News & Analysis
Greeks Won't Pay, No Matter What
"I won't pay" movement spreads across Greece ... They blockade highway toll booths to give drivers free passage. They cover subway ticket machines with plastic bags so commuters can't pay. Even doctors are joining in, preventing patients from paying fees at state hospitals. Some call it civil disobedience. Others a freeloading spirit. Either way, Greece's "I Won't Pay" movement has sparked heated debate in a nation reeling from a debt crisis that's forced the government to take drastic austerity measures – including higher taxes, wage and pension cuts, and price spikes in public services. – MSNBC.com
Dominant Social Theme: Everything's cool. Let the Greek's have "their moment."
Free-Market Analysis: It has long been our contention – stated many times – that the tribes of Europe would not take kindly to the austerity measures that have been imposed on Europe, especially the PIGS – Europe's Southern countries. We've made the argument that the tribes of Europe are ancient and are the descendants of the hordes that swept over Rome. These citizens of Europe actually belong to specific clans and ethnic groups and so long as the EU promised prosperity, they were glad to participate. Now, however, there is not very much that is positive about belonging to the EU, and the unrest in our view is growing.
Strangely, not much of it is being reported, or not in a regular fashion. Mainstream Western media has moved on to cover the revolutions in the Middle East and Africa and left Europe behind for the moment. It is of course a kind of dominant social theme: Europe has taken some blows but is on the mend; austerity takes some getting used to, but the citizens of Europe will deal with it for the greater good.
We're not so sure. The Anglo-American power elite has driven the Western world to ruin with its central banking scheme; it may believe that between food-scarcity and job-scarcity, Europeans will now be less apt to resist increased militarism abroad and increased global centralization. But we have always believed in the era of the Internet that such manipulations are increasingly transparent and apt to be less tolerated. In tracking the news – as meme-hunters do – we see increased evidence that pushback is occurring on several fronts.
There were of course the British student riots that received a great deal of attention before winter truly settled in. But in Greece, protests continue and are spreading without much mainstream news coverage. Irish voters just threw out their government over EU austerity deal and Iceland – not an EU member to be sure – resisted pressure to bail out its banks and is evidently doing better economically than Ireland. In this article, we'll examine these trends further.
The Greek I Won't Pay movement has not received much mainstream attention, but it is spreading in Greece nonetheless. (See article exerpt above.) Protestors are often clad in vests with the words "total disobedience" stitched to the back and chant: "We won't pay for their crisis!" MSNBC also reports that doctors at state hospitals are blockading the pay counters so that patients will not pay the required €5 for their visits.
Critics, on the other hand, are lashing out at the behavior. The MSNBC article quotes columnist Dionysis Gousetis of Kathimerini: "The course from initial lawlessness to final wanton irresponsibility is like a spreading cancer ... Now, with the crisis as an alibi ... the freeloaders don't hide. They appear publicly and proudly and act like heroes of civil disobedience. Something like Rosa Parks or Mahatma Gandhi."
Prime Minister George Papandreou is reported to have said the following in a Parliamentary address: "You think that lawlessness is something revolutionary, which helps the Greek people ... It is the lawlessness which we have in our country that the Greek people are paying for today." Papandreou has been the guiding force behind Greece's austerity reorganization, which has included the use of loans from the EU and a good deal of public spending reduction. Perhaps the most high profile part of the austerity plan has been the aggressive tax collection that the administration has embarked upon. Some estimates peg tax evasion as costing the country up to US$30 billion.
Various laws have been passed to give the government more power to collect taxes. Greece has, for instance, made cash transactions greater than 1500 euros illegal, to ensure there are paper trails for various transactions. Government agents have been taking high altitude photographs of Greek houses to determine how many swimming pools are going untaxed. A crack government tax team has been created and empowered to do what is necessary to ensure that Greeks comply with tax law.
With all this effort however, has come little success, one year on. In fact, the Greek government has seen so little increased revenue that it has now set up an amnesty program that allows taxpayers to settle arrears with 55 cents on the euro. This, too, has enraged critics who believe the amnesty program contradicts the law-and-order message that the Greek government ought to be sending.
Let us leave Greece for a moment – for Ireland. Recent elections tossed out Ireland's Fianna Fail party, and resoundingly, with Fianna Fail losing some two-thirds of its parliamentary seats ... an austerity protest vote. The victor, Enda Kenny of the Fine Gael party ran on a platform to amend the Irish bailout and the stiff austerity measures it imposed. On the same day that he declared victory, Kenny announced that he'd already been in touch with EU leaders about renegotiating the terms of the 85-billion-euro ($115-billion) EU-IMF bailout.
