Labor's Pains

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Will Greece Be Ruled by the Bankers - or Its People? | Truthout

Will Greece Be Ruled by the Bankers - or Its People? Truthout

Whether voiced by German politicians or by Greek academics, the argument against popular democracy hinges on two key points: that Greece's problems fundamentally derive from politicians pandering to the demands of the citizens, and, even more importantly, that the only proper judge of what is prudent and proper as policy is "the markets." Only by appeasing the so-called markets can Greece hope to emerge from otherwise certain ruin. As such, dispassionate and pragmatically minded specialists are the ideal policymakers. Common people, blinded as they are by their self-interests, cannot be trusted, nor are they fully capable of understanding the policy necessities of the moment. The more autonomous that policymakers can be from popular pressures, the better.

Democracy in Greece (and beyond) is thus under attack on two fundamental fronts. On the one hand, and most visibly, external and internal forces are attempting to eliminate the views and demands of the Greek people from the policymaking process. In this way, experts and their technocratic ways would come to displace popular agency. Here, "democracy" would be reduced to some procedural shell, respecting the rule of law rather than the rule of the people (two years of protests, strikes and collapsing support for all of the major political parties has resulted in no modification to the austerity policies).

On the other hand, and on a much deeper level, the attack on democracy - indeed, on politics itself - is being waged through the perceived impossibility of human beings as those who actually decide questions of just and unjust, good and bad. As already noted, it is markets that are seen as the inescapable judges of which policies are necessary and proper. No political considerations can overcome them. Thus, for example, Ed Miliband, head of the Labour Party in Britain, acknowledges that if he were prime minister, he also would cut spending to decrease public debt because the "markets" demand it. It is the same in Spain: neither of the two main political parties present any alternative to following the demands of the markets. The examples of this thinking are too numerous to list. Here, the democratic principle that we as a community are autonomous (self-governing) gives way to the belief that we are governed by something other than ourselves (heteronomy). All questions about what kind of education is best, how much to tax corporations and so on down the line are now understood as decided by markets. For example, a good policy on education is one that produces individuals with the skills and capacities "demanded" by the labor market.

No comments:

Post a Comment