About 'Alpha+Good'

Alpha+Good (a bad wordplay on Orwell's "double plus good" and old machismo - I'm the realest after all) is a side project that belongs to 'Onklare taal' ('Unclear' or 'Unripe language'), the umbrella of several literary projects in Dutch.

This section is almost exclusively in English and comprises my ongoing thoughts on progress, gender, politics and various other social themes. Why is this in English why everything else in Dutch? Because I want to gun for a much wider audience here. Also, my literary English isn't good enough, otherwise I would always write in English.

Are you a little lost? This link will take you right back to my home page.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

My big fat Greek debt crisis

It's been plastered all over the news for months now, ever since the debt crisis in the Eurozone started: Greece had big problems in maintaining fiscal discipline, and now all of Europe has to pay the price. There have been some protest voices, sure: some say that Greece would do better to opt for an Iceland-style scenario, others rightly doubt the disproportionate influence of rating agencies - which, by the way, are all US-based and have often been wrong - and some on the left sing the familiar tune of a European Union too beholden to neoliberal fundamentalism.

What surprises me about all of this is that people act surprised. Disregarding all valid objections against the straitjacket Athens finds itself in, back when Greece joined the Eurozone, all politicians already knew it was cooking the books and shouldn't have been let into the Euro in the first place. Hell, when it joined the EU, a lot of the reasons for its joining were rooted in cold war ideology that wanted to reward Greece for casting off the chains of military dictatorship without lapsing into communism.

It's worth looking back at the '80s for the root causes of the current crisis of the European Union. When Greece joined the EU in 1981, it had gotten rid of its military junta for barely seven years. By contrast, the first post-Communist Central European countries only joined the Union 15 years after the fall of the Iron Curtain, while Spain and Portugal waited over a decade. How did anyone seriously expect that Greece would mature into a perfect democracy with a forward-thinking fiscal policy by mere virtue of entering the Union in its infancy stages of liberal democracy? Secondly, the early '80s were the onset of neoliberal orthodoxy. The crazy caroussel that put countries like Spain, which did not accrue outrageous debts, in such a bad spot was played by institutions and countries that were much better at them than weak, newly democratic governments could hope to be. Compare Iceland and Luxembourg. Luxembourg is an obscenely rich, small country with a population comparable to Iceland's, and has a bloated banking sector. The difference is that it's had that for a very long time and knows better how to game the system. Iceland didn't, overplayed its hand and crashed.

The biggest winners and losers? Why of course, again since the '80s, the biggest winners have been financial elites who do not produce anything of value for anyone, their political lackeys who try to make others believe that poor people are stopping them from becoming as rich as them, and right-wing media who support that message with lurid fearmongering. The losers: everybody else.

For what it's worth, I believe in a common European currency and I believe in the European Union as an idea and a concrete project. How we can do it differently and to the benefit of the peoples of Europe rather than a handful of old white men, I'll address in a later post.