The hotly fought contest included comparisons to Iceland, a similarly small country in fraught circumstances, but one that has resisted pressure to "bail out" its loss-making banks after the crash of 2008. Ireland, the US and other countries reliquified their banks; Iceland put them in receivership and let the creditors – not the taxpayers – take the losses. At the time, the krona plunged by 58 percent, inflation shot up and GDP fell sharply. The results sank the government and the Prime Minister resigned.
But this year, the economy is projected to grow by some three percent and the country's reorganized banks are thriving. Employment is up as well. No less a personage than Nobel laureate Joseph Stiglitz approves: "Ireland's done all the wrong things, on the other hand," he's quoted as saying in a recent New Zealand Herald article on the subject. "That's probably the worst model." Ireland, in fact, has propped up its ailing banks with some €46 billion so far, and no end in sight.
Iceland still has to deal with repaying debts to Britain and the Netherlands left over from the financial crisis. The country will hold a second referendum on repayment of some $5 billion owed to Britain and the Netherlands from savers who lost money in Icesave accounts when Icelandic bank Landsbanki collapsed.
There is of course a sentiment in the Libertarian community that austerity is good for Southern Europe because these governments have been profligate for too long. This is not an entirely correct perspective in our view. The EU basically bribed Southern European elites to join the union by issuing funds that were supposed to correct economic imbalances. But these funds merely found their way into the pockets of the top politicos and businesspeople in these countries.
Western central banks also inflated generously in the 2000s, and one has to wonder how the EU managed to conduct so much of its house-cleaning just before the collapse. It's almost as if the Eurocrats knew what was going to happen and tidied up the union as much as possible before it did. The middle classes were "promoted" into the EU before the collapse, but now middle-class tax dollars are flowing into bank coffers as the Southern PIGS struggle to pay back enormous loans that again benefited a few at the expense of many. Austerity is just one more elite manipulation, neither inevitable nor fair.
Conclusion: We would argue that in the era of the Internet, too many within Europe's fractious tribes understand only too well what has taken place. We shall see what the Spring holds. In the meantime, there is the German referendum on the constitutionality of the bailout. There are plots and subplots within what seems to be a continued EU unraveling; but the most important one – not being covered by the media currently – is the continued and growing dissatisfaction with status quo. The ramifications, economic and otherwise, are most significant.
Posted by Mike on 03/05/11 04:29 AM
Papandreou is just a puppet who is paid well to do what he does. He has no will on his own (same every other greek potician). It doesn't matter what they claim to be socialist, communist or whatever. They are paid extra by corporations to work together behind the curtains.
also voting is another sad story, becouse most people vote someone becouse they promised to do them a favour ( find them jobs, give them loans, make legal some actions of private interest (sounds like mafia). Politians change potitions every 4 years just to make the public believe there will be a change.
Prime ministers of Greece ; George Papandreou A'- k. Karamanlis A " Andreas Papandreou " K. Karamanlis B' " George Papandreou B
It's more like Kings than prime ministers. It seems their grand children will still rule our grand children.
Everyone knows that Greece will never be able to pay for the dept. How could she, almost everything belongs to private corporations (even the tolls on public roads, Ports, Airports, bridges,) even the Museum of Acropolis is by 50% private. The taxes they collect couldn't even pay the interest. The unemployment has reached dangerous levels and the jobs available are extremely limited ( I am a scientist and I had to work as a warehouse worker 6 hours a day for 350 euros a month!)
In my oppinion euro will leave greece in the next months and devaluation will be the only road but this will bring the prices even higher and will make things worse for the people (correct me if I am wrong)
ps Unfortunatelly the majotity of todays greek people have nothing to do with the ancient wise ones and todays greek culture is more like a culture of the sewers compared to the old one
I am sorry for the hard lanquage I used but I hope everything I said gives you a bigger picture about the contitions in todays Greece.
Posted by VCommission on 03/05/11 12:02 AM
Posted by Mike on 03/04/11 10:51 PM
Things would never reach this point for Greece if the corruption of politicians didn't exist at this high level. The polititians have passed a law that says no politician will ever go to jail or been accused no matter what he does!
