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The new Seisachtheia: Solon to Varoufakis The new Seisachtheia: Solon to Varoufakis
by Nikos Laios
2015-02-11 13:57:29
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In sixth century BC Archaic Athens, its society suffered a political, moral and economic decline; a society that was dominated by aristocratic forces that dictated all facets of Athenian life.

gr001_400Debt became rampant in sixth century BCE Athens, where it enslaved citizens to their debt burdens; then an Athenian lawmaker called Solon, instituted a series of economic, constitutional and moral reforms which freed Athenians from their debt burdens, and laid the foundations for the future democratic Athens and its flowering under its golden age - and in turn - the democratic western world.

This new debt relief was called the Seisachtheia; in Greek, σεισάχθεια, from σείειν seiein, to shake, and χθος achthos, burden.

Some 2,500 years later, the societal conditions of widespread debt burden has now gripped Europe; where nations are shackled to cumbersome debts that can never be paid off, where these burdens are now threatening the lives and dignity of ordinary Europeans, and the question has to be asked, where is our Solon to shake off our own burdens?

Whereby Athens was affected by the tyranny of its aristocrats, modern Europe is now also suffering under the tyranny of its own aristocrats; the central banks, the EU bureaucrats, and the IMF, who now have Greece under a banking occupation by financial fascism.

The underlying theme of Greece and its financial plight is not just limited to Greece itself, but speaks of the larger overarching theme on the failure of capitalism, and the failure of the banking system rife with greed and over-speculation across Europe and the western world; where ordinary citizens are now paying for the mistakes of the banking elite.

The conditions that lead up to the recent global financial crisis (GFC) - which has been the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression of the 1930's -  was one of unsustainable economic bubbles, of unsustainable personal debt levels, and easy lending to prop of national prosperity across the world; where rather than an honest confession of the socio-economic faults that lay within nations, these faults where papered over by the Illusion of a potential prosperity dispensed by willing central banks, and international bankers.

Who only knew too well that their over-lending to unacceptable risks was always doomed to failure, and who wildly speculated through various financial instruments. In analysing the causes of the GFC meltdown, the U.S. Senate's Levin–Coburn Report stated that the crisis was the result of "high risk, complex financial products; undisclosed conflicts of interest; the failure of regulators, the credit rating agencies, and the market itself to rein in the excesses of Wall Street."

Rather than the banking system being brought to task, and to pay for its financial mistakes; their debts where forgiven and paid off by national governments, who in turn took over the role of creditors and now expect that debtor nations pay off unsustainable debt to GDP burdens, which in reality can never be paid off.

Where in the case of Greece and other southern European countries, stern rebukes from the IMF, ECB and Germany has come along with racism and the indulgence of racist erroneous national stereotypes in attempting to explain the indebtedness of these nations, rather than at accepting the failures as being due to the banking system itself.

When looking at past examples of indebtedness in Europe in the twentieth century, we have two specific examples where Germany is the central actor.

After the defeat of Germany at the end of World War One, the treaty of Versailles required that Germany pay off 132 billion gold marks (($33 billion), which contributed to a failure in its economy, a fall in its currency and hyperinflation causing a depression and widespread misery throughout Germany.

The US intervened and revised the German debt burdens and payments, and lent Germany 800 million marks; this stabilised their currency and the German economy surged. But with the advent of the Wall Street crash of 1929, this lead to a sovereign debt default in Germany, and to a depression which paved the way for Nazism.

Then German debt was also forgiven yet again, this time after World War Two under the Marshall Plan; where the cancellation of German debts where worth four times the country's entire economic output in 1950, and a plan put in place to reinvent its economy as an export economy, whereby Germany is reaping the fruits of these policies to this very day.

In the history of the twentieth century, the debts owed by Germany - which were forgiven - meant that Germany was the biggest debt transgressor off the twentieth century, and whereby Greece at the time was also one of Germany's creditors which forgave its debts.

The other irony being that where Germany to forgive Southern European debt, that would roughly equal the German debt forgiven by the allies during the twentieth century; but why is the German nation and the banking elite suffering amnesia, and demanding that Greece fulfil unrealistic debts burdens, which the German nation was not asked to fulfil itself during the last century?

If one looks at the debt plan for Greece that was enforced on it via Germany, Brussels and its occupational forces of the troika; where unemployment increased to 27% and youth unemployment to nearly 60%,where instead of Greek GDP only dropping by the planned 9%,it drops instead by 25%,where the debt to GDP in turn increases to 175% not due to the fiscal spending cuts Greece made, but due to the GDP Shrinking well below the forecast; and this from a plan that was always doomed to failure.

In relation to the Greek debt burden, the US president Obama was quoted as saying recently;

"You cannot keep on squeezing countries that are in the midst of depression."

Yet, Greece is not being give the same leeway or respect that Germany was given twice during the twentieth century. Where Greece is being used as a guinea pig for economic shock therapies.

Where Greece is being bullied to, dictated to and cajoled by Germany, and its minions; Brussels, IMF and the ECB with a profound disrespect. Where funding to Greek banks has been threatened by the ECB as a political tool to pressure and make the Greeks fold under as an example to maintain its unrealistic debts burdens, so that other Southern European nations do not get the same ideas of rebellion like the Greeks. The real issue for the IMF, the ECB and Germany is not trying to save Greece, but in covering up saving the morally bankrupt banks post the GFC crisis.

The question then has to be asked, what then is a sustainable debt to GDP ratio for nations?

