Friday lay day – the hopelessness of the Greek situation

Its my Friday lay day blog. Every day now, the Euro news is dominated with the machinations regarding Greece. As it should be I suppose, given the scale of the tragedy in place. It might have escaped the attention of some but Eurostat released its latest labour force report yesterday (April 30, 2015) – Euro area unemployment rate at 11.3% – which told us that despite all this talk of a Eurozone recovery, the unemployment remains at 11.3 per cent in March 2015 (no change on February 2015) and only 0.4 per cent lower than a year ago (March 2014). The Greek unemployment rate remains at 25.7 per cent (as at January 2015) and more than 50 per cent of 15-24 year olds are unemployed. But the worst news I saw this week related to the results of a survey of Greek people about the current situation. It tells me that things are very desperate indeed.

Here is the latest graph from Eurostat for the unemployment rate from 2000 to March 2015. The sharp rise in 2008 was due to the GFC and the rising fiscal deficits that resulted started to stabilise the situation around 10 per cent and if the elites hadn’t invoked the destructive Stability and Growth Pact rules the decline that was emerging in 2010 and early 2011 would have continued.

But the imposition of the harsh austerity across the Eurozone resulted in unemployment rates skyrocketing. Totally unnecessary.


The Greek unemployment remains above 25 per cent and a host of other negative side effects have accompanied that malaise.

There is a lot of speculation about when the Greek government will run out of money, given it does not have currency-issuing capacity. If they don’t get further funds from the Troika then it has to come within the next few months.

Internally, Syriza is now finding it difficult maintaining payments to pensioners and public servants and is tapping into fairly unconventional cash sources within the broader public service for funds.

The Euro elites look as though they have headed off the upstarts (Syriza). As Stathis Kouvelakis (a member of the Syriza government) noted in his latest Jacobin article (April 24, 2015) – Greece: The Noose Tightens – that after “events in Greece have taken a dramatic turn, and insolvency is at the gates”:

There are only three options remaining for the Syriza government …

There will be “no gradual approach to reforms” as proposed by the new Greek government – austerity has to be hell bent.

The Troika is demanding:

a “comprehensive list of reforms” is required, which should include further deregulation of the labor market and cuts in pensions, two “red lines” that the Greeks would not see crossed.

Any plans by Syriza to “reduce some taxes and increase the minimum wage and pensions” are considered to be “moving backwards” and will not be permitted by the Troika.

The three options now remaining according to Stathis Kouvelakis are:

1. The Greek government to be allowed some space to halt the austerity and receive bailout support. Chances – negligible.

2. “The Greek government gives up” – which is the “avowed aim of the Europeans”. This option would violate the raison d’etre of Syriza and its political victory and “would amount to surrender and to political suicide for Syriza”. Chance – high.

3. “The Greek government defaults on the debt” which would mean “a decisive rupture and exiting the eurozone”. Chances – high.

Stathis Kouvelakis also hints that Syriza appears to be increasingly divided about the way it should lead the nation.

He also says that the:

… state of public opinion reflects this uncertainty. The enthusiasm and the combative spirit of the first three weeks have now given way to a mixed picture: the support for the government’s strategy is still high, but significantly below its level of the previous months

He notes the on-going “scaremongering on the theme of the ‘Grexit’ remains unchallenged at the level of broad public opinion”.

The conservatives (right-wingers) and the Euro elites continue to equate exit with an “apocalypse”. That has been a constant theme in all of this as Greece goes further into Depression.

Stathis Kouvelakis wants Syriza to hold “firm on the line of confrontation with the EU and prepare the popular movement and Greek society more broadly to embark on a radically different trajectory, both at the domestic and at the international level.”

He has been consistent in that view.

But a recent poll taken by the Greek polling firm Kappa Research illustrates the problem that those who wish to promote a Eurozone exit instead of the mind-boggling continuation of austerity face.

It was published in the Greek newspaper – To Vima – which is a centrist leaning paper with strong political credibility. It “is politically aligned with the centrist (reformist) wing of the Greek … party PASOK”, so it is little wonder it seeks to promote pro-Euro ideas.

