Dissenting Radical

The Common Good: A 'Christian-Left' perspective on radical theology, progressive politics, authentic culture and sustainable living.

Month: June, 2015

Banking Oligarchs vs Greek People

I got this from a Reddit user called /u/Ghostwoods (original here), so I don’t claim any originality for it. But I wanted to repost it here, because I think it is the best analysis of the situation I’ve read so far.

For Greeks, the worst thing is accepting all the EU conditions and basically dropping out of the first world. For the German bankers, the worst thing is Greece refusing to pay anything. For the rest of us, the worst thing is Greece becoming a Russian satellite state.

The very worst outcomes are all vanishing unlikely — asteroid strikes, plague attacks by ISIS, Yog Sothoth erupting out of the Parthenon and spreading over the whole country, devouring every resident and catching their souls in an eternal hell of agony and madness, that sort of thing.

If we stick to what’s likely however, events fall into a small number of camps.

  1. Greece agrees to everything Germany wants, makes further deep cuts to pensions, welfare, government employees, tax breaks, etc. The EU then agrees to give Greece more loans — which in fact manifests as the EU funding sources giving huge amounts of money to French and German banks, and saying “Greece will pay us back for this”. Almost none of the money actually enters the Greek economy.
  2. Greece persuades the EU to let the debt’s timescales slide. Greece doesn’t make any further cuts, stays in the Euro, and keeps trying to pull itself out of the pit of shrunken economy that has been forced on it, without taking any further austerity-related damage, but still trying to repay what it can, when it can.
  3. The EU reluctantly agrees to let Greece off its debts, mostly or even entirely. The Greek government suddenly has a lot more resources to throw into trying to rebuild its economy. It stays in the Euro, and works to improve itself. German and French banks take a huge financial loss.
  4. Greece says “Fuck you”, and drops out of the Euro, refuses to repay the debts, but stays within the EU at large. Huge damage to the Euro. French and German banks lose a lot of money, and Spain, Portugal, Ireland and Italy all eye the situation with great interest, since they owe fortunes they can’t really repay too. Free of the debt burden, Greece sets about rebuilding.
  5. Greece says “No, really, TOTALLY fuck you,” and drops out of both the Euro and the EU. Russia — who have been very, very attentive to Greece over the last ten days — sign the pipeline agreement they’ve been offering Greece, along with the huge free aid package they’ve been offering. There are rumours that this deal will include the leasing of one or more Aegean islands to Russia for a century for use as a military base, as per Guantanamo Bay or Hong Kong. Using this vast influx of money (that, unlike EU aid, would actually go for the use of the Greek government), and a lot of Russian industrial attention, Greece rebuilds as the newest member of the Totally-Not-A-New-USSR sphere of influence. Ukraine faints in horror. NATO shits itself. We start edging towards a new, serious Cold War.

Now these options tend to run from best to worst for Germany and France, and from worst to best for the average Greek citizen.

There’s a very significant danger that if the Greek economy totally collapses — quite possible in (1) or (2) — that the fascist far right will take over. This is what happened to Germany in the early 1930s, and we all know how that turned out.

On the other hand, if Greece damages the German and French banks badly enough, there’s a similarly significant danger that the Euro will dissolve in a welter of debt and bad feeling. This would do huge damage to central Europe, economically, as well as greatly destabilizing the European political situation.

By far the smart move, as far as I can tell, would be (3) — the EU compelling the banks to abolish Greek debt and restructure Portugese, Spanish and Irish debt to more manageable levels. This seems to me to have the greatest chance of keeping Europe whole, maximising the potential livelihoods of EU citizens, and stopping the failure of the EU. However, neither the banks nor Greece really want this, and the EU itself is terrified that if it does this, it’ll have to offer an identical clean sweep deal to half of the rest of the EU. Bank wealth is based on debt, not holdings, so the central European banks would lose vast amounts of power. No-one wants to be the executive who wiped out half his bank’s resources, so this seems the least likely of the five.

Three concerns about same-sex marriage.