Economists generally agree that a nation with a debt to GDP of 100% can never pay off its debts, and if we look at some prime examples of national debt to GDP, they reveal quite a telling

Story:

*US debt to GDP           = 101.53%

*UK debt to GDP           = 88.92%

*French debt to GDP     = 95.62%

*Irish debt to GDP            = 109%

*Italian debt to GDP         = 132.64%

*Portuguese debt to GDP= 127.82%

*German debt to GDP     = 78.43%

*Dutch debt to GDP         = 73.51%

So with Greece having a current debt to GDP of 175% - which increased from 120% debt to GDP - before this current debt plan was forced onto Greece over these last four years - which Greece is expected to pay its debt back? With a debt to GDP level like this, the IMF, ECB only know too well that Greece can never pay its debt back, that the deflationary plan dictated to Greece has only caused unhappiness, misery, depression, malnutrition and suicides in Greece; and this is the point where Germany, the IMF, and the ECB have lost any claim to any moral or ethical authority or leadership, and whereby the very ideals of the European Union have been compromised and destroyed.

So this is not just a Greek problem, but of a failure of capitalism and the financial system in general, through its corrupt elites, and inept bureaucracy; at trillions of Euros being pumped into national economies to protect them from the scrutiny of their own failures.

Where this failure resonates in an age where we think too much and feel too little, where the power that these financial dictators and oligarchs took from the people has to return to the people, where we have the love of humanity within us, the power to create peace and happiness on this earth, and live by each other's happiness, and not the greed the has currently poisoned our souls.

The political parties and elite of our world have therefore lost any authority to institute laws and economic decisions to promote the virtue and happiness of their fellow citizens due to their surrender to the needs of the banking and political elite, to the financial fascists: so Syriza - regardless whether one still believes in the anachronism of the left-right of political dichotomy that has thus far influenced the world - presents us with an interesting conundrum.

A political party, with capable people, who are placing the interests of their people and nation first, and are not afraid to stand up to the morally and ethically corrupt European political and banking elite, and where Syriza is not taking a backward step. Yet all they are offering is a realistic appraisal and solution; that Greece is currently insolvent (as are many other European nations) and the solution is to forgive their debts and promote Keynesian stimulus economic theories.

If we look at economic theories that also apply on a personal level, where for example; a person has a home mortgage loan, has a family and children, is mortgaged to a level of 90% debt of the value of their home, their income suddenly shrinks and is unable to maintain the monthly mortgage repayments, and then the solution is proposed that he take out several credit cards and use these cards to juggle one debt off another debt( which he does so),with his overall debt only increasing, causing an untenable position. In this example, the normal action is that the debtor declare bankruptcy and starts again; and on a larger macroeconomic scale, applying the same logic, we now expect an insolvent Greece to pay back a debt that cannot be paid?

So in light of the current state of affairs in Europe, of the failure of the political, banking and capitalist systems; the average European citizen is starting to awaken to this existential threat.

That the treatment of Greece, and the current status quo cannot continue, that capitalism, the banking and the political systems need desperately to be reinvented, to again place the good of people at the centre of all of their goals; and with this in mind, and the dictatorial-like bullying that Germany is displaying in Europe at the moment, which resonates with the pain that is has previously caused twice during the twentieth century, the average European is starting to become  resentful towards Germany and its current political and economic hegemony of Europe.

Where the average European could not be blamed for asking themselves whether they choose to side with Greece in regards to their own interests, with the nation that gave the world democracy, civilisation, Plato and Aristotle; or with the nation which gave the world Nietzsche, Hitler and Nazism, and unfortunately, this latest resentment against Germany is of its own making.

The EU as it stands, has now lost all moral authority and claims of promoting European fraternity and happiness, and what will happen to Greece will be its biggest test.

For Greece, the choices are stark, yet simple; have its debt burdens forgiven, and a new Marshall-style plan for itself and the rest of Europe instituted to enable a rejuvenation of European society, or leave the EU, adopt the Drachma, form an alliance with its old friend Russia, and consider allowing a Russian naval base in the Mediterranean.

If Greece chooses the latter option, its chances of a rejuvenation are greater than the present options, and where it to go down this path, the Euro, the EU and NATO will be destroyed; so Europe has some stark choices, for Greece has lost any fear and has nothing to lose, for in their Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, and in their finance minister Yanis Varoufakis, they have a tough and capable leadership and a new Solon.

Greece sacrificed much during World War Two, more of its population dying as a percentage than any other European nation, only second after Russia; and it defeated fascism then, and it can again do it now with one simple word uttered by their Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, a word that echoes from then till now:  Οχι! (NO!).

When the rest of our fellow Europeans also start by rebelliously saying NO, then will Europe have a chance not only to save itself, but redeem itself as a bastion of liberté, égalité, fraternité.

 


   
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Emanuel Paparella2015-02-11 15:09:19
This is an insightful historically conscious article on the possibility of reversing decline and regression which are always more grievous when they are of intellectual-spiritual-psychological nature. Indeed, Nikos, to forget one's history is to be condemned to repeat it. Europe has made the mistake of forgetting its ideals and its origins at other times and it has had to pay a heavy price for that misremembering; that is to say, to commemorate and celebrate ideals such fraternitè, egalitè and libertè in theory but then ignore the same in practice when it comes to showing some solidarity with the less fortunate. As the song by Peter Paul and Mary goes "when will they have learn?" The answer is blowing in the wind but for the moment the pragmatic advice of William James stands: you will know much more of what people beliefs are by paying less attention to what they say and proclaim with much fanfare and pay more attention to what they do.


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