The following graphic shows the results of that opinion poll.


The poll would suggest a certain degree of hopelessness in Greece.

The stunning result (for me) is that an increasing majority of Greeks support retreat and continuation of the current austerity if the Euro elites refuse to support Syriza’s request for some breathing space.

Support for retaining the Euro is increasing.

Those opinions are now the dominant view in Greece.

Even if Syriza goes back to the polls after failing to negotiate a reasonable deal with the Troika it is difficult to see those views changing.

How does Syriza maintain any political meaning in that situation. Yes, they won the election in January. But their mandate is at odds with the political reality.

What did the Greek people think they were getting when they elected Syriza? It is clear that there is a massive dislocation in the public’s understanding of the consequences of exit and the reality of those consequences.

The scaremongering has worked a treat.

The population now prefer almost permanent stagnation with no circuit breakers to giving up the euro. I find that amazing but then I have consistently argued that a Greek exit would be beneficial after the initial costly ructions. I also have no savings at stake (written to save some comments to that effect!).

In the Bloomberg Business article (April 27, 2015) – Greece’s Day of Reckoning Inches Closer as Payments Loom – we learn that:

… 71.9 percent of those surveyed said a deal with creditors would be best for the country, while 23.2 percent said they prefer a clash. An Alco survey in Proto Thema newspaper showed that half of respondents want a compromise even if creditors reject Greek government demands, while 36 percent said the government should opt for a “rupture.”

If Syriza call a new election it will probably win given the current polls. But it would be a victory for austerity, which is no victory at all.

And the Greek Finance Minister would ride off on his motorbike without achieving much at all.

International Workers’ Day

Today is – International Workers’ Day – sometimes called May Day, although that confuses the celebration with the European Spring Holiday to recognise the coming of Summer.

The date for the International Workers’ Day commemorated the infamous Chicago – Haymarket Affair – (May 4, 1886), which resulted in several innocent workers being hanged after a bomb exploded at a protest in pursuit of the 8-hour day. Police violence (they killed four union protesters the day before) prompted one person to throw the bomb at the cops.

At the 1889 Paris meeting of the workers’ organisation, the – Second International – it was agreed to declare May 1 as International Workers’ Day and set in place the campaign to secure an 8-hour working day.

As an aside, the Second International marked the beginning of what we might call ‘authoritarian socialism’ given the organisers refused to allow the Anarchists (who represented a social liberal or anti-authoritarian form of socialist endeavour) to attend. Events in the C20 might have been very different if that piece of oppression had not occurred.

To celebrate we can finish the week singing.

Here are two songs for us to work with. The first is – The Internationale – written in 1871 by French lyricist Eugène Edine Pottier – who was part of the 1871 French Commune.

Music was added in 1888 by the Belgian socialist – Pierre De Geyter. It was composed on his harmonium.

This version is the Billy Bragg revision that was on his 1990 album of the same name.

The second song comes thanks to a regular reader Punchy, up there on the Gold Coast. It is from an English folk protest, busking band – Phat Bollard – who seem to tour around English cities busking and protesting.

An old tradition with a contemporary theme.

Saturday Quiz

The Saturday Quiz will be back again tomorrow. It will be of an appropriate order of difficulty (-:

That is enough for today!

(c) Copyright 2015 William Mitchell. All Rights Reserved.

This Post Has 32 Comments

  1. So, the Greeks don’t have the stomach to get shot of their oppressors. Who could have known?

    I think there is a good deal of the Greek in our Australian citizenry.

  2. How long-lasting and how severe would you conservatively predict the difficulties of Greece to secure necessary (for the short-term) imported supplies of fuel, medicines and other consumption and production inputs to be upon exit from the Euro and adoption of a new currency?

    What, if any, initiatives/meetings/agreements with non-EU/EZ countries would you recommend the Greek government seek between now and a PLANNED, relatively orderly, exit from the Euro and issuance of a new currency?

    I thank you in advance for your kind response.

  3. Seems to me history tells the populations of the EU loud and clear to leave things as they are rather than risk going back to local control of monetary and fiscal policy.