1. I have a concern about process, constitutional propriety, and democratic legitimacy. I am not yet convinced by the argument that same-sex marriage is a human right. I agree that homosexuals should not suffer any form of discrimination – in employment, housing etc. It is of course entirely correct that the sort of protections extended on grounds of race and gender should also be extended to homosexuals. However, changing the definition of marriage, as we recognise it in our laws and society, from one that necessarily implies and opposite-sex union to one that may include a same-sex union is, in my view, a policy change. As such, it should be debated through political institutions and decided democratically. My own view is that we should, subject to certain safeguards, make that policy change. But imposing major changes to social institutions like marriage shouldn’t be done by judicial fiat, but should be decided either in parliament or by referendum. Everyone has a stake in how we define and understand marriage in our society, and everyone has a right to participate in that debate. In short, I think Ireland made the correct decision (allowing same-sex marriage as a constitutional right by a referendum to amend the constitution), and the USA might have made an incorrect decision (imposing same-sex marriage by a judicial decision).

2. I have a concern that gay rights issues are drowning out other causes – and, moreover, I think it is being used as a way of appearing progressive while ignoring much deeper issues of economic inequality that effect the lives of many more people (even the Tories are in on this game). On the list of things that I think are urgent and important to address, same sex marriage probably wouldn’t make the top-20. That’s not the say I’m against it – not at all – but it is to say that I regard it as a lower priority than homelessness, fracking, austerity, collapse of bee populations, global water shortages, the plight of refugees fleeing conflict, or a host of other issues.

3. I have a concern about the free-speech rights, the freedom of religion rights, and the non-discrimination rights, of those who disagree with same-sex marriage. Although I do not agree with them, I would not wish to live in a society where religious or social conservatives are excluded from public debate, or are labelled as ‘uncaring homophobic bigots’ simply because they maintain, for sincere reasons, a different view. An open, tolerant, pluralist society has room for them, too.

Other than that, I’d like to congratulate several friends who have just upgraded their civil partnerships to marriages. Congratulations!

The Scotland Bill Debate (House of Commons, 15 June 2015)

I watched about three hours of the debate in the House of Commons on the Scotland Bill. This is the bill that is supposed to ‘deliver the vow’, although the bill as presented to the House by the Government seems to fall far short of even the Smith Commission’s watered-down proposals.

Overall, I thought the quality of the debate was higher than usual, with some thoughtful and well-delivered speeches by Edward Leigh MP (Cons), John Redwood MP (Cons), Angus Robertson MP (SNP), Stewart Hosie MP (SNP), and Graham Allen MP (Lab).

Edward Leigh seems to understand what ‘Home Rule with Full Fiscal Autonomy’ means. Stewart Hosie’s contribution showed that Full Fiscal Autonomy is viable, small and short term deficits not withstanding, and put the naysayers in their place.

Perhaps Angus Robertson doesn’t fully understand how to use ‘manner and form’ provisions to entrench statutes in the absence of a written constitution, but he got closer than most, and his proposal to guarantee the permanence of the Scottish Parliament had real merit; combined with super-majority rules, proposed by Smith, for the exercise of certain legislative powers over electoral rules by the Scottish Parliament, it would have gone some way, at least, towards the creation of a proper constitutional framework that would have guaranteed Scottish democracy. Some serious and thorough-going proposals were made that, if they had been adopted, would have made me give the UK the benefit of the doubt.

Meanwhile, there was lots of encouraging talk about a Constitutional Convention for the UK – one that would go beyond just the territorial dimension to address other institutional matters such as electoral reform, reform of the second chamber, local democracy, and human rights. There are people on all sides of the House, from all parties, who are stumbling into the light.

Most of the beneficial amendments to the bill, however, were resolutely voted down. Clearly, while some of the more pragmatic Tory backbenchers know the game is up, the Government is opposed to the sort of radical surgery that could have saved the UK’s life.

Starbucks

My wife: Shall we go to Starbucks?
Me: But surely they are an evil, money-grubbing, ecology-destroying, exploitative, tax avoiding corporation that is opposed to everything we stand for?
My wife: Yes, I agree. But on the other hand they have coffee! And chocolate brownies!
Me: Okay….

[A few minutes later, on arriving at the evil wicked Starbucks.]
My wife: Drat. It’s not open. It’s seven thirty and they won’t open to sell me a coffee! What does it take to get coffee in this country?
Me: Well, that’s capitalism for you. There’s some ‘effective demand’ right here in my pocket, and no supply to meet it. So even by capitalism’s own paltry standards it is, at best, only a mixed success.
My wife: Silence! This is no time for disquisitions on political economy. I’m mourning the loss of chocolate brownies.