Monday, June 18, 2012
Three elections - freedom's not the winner
I've never seen so much televised election coverage for a Greek election, with BBC News, Sky News and CNN all providing dedicated coverage yesterday. This was an election about remaining in the Euro - Greek voters, more often than not, wanted to play it safe.
The Greek election result is clear - a country divided amongst those who are scared of losing their savings in Euros to those who want to demand other country's taxpayers support a bloated socialist state, and then a who lot of others who variously want either the government to take over and steal from the rich, steal from the foreigners, or the 1.59% who actually want less government.
So for now, Greece will live off of the back of hundreds of billions of Euros of money from taxpayers in Germany, Austria, the Netherlands, Estonia, Slovakia and other solvent parts of the Eurozone, and will attempt to survive with some spending cuts and tax rises - although the former wont be enough, and the latter will choke off the economy even more. The optimist in me hopes that Greece can actually cut its deficit, balance its budget, open its economy, cut costs and move forward. However, I suspect Greece will be racked with strikes, mass protests and continued exodus of the best and brightest, whilst the coalition between the two parties that led Greece for 30 years into this mess in the first place fractures as the vested interests both have protected fight for their cut of the borrowed bankrupt pie.
I can only hope that since New Democracy now includes a few elements in favour of less government and not increasing taxes, that the concessions that this government can get from Germany are to not increase taxes more. That at least will stop choking the private sector more (as cutting government spending is not the same as increasing taxes). Meanwhile the far left reality evaders, whose xenophobia about foreign capital doesn't extend to foreign taxpayers propping up socialist states, will continue to portray all of this as some grand conspiracy to make foreign bankers rich. Those "foreign bankers" (Golden Dawn would be proud of that rhetoric) took a 110 billion write off of Greek debt so far, meanwhile foreign taxpayers have effectively restructured most of Greece's private debt into new lower interest rate loans. However, Syriza and the leftwing xenophobic haters of capitalism just blank this out - and none have any answer as to how to bridge the gap between the Greek government's spending and its tax receipts. The newly elected Greek government must close that gap, or will face yet another judgment in a couple of years. The only way it might even hope to do that, and rescue the economy, is to let the private sector flourish by getting out of the way (and doing its proper job when it is expected to do so).
French voters have snubbed Sarkozy's party and have voted for the fancy funny land of the Socialists. The party that helped decimate the French stockmarket and chase businesses away when it was last in power in the early 1980s (as Francois Mitterand - the man who instigated the Rainbow Warrior bombing - sought to nationalise major businesses). France will now either follow the path of Greece, in strangling its already fairly stagnant economy some more, chasing its best and brightest to London, some more, or will actually face reality and introduce reforms that hitherto were too hard for the vain git Sarkozy to introduce.
France is full of myths, one is its great manufacturing sector - which as a proportion of GDP is no greater than the UK's - another it how its mixed economy staved off the worst of the financial crisis - when in fact France has parts of its economy (agriculture and the space sectors in particular) largely propped up by EU subsidies.
Higher taxes, more regulation to protect those already in jobs at the expense of those without them, and a head in the sand attitude to fiscal balance, will help ensure France continues to lose competitiveness relative to Germany and the world. It is probably a decade away from its final decisive crisis, as France's generous welfare state and corporatist monstrosity of an economic policy finally collapses in on its own contradictions. Not much liberte, not so much fraternite, and perhaps egalite of poverty.
How's this for a choice? Want an Islamist President who has vowed to respect other religions, the rights of women and the new freedoms Egyptians went on the streets for? Or do you want a President from the old guard, the old corrupt militarist regime that kept a lid on freedom of speech and ensured that its cronies were wealthy and comfortable? Half of all Egyptians chose neither. It appears that a narrow majority of the rest chose Islamism.
Some on the left in the West who rail in favour of womens' rights, secularism, tolerance, liberal values, peace for homosexuals and the like will celebrate this, to their shame. Others will share the concern with those of us elsewhere on the political spectrum.
The overriding of the parliamentary election by the judiciary may be worrying, but if the Islamist has won the Presidential election, it may give some impetus for others to vote for a new Parliament that isn't so dominated.
However, I am not hopeful. The simple reality is that democracy in Egypt is more likely than not to create a state run by those who think religion and state are the one and the same, who hold views of women (let alone gay people) as being subordinate and whose views on Jews, Christians and others who don't hold their religion are less than flattering.
The result wont be clear until Thursday, but let's be clear - it wont mean more freedom for people in Egypt.