"The fish always stinks from its head"

Time has a thoughtful interview with Alexis Tsipras, who heads the Greek left party Syriza.

On Greek corruption, and the black economy that now accounts for 30% of Greek GDP, he says his nation needs radical reform to “destroy corruption and the interconnection of political and economic power from its roots.”

But in order to contribute, the citizens want to know that these reforms will not be implemented only to those who have low incomes but those who have high incomes and come from the upper class. There is a Greek saying: “The fish always stinks from its head,” (which means, roughly, corruption starts at the top).

That Greek saying could also be a slogan for his attitude to Greece’s austerity programs and bailout terms – and it’s clear that he thinks “the head” is comprised of speculator bankers and private-sector financiers.

It’s a paradox to think Greece can stay in the euro zone if the austerity policies continue to be implemented. The austerity policy, and especially this extreme policy based on the term “internal devaluation”, is exactly what we should have avoided.

It’s the wrong prescription, the wrong medicine for the patient, because Greece has a production base with a special characteristic: 90% of the small businesses’ production, which are the foundation of the Greek economy, is not exported. It is sold on the domestic market. So, when you make a horizontal cut of the wages and the pensions, inevitably there is an impact on the consumption. Hence, 200,000 small Greek businesses have closed down! As a result, unemployment rates soared ”” nowadays, one out of two young people under 30 years old is unemployed ”” and the recession became deeper to the point that it’s the fifth consecutive year of recession and GDP lost 20 points, which has never happened before in any European country in a time of peace!

…If we continue taking this austerity medicine, and especially at a higher dose, that’s when Greece is going to be forced out of the euro. And when Greece leaves, the whole euro zone will starts wobbling.
Because if one country gets out of the euro, the next day the markets will hunt for the next one to follow in this aggressive, devaluing speculation of the bonds, which is speculated by the big hedge funds. We think that this would not be good either for Greece or for Europe.

…the problem will not be just in Greece, it will no doubt expand to the rest of Europe, because the markets have neither moral barriers nor discretion.

If you give one hand to the markets, they will devour the other one as well. They are like flocks of wild animals, driven by their instincts and the smell of blood. Hence, either there will be decisive policies which will calm them down or ”” if there will be clumsy policies of conciliation ”” the markets will devour politics in Europe and in the rest of the world.

Let me be more specific: If they stop financing Greece, it will give the green light for the markets to expand their aggressive speculation to Spain and Italy and these countries will be thrown out of the markets as well, at the beginning into the same bailout mechanism and later on out of that too. No one should think in this immature, silly way.

Sensible guy. Read the whole thing.

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Steve Hynd

Most recently I was Editor in Chief of The Agonist from Feb 2012 to Feb 2013. My blogging began at Newshoggers and I’ve had the immense pleasure of working with some great writers there and around the web ever since, including at Crooks & Liars. I'm a late 40′s, Scottish ex-pat, now married to a wonderful Texan, with Honours in Philosophy from Univ. of Stirling, UK 1986. I worked most of life in business insurance industry (fire, accident, liability) including 12 years as a broker/underwriter/correspondent at Lloyd’s of London. Being from the other side of the pond, my political interests tend to focus on how US foreign policy affects the rest of the planet. Other interests include early and dark-ages British history, literature and cognitive philosophy/science.

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