They have accepted many huge loans the past years recieving their off-record profit for each one and the money never went to the benefit of the country, instead they went to help banks, corporations, and the very rich become richer.
Besides that there were big political scandals like a secret contract between the goverment and big corporation like siemens, selling big public lands to private interests, scandals about the economic power of the church that owns the 1/5 of the greek land (including night clubs, hotels...)
Greek people didn't even know how big the dept was 3 years ago, becouse the prime minister Karamanlis was lying about the economic conditions of the country. Beside the above the politicians have stole billions from the public for their own wallet and when they were asked where did the money go?
They always say there is an investigation going on and soon we will know. But after a year or so the ''investigation'' stops becouse there is a law that says after some times the political crimes are deleted.
I could fill a whole book of 500 pages with the politic corruption in Greece, but thats way the people is angry about it and the whole movement "I won't pay" started!
The Greek democracy is nothing more than a mafia of the rich who have put the poor people in a big dept over the last 100 years.
They put some of their own people relatives, friends, or corrupted partners to work in the public 1/3 of the greeks while the average greek must work 10 hours a day for 570 euros while paying huge taxes and buys everything at incredebly high prices compared to the wage!
When Papandreou threatens people for not paying a ticket and accuses them for the current contition, while HE has stolen millions. the anger of the people rises even higher. Every new born children, every child and every greek citizen is doomed to be a slave for the rest of his life, thanx to the mafia elite who became richer by selling them to the united banks.
ps sorry for my english,
It's great to have an online newspaper like this one, good work.
Reply from The Daily Bell
We are very sorry for the Greek people. We wonder why they have not voted Papandreou out. He is supposed to be a socialist, but he has not even represented his own constituency - the unions - adequately.
And turning Greece into a mini-Britain complete with spy technology to identify swimming pools that need to be taxed has only aggravated he situation in our view. The Greek culture is very old and wise in a tribal way. Eventually it would seem Greece will sever ties with the EU.
Certainly what the EU and Germany have in mind for Greece is not very pleasant. You could say it verges on a kind of existential and endless national torture.
So ... get out of the euro. Devalue. Go your own way. That is what the Greeks ought to be insisting on.
Posted by Michael on 03/03/11 04:34 AM
Rioting seems to be Click to view link's catching on. When the dog days of summer arrive I expect things will be heating up in Europe. With a new finacial emergency building and the likelyhood of QE3 waiting in the wings anything is possible. Rmember the NWO's motto "Order out of chaos"
Posted by Erik Van Der Vercis on 03/02/11 08:58 PM
It's really sad seeing what's happening in Greece and other countries. The Germans are pushing for harder austerity but they do not understand that Greeks are left with nothing to pay back. You know that in the past years Germany had a lot of benefits from the Greek economy, they earned massive amounts of money.
All the telecommunications, train(rail systems) and various energy companies are German and are pumping money from Greece and other countries back to Germany. Just take SIEMENSE as an example, only this company alone leached billions from Greece. Yet Germany has an attitude towards Greece of "We're helping you by lending you money and you're not paying them back" (which are by the way are with huge interest rates on top). For me that's hypocrisy.
I don't if leaving the Eurozone would help Greece, maybe not. But the elites have to understand that with the current bail-out system they are simply doomed to fail. That makes sense... because if you rob someone and take up to 95% of his wealth the next day you'll be able to get only 5% and the day after tomorrow there's simply. NOTHING (0,000000000000000%)
Posted by Leonardo Pisano on 03/02/11 05:41 AM
@Ian // Posted on 3/2/2011 1:36:20 AM
"I live in a country with a soaring economy, low unemployment rates, a real estate market that defies gravity, investment interest rates (6.25% at call; more for term) that would make an Englishman or American weep with envy and a hedonistic life-style and social security benefits that bring in, literally, boatlaods of people to our glistening shores.
I think I can fly. All this freedom, all this fresh air around me, no worries, awesome! [camera zooms out] Oops, I am falling from a skyscraper....
Reply from The Daily Bell
The comment did seem a bit "hyper."
Posted by Ian on 03/02/11 01:36 AM
Slighty off-topic: I'm a recent subscriber to DB and appreciate the in-depth analysis and thoughtful & intelligent comments. Great stuff!
However, it's as if I'm observing from another planet as all this bad stuff going on in the world does not affect me in the least.
