The GDPR is now the law across Europe. I don’t like it. I think it’s seriously misguided.

It gives me rights and freedoms that I don’t want or care about. Viscerally as a human I’m not concerned what data others have about me. I don’t presume to know or change it, any more than I could reach into their minds and change their thoughts. If some evil magician gave me that power, I would recoil in horror.

I’m now uselessly informed of every way businesses use data. I can’t read a privacy statement any more. Can you? I can withdraw consent, but the other side can withdraw the service or whatever is their side of the deal. The law doesn’t give me anonymity, or discretion, consumer rights, or anything that I care about.

CCTV is everywhere. The phone company tracks me and my calls are logged. My provider knows where I go on the internet. The law does nothing whatsoever to stop state surveillance. It’s privacy theater.

Abusing the law will be fun. Every time I buy something firms ask for my details. I can immediately serve them a notice to erase the data or face millions in fines. I’m sure it’ll be great for European businesses if everyone does that.

Global firms may decide it’s not worth the risk and cut their services from us. Suddenly I face discrimination because of my citizenship, and there’s nothing I can do about it. Good job!

It’s massive jurisdictional overreach and hugely intrusive to enforce. So is copyright and other “worthy” censorship laws, but we need fewer of these not more.

Terrible legislation. Misguided, and I think miss-sold. The GDPR is last century politics, fighting the STASI, or big bad Google whom citizens don’t want fought on their behalf.

Thoughts for Uncle Sam

Hillary is on the Ballot against Trump. Regardless of who wins, that’s already terrible. The two-party system became a one-party system. There is no choice, no democracy.

Everyone should vote for Hillary, even Republicans. Perhaps Republicans even more so. She’s qualified, she’s strong, she’d be the first woman president.

She’s also hawkish and extremely pro-establishment. That’s probably how the first woman president gets there. This is quite sad. We don’t want the glass ceiling to breed another Angela Merkel or Margaret Thatcher. Can we have Elizabeth Warren instead?

Hillary is also married to Bill. She really is very qualified, but are two of the best equipped people to run the country married to each other? How likely is that? How democratic? About as likely and democratic as the Bush father and son team. We have that in Britain, we call it a royal family.

The good candidate was obviously Sanders and the Democratic party buried him. Probably because he had actual New Deal policies. The interesting election would have been Sanders as an idealist Democrat, Clinton or someone like her as a status-quo Republican. We’ve lost that level of sanity.

Trump is a racist clown. At first when he ran I thought he’d be merely a bad Republican, even more incompetent than Ronald Reagan. Since then he went out of his way to insult everyone and paint himself as a racist, semi-facist, unstable guy totally unfit for the role. His behaviour pretty much compels that no-one vote for him. OK, so don’t vote for him!

I wonder if Trump and the Republican party really are tone-deaf dimwits, or if Trump is a calculated bet to force a one-party system. He goes out of his way to test limits, normalise thuggery, and question freedoms so I think the latter. Trump is not playing to win, he’s bringing about one-party rule, successfully.

What is saddest about Trump is not when he says something outlandishly offensive but when he says something sensible. He says a few sensible things, like let’s not attack Russia. Great idea! Only Trump and Jeffery Sachs (an economist, and adviser to Russia during the transition out of communism) dare say this in public. But because it’s Trump, these points which would make a sensible opposition are tainted and buried.

People say that Trump is how fascism comes to America. Not quite so. It’s how crass hatred and bigotry comes to America. Fascism already came to America with 9/11 and George Bush the son. We already have mass surveillance, extra-judicial indefinite detention, and torture. Snowden and Assange are still exiles. Manning is still in solitary confinement somewhere. Flawed heroes? Loony rebels? How we would think of these people if they were Soviet dissidents.

Fascism and hatred are not the same thing, although they often go together. Fascism is the doctrine of the all knowing, all powerful state that demands full submission from its subjects. Intolerance comes with fascism as part of it’s demand for absolute loyalty. Racism and thuggery are second-rate demons that go along for the ride.

Could Trump win? I don’t know. Unlikely, but a realistic chance. I’d give him about a 25% chance to win. Why so high? Don’t underestimate to what extent the US is about supremacy of white Anglo-Saxon men. In its better moments the US tries to be diverse or inclusive, but you have only to look at black America or the Middle East to see how much it’s still about white supremacy.