  4. I attended a Irish water debate orchestrated by the local Marxists of the city.
    The official tactic seems to be to hold the line until the election.
    But I put it to them that their Greek friends have won a election already and are clear failures.

    The excuse is of course the ECB , the bogeyman etc etc etc……
    Of course if it were a right wing party this would be part of the class conspiracy and all that stuff
    But in reality we are left with a uncomfortable dead air.

    The local Marxist faction continue to portray events more as a class thingy rather then a outright attack on the commons by the money power (using of course local right wing minions who as reward get a cut of the action)

    Social credit theory and now reality has thought us the bitter truth.
    These left wing groups are in fact the ultra capitalists.
    Mawkish self praise by the friends of Yanis V confirms the brutal reality of the situation.

  5. Dear Bill

    I thought that the Greeks already had a primary surplus. If so, they need to borrow only to service debts and to pay debts that come due. If they have a primary surplus, they are in a position to declare a moratorium on all interest payments and repayments of debts coming due. Why don’t they try that?

    Regards. James

  6. It just might be that we are evolved to care more about our personal belongings such as value of our money than wider societal things such as unemployment, that for majority of people happens to other people. When the two are in conflict, societal things often loose.

    I think that every sensible policy needs “selling points”, in addition to being sensible, because that is not good enough.

  7. ‘Seems to me history tells the populations of the EU loud and clear to leave things as they are rather than risk going back to local control of monetary and fiscal policy.’

    The history of Europe is one of almost constant warfare after the end of the Pax Romana, so a desire for peace and unity is very understandable.

    But, recently there was a period of ‘local control of monetary and fiscal policy’ (or at least whatever control was possible under Bretton Woods), and then the Eurozone. Does this recent history really suggest the Eurozone is superior. Of course, we can’t go back to Bretton Woods either.

  8. The EU’s plan is very simple – to wear out Syriza and wait until the government is toppled by the savers who fret for the real value of their savings. Then the EU oligarchs can always hire so-called “technocrats”. The next Greek government which agrees to the Troika’s plan will get a reprieve – maybe a debt reduction (like Poland in early 1990s) and the whole Greek problem will be swept under the carpet. Nobody for the next decade or so will question austerity, the German supremacy, etc. The Greek government wants to change the economic paradigm in Europe. I think that Syriza has very remote chances of winning unless they can trigger a default blaming someone else and then survive in power long enough to see the economy bouncing back. If there is a default and Syriza is toppled then the rebellious Greek society will be taught the lesson nobody in Europe will forget because there is enough disunity in Greece to allow for winning the middle class against the poor. I think that this looks like the plan which is being implemented now – to humiliate, eradicate dissent and then to “rescue” – showing the good will of the true “master and overlord” – the Euro-oligarchy.

    We will see what happens over the next few weeks but I am quite pessimistic.

  9. The nations of Southern Europe have a problem of self-esteem. This is typical of subservient societies. I see the same sort of self deprecation in Spain. For many people here the EU has been seen as the epithome of modernity. Being accepted into the exclusive club was a reason for great pride in the 1980s.

    You have to understand the horrible experience with the Fascist dictatorship (imposed on the Spanish people by Hitler and Mussolini with the complicity of the Governments of Baldwin and Chamberlain, who collaborated by denying the democratically elected government of Spain the right to purchase weapons). In the postwar period Spain was not liberated from Fascism and lived under a brutal dictatorship that had little interest in advancing social justice. That is why for the progressives in Spain joining the EU was tantamount to leaving the unpleasant memories behind. They sincerely believed that Europe would guarantee a stable democracy and some sort of “Euroepan social model” that nowadays does not existe but in their imaginations.

    I imagine similar traumas operate in the psyches of the Portuguese and the Greeks who also suffered dictatorships and underdeveloped economies. Hence the Euro is seen as a major advance; a recognition of being upgraded to a new status by many people in the Southern rim of Europe.

    I find it extremely difficult to explain to people over here that we would be better off outside of the Euro. It is like arguing against the existence of God.

