Europe’s Transition From Social Democracy to Oligarchy

As first published in Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung The easiest way to understand Europe’s financial crisis is to look at the solutions being proposed to resolve it. They are a banker’s dream, a grab bag of giveaways that few voters would be likely to approve in a democratic referendum. Bank strategists learned not to risk submitting their plans to democratic vote after Icelanders twice refused in 2010-11 to approve their government’s capitulation to pay Britain and the Netherlands for losses run up by badly regulated Icelandic banks operating abroad. Lacking such a referendum, mass demonstrations were the only way for Greek voters to register their opposition to the €50 billion in privatization sell-offs demanded by the European Central Bank (ECB) in autumn ...

Democracy and Debt

Has the Link been Broken? *This article appeared in the Frankfurter Algemeine Zeitung on December 5, 2011. Book V of Aristotle’s Politics describes the eternal transition of oligarchies making themselves into hereditary aristocracies – which end up being overthrown by tyrants or develop internal rivalries as some families decide to “take the multitude into their camp” and usher in democracy, within which an oligarchy emerges once again, followed by aristocracy, democracy, and so on throughout history. Debt has been the main dynamic driving these shifts – always with new twists and turns. It polarizes wealth to create a creditor class, whose oligarchic rule is ended as new leaders (“tyrants” to Aristotle) win popular support by cancelling the debts and redistributing property or taking ...

Reforming the U.S. Financial and Tax System

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The pretense is that privatization is more efficient. But privatizers add on interest and financial fees, high executive salaries and bonuses, and turn the roads into toll roads and other infrastructure into neofeudal fiefdoms to charge monopolistic access fees for people to use. …. So the financial sector first creates a problem by loading the economy down with debt, and then “solves” it by demanding privatization sell-offs under distress conditions.

Iceland's Fair Value Vultures

The New Bank Disaster Olafur Arnarson, Michael Hudson and Gunnar Tomasson* The problem of bank loans gone bad, especially those with government-guarantees such as U.S. student loans and Fannie Mae mortgages, has thrown into question just what should be a “fair value” for these debt obligations. Should “fair value” reflect what debtors can pay – that is, pay without going bankrupt? Or is it fair for banks and even vulture funds to get whatever they can squeeze out of debtors? The answer will depend largely on the degree to which governments back the claims of creditors. The legal definition of how much can be squeezed out is becoming a political issue pulling national governments, the IMF, ECB and other financial agencies ...

EU: Democracy Incompatible with Debt Collection

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Democracy Now Nov 3 2011 AMY GOODMAN: World leaders are gathering in Cannes for the opening of the Group of 20 summit today. That’s the G20 summit. On the top of the agenda is Greece and the European debt crisis. The Greek prime minister, George Papandreou, is coming under intense criticism from European leaders for allowing the Greek people to decide if they want to accept the conditions of a $179 billion E.U. bailout. Papandreou has announced the referendum will take place in early December, but it now looks like his government is in danger of collapsing before then. He faces a vote of no confidence tomorrow. According to polls, most Greeks are opposed to the bailout plan, and there have ...