Saturday, 9 April 2016

Per DiEM (2)

Dear Yanis Varoufakis,
To rescue the European Union from falling apart you offer ‘democracy’, and ‘transparency’. I think the case for transparency is better than the case for democracy. The Commission and Council of Ministers are ultimately answerable to national governments of democratic countries, and we cannot ask for much more than that (see my Per DiEM (1)). We cannot open their every decision to a plebiscite.  But Council minutes could be made available, as you have most effectively pointed out.  Democracy is more the problem than the cure, for weak governments spend to win votes.
The main target of your venom is what you call the ‘Troika’; the 3 committees that control the terms of financial loans to Greece; [1] The European Commission, [2] the International Monetary Fund, and [3] the European Central Bank. Yet your grumble seems to concern the power of the banks (the European Central Bank but also the individual banks that extended loans to Greek citizens). Unfortunately, democracy seems powerless protect us from the banks. We already have democracy, in a fashion. (After 5 years of absolute rule by one party we have the chance to choose another, but  none of the parties will offer to challenge the financial markets. Such is democratic capitalism.)
The inexorable grip of the money market is in part mathematical, and in part legal. I mean, 2 + 2 = 4; there is no wriggle-room. And if you enter a legal contract to borrow money on the condition of paying interest annually at 5% (a condition which you find subsequently that you cannot meet), you will find that neither democracy nor transparency can save you. You need Robin Hood, or anti-usury laws. Or an imaginative negotiator.

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