    The Euro has become a Eurototem. It is destroying their economies but people still believe that leaving the common currency would be a catastrophe. Most “respectable” politicians refuse to even acknowledge that there is a problem. It is a taboo issue in our political debate. Also the media are under the control of corporations (banks) who are permanently advancing a neoliberal agenda. Even PODEMOS, who had a good start saying that we should not stay in the Euro at all costs and said that “we are not a colony of Germany, have decided to tone down their message and now will not dare say that we should leave the commong currency.

    Yesterday CTXT carried two pieces questioning whether we should leave the Euro. It was interesting to see people who are not postkeynesians asking themselves some good questions.

    Spain and the Euro: Reform or rupture

    The fatal European arrogance:

    But the debate is limited to small circles. That is why I am pessimistic.

  10. There appears to be a fair share of people that consider that the evil EU will squish the poor Greeks. Few talk about the control of Greek media by the elite and the constant bombarding on the airwaves of the technocrats and inspection teams when they were in Athens. Sometimes they were not allowed local access (besides being banned from Athens for a period of time), their pictures were plastered in the newspapers and the FM only allowed faxes or delivered documents to their hotel rooms. This ginning up of public shame may win poll numbers but it is not a positive atmosphere for reform. You have a country that has an unworkable system with graft and corruption rampant. True reform is a near impossibility. Greece cooked books to join the EU and has had ample time to address internal issues. These issues run throughout society. Why does Greece have 3-4 times as many teachers per student than Finland? Why is there a case of 7 physical education teachers for a small school. Why do bribery cases go nowhere? Why does Parliament have statue of limitation laws against members that are shortened so they can wait out the clock. Why are there over 50,000 tax cases clogging up the court system. How does society accept the suggested pillaging of municipal accounts so that the government can issue more funky paper? In Greece, many many Greeks consider it stupid not to cheat on their taxes. To compound the matter, the governments offers “specials” and amnesty every so often. Why would anyone pay taxes today when they can get a better deal tomorrow. Everyone seems to avoid the elephant in the room. The EU made a mistake in allowing Greece to become a member and the Greeks want someone other than themselves to pay for a system that cannot stand alone. I have great compassion for the hospitals that are being unfunded (why does it cost 4 times a much to get a stent operation in Greece than Germany), the poor that go hungry and the people that are oppressed by a ruling elite….but someone on both sides has to call a halt to this Kamikaze dive into oblivion. This should entail growth funds from the EU and a slow weening of the addict. Instead you have the current government not paying contractors on over 50 infrastructure/construction projects…many subsidized by the EU which could demand a return of their grant moneys. There are many fingers to point and mistakes on both sides but if the Greek system is incapable of helping itself…why should or would you endlessly pay to fill in funding gaps.

  11. Bill,
    Thanks for putting up The Internationale. I remember singing it walking down the middle of Les Grands Boulevards in Paris on May 1 sometime in the mid-1980s. The crowd on the side of the boulevard applauded as we walked by.
    I prefer the French version as I think the words fit the music better (
    With respect to the economic depression and general despair wreaked by the European elites with the euro and austerity, my prediction has been from the start, and remains, that the French will be the first to free themselves from it. Here’s a rousing version of La Marseillaise to sing in the meantime! (

  12. There are more basic problems here than just bad macroeconomics. Sure, the macroeconomic policies are bad. Budget austerity makes recessions deeper, or in the case of Greece it makes their Depression deeper. At the more basic level we have to ask questions about economic control and also about real resources.

    Let us speak about economic control first. When economic control of production belongs to capitalists and technocrats this (the Greek depression) is what happens sooner or later. Decisions are taken to ensure the wealth of an owning but non-producing minority. The majority cannot determine matters democratically as democratic government is weakened and subverted. If production decisions are not made democratically in the workplaces and if distribution decisions are not made in the interests of all the people rather than of capital, then the mere act of having a parliamentary election periodically cannot make a country democratic.

