I’m probably being a bit premature here, or perhaps my optimism is getting ahead of events (as it did when Barack Obama became President of the United States), but maybe the elections in Greece do, at last, signal a change in direction.
There is an old saying that when you’re digging yourself into a deep hole, the first thing to do is stop digging. I would say that the drive towards austerity imposed on most of the Western World and especially in Europe has been shown demonstrably not to work and the places recovering best from the recession brought onto us by the wild speculation of the financial sector are those that have most disregarded the mantra of public sector austerity. And the sector of society which has done best from the austerity measures are those who are already very well-off and have benefited disproportionately from the only expansion permitted under these regimes known as Quantitive Easing, which is essentially governments printing money for the benefit of those who can afford to sink vast amounts of money into bonds.
After all, there is a disconnect here.
It isn’t an opinion that the recession was caused by the reckless activities of the financial sector: it’s a well-documented fact. And it isn’t an opinion that the misdistribution of wealth has got worse in the last few years: that is also clearly apparent from the statistics. And it is not an opinion that those least able to shoulder the burden (and were in no way to blame for the recession) are those suffering the worst.
And yet economies throughout the world are still pursuing austerity measures as if in some mysterious way not made apparent by economic measurement of any kind it were somehow working.
So, Greece at least has said that enough is enough. The hole we’ve dug for ourselves hasn’t made things any better and indeed look likely to make things much much worse (especially if economies in the UK and elsewhere continue to squeeze the public sector while still doling out largesse to private companies who squirrel away their profits in tax havens of one kind or another).
And, of course, with regards to holes, it was John Maynard Keynes who famously advocated a policy of paying people to dig holes and fill them in again just to stimulate the job market and thereby the rest of the economy. So, why did the world economies ignore the lessons of the 1930s and choose instead to follow the monetarist creed which had failed us so spectacularly?
So, let’s hope that Syriza’s victory is the sign of things to come and that the fantasy world of monetarism and trickle-down economics can be put back into the toy cupboard where it belongs.