I live in a country with a soaring economy, low unemployment rates, a real estate market that defies gravity, investment interest rates (6.25% at call; more for term) that would make an Englishman or American weep with envy and a hedonistic life-style and social security benefits that bring in, literally, boatlaods of people to our glistening shores.
Some of us choose not to work at-all and go on life-time unemployment benefits or switch to a physical disability scheme at the mere hint of a bad back, courtesy of a kind doctor (the Greeks could learn a thing or two from us!)
Life is comfortable, life is good, work is optional and one looks at the cruel world 'out there' and wonders why they can't be more like us...
Perhaps DB might like to do an article on our good fortune, here in Australia?
Reply from The Daily Bell
"I live in a country with a soaring economy, low unemployment rates, a real estate market that defies gravity, investment interest rates (6.25% at call; more for term) that would make an Englishman or American weep with envy and a hedonistic life-style and social security benefits that bring in, literally, boatlaods of people to our glistening shores."
Posted by Sid on 03/01/11 10:34 PM
As far as the future of the EU is concerned I believe you are barking up the wrong tree.Forget Greece & Ireland for the moment.The real knock-out blow to the EU will come from the Arab/Moslem world to the south & east.The Moslem Middle-East may be blowing up into a huge region of failed states,from Morocco to Pakistan.
Consider that they are all Medieval,pre-industrial, societies ruled by small western oriented elites.
A vast majority of the population are poor,ignorant & Jihad crazy peasants who are held on a leash by these elites.Bad harvests,increased commodity demands from China & India,& wild inflation caused by Helicopter Ben's printing press will force mass starvation in the region.
The mobs will run wild in hunger riots,the wealthy & educated will leave with their loot.The land will be left,for the most part,
with the semi-literate underclasses left to fend for themselves.
Europe will lose it's major trading partner,the Arabs,& will end up with $300.00 oil!This will bust the EU faster than any problems with Ireland or Greece!
Posted by KarenQT on 03/01/11 10:10 PM
The Greeks have the right idea.........We've all been sold a bill of goods and indoctrinated into unlawful, yet legal systems meant to strip us of everything so the few can rule. Time to rise to the occasion of Peaceful Resistance....just like these brave Greek people. We're calling for a massive global strike and boycott beginning April 15 through the weekend....or..??? If we prepare with food, water, survival gear and what we need to protect ourselves, "We the People" can REFUSE to go along with the now agenda. Don't Buy, Don't Comply, Ask Why..? Click to view link
Posted by Perlhaqr on 03/01/11 07:27 PM
"iThe middle classes were "promoted" into the EU before the collapse, but now middle-class tax dollars are flowing into bank coffers as the Southern PIGS struggle to pay back enormous loans that again benefited a few at the expense of many. Austerity is just one more elite manipulation, neither inevitable nor fair./i"
Sounds a lot like the IMF article from the other day. Large corporations and wealthy governments make large loans to poorer countries, the money mostly gets pocketed by their friends at the top, and then everyone screams about how the people on the bottom of the pile have all this debt now, the lazy pikers.
Posted by W.Palmer on 03/01/11 02:36 PM
I have to sympathize with the Greek people. They were promised, no matter how benevolent the pension or state benefits, they were assured that it would be paid to them and would all come to pass, the contributions were taken from them and now of course the coffers are empty. Well the money is somewhere, it's just not where it should be. Try Switzerland...
Western governments should pay a lot of attention to this. Back in the 50's and 60's we were promised and assured the same, paid the contributions, now I don't want to hear that my pension and care is not available. I, like the Greeks, and everyone else has arranged my life in accordance with these promises, paid the taxes and kept up with the premiums. So..... Pay up or else.. and to all these lying politicians, if you cant meet the promises, don't make them. Nobody believes you anyhow.
Posted by Shane on 02/28/11 10:21 PM
Greeks, like every other people, simply respond to incentives. If govt is gonna hand out "freebies"...people are gonna line up for their 'fair' share.
What is the real difference between Greek govt employees raising heck about their entitlements being targeted and those in the USA? Between British students getting angry at their subsidies being cut and Americans doing the same?
People all over the West have succumbed to socialism's siren call. Everyone now thinks they're 'entitled' to live w/o producing. Everyone has been trained in govt schools/indoctrination centers to worship govt.
I would suggest this is the inevitable course of govt...EVERY govt is inherently socialistic in that they ALL nationalize specific landmasses and EVERYTHING w/i these landmasses--with the nationalization of PEOPLE being the most disgusting and immoral act of all.
