On Sunday, 05 July 2015, the Greeks voted a resounding NO! to a continuance of 7 years of painful and ineffective austerity that their bankers insisted was needed to repay their loans.
With this vote Greece may have repeated an earlier feat. The 10 tribes of Athens were ruled by a selfish and quarreling oligarchy that controlled the wealth of silver and clay deposits. In 594 BC they replaced their leader, Draco, (hence draconian) and his harsh laws with another aristocrat, Solon, getting more than they expected. Solon gained the right of common citizens to join the Assembly and forgave all their existing debts for a fresh start into what Cleisthenes in 507 BC called “Demokratia”. It was a rocky road for what was only a partial democracy. Elected generals, like Pericles in 460 BC, were again to win control. But, like the French Revolution, it was the ideas that persisted to thrive and fascinate us, at least in some modern societies.
Pathogens, from virus to human varieties, permeate our world, ready to invade wherever weakness appears. Consider Greed and Usury. It was not so long ago that Christians were denied the sin of charging interest on money they loaned to the needy. Jews were not burdened with this belief so they became the bankers of Europe which resulted in them becoming hated, but essential, citizens. It was the Rothschild family that financed Britain and Prussia’s defeat of Napoleon. Initially, Napoleon had courted the Jews, attempting to integrate them as French rather than Jewish citizens, but he did get annoyed at Jewish bankers, first cancelling all debts that carried over a 10% interest fee, then in 1806 he suspended all debts to them. This outraged the 5 Rothschild families in Britain, Germany, Italy, Austria, and France. They sealed Napoleon’s fate and resumed their control.
Denial of debts has remained with us, yet banks continue to prosper, selling loans not really needed or repayable. Much demands More, leading banks to abandon caution in loaning money, thus creating the recent financial crises the world is gradually recovering from only to see nations like Greece, Ireland, Spain, Argentina, and Portugal flounder. Joining the European Union was most rewarding economically for Ireland which then led it into a building frenzy, another bubble that burst.
Led by the United States with a debt of over $18 trillion, most countries today have dangerous national debts. Blessed by geography, that global warming is now attacking, the US has the dwindling resources to meet principal and interest payments by borrowing more money while failing to worry about the inevitable reckoning with its loss of local control..
Greece is an integral part of Europe, a continent guilty of the worst slaughters in human history. It is also the continent that brought us the Enlightenment, the Renaissance, the Commercial and Industrial Revolutions, and Human Rights. Sobering up after WWI, it created the League of Nations that failed, because of the vindictiveness of the Treaty of Versailles, to avoid WWII. A second period of sobriety brought us the United Nations and the European Union, finally ending, if we overlook Yugoslavia, inter-European wars. World security, and sanity, demands we preserve the European Union.
Yes, Greece is guilty, like many of us, of overspending, of corruption, tax evasion, bloated government, retirement with pension at age 61, and other expensive frills. But, it has endured, at the demands of its bankers, 7 years of painful and ineffective austerity that has only plunged it deeper into recession, thus denying it the possibility of reform that could correct its faults and lead to recovery.
Bankers now demand continued austerity for Greece, yet we do have sufficient examples where debt forgiveness has given birth to prosperous recovery. Some of these examples are:
In 590 BC to give democracy a good start Solon decreed a one-time forgiveness of all debt.
In 1815, after the Napoleonic wars, Europe was devastated except for the main creditor country, Britain, which forgave debts and then prospered from a recovering Europe able to purchase British goods.
In 1919 only 4 nations, Britain, US, Canada, and Argentina, emerged as creditor nations, but the US stymied the UK’s offer to again forgive debts, resulting in the vindictive Treaty of Versailles that paved the way for Hitler.
In 1953 Germany was the failed state of Europe. Creditors assembled in London and agreed to forgive half of Germany’s debt, a far-sighted move that permitted Germany’s amazing recovery.
In 2013 Detroit filed for bankruptcy, unable to pay its debts. Federal and State assistance wrote off $7 billion of this debt and a restructured city is now emerging from its crisis.
Today the future of Greece, Europe, and the World lies mainly with Angela Merkel and François Hollande. We cannot leave it only to them. With their origins in Europe, Americans, and by this I mean America, North and South, must emerge from the sidelines to help. Greece is just the most urgent problem with its 175% of GDP debt, its daily admission of thousands of destitute refugees, a humane gesture accompanied by an inability to house, feed, or employ them. This, also, is a world problem.
Greece must never be forced out of the European Union. Russia also needs to be part of it, but that is another story - yet all need to ensure a stable Europe as an example to an unstable Middle East, next door to Greece.
Now a nation of 11 million people, Greece became independent of the Ottoman Empire in 1829. It was invaded by Italy in 1940, occupied by Germany, 1941-44, endured post-war civil war until 1949, joined NATO in 1952, fell into military dictatorship in 1967, re-established democracy in 1974, joined the EU in 1982, and the euro zone in 2001. Tourism, ship building, maritime commerce, as well as lignite, petroleum, bauxite, iron, lead, zinc, magnesite, and marble, deposits, plus hydro-electric prospects have all contributed to its economy . So, there is no need to worry that Greece does not have the wherewithal to prosper.
Ye Olde Scribe, 06 July 2015