    In terms of real resources, let us consider this proposition. Nauru’s population and economy can grow for ever. There are no limits to Nauru’s possibilities. This proposition sounds ridiculous doesn’t it? This is because Nauru is an island of 9,378 residents in a 21-square-kilometre (8.1 sq mi) total area. It is bereft of just about all natural resources. Greece is Nauru write large. Greece is harsh, rocky, denuded of healthy vegetation and stripped of resources after several thousand years of civilization. What is left out of which to make a healthy economy? The answer is not very much.

    “Greece’s agricultural potential is hampered by poor soil, (and) inadequate levels of precipitation… Greece has few natural resources. Its only substantial mineral deposits are of nonferrous metals, notably bauxite. The country also has small deposits of silver ore and marble, which are mined. Fossil fuels, with the exception of lignite, are in short supply: there are no deposits of bituminous coal, and oil production, based on the Prinos field near the island of Thásos, is limited.” – Encyclopedia Britannica.

    The world is Greece writ large. Just as Greece has been stripped of natural resources, the world is being stripped of natural resources. There are limits to such unsustainable economic practices. The limits are near. The world economy will collapse in the same way as Greece’s economy is collapsing. Poor macroeconomic policy will play a role. The more basic role will be played by resource collapse.

    We did have a window and a possibility to transition to a sustainable and renewable economy. That window closed in about 1990. From there we went on a massive production and consumption binge as if the world and its resources were unlimited. We will soon pay the same price as the Greeks are paying now. Our production and consumption binge from 1990 was largely of unnecessary consumer products. If the resources had been spent on transitioning the economy and positioning it to be sustainable, matters might have been different. But we squandered the last of our natural legacy on huge and wasteful consumption binge.

  13. Governments are often called to lead — to impose unpopular decisions, against the majority will of the people. If the EU won’t go for the Galbraith-Varoufakis plan, really the only alternative to Grexit, then Siriza must simply announce to the electorate that it has done all it could to fulfill its promises not to leave the Euro, but that European elites and the Troika have made that impossible, and that it is returning to the Drachma. Who cares what the polls say, Syriza is the elected government. Could they maintain the support of their partner in Parliament, though?

  14. I do think that MMTers are unfairly hard on Varoufakis — he is working within a party; as finance minister, he has a large amount of power, but ultimately decisions, and the conditions of negotiations, are determined by Cabinet and the Prime Minister — and the Independent Greeks. Probably Panos Kammenos would welcome Grexit, now? I rather like his plan to solve the migrant crisis by just opening Europe’s borders to migrants– Greece would “give to migrants from everywhere the documents they need to travel in the Schengen area.” That would certainly reduce drowning deaths, eh!

    Does anybody think that Varoufakis’s step back this week is in fact a pre-planned good-cop/bad cop tactic? Le V do the grunt work, and have Tsipras come in as the congenial but implacable leader on whose shoulder the final deal rests?

  15. I spent a lifetime visiting Greece, talking to relatives, with the Drachma. The nation was well to do, the shops full of customers, cars in abundance, the roads well maintained.

    The EU and the Euro was a disaster for Greece.

    The EU and the Euro has been a disaster for the whole of southern and eastern Europe.

    It is a pillaging empire, from the experience we can see back in England from our recent history of our colonies.

    Austerity seems hell bent on killing Greeks for having the temerity for wanting food money of all ages.

    Starve and feed the bankers.

  16. @Thomas
    His farcical stated beliefs that the people behind the curtain are somehow benevolent was made very clear on his blog for many years.
    It was as plain as day that he had no connection with the home and hearth and is therefore a radical internationalist plaything of the money power.

    His opening up the borders idea confirms my justified prejudice.
    The idea of a defined space be it a villa a city state or a nation has its origins in Greece if I am not mistaken.
    He clearly wishes to destroy the body politic in the interests of his dear friends.

