A Second Demonstration Project for Greece

On the Doorstep of a SYRIZA Victory

Mike-Frank Epitropoulos, Guest Blogger

teaches Sociology and is the Director of the Pitt in Greece and Pitt in Cyprus programs at the University of Pittsburgh. He spent three years teaching in both private and public-sector higher education in Greece before returning to the United States in 2007.

Five years ago, Greece was still in the early stages of the austerity measures imposed on it by the “Troika” (the European Union (EU), the European Central Bank (ECB), and the International Monetary Fund (IMF)). The other countries of Europe’s “periphery” (the so-called PIIGS—Portugal, Ireland, Italy, Greece, and Spain) watched and waited to see what would come of the confrontations in the streets of Athens and the menace of a new and brutal neoliberalism. At the time, I wrote that the intense focus on Greece was arguably over the value of that obscene experiment in a country whose people had a history of standing up for themselves, even against world powers (Greece as a Demonstration Project, D&S, May/June 2010).

Since then, Greece has continued to take the bitter medicine prescribed by the Troika, in the form of severe cuts to the public sector and the social welfare state. Those cuts were initiated through Troika “Memoranda”, known in Greece as the “Mnimonia” (Μνημóνια). And, as even the casual observer knows, the Greek political landscape has witnessed the virtual demise of the center-left party, the Panhellenic Socialist Movement (PASOK), and decreasing support for the center-right party, New Democracy (ND). Those two parties have been the dominant “two-party” rulers of Greece, and have aligned in a coalition since the crisis hit Greece. Greeks have taken to the streets—they are known as the Aganaktismenoi (Αγανακτισμενοι), or “outraged”—in concert with the Indignados (indignant) in Spain. Disgruntled Greek voters have distributed themselves to both the left and the right in newsworthy ways. To the right, we have seen the rise of the hyper-nationalist, neo-Nazi “Golden Dawn” party, which went from obscurity of less than one percent to just under seven percent (6.92%) in the last parliamentary elections. To the left, SYRIZA—the Coalition of the Radical Left—has emerged from a small, marginal parliamentary party, comprised of a wide array of left groupings, to become the frontrunner in this Sunday’s crucial elections. Both phenomena—the neo-Nazi right and anti-austerity left—have garnered significant attention in both theoretical and policy circles. The anarchist and anti-authoritarian movements have also made their mark in Greek political life during this very difficult time.

Frustrated youth and people disgusted and disenchanted with traditional parties are seeking something—anything—on which to seize.

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Listen Yankee

Cuba, the United States and Our America

Matías Vernengo

It often comes as a surprise to most Americans that Latin Americans generally resent that in the United States people think of themselves as uniquely American—as if the rest of the continent somehow has another name. Latin America is, in fact, a name created by the French, supported by local elites, that invaded Mexico to collect foreign debt and to try to re-establish European colonialism. The Latin heritage, being a common one between Maximilian’s new court and the Mexican people, gave the region is appellative, but a tarnished one. That is why José Martí, the hero of Cuban independence, referred to “Our America,” to contrast it with the other, the one Americans fancy as the only one.

The relations between the two Americas was always complicated, and at least since the infamous Monroe Doctrine, plagued by the asymmetric power of the United States and its interference in the region. For that reason many see the reestablishment of diplomatic relations with Cuba as a significant step in the right direction, one that leads to a more benign relation with Latin America. And for the most part it has been seen as a good omen by almost all progressives, and correspondingly as a setback and proof of Obama’s weakness by most conservatives.

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Can “Abenomics” Revive Japan’s Economy? Part 2

Do We Have a Liberal Alternative?

Junji Tokunaga, Guest Blogger

Junji Tokunaga is an Associate Professor in the Department of Economics, Dokkyo Univeristy, Saitama, Japan. He is the co-author, with regular contributor Gerald Epstein, of a multi-part series for Triple Crisis on “Global Dollar-Based Financial Fragility in the 2000s.” This is the second part of a two-part post on the economic policies of Japan’s prime minister, Shinzo Abe, and on alternatives to neoliberal “Abenomics.”  (Part 1 is available here.)

Many voters understood the problems of Abenomics before the December snap election. An opinion poll by the Nikkei in November reported that 51% of the public opposed Abenomics, compared with 33% who favored it. Disappointingly, there was a lack of strongly liberal alternatives from the opposition parties, which helped Abe win his landslide victory.

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Lessons from the Great Floods

Martin Khor

The first half month of 2015 saw Malaysians pre-occupied with the big clean-up following the big floods that swamped many states, especially in the east coast.

It will take some time to get houses, schools, hospitals, offices, roads, drains, railway tracks, back into pre-flood shape.

The cost of doing so is staggering, with each the initial figure exceeded by new estimates.

The total will run into many billions of ringgit. The Government will foot the bill for repairing public facilities; and there is some government and spirited public help for flood victims’ personal losses.

But the affected people will still bear immense suffering and losses, for example, of lost business and livelihood income on top of the lost household belongings.

It is time to learn the lessons and prepare for the future.

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Equality, Solidarity, and Sustainability, Part 3

In this third part of a four-part interview, regular Triple Crisis contributor Jayati Ghosh summarizes some major themes in her work and thought, including the prospects for the transformation and revival of socialist movements, the transfiguration of the world capitalist economy and the reproduction of structures like the core-periphery division and landlord domination, new challenges of international labor solidarity and environmental sustainability, and the way forward towards egalitarian societies. (Parts 1 and 2 of the series are available here and here.)

Jayati Ghosh

Challenges of Solidarity and Sustainability

D&S: The ways that capitalism has linked together economies all over the world—trade in goods, international investment, international migration—directly pose the need for labor internationalism. Is it possible to develop the necessary kinds of labor solidarity when that means reaching across divides, say, between native and immigrant, or the workers of one country and with those of another country half a world away?

