Power, not so much, to the people

I don’t pretend to understand the complexities and absurdities that exist in other people’s political systems: goodness knows there are enough in our own UK and devolved systems to bemuse me.  But the Italian system is especially complex with myriad parties – 13 or more had Deputies elected last time – and two big coalition blocs dominating the stage.  One belonged to Berlusconi’s lot and despite a 1% fall in the People of Freedom’s share of the vote in 2008, his party ended up with 60 more seats.  His main rival, the Democratic Party, increased its share of the vote by nearly 2% and ended up with nine fewer seats.  There will be a reason, of course.

Greece, meanwhile, is a mystery, something I may or may not get around to remedying.  For it seems that the age of austerity may have sounded the deathknell for democracy in Europe.  We don’t need to know about others’ electoral franchises or political parties or democratic institutions, because they have lost relevance: democracy it would seem, is no longer required to determine which parties and leaders should take charge.

Others have noted wryly, that while welcoming the advent of democracy in the Arab Spring, Europe seems content to travel in the opposite direction, with the appointment of two technocrats in Greece and Italy as Prime Minister.  It may produce a collective sigh of relief at the European Central Bank, in financial markets and at credit rating agencies, but it is worrying indeed, that they now hold sway over who constitutes a fit and proper person to run a country.

This is no lament for Berlusconi – ding, dong that he is dead (though his haunting the current arrangements is of concern).  And Georges Papandreou was clearly out of his depth.  So which party does the new Prime Minister of Greece, Lucas Papademos, represent?  None.  He is not elected, belongs to no party but arrives with impeccable banking credentials.  This is not a new phenomenon:  Greece has sought comfort in national unity governments before, as recently as 1989.  And this one does appear to have a time limit imposed on it, though one wonders if that will hold if the required economic turnaround does not transpire.

Mario Monti, meanwhile, has never bothered to dirty his hands with anything so base as seeking election.  He has built a political career on the back of a successful academic and public one as an economist.  Appointments by the bagful, including one as a Senator for Life, and now drafted in by the powers that be to sort out the Italian mess.  Interestingly, he has also been a consummate European, and supported closer integration.

My scepticism is not to denigrate these men’s credentials:  Greece and Italy are in dire straits, their indebtedness threatens financial armageddon on the rest of us and therefore needs to be sorted.  The concern is twofold.  First, both are clearly European establishment, and worse, financial establishment, figures.  Consequently, littlewill change.  The neo-liberal solutions proposed thus far will continue to hold sway.  What got us into this mess will continue to be the favoured option for getting us out, yet such recovery might well be a mirage.

Equally worrying is the role that the shady world of credit rating agencies now appears to play in determining the governance of states.  A flick of the wrist, downgrading a country’s credit-worthiness by a letter or a minus sign, and cue market mayhem.  They can be mighty satisfied at the impact of their influence, without anyone really knowing how and why such decisions are reached and who makes them.  Worse is the fact that no one is prepared – yet – to stand up to their assessments and challenge them.

You can see how dangerous such a state of affairs is.  The murky world of international finance is not known for its left-leaning credentials.  In recent years, the global economic consensus has been predominantly market led and driven, with fewer barriers touted to the need to generate profit.  Cutting public spending and relying on the private sector to grow is the base remedy for all our current debt ills.  Those that advocate Keynsian or New Deal style routes to growth are scoffed at, even in Scotland:  the Scottish Government’s Plan MacB is regularly pilloried by commentators like Bill Jamieson at the Scotsman.

Without more evidence to the contrary, we have to take the credit rating decisions, and their attendant impact on a country’s borrowing power, at face value.  They are the people paid to know this stuff.  And if the political leadership of a state is failing to get to grips with the problem, then heads must roll.  Some of us simply ask why it took so long for Berlusconi to be guillotined, particularly when you realise that under his stewardship, the Italian economy had one of the lowest rates of growth in the world, when everyone else in Europe was in boom territory.

But such power is heady.  The temptation to keep on rolling, and start tackling in governments not to the financial world’s political tastes, must now exist.  What happens to a government, especially a socialist one, which refuses to play ball with the accepted wisdom of how to sort out its debt mess? Or in a country like Belgium which has yet to form a government, despite party negotiations continuing now for some 519 days, and has some toxic banks threatening to undermine the Eurozone’s stability?  Why not have the European power and financial brokers step in with an appointment?

There are many reasons to be thankful that the Eurozone crisis appears to have been diverted, for now, by the appointment of Prime Ministers in Greece and Italy who appear to know what they are doing and offer a steady hand at the tiller.  But there are also plenty of reasons to be cautious about it becoming a trend.  There is a reason why democracy matters and why the power to remove and replace governments and leaders must rest with the people.


7 thoughts on “Power, not so much, to the people

  1. I have to admit I had not fully realised that this was what was happening: with only one ear tuned in to the news, I’d assumed that the Greek and Italian Prime Ministers were being replaced with other politicians, in a Margaret Thatcher > John Major or Tony Blair > Gordon Brown style. I think this is an excellent and illuminating post: it beggars belief that people subscribing to the very beliefs that led to the global financial meltdown are now being parachuted in to “fix” it all.