    He seems to be a radical internationalist humanitarian of the Peter Sutherland ilk.
    These people have no feeling for others , they are most certainly not humanists
    They see us as cattle to be exploited to the maximum efficiency possible,
    To move us around to greener pastures , when that is exhausted we can be projected out to some other field or swamp.
    To manage us for further exploitation .
    This twisted idea of the nobility of the disporia seems to have taken fashionable roots in the Irish mind especially,
    As if it were a badge of honour.
    They seem to have no idea that they were the first large scale experiment of displacement during the Cromwellian era
    The same people who are advocating international humanitarism also were deeply involved in the Libyian and Syrian destruction of village and family connection.
    If the banks can destroy the core of natural human scale cooperation they can control all life.via monetary means … which indeed is clearly the plan.

  17. GrkStav: Mark Weisbrot’s papers and Lapavitsas & Flassbeck’s writing, like their book Against the Troika have good analysis. Greece has two world class foreign exchange earning industries, shipping and tourism – it is better positioned to earn fx that way than Argentina was when it (successfully) defaulted. And as the Greek farmer’s union noted a few months back, to quell scaremongering, Greece can feed itself.

    Thomas Bergbusch – I agree people are often too hard on Varoufakis & Syriza. Varoufakis et al have often said that they put exiting austerity over remaining in the Eurozone- e.g. a few months ago “We are ready for an austere existence, which is something different from austerity”, and a few years ago putting the likelihood of Grexit under a Syriza government as >50%. So it ain’t over until its’s over. The problem is if they succumb to their illogical fear of Grexit – the most likely consequence of which would be a robust recovery, as Mark Weisbrot said.

    On the polls, the possible increase in Euro support is troubling, but maybe its withing the margin of error. But there was a Gallup / WIN poll in September 2014 that I’ve linked here that showed 52% preference for drachma & 32% preference for the Euro. Various Greeks I’ve read online have expressed skepticism about polls from Greek news organizations. So I think the real problem is the same as always – the “good Euro” faction of Syriza may have excessive fear of going it alone, which is not based on sound reasoning or historical experience.

    The most potent weapon in the hands of an oppressor is the mind of the oppressed – Steve Biko

  18. @Ikonclast
    Where do you get this we idea from ?

    I have no choice in the supply chains I need to access so as to live.
    The current supply chains are absurdly capitalistic in nature with massive hidden costs but these systems were imposed on us by the centralizing vortice known as capitalism.

    I would much prefer to live as a Franciscan with a few added creature comforts but this is impossible without outside support.

  19. Dear wist (at 2015/05/02 at 1:10)

    And all of the ‘excesses’ you catalogue appeared since 2001 did they? You should more correctly isolate the problem. All the points you make may or may not be true in fact (some are) but Greece did not have 25 per cent unemployment and entrenched poverty and income loss before they entered the Eurozone.