Supremacy or even existential survivalism. In the 60s this group would rather blow up all life on Earth than accept an inconvenient political system for a generation or two. Pause to think about that, and then ask can we trust Trump with the nukes? In theory the president is allowed to do wth the nukes as they see fit. I hope that’s not actually so, that sane officers in the US and Russia get to stop the apocalypse.

So Trump may start WW3 by mistake. Clinton is on track to start a war with Russia deliberately. Obviously between the two Clinton with her slow, choking destruction of the Middle East and controlled escalation of hostilities with Russia is the better choice. I mean obviously! Who would want to go into such misadventures carelessly… But really? This is the choice we get?

What do I care about the US election. We all live in the Anglosphere to some extent, I feel if you’re part of the culture you get an opinion. But more materially as Europeans we’ll pay a large fraction of the cost of what the US does. We’d rather not go to war with Russia, they’re people like us. Also last summer hundreds of thousands of refugees passed through our town escaping the destruction of Syria. They’re people like us too.

When I accuse Clinton of being hawkish, it’s not her. The US as a system is on a war path, courting a war with Russia as well as stepping up destruction of the Middle east. Japan is belligerent on the US side. Russia has been re-arming for a decade, and China is asserting itself too. Some form of war is ahead. Why? Probably a shift from unipolar to multipolar power balance, with the US resisting to give up it’s exceptional role. Also, a war would reset financial markets and allow a new cycle of destruction and growth to begin.

If Trump wins, and doesn’t blow us up, he’ll be very unpleasant and otherwise he’ll be like Reagan. A foolish king, while some neocon think-tank actually runs the show. After the shift to the intolerant right becomes norm, they may even paint his eulogy as a great president.

Meanwhile if Hillary wins we’ll have a one-party centre-right, meaning for the rich, system but women, gay people, and non-pale rich people will be allowed in. Syria and the middle east will continue to be destroyed. We’ll have the long-planned low-intensity war with Russia. We’ll have our stock market crash and rebound. I’d rather have Hillary lead us into a dark storm than Trump, no question, but into a dark storm we go.

Please go out today and vote for her…

The two sensible choices

There are two sensible and realistic choices for solving the Euro crisis. The sensible and realistic choices are:

  • Surplus areas like Germany give deficit areas like Greece free money, indefinitely, or,
  • Weak economies like Greece and Spain leave the Eurozone.

These really are the sensible and realistic choices. You need one of these if you want roughly equal purchasing power across the Eurozone. Otherwise, money will flow from unproductive deficit areas to productive surplus areas, people in surplus countries will get steadily richer, people in deficit countries will get continually poorer, and eventually this will come to a head by revolt or other radical means.

Free money recycles this flow, exchange rates stop it. Economically the first is better because more flow of goods and services and money turns the economy forward and makes everyone consume more in aggregate. The latter choice aims for fairness, sacrificing total volume of trade and industry in the process.

Right now we’re still discussing the free money idea. Free money could be given as tax-and-transfer grants like most states do internally, as endless monetary expansion like the US, or by recurrent debt default and restructuring. The only advantage of the third option is it makes a policy look like an accident.

If free money won’t fly, leaving the Eurozone is the choice. Greece should have left the Eurozone… any time from 2001 till tonight would be good. Cynics would say stay until 2011 while the free money vision of Europe looked ascendant, but certainly Greece should have dropped after that. Greece should leave now.

Dropping out of the currency union has only advantages for the weaker economy. The disadvantages for the stronger economy are that it stops the flow of funds from the poor to the rich and removes demand for their exports. Germany selfishly wants the Euro. Greeks are stupidly attached to it because they equate the Euro with the EU and three decades of progress.

There are also a couple of totally fantastical choices that people might believe would fix the Eurozone, but they won’t work.

  • Economies like Germany and Greece become similarly productive any time soon.
  • Regions fix trade imbalances through fiscal discipline and austerity.

These are myths. It would be great if Greece was a bit more prosperous like Germany and that would take a venture investment ethos, congenial labour relations, an orientation to global markets, nourishing a boutique economy, branding, IP rights, stability and democracy. Well, at least Greece has democracy.

Different economies may become more alike, but they won’t become the same. The Mississippi delta is less productive than Silicon Valley and that’s why the meagre social policies of the US transfer funds indefinitely from rich Californians to poor Louisianan’s. Convergence doesn’t remove the need for transfers, it makes them smaller.

As for austerity, austerity is the null policy. Austerity means to just accept the dynamic of unproductive regions being steadily poorer and productive regions being steadily richer without asking for free money to mitigate it. And fiscal discipline means don’t try the free money by monetary expansion or default routes.