IMHO, no one who is a true libertarian can sanction the existence of an organization that functions on the premise that it has the divine-right to threaten, steal from, and kill people under the guise of promoting justice, peace, and guarding property.
Posted by Bionic Mosquito on 02/28/11 09:02 PM
"All of you are clueless, have no idea of monetary or fiscal policies, no understanding of the banking Pozi [sic] scheme. No knowledge of fundementals [sic], no solutions"
DB: "Yours are?"
He is a green-backer " funny for someone named "Moneylender."
He posted his solution at Moneylender on 2/28/2011 10:09:19 AM in this thread above. The standard "Lincoln was a monetary genius" drivel.
Reply from The Daily Bell
Thanks. Each to his own ...
Posted by Geoff Masen on 02/28/11 08:38 PM
"...no solutions" "Step one: dismantle insolvent banks.". What say you?
Posted by George on 02/28/11 07:53 PM
Don't you think it is a bit simplistic to dismiss a whole nation as "lazy"? The Greeks were just given free money through government spending (and debt). How do you expect the average Greek (or Italian, or Dutch or whatever) to understand how public debt works, and how it creates a false feeling of development? One of the purposes of this blog, I believe, is to explain this mechanism that transfers wealth from the poor to the rich. What we see in Greece today, is just the last phase of this process. This is what I believe. A similar thing will happen in the US and the UK for example, by printing more money.
The big state was able to hire a lot of public servants (and waste money on various projects) because it was able to increase the debt and nobody stopped it from doing so.
Probably a similar thing would happen if there was no EU, the Greek state would just inflate their own currency.
Posted by Moneylender on 02/28/11 07:01 PM
All of you are clueless, have no idea of monetary or fiscal policies, no understanding of the banking Pozi scheme. No knowledge of fundementals, no solutions
Reply from The Daily Bell
Posted by Ralphus Lucius on 02/28/11 05:41 PM
For the past four years I have spent six months annually living and working in Athens. And I have often been amused at a favorite Greek habit that favors breaking rules as much as possible. This is manifested daily in small things " illegal parking, jaywalking, and tax evasion whenever possible.
Greeks are all too aware of the massive corruption that requires small envelopes to minor officials just to conduct everyday affairs, like getting a driver's license without having to wait, or getting to see a certain doctor ahead of everyone else. It's long been part of Greek life. In recent days an almost bitterweet reality has crept in. Many expect " or at least are hoping for " a complete abandonment of the Euro by the end of March, with a return to the Drachma. All will be better, the thinking goes. Screw the EU " a bad idea in the first place.
Some are calling for Germany to return all the gold that was stolen during Nazi occupation. Of course, there is general revulsion of Western banks and the IMF, and the usual cast of suspicious Anglosphere characters who, it is believed, plundered the treasury as so many interlopers have plundered over the ages.
For the wealthy here, no worries. Money has longed ago been moved out of Greek banks. Greek shipping will likely survive another 5000 years into the future.
Yet it may be the birthplace of democracy that launches a chaotic Euro collapse. From a place where Western culture sprung, it is almost fitting. Somehow I think most here will adapt and survive just fine.
Posted by Leonardo Pisano on 02/28/11 05:32 PM
Sadly, indeed, when the system fails at some near point in the future, the conclusion will not be that the system itself is faulty, but that more control is needed....
Posted by Bionic Mosquito on 02/28/11 05:27 PM
Very good post. Thank you for this.
"Why isn't this side of the story being disseminated more widely?"
Wouldn't want to alert the masses to the possibility that they have some power, would we?
Posted by William3 on 02/28/11 04:56 PM
If the EU were to disengage and the euro dissolve, one might assume each European country would attempt to re-establish its previous national currency. But would they also automatically revert to a central banking scheme?
The more citizens learn about what's behind their current misery, the less likely they would want the old system back. But much will depend on how well the elite is able to shift blame to the "big banks" (and convincingly "punish" them with new regulations) while disguising the real culprits -- central banking and government itself.
The elite may have already conceded that the EU will fall, and their plans for global dominance will be set back at least for now. But they are unlikely to forgo the holy grail, central banking, so easily. I wouldn't be surprised to see elite-backed plans (disguised as anti-EU campaigns) emerge soon to promote establishing central banks in EU member countries.
Meme watching is a curious thing.