and then pushed through without direct reference to the voters. International governance tends to be effective,” he concluded, “only when it is anti-democratic.”
Perhaps the greatest lesson of the past five years of crisis is that in a Europe under the rule of Germany and the Troika, the people and democracy suffer most. For democracy to survive in Europe, the technocratic tyranny of the Troika and debt-based domination of Germany must be challenged. Democracy is too important to be sacrificed at the altar of austerity. It is any wonder why Greeks voted ‘no’ to the status quo?

Andrew Gavin Marshall is a freelance researcher and writer based in Montreal, Canada

Between Berlin and a Hard Place: Greece and the German Strategy to Dominate Europe « Andrew Gavin Marshall

See also:
Futures Forum: "The emergence of peer-to-peer lending, fintech and new forms of currencies mean people and businesses can act on their dissatisfaction with the big banks"
Futures Forum: Alternative currencies >>> responding to market and government failures
Futures Forum: Local currencies: getting radical: a P2P perspective >>> "The End of Banking: Money, Credit, and the Digital Revolution"
Futures Forum: The language of bureaucracy >>> David Graeber and "The Utopia of Rules: On Technology, Stupidity, and the Secret Joys of Bureaucracy"
Futures Forum: 'If we’re going to “get it together”, we should be looking not to mainstream political parties but to civil society groups and campaigns.'
Futures Forum: "A crisis of imagination” when approaching "the horny question of development in the future" >>> "the higher we go in the organisations that should be responding there is less and less creativity, less and less imagination."
Futures Forum: An Exeter Pound: What came first: money or debt? ......... David Graeber's "Debt: The First 5000 Years"
Futures Forum: Open Source Ecology >>> Homebrew Industrial Revolution >>> Do-it-yourself sustainable development
Futures Forum: How I lived by spending nothing for two years

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