Jun 282015
 June 28, 2015  Posted by at 9:59 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , ,

Harris&Ewing Red Cross Motor Corps, Washington, DC 1917

Just another normal morning at the Automatic Earth. Shaking off the local drink – when in Rome.. – and perusing a thousand views and pieces, many on the inevitable topic of ‘Da Referendum’. And I got to say, I can’t even tell whether it’s just me, but there is this huge divide between what a simple vote can and should be, and how it is perceived and presented.

And no, it’s not my ouzo-riddled stupor, it’s what common sense I have left that has me wondering what causes the divide. Case in point, Bloomberg has a piece called “Tsipras Asking Grandma to Figure Out If Greek Debt Deal Is Fair”. The implied connotation being that asking grandma about anything other than knitting patterns and souvlaki recipes is asking for trouble. What does she know? Politics should be decided by politicians. Well, and bankers of course. And Bloomberg editors. Did I mention economists?

Tsipras Asking Grandma to Figure Out If Greek Debt Deal Is Fair

Economists with PhDs and hedge-fund traders can barely stay on top of the vagaries of Greece’s spiraling debt crisis. Now, try getting grandma to vote on it. That’s what Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras is doing by calling a snap referendum for July 5 on the latest bailout package from creditors.

The 68-word ballot question namechecks four international institutions and asks voters for their opinion on two highly technical documents that weren’t made public before the referendum call and were only translated into Greek on Saturday. Worse, they may no longer be on the table. IMF chief Christine Lagarde told the BBC late on Saturday that “legally speaking, the referendum will relate to proposals and arrangements which are no longer valid.”

Tsipras’s decision means everyone from fishermen to taxi-drivers and factory workers will have to form an opinion on the package, with their country’s economic future hanging in the balance. A rejection of the bailout terms could lead to an exit from the euro area and economic calamity; accepting them would probably keep Greece in the euro, but with more austerity.

“Usually in democracies, it’s the technocrats and the politicians who take care of the details, while voters are asked about broader issues and principles,” said Philip Shaw, the chief economist in London at asset manager Investec. “This is a transfer of responsibility from parliament to the voters.”

Now, we all know that when and where democracy was born, and I’m quite literally at a stone’s throw from the very spot it was, as I write this, grandma had precious little say. But grandpa did, and repeatedly, the idea was that people would vote on all big decisions to be made, instead of having them decided by some power-happy individual.

We all, or most of us, think to this day that that was a good, and indeed world-changing, initiative. We talk about democracy all the time like it’s a good thing. So where does Bloomberg come from belittling the concept to the point where they put the word ‘Grandma’ in their headline, in an obvious attempt at making the entire thing look ridiculous?

They could instead have said ‘grandpa’ (big difference already) or ‘cab driver’ or ‘unemployed person’ or, get ready for this, ‘the people’. “Tsipras Asking The People to Figure Out If Greek Debt Deal Is Fair”. Sounds completely different, doesn’t it? Really, we cannot talk about democracy anymore without trying to ridicule it, Bloomberg?

Greece’s own Mr Piggy, Evangelos Venizelos, who bears a lot of blame for what Greece goes through today from his stint as finance minister, and is still PASOK’s go-to guy, though they were almost voted out of existence in January, tried a nice take. He claimed that the referendum was unconstitutional, something to do with fiscal matters not being allowed to be out before the people.

As if Syriza were too stupid to have read the law before letting Tsipras call the July 5 vote.

I’m thinking there’s not a shade of doubt that we will see the craziest claims and reports and theories. From Greek opposition parties, from ‘respectable media’, from US and European spin doctors offering ‘help’ to the likes of Venizelos and Samaras et al.

But that Bloomberg thing sure sets the tone. We have lost even the most basic principle and notion of what democracy means: a vote by the people on matters that concern the people. As Yanis Varoufakis tweeted yesterday:

Democracy deserved a boost in euro-related matters. We just delivered it. Let the people decide. (Funny how radical this concept sounds!)

What else can we say? Let’s keep it at this: we’ve come a long way. We can’t even talk about democracy anymore without ridiculing it.

Oh, and the title of this piece? Blame Virgil, Roman poet, well over 2000 years ago.

Home Forums I Fear The Greeks, Even When They Bring Gifts

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    Harris&Ewing Red Cross Motor Corps, Washington, DC 1917 Just another normal morning at the Automatic Earth. Shaking off the local drink – when in Rome
    [See the full post at: I Fear The Greeks, Even When They Bring Gifts]


    I’m trying to figure out the meaning of the EU finance ministers announcement that all bailout programs are over pronouncement, beyond a thumb in the eye of the Greek governments call for a referendum. On its face it seems to render the vote moot. That’s what ZH breathlessly reports.