    best wishes

  20. Dear Bill: Isolate the problem? The problem is a cultural and structural problem of corruption, tax avoidance, cronyism, cartels, etc. When an election is held the winner rewards his minions with cushy jobs which in many cases do not require much (if any) work or productivity. The civil service becomes bloated and efficiency undermined. I understand that Athenians ride the subway for free. Why? The latest proposal in healthcare has deleted a 5 Euro charge for medical visits for everyone, not just the impoverished. What happened to the minister who took his family connections off the Lagarde list…not much. Why isn’t he prevented from holding a future political office? The latest union agreement with DEH (Greek power Company) allows 6 euro credits each day for food (it costs the prison system 2 euros per day to feed prisoners), ensures no salary cuts will take place, no dismissals for any economic reasons, more vacation days, new “shift allowances”, etc.. The estimated costs is 1800 euros per employee. Although dated (but representative), there was a 2012 case where 7 active and retired tax officers including 4 high ranking administrators were sentenced for embezzlement. The case started in 2001 when Aliki Kriakaki audited a large company that owed $44.2 million. The tax administrators offered to write this off for a bribe. She didn’t go along and became a whistle blower and also became subject to abuse. The 7 suspects were twice exonerated by appeals courts before the case was reopened by the supreme court. For the time delay Aliki commented “it took 11 years of fighting, and I am not going to stop here.” Authorities would not release the names of the convicted. I would not agree that these examples are “excesses”. Corruption, bribes, redundancy, closed markets, patronage and tax evasion permeate the system. The elites draw their monetary blood and seek status quo. The system implodes and the people at the lower end suffer. There was a recent government proposition to protect home owners on bad loans up to 300,000 euros for their primary residence. Let me see…I don’t have to pay mortgage payments + I avoid taxes. What a deal..another free lunch. There is no house cleaning nor will there a major overhaul. You mention that years ago, Greece did not have 25% unemployment nor did they have the existing entrenched poverty. One of the basic reasons is that they borrowed and floated paper + government jobs have balloned. If you make $100 but spend $120 you make up the difference by borrowing $20+. This lasts until you can’t borrow more or are faced with “reforms” dictated by the lender. Syriza had an opportunity early on to perform. An example would be to legislate ways to free up the court system. If I was in power I would have set up legislation for tax arbitration panels. Maybe 50 with their decision being final. Draconian yes but effective. If you owe taxes the government liens your property..pure and simple. You foreclose and clean out the system. Homesteading or some protective limits for a single property primary residence owner would be acceptable. No sales of nationally owned property for the foreseeable future. The likely buyers would be the elite and get bargain basement pricing. Government rolls would be trimmed for redundancy. Any official convicted of embezzlement or bribery would be prevented from holding a future government office + fines would be escalating. The larger the crime…the more the fine. Convicted government officials would lose a portion or all their pension rights. Again, Draconian but necessary within the confines of a war on the system. I would suggest or investigate the usage of a credit card system for payment of pensions and government wages + limit cash withdrawals. I would try to take as much cash as possible out of the system and credit cards offer a paper trail. In California, we have food stamp credit cards. They work well and you use them like cash except you can’t buy cigarettes or liquor. I would also modernize the legal system. This system which has something like 17,000 laws and ordinances + an archaic property recording system that would be computerized and made efficient. If there is a court case the two lawyers representing the opposing parties would be recorded and the length of the court time would also be recorded. At the end of the year your computer tallies the results and you find out who is not paying taxes. The same with doctors in hospital time and operations. How can you have a country that has doctors, lawyers, vets, civil engineers, etc. declaring certain sums of annual income and they pay 100-200% of that in debt servicing. I have many suggestions to tackle the problem but few if any will be adopted. Until there is a watershed change in society and their views on what is acceptable, Greece will be a ward of the EU and things will most likely continue to deteriorate. TC…Wist

  21. Dear wist (at 2015/05/02 at 10:59)

    You once again dodged the point. All these issues were part of Greek society before they entered the Eurozone. They didn’t lose 25 per cent of their GDP in 3 years and endure entrenched 25 per cent unemployment before they were in the Eurozone.

    Isolate the specific problem, indeed.

    My last word on that matter.

    best wishes

  22. Unfortunately ‘Europe’ and the EU have become seen as the font and guarantor of civilised policies and civilised society. Surely this can take root only amongst the frightened and/or the historically illiterate.

    The UK public are as irrationally wedded to the idea of ‘Europe’ and the EU and even the so-called Single Market as are the Greeks, the Spaniards, the Irish, and so on.

    The whole thing is utterly exasperating.

  23. Perhaps the only path forward is for Syriza to agree to Troika demanded “reforms” and get some funds–but then resist their implementation in every way possible: foot-dragging, reinterpreting terms, misinterpreting terms, etc.

  24. ” I understand that Athenians ride the subway for free. Why?

    Somehow you made me think of Mallory “Because it is there”

    Which is more wasteful a half empty subway which is profitable under the current scarce token system or a full subway which is unprofitable under the current scarce money system.?

  25. @Jim

    “The UK public are as irrationally wedded to the idea of ‘Europe’ and the EU and even the so-called Single Market as are the Greeks, the Spaniards, the Irish, and so on.”

    Well … the grass is always greener… so why not cross the brook for water…

  26. Bill,
    Thanks for a good read on the Greek monetary economic conundrum of the day.
    Liking the new Andresen-Parenteau near-money option, interim to Greek money.
    But for a worker-anthem to guide the (always and again) coming revolution, may I suggest Kevin Speldewinde’s “Different Values” track from the Pressure Drop Alive 2011.
    My favorite, a truly infectious piece …. play it every day.