JG: It is obviously necessary for such bonds to be forged—it is even essential, because global forces cannot be fought only within nation states. But clearly such bonds are getting harder to forge. However, that is not only because of the material reality of physical differences and geographical distances. It is also—and possibly more crucially—because of changing perceptions of community, identity, oneness, and difference among various social groups. So workers from different countries see themselves as competing against one another in the struggle to keep their jobs and prevent their wages from falling.

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What We’re Writing, What We’re Reading

What We’re Writing

C.P. Chandrasekhar, Asian Banks in Trouble

Adem Y. Elveren and Sara Hsu, Military Expenditures and Profit Rate: Evidence from OECD Countries

Sunita Narain, Real Pride of Ancient Indian Science

Matías Vernengo, Sachs is Wrong on Krugman and the Recovery

 

What We’re Reading

Stephen A. Marglin and Peter M. Spiegler, Did the States Pocket the Stimulus Money?

Claudio Lara Cortés and Consuelo Silva Flores, eds., Democratic Renewal versus Neoliberalism

José Gabriel Palma, Has the Income Share of the Middle and Upper-Middle Been Stable Over Time … ?

Triple Crisis welcomes your comments. Please share your thoughts below.

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Can “Abenomics” Revive Japan’s Economy? Part 1

Junji Tokunaga, Guest Blogger

This is the first part of a two-part post on the economic policies of Japan’s prime minister, Shinzo Abe, and on alternatives to neoliberal “Abenomics.” Junji Tokunaga is an Associate Professor in the Department of Economics, Dokkyo Univeristy, Saitama, Japan. He is the co-author, with regular contributor Gerald Epstein, of a multi-part series for Triple Crisis on “Global Dollar-Based Financial Fragility in the 2000s” (Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4).

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe won a landslide victory in the snap election for the lower house of parliament on December 14, 2014. Abe’s Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), the leading conservative political party, and its partner party in the ruling coalition have won 326 of 475 seats, which enabled the coalition to secure a two-thirds supermajority in the lower house.

Why did Abe win the election? Since the end of 2012, the Abe government has carried out an economic revitalization program, called “Abenomics,” consisting of “three arrows”: more aggressively quantitative monetary easing, massive fiscal stimulus, and structural reforms. The main reason of his emphatic victory is that Abe  succeeded in persuading the electorate to stay the course, with slogans like “Abenomics is progressing” and“there is no other way to economic recovery,” while shifting the electorate’s attentions from more delicate political matters such as restarting Japan’s nuclear power plants and bolstering its military forces.

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The Invisible Hand of Alan Blinder

John Komlos, Guest Blogger

Guest blogger John Komlos, author of What Every Economics Student Needs to Know and Doesn’t Get In the Usual Principles Text, takes on economist and Princeton University professor Alan Blinder’s criticism of Jeffrey Madrick‘s recent book Seven Bad Ideas: How Mainstream Economists Have Damaged America and the World. A recent Triple Crisis post by Madrick summarizes some of the book’s central arguments.

Alan Blinder’s review of Jeffrey Madrick’s Seven Bad Ideas: How Mainstream Economists Have Damaged America and the World (Knopf, 2014)[1] is critical of Madrick’s characterization of the role of economists in the financial meltdown of 2008. Madrick suggests that their role was “central,” while Blinder claims that economists contributed merely a “bit” and even that bit was limited to “conservative economists.” I think that Madrick’s characterization is much closer to the truth and so does Joseph Stiglitz, who said in a lecture, “I have to blame my colleagues in the economics profession. Not all economists got it wrong; but a lot of them did and they provided arguments that politicians used, people in the industry used for stripping [regulation] away…. The basic argument was a very simple one, a variant of Adam Smith that markets, unfettered markets always lead to efficient outcomes…. they [regulators] were just doing what they said economic theory said you ought to be doing.”[2]

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Equality, Solidarity, and Sustainability, Part 2

In this second part of a four-part interview, regular Triple Crisis contributor Jayati Ghosh summarizes some major themes in her work and thought, including the prospects for the transformation and revival of socialist movements, the transfiguration of the world capitalist economy and the reproduction of structures like the core-periphery division and landlord domination, new challenges of international labor solidarity and environmental sustainability, and the way forward towards egalitarian societies. (Part 1 of the series is available here.)

Jayati Ghosh

Change and Reproduction of Core and Periphery

D&S: A half century ago, the most influential radical view of economic “underdevelopment” focused on the dominance of industrial-manufacturing “core” economies over raw-materials-producing “periphery.” Has that story changed in the current era of neoliberal globalization, with many developing countries moving out of mineral and agricultural exports and into export-oriented manufacturing (often “offshored”)?

JG: Geographical and locational changes in productive structures do not negate the idea of “core” and “periphery” operating within capitalism. Global capitalism has, throughout its history, experienced such shifts.

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What We’re Writing, What We’re Reading

What We’re Writing

Matías Vernengo, Growth forecasts and Latin American underperformance

Juan Antonio Montecino and Gerald Epstein, Have Large Scale Asset Purchases Increased Bank Profits?

Kevin Gallagher, Ruling Capital: Emerging Markets and the Reregulation of Cross-Border Finance

 

What We’re Reading

Gabriele Köhler, On the Cusp of a Genuinely Transformative Agenda?

Oakland Institute, The Corporate Takeover of Ukrainian Agriculture

Lynn Parramore, Welcome to the European Hunger Games, Brought to You by Mainstream Economics

Ian Morris, The Measure of Civilization: How Social Development Decides the Fate of Nations

Triple Crisis welcomes your comments. Please share your thoughts below.

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