    Does that mean the Troika has been disbanded? I haven’t heard. Does it make Greek Default certain? Will Greece continue to repay as much as they can? Aren’t such things settled in court? Which court for this?

    The final act of this drama has been declared to be days away, for 4 months now and the real drama is about default. Which would lift the burden from Greece. Default which would render the ‘asset’ which is Greek debt, worthless. How can the EU/ECB/IMF allow that? It’s one thing to make the result so terrible for Greeks that the Spanish nor anyone else would risk it. That’s of course what they want. People dying in the streets from starvation and maybe some civil war or anarchy with lots of blood, but it’s another to write down all those assets.

    V. Arnold

    Mother of the gods; there is so much conjecture and outright bullshit flying around the electrosphere; it’s like a universe lensing due to vast distances from the point of reference.
    Thanks Ilargi…


    Thanks V,

    And you’re absolutely right. Don’t think I’ve sever seen so much mindless dribble floating to the top of the puddle. No-one of any ‘importance’ can issue one tiny fart without a 1000 so-called smart alternative bloggers reporting on it. Get a grip.

    Ceteris Paribus

    I’m glad you point out the undemocratic mindset of whoever wrote that Bloomberg article, but it does not surprise me. Ever since 2001 (and perhaps earlier, but then it was less noticeable) all the ideals, values, laws, rules that I was brought up on have been systematically and blatantly betrayed by the very institutions and officials entrusted with their safeguarding.

    I myself advocated democracy and human rights in earlier years, and thought the legal systems, consitutions, etc. meant something real. Now I see l was just a useful idiot. When it came to the crunch, it all turned out to have been so much self-serving lip service.

    At least educated persons in my (baby boomer) and former generations were capable of appreciating the hypocrisy. Many of the younger generation are so dumbed down that they are not even aware of how almost everything they were taught to believe is lies.


    “This is a transfer of responsibility from parliament to the voters.”

    Actually, a transfer from parliamentary ADVISERS to voters. Actually, a pain-meter. Once the pain-meter reaches a certain threshold, the reality of the situation becomes all too clear to the people who really count. Of course, a meaningful response to their voices requires an honest polling and leaders who “get” the message and are alive.


    I love that they cite “Economists with PhDs and hedge-fund traders” as the clearly most exalted sources of True Understanding regarding how capital works and resources flow.

    Um. It’s wonderful that the Bloomberg writers can ignore what they wrote themselves, during the 2008-9 Crash; that “no economists saw this coming!” – a mantra they repeated for about a year, then carefully shelved, as they started quoting Economists once again as the sources of their insights. The same economists.

    And the hedge fund managers? Recall: really truly studies of performance show repeatedly – blindfolded monkeys DO perform better than hedge funds – year, after year, after year. https://www.marketwatch.com/story/how-hedge-fund-geniuses-got-beaten-by-monkeys-again-2015-06-25?link=kiosk

    And! The experts themselves keep pointing this out – and keep ignoring it.

    Personally, I think the Earth is being operated as an Interstellar Entertainment Show; entitled “The 7 Billion Stooges!!” Beings on other planets are rolling on their floors in spasms of laughter. 🙂


    Great comment Greenpa. Raul, could you comment on how you perceive how Socrates 6 pack or the average Greek Granny perceives the referendum decision and what they are going to have to do to figure out how to vote on the abstruse proposal. It would seem to me to simplify the decision making by making it a decision based upon consequences. If you vote “yes”, such and such is likely. If you vote “no”, this is likely to happen, Surely they must realize that they can’t have it both ways, that is, to stay with the Euro and get more money from IMF helicopters and endure even less ( or more(?) austerity. I guess I must be missing something. Comon folks, let’s wrap this up!

    John Day

    Hey Guys,
    Great essay and comments.
    “Riddle me this…”
    What will the wording of the referendum Sunday really be?
    The Troika has already rendered it moot, which they should not have done.
    They force some adjustment of the wording to be fully relevant under conditions prevailing 7/5/15, don’t they?


    Great essay, Ilargi.

    Ceteris Paribus, you read my mind. So well said. I have been a useful idiot too.

    Greenpa – “The 7 Million Stooges” – that is funny! Yes, I’ve said before that it feels like I’m in “The Truman Show”.

    I think I’ve shaken my head in dismay about twenty times today. This can’t be good. It’s like I no longer live in the world I thought I knew.

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