Someone said: “if redistribution of the wealth becomes acceptable in Greece, who would want to invest there?”
I understand what they say. I understand the logic behind it. It’s the classical logic of the free market ideology, which I am also quite familiar with — after all, this was the theory of economics that we were thought in school. For years, I thought that this is economy itself. That there is no other way, those are the rules, like the laws of nature.
Nowadays, after reading through many books on alternative economic theories and global-free-market-criticisms, I see the issue a bit nuanced. So let me offer you an alternative view (for references, see the post called Suggested reading) — then you can decide if you like it or not, and why. After all, the most important thing I learned while reading about contemporary politics and economy, is that — similar to e.g. physics — all observed events can (and do) have multiple interpretations. So I give you another one.
Let us forget about corruption for a moment, just because it is easier to discuss the economical forces that operate without taking corruption into account. (I will treat it as a perturbation, if you like the physics-analogy). So we have this free-market ideology, which actually did NOT originate as a natural form of capitalism during history, but rather as a theory born in the 1970s. Its measures were first implemented by e.g. Ronald Reagan in the US and Margaret Teacher in the UK. The free-market ideology (or neoliberalism or neoconservativism) says that in order for the economy to function well, there should be no government intervention to the market. The best is if everything is privatized, including public transportation, health-care, pension, the energy and water sector, and of course all the industry and agriculture. The more privatized everything, and the more cuts of the public sphere is introduced, the better and more healthy it is for the economy. Because, at least in theory, then the market will become balanced, and supply-demand would create a healthy equilibrium.
At least in theory. Now, after several decades of experimenting this idea of self-balancing free-market out (which was never a naturally occurring phenomenon, but a paper-and-pencil theory born in the ’70s by some economist professors, who — some people claim — had strong connections to big corporations…), we can clearly see how the theory works in one country after another. The overall result of the public cuts and extreme privatizations everywhere is that the wealthy gets even more wealthy and the poor gets even more poor. The scissor is opening as a result of these policies throughout the globe. China, Brazil, Argentina, Russia (after the collapse of the SU), even the US, the scissor has opened since the neoliberal/neoconservative policies were introduced.
Let me put this straight: before the neoconservative policies, there were capitalism in the US, too. But that pre-Reagan version of capitalism had quite strong state-intervention, they had public health-care, pension and stuff. Other countries, like Brazil and Argentina, used to have strong national economy, due to which they were developing very fast and effectively. But since free-market policies were introduced, the result now is mass-poverty and an ultra-rich upper-class, as well as multinational companies gaining astronomical profits from investing to these countries’ free markets.
Additionally, and this is even more alarming, unlimited free trade has lead to accelerated rates on the global warning: after all, if the freedom of the market is more important than, for example, local businesses or environmental concerns, no wonder that corporations invest in dirty energy sources like fossil fuel. If the people are poor and exploited and the politicians are lobbied well enough (which is, at least in the US, is legal at some extent), no one would be there to say no to extreme environmental destruction and rising CO2 emissions coming from and by the giant corporations.
About corruption. There is corruption everywhere, no matter which economic model a county follows. There was corruption in the Soviet Union, there is corruption in the US and in Germany, everywhere. Corruption can deepen a crisis, that’s true. It probably did deepen it in Greece. But this Greek crisis is not only a result of corruption. According to this alternative interpretation, it’s more than that: it’s the result of an economic model, the ‘free-market-above-everything’ concept, which all the world’s leading economists and politicians believe is the only way — but in fact turned out to be disastrous for many reasons (see a few above).
Looking at it from this perspective, what the Greek people just did is extraordinary. They said they don’t want to have the neoconservative type of economy imposed on them, which would come with accepting the troika’s terms. This model exploits workers, destroys the public sphere, re-distributes wealth in the direction of the already-rich, destroys the environment, and serves the best interest of the multinational corporations and not the people.
All this is an alternative interpretation of the things that are happening in the world. I don’t want to tell you which interpretation to believe, I cannot even say if any of this is indeed true. I read some very well-researched books about it, and I liked it as an alternative hypothesis which, in my opinion, would better serve us if we really want to, you know, erase poverty and fight climate change effectively. :)