  2. Nick Leeson for Prime Minister anyone?

  3. I am not convinced by the argument that the problems of Greece and Italy are all due to an evil EU. Both countries, like many other countries in Europe are having to respond to decades of mismanagement and the pressures of the global financial markets. In both countries the then Prime Ministers lost the support of a majority of MPs in parliament. It would have been really undemocratic if they had somehow stayed in power. Faced with the urgency of the financial crisis the Presidents, both democratically elected and acting within the constitution, decided to see if another person could form a government with parliamentary approval. In both countries if Papademos or Monti cannot win majority support in parliament they will fall. I am not sure what is undemocratic about any of this.

    • Thoughts upon this Remembrance Sunday.

      My grandfather went to fight in Europe and stood for hours in the shallow killing grounds of Dunkirk against impossible odds. There the threat was to fall under the heel of totalitarian oppression and occupation. Then, the odds seemed impossible. But my grandfather and millions like him stood up and ignored the threats and the council of cowards who said we should sue for peace at any cost. Today our leaders are surrendering our freedom and our democracy on nothing more than the threat that the ATM machines might not work and their pensions might lose money.

  4. Western Democracy is a Financiers’ Joke
    The financial and economic crises of Europe and in the West in general are bringing new corrupt solutions and concepts. It is impossible to understand and not to be outraged by the new practices of Western “democracies”.

    One late example, in Greece and Italy the elected prime ministers and governments were forced to resign. The pressures on them didn’t come from the peoples but from the EU and from the financiers. This means that elections and the decisions made by voters are useless.

    Government cabinets and members of parliaments are no longer answerable to the people but primarily to the EU and to financiers. Sovereignty is now being sold in European and Western financial markets. It is the same old story that changed the map of Europe and toppled European systems in the in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. Did anyone learn?

    People are very concerned about the way the EU demanded austerity is being distributed; but the “democratic” politicians are only worried about the EU and financiers interests.

    The former Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou was swiftly removed just because he decided that a referendum is essential to approve the EU debt package agreement. His plan infuriated European leaders, and rocked globalist financiers. Then the proposed referendum was emphatically scraped to appease them.

    In a similar manner, the former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi of Italy was hastily ditched because he insisted that Italy will not ask for loans from the IMF. Europe and the USA are victims of the same systematic sabotage of overspending; debts; speculations; and financiers’ control for a very long time.

    Is it possible in the near future to see voting being conducted in stock exchanges rather than in voting centers?

    Western democracies on both sided of the Atlantic are influenced by financiers and not by the people. It would be better for them to rename their own form of “Democracy” to be “Finocracy”. http://tariganter.wordpress.com/2011/11/13/western-democracy-is-a-financiers%e2%80%99-joke/

  5. It is more, much more than a temporary trchnocracy, it is a silent and perhaps progressive coup d’état.

    This is an extract of Mario Monti’s Wikipedia Biog.
    He completed graduate studies at Yale University,where he studied under James Tobin, the Sveriges Riksbank Prize-winning economist.

    Monti is a Praesidium member of Friends of Europe, a leading European think tank, was the first chairman of Bruegel, a European think tank founded in 2005, and he is European Chairman of the Trilateral Commission, a think tank founded in 1973 by David Rockefeller He is also a leading member of the Bilderberg Group.

    Monti is an international adviser to Goldman Sachs and The Coca-Cola Company.

    His Greek Counterpart Lucas Papademos

    He was Governor of the Bank of Greece from 1994 to 2002 and Vice President of the European Central Bank from 2002 to 2010. He was also a visiting professor of public policy at the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University and a Senior Fellow at the Center for Financial Studies at the University of Frankfurt.

    He taught economics at Columbia University from 1975 until 1984, and then at the University of Athens from 1988 to 1993.

    He has served as Senior Economist at the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston in 1980. He joined the Bank of Greece in 1985 as Chief Economist, rising to Deputy Governor in 1993 and Governor in 1994. During his time as Governor of the national bank, Papademos was involved in Greece’s transition from the drachma to the euro as its national currency.

    So, let us understand the following

    Mario Monti has direct connections to the World Financial Debt Crises

    Lucan Papademos worked for the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston. He was head of the Bank of Greece when Greece convinced Europe that Greece would a trustworthy member of the Euro. An accession that is publically agreed by Merkel et al to have been a fraud.

    Greece hid much its public indentedness by the way of off book devices, set up by, yes, Godman Sachs with others of the same ilk.

    It gets better, Mario Draghi, the new chief at the European Central Bank is the former head of Goldman Sachs International.

    Come here, ther’s more!

    Christine Lagarde, ex Finance Minister of France and now head of the IMF was head partner the international legal firm, Baker McKenzie, based in Chicago. Baker McKenzie;s biggest billing client for manys a year is reported to have been? You guess.

    I was never a conspiracy theorist but this stinks.

    Who is next in Europe for the techocratic putsch?

    Portugal, Spain, Ireland, France?

    This all stinks

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