05 November 2011

More Able and Less Able

The More Able will dominate the Less Able, always and everywhere.

Right-thinking people in the West are indignant about Europe's past colonial plunders.  They are furious at the thought of Western companies swooping in to buy up state assets from highly-indebted African countries.  More sanguine are they, however, about this:

"Roll up, roll up, roll up. Elgin Marbles, Acropolis, Mykonos. Anyone? You don't have to be an ancient Greek historian to understand the significance of it. But maybe it helps.  [...]  Under pressure to raise €50bn as the quid pro quo for its massive €110bn (£98bn) bail-out, Greece is being forced to hawk its industrial and commercial backbone to the highest bidder."

Who's buying?

"The advisers and sell-offs being set up include:

• Deutsche Bank and National Bank of Greece on the sale of OPAP, the state gambling monopoly

• Credit Suisse on state lotteries

• Rothschild and Barclays appointed for road concessions

• PriceWaterhouse selected for railway firm OSE

• France's BNP Paribas and Greece's National Bank on the extension of an operating lease on Athens International Airport.

• Lazard [Global Equity] on exploiting the commercial activities of the Greek trusts and loans funds."

Just as water finds its level, the More Able will dominate the Less Able.  EU Observer tells us the tale in headlines:

Followed shortly by:

 Culminating with:

Not quite, perhaps, what the cheery Greeks were expecting in 2001:

Lyberaki, Antigone and Paraskevopoulos, C. J. 2002. “Social capital measurement in Greece”. In OECD–ONS International Conference on Social Capital Measurement, 25-27 September, London.

'More able' and 'less able' are relative terms.  John Ward eloquently reminds us of what the Greeks are more able:

"Greece is about music and fishing nets, summer affairs and old ladies or grey-bearded men in black, whitewashed walls against sharp blue skies, windey cobbled streets, barbecued half-warm food, aubergines, and – on every level – warmth.

In the Greece of my heyday, ferries arrived when they arrived, and meals were served when the restaurant owner judged that the ambience was right.  [...]  The streets of Greece were littered with feral cats, the evenings with chance encounters and gentle musicians. Everything was chaotic in a way that chimed perfectly with the times. The last thing Greece should ever have done was start wearing red braces and go join Wall Street."

Wearing red braces and joining Wall Street...If such is required to exist in the Eurozone, how could one know which nations are More Able to wear those red braces and which are Less?

 .    .    .

Some, for example, have hinted that a widespread reticence to pay one's taxes has crippled Greece's ability to thrive in the Eurozone.  Could a generalized lack of respect for the commonweal be fatal to Eurozone membership?  Is such a lack of respect measureable?

Antigone Lyberaki and C.J. Paraskevopoulos, in their 2002 paper "Social Capital Measurement in Greece," give us some potential clues.

Corruption index:  How does Greece stack up against the rest of Europe?
(higher score = less perceived corruption)

How much do the Greeks trust the 25% of their fellow citizens who work in the Civil Service?

So in which institutions do the Greeks place their trust?

Some researchers have suggested that one can guess the probable corruption level of a country by the intensity of associative participation.  In Greece?

Could respect for the commonweal be linked to interest in the happenings of the larger society?

After nearly 30 years of receiving EU structural funds, which all were assured would create a 'levelling' effect between Greece and the countries who sent it such funds:

Links in a chain, one might be tempted to believe, to help explain a country where:

"Along street after street of opulent mansions and villas, surrounded by high walls and with their own pools, most of the millionaires living here are, officially, virtually paupers.  How so? Simple: they are allowed to state their own earnings for tax purposes, figures which are rarely challenged.

Manipulating a corrupt tax system, many of the residents simply say that they earn below the basic tax threshold of around £10,000 a year, even though they own boats, second homes on Greek islands and properties overseas.

And, should the taxman rumble this common ruse, it can be dealt with using a ‘fakelaki’ — an envelope stuffed with cash. There is even a semi-official rate for bribes: passing a false tax return requires a payment of up to 10,000 euros (the average Greek family is reckoned to pay out £2,000 a year in fakelaki.)"  [emphasis ours]

And so the Less Able-- the Less Able to run a society which respects the commonweal and pays its bills-- fall prey to the More Able:

"The EU-IMF-ECB troika 'comes and goes' every few months, but it's clear Greece will need a 'permanent, long-term supervision', German Chancellor Angela Merkel said in the Bundestag on Wednesday. She also said Greek citizens deserve the respect of Germany."

Respect, unfortunately, is earned.  By showing oneself Able.  Only the better souls among us do not end up feeling contempt for those who insist we hold their hand.  If it is a question of living on one's knees or dying on one's feet, what can one imagine the Greeks will end up choosing?

Previously:  Letting Things Slide, Colonialism Today


hbd chick said...

i can't decide if what's unfolding in greece/europe right now is part of a really grand plan, or just goes to show how incompetent europe's leaders really are.

i go back and forth between these two position several times a week ... sometimes per day. (~_^)

M.G. said...

The E.U. is run by a bunch of blank-slatists, bless their hearts. No difference in their minds between a random group of Greeks and a random group of Germans.

I don't see any nefarious plot, just the More Responsible not realizing how much they were going to have to clean up after the Less Respbonsible. It ends up looking like colonialism, but what can you do, if you want to play with the big boys it's by their rules. Keep up or get run over.