Failure is success, austerity is prosperity, and neoliberalism is sound economics

“I can think of no depression, ever,” wrote Joseph Stiglitz, “that has been so deliberate and had such catastrophic consequences.”[1] The economic program imposed on Greece has been (and was forecast to be) disastrous.[2] The disaster, however, is irrelevant:

“A currency union in which one partner says, ‘I don’t care, I won’t do anything and I won’t stick to anything which has been agreed,’ cannot work,” [German finance minister Wolfgang Schäuble] said. “Trust and dependability are a basic condition when it comes to institutions.” Since the current government in Athens took power on Jan. 25, things have worsened “by the day and by the hour,” he said.[3]

Even 25 percent unemployment[4] does not move neoliberal ideologues. Greeks are supposed to abide by their agreements, even as austerity, which cannot be demonstrated to have worked, ever, in well over three hundred years, despite the centuries of enamored elites,[5] fails yet again. “All of those [austerity policies] are political successes that we reached together,” [German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s spokesman Steffen] Seibert said. “They all helped to put Europe in a more secure, improved position.”[6]

Economic arguments, [Raoul Ruparel, co-director of Open Europe, a research group in London] added, have “often been on Greece’s side” in its complaints about the pain inflicted by austerity “but this has never been about economics but politics” in a system in which Greece is just one of 19 democratic countries, each with its own voters, that use the euro.[7]

There is no surer proof that austerity, an economic ideology that includes neoliberalism and nearly all the variations on capitalism that precede it,[8] is an ideology than when failure, even failure on the scale of Greece, is called success. And there is no greater proof of the danger of economics than when economic ideology is more important than human lives.[9]

Update, July 7, 2015: Simon Wren-Lewis reaches a similar conclusion by a different route—and it’s damning.[10] Read his article here.

  1. [1]Joseph Stiglitz, “How I would vote in the Greek referendum,” Guardian, June 29, 2015, http://www.theguardian.com/business/2015/jun/29/joseph-stiglitz-how-i-would-vote-in-the-greek-referendum
  2. [2]Paul Krugman, “Weimar on the Aegean,” New York Times, February 16, 2015, http://www.nytimes.com/2015/02/16/opinion/paul-krugman-weimar-on-the-aegean.html
  3. [3]Alison Smale and Andrew Higgins, “Angela Merkel Faces Monumental Test of Leadership After Greek Vote,” New York Times, July 6, 2015, http://www.nytimes.com/2015/07/07/world/europe/angela-merkel-faces-monumental-test-of-leadership-after-greek-vote.html
  4. [4]Jim Yardley and Liz Alderman, “Greece Chooses Anti-Austerity Party in Major Shift,” New York Times, January 25, 2015, http://www.nytimes.com/2015/01/26/world/europe/greek-election-syriza.html; Matt O’Brien, “No matter what, Greece will suffer for years,” Washington Post, June 30, 2015, http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/wonkblog/wp/2015/06/30/no-matter-what-greece-will-suffer-for-years/
  5. [5]Mark Blyth, Austerity: The History of a Dangerous Idea (Oxford, UK: Oxford University, 2013).
  6. [6]Jim Yardley and Liz Alderman, “Greece Chooses Anti-Austerity Party in Major Shift,” New York Times, January 25, 2015, http://www.nytimes.com/2015/01/26/world/europe/greek-election-syriza.html; Matt O’Brien, “No matter what, Greece will suffer for years,” Washington Post, June 30, 2015, http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/wonkblog/wp/2015/06/30/no-matter-what-greece-will-suffer-for-years/
  7. [7]Alison Smale and Andrew Higgins, “Angela Merkel Faces Monumental Test of Leadership After Greek Vote,” New York Times, July 6, 2015, http://www.nytimes.com/2015/07/07/world/europe/angela-merkel-faces-monumental-test-of-leadership-after-greek-vote.html
  8. [8]Mark Blyth, Austerity: The History of a Dangerous Idea (Oxford, UK: Oxford University, 2013).
  9. [9]Nikolia Apostolou, “Athens suicide: a cry for dignity from downtrodden,” Christian Science Monitor, April 5, 2012, http://www.csmonitor.com/World/Europe/2012/0405/Athens-suicide-a-cry-for-dignity-from-downtrodden-video; Democracy Now! “General Strike Sweeps Europe as Millions Reject Austerity as Solution to Economic Crisis,” November 14, 2012, http://www.democracynow.org/2012/11/14/general_strike_sweeps_europe_as_millions; Deutschewelle, “Pensioner’s suicide triggers Greek austerity protests,” April 5, 2012, http://www.dw.de/pensioners-suicide-triggers-greek-austerity-protests/a-15860196; Teo Kermeliotis, “Austerity drives up suicide rate in debt-ridden Greece,” CNN, April 6, 2012, http://www.cnn.com/2012/04/06/world/europe/greece-austerity-suicide/index.html?_s=PM:EUROPE; Nigel Morris, “Spike in suicide rate in Europe and US linked to financial crisis,” Independent, September 18, 2013, http://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/health-and-families/health-news/spike-in-suicide-rate-in-europe-and-us-linked-to-financial-crisis-8822729.html; Barbie Latza Nadeau, “Debt Most Deadly: Recession and Austerity Fuel Suicide in Italy,” Newsweek, June 18, 2012, http://mag.newsweek.com/2012/06/17/debt-most-deadly-recession-and-austerity-fuel-suicide-in-italy.html; Lynn Stuart Parramore, “Crisis to Suicide: How Many Have to Die Before We Kill the False Religion of Austerity?” Alternet, April 16, 2012, http://www.alternet.org/story/155012/crisis_to_suicide%3A_how_many_have_to_die_before_we_kill_the_false_religion_of_austerity; David Stuckler and Sanjay Basu, “How Austerity Kills,” New York Times, May 12, 2013, http://www.nytimes.com/2013/05/13/opinion/how-austerity-kills.html; David Stuckler and Sanjay Basu, “Paul Krugman’s right: Austerity kills,” Salon, May 19, 2013, http://www.salon.com/2013/05/19/paul_krugmans_right_austerity_kills/
  10. [10]Simon Wren-Lewis, “Why Germany wants rid of Greece,” Mainly Macro, July 7, 2015, http://mainlymacro.blogspot.com/2015/07/why-germany-wants-rid-of-greece.html

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