16 July 2015

The spirit of Thatcher……...

'I blame Margaret Thatcher' is a favourite phrase of mine, used regularly for comic effect but with a vein of belief running through it. But I can't blame Margaret Thatcher for the fiscal rape of Greece, responsibility for that lies with the various EU leaders and lenders who are going to make the Greek nation pay for the mistakes of others.

Alexis Tsipras seems to me to be a principled leader with social, rather than socialist, values and, having been beaten into submission by the Eurozone bankers, he did make one significant statement. Tsipras claimed, and time will tell if this is true, that he had saved Greece from a 'sell off' of public assets and here is the link with the 'Spirit of Thatcher' which itself is rooted in the ideas expressed by Adam Smith.

At the start of the Industrial Revolution, Smith gathered together and organised a mercantile view of societies, a view which today is expressed by 'deregulated and unfettered free-market capitalism'. At root, Smith suggested that, to realise its true 'value' (in an entirely mercantile sense) everything should be owned by an individual, rather than a communal, entity. For example, 'common land' could not be exploited to its fullest (mercantile) potential until it was delivered into some form of individual ownership. Smith's proposal was that the 'inertia' caused by communal ownership i.e. many entities having a say, restricted the mercantile exploitation of any commodity. And, as we can see today, he was absolutely right. Couple Smith's core proposition with Thatcher's view that 'there is no such thing as society' and you have a complete absence of 'social responsibility' because 'collective responsibility' has disappeared, along with 'collective ownership'.

When your read a poisonous rag like the 'Daily Mail' you would think that the Greek people are a feckless, lazy, stupid, irresponsible nation but that view is far from the truth. The reality is that Greece has a long and illustrious history which has had a huge impact on social and cultural development throughout western societies. But what we see today, a debt laden society struggling to survive, is much more a creation of fiscal vested interests who were only too willing to lend far too much money to Greece when the 'good times were rolling'. And then, when confidence in 'the good times' finally ebbed and the reality of the global 'sub-prime' stupidity dawned on everyone, the reality that Greece could never repay the money it had been loaned finally became apparent. And, as is usual, the lenders are never responsible, only the borrowers, and the lenders send in the debt collectors who grab any assets they can lay their hands on, which brings me back to Tsipras' comment about avoiding a sell-off of public assets.

In the aftermath of the Eurozone's crass lending, now we have an attempted asset-stripping of the debtor nation. Grab anything that is in public ownership and sell it off, in the style of 'fire sales', to get anything you can for it and, usually, far, far less than it is worth. And through this cycle of irresponsible lending and resultant debt, do you realise Adam Smith's view of a world where everything is owned by some individual entity and through this, people and nations no longer think collectively in any socially responsible manner. The devil will, indeed, take the hindmost.