Friday, June 8, 2012

News from the cradle of democracy…


“I say, I say, I say, what’s that you have there?”

“A Greek urn”

“What’s a Greek urn?”

“Oh, about a hundred quid a day”

If only.

A nice economist came to talk to us the other day about the Euro crisis. Her thesis was that,in essence, the Greek economy produces almost nothing and imports almost everything. Furthermore, there is a conflict between the rich who tend not to pay taxes and the poor who therefore bear the brunt of any fiscal measures required. And the Germans have been bankrolling the whole system for reasons which make good profits for the bankers but little sense to the voters. She was very witty.

Not sure how well this went down in our Athens offices.

She made the point that most people know what needs to be done, but any government that tries to do it is likely to find itself out of office in short order. The technocrats who have been parachuted in to some countries have been doing a pretty good job, but will be turfed out before the job can be completed.

The real problem, in short, is democracy.

I’m not sure I can go along with this. Last time the world economy melted down, the nations of the developed world tended to turn away from democracy. That did not turn out well. And that is why the institutions of Europe are being set up. The challenge is to preserve democracy through the crisis. Even if it means that things need to get much worse before the people can accept what needs to be done.

The Storm Cone

THIS is the midnight—let no star
Delude us—dawn is very far.
This is the tempest long foretold—
Slow to make head but sure to hold.

Stand by! The lull ’twixt blast and blast
Signals the storm is near, not past;
And worse than present jeopardy
May our forlorn to-morrow be.

If we have cleared the expectant reef,
Let no man look for his relief.
Only the darkness hides the shape
Of further peril to escape.

It is decreed that we abide
The weight of gale against the tide
And those huge waves the outer main
Sends in to set us back again.

They fall and whelm. We strain to hear
The pulses of her labouring gear,
Till the deep throb beneath us proves,
After each shudder and check, she moves!

She moves, with all save purpose lost,
To make her offing from the coast;
But, till she fetches open sea.
Let no man deem that he is free!