  27. Athens Metro Ticket prices
    Well as most other places public transport is heavily subsidized, the key objective of public transport is to get people to their work places (troika polices have of course effective lowered the need for this) or facilitate travel to shopping and keep business going. A public subsidize of doing business.

  28. I wrote this the other day. I think it is in keeping with the sentiments of your article.
    I’m not up with Greek politics or economics to make a judgement but I understand to a degree the conundrum they face. Do they break with the Euro and claim sovereignty over their own currency – and have that ‘lever’ for economic management or stick with the old.
    Most people never or rarely take the plunge – maybe having the first child, getting married, immigrating or quitting that job is as close as it gets.
    For a country it is a collective decision and in the case of Greece the odds are stacked against them having the willpower or the numbers to make that break (eg history, the media, fear of the unknown or being the first)
    In sporting terms it is the difference between the also rans and the heroes. (excuse me for mentioning football) Last week we saw instances where a player ‘went for it’ took the chance and made it – In surfing it is the difference between pulling out of a take-off and ‘going for it’ on a gnarly wave. Often the willpower to risk all is enough to take you through the tough spots. It’s easy to be careful or even scared. No shame in that – but ‘going for it’ takes guts and or determination. In difficult times this is what is necessary for individuals and leaders. The strength of character to take on a difficult task is often all that is needed. Later it will never look so difficult and the rewards of that tube (surfing) spoil (football) policy direction is all that is needed to open up the world. Maybe should all ‘go for it’ more often…

  29. Dear Supermundane (at 2015/05/04 at 17:21)

    Yes, I thought it was a great interchange.

    Regular reader @GrvStav – Have you read this? No MMTer as far as I know is maligning Yanis unfairly. It is clear he and the rest of them are caught in a terrible bind as Lapavitsas notes. But I thought his point about the need to change the narrative so the Greek people might come to understand a different position to that put out by the Euro elites (which is ‘stay in the Eurozone or else apocalypse’) was an excellent one and I don’t detect Syriza is wanting to play that role even though in its absence they will be demolished by the elites.

    best wishes

  30. “Because the monetary union in my judgement is a major historical failure. It’s Europe’s biggest failure in decades. And it will not last. But obviously it might last long enough for Greece to be dead. Of course the EZ proponents believe it is going to last forever. It is a historical delusion. Monetary unions don’t last this long. Let them believe it. Fine.”

    Yet it is much more then a monetary union, it is the cornerstone piece of architecture of the liberal (let’s not use the word neo liberal which is simply used by those ” caring leftists”) materialist new doctrine of faith.
    Liberalism and Capitalism go hand in hand like Pollox and Castor.

    Whether you agree with the old pre treaty of Westphalia non liberal world or not we must understand that the euro experiment ( the final phase of the multicentury liberal experiment with post Westphalia as the nationalistic management stage)goes far beyond economics – its ultimate goal is spiritual capture .
    In this MMTers played their part as they are the spokesmen for the second American Materialist revolution of the 1930s that has brought great disaster on this world.( massive economic expansion that has merely expanded the zone of commercial activity with now declining humans locked inside this capitalistic prision)
    But we have moved beyond nationalistic management towards the final extraction era.

    It is now clear there is no German elite.
    There is the elite and the rest of us.
    His thoughts are at least 40 years out of date.

  31. The problem that Lapavitsas has is that he has been unable to convince Tsipras, let alone, the Greek public. Varoufakis has attempted, over many years, by becoming a ‘public intellectual’, to make the case, to explain the realities, etc. Moreover, there is no point going into a negotiation with a position that is a. my way or the highway b. not the mandate one recently received from the principals.

    Without a shadow of a doubt, if e.g. Spain (under Podemos) AND Greece (under SYRIZA) were negotiating with the institutions, more of a ‘hard-ball’ strategy would be effective.

    For those of you who know your Gramsci, this is clearly a conjecture of “war of position” for SYRIZA.

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