Until 2011 it looked like Europe was going to work like a superstate using free money transfers. This would have been better for all, including Germans. This idea now looks dead. Weak economies should ditch the Eurozone, now.

What Grexit looks like

Now that Greece voted No in the referendum it’s likely the institutions will seek a quick compromise to avoid serious damage to themselves and the Euro. In that case we’re looking at a more reasonable bankruptcy negotiation between Greece and the creditors, within the Euro. There will be capital controls for a while, like Cyprus, but eventually they’d be lifted.

The alternative is the Grexit scenario. However Grexit doesn’t mean that Euro deposits get redenominated to drachmas overnight. There’s no legal basis to do that. Euro deposits are obligations of Greek banks to individual depositors. They’re supposed to be guaranteed by the ECB, except last week the ECB decided to stop honoring that obligation. That decision will bite them, but it’s another matter.

Anyway Euro deposits are not the business of the Greek state or the bank of Greece. They could not redenominate Euros to drachmas, except by seizure. Also, there’s no incentive to do so. When the ECB withdraws its guarantee, Euros in Greece are precious hard currency like gold coins. Whatever Euros Greeks have, they’ll want to keep. Why would you convert perfectly good Euros to less valuable drachmas?

So on Monday, after a no vote, we have a scenario where Greek banks have Euro liabilities (deposits) and outstanding Euro loans, and they’re not guaranteed. There’s no lender of last resort for Euros in Greece. Banks would have to be super-prudential about handling Euros in this scenario, with deposits equal to reserves or close. Any MFI creation of Euros through loans would be extremely risky.

Of course banks are much more exposed than this. Soon, because of bad loans or the ongoing bank run, Greek banks go insolvent in Euros. At that point, the Bank of Greece steps in and guarantees deposits, but in Drachmas. And that’s how the conversion happens.

There’s a haircut on deposits until the Euro accounts of banks drop to the super-prudential level they’d need to be to operate safely. That means deposits equal reserves plus really safe loans. Greek banks continue to operate Euro accounts in this way thereafter, to facilitate transactions in tourism, import/export, etc. Euro loans will be hard to make and they’d only be made to businesses with good short-term collateral such as outstanding invoices. Not mortgages. Euro will effectively stay in Greece as a business currency.

The remainder (the amount that was haircut) gets converted to drachmas. So if you had €1000 in the bank and after haircut you’re left with €600, you also get the equivalent of €400 in drachmas, courtesy of the Bank of Greece. People can’t really complain about this change, because it’s the big bad ECB that haircut your Euros and the Greek state (Bank of Greece) saved you by giving you drachmas in compensation.

Thereafter the two currencies exist in parallel. Banks operate both types of accounts. Euros are not guaranteed, hence super-prudential: hard to get Euro loans, no Euro credit cards. The Banks of Greece acts as lender of last resort for drachmas, like a normal central bank. Drachmas operate with all banking services immediately and eventually notes and coins are introduced. Businesses that deal with tourism or import/export will surely maintain both Euro and drachma accounts. Everyone will have to declare their Euro and their drachma income separately and pay taxes in each.

Ordinary people like pensioners and dentists will either run out of Euros eventually, or they’ll use them for savings (bad idea, not guaranteed), or they’ll accept some offer to close their Euro account and convert to drachma. Pensions, salaries, house purchases, utility bills, and other big domestic prices will be negotiated in drachmas. Shops will post two prices, at least for a few months.

Eventually anything that’s related to tourism or imports, like electronics, will post both prices. Everyday domestic trade like street markets for food, plumbers, English lessons, hairdressers etc. will transact pretty much only in Drachmas. The Drachma has to be the official currency and there’s enough need for money for it to be accepted. The Euro just has to be legal to circulate, it doesn’t need any encouragement.

And then life will be good!

Having your own currency does three things: It makes imports expensive relative to domestic goods; it lets you pursue monetary policy; and it lets you devalue to make your exports price-competitive. The first two are crucial for Greece. The third is moot.

Greece is in a mess with external Euro debt because individuals prefer to buy imports than to pay taxes and so Euros leave the country. After the switch, businesses that earn Euros will have Euros to spend and they’ll have to be responsible because Euro loans will be super hard to get. Everyone else will face a Euro/Drachma exchange rate when buying imported goods. It’ll make iPhones expensive if you’re not directly earning Euros, and that’s really the worst part of the whole transition to drachmas thing.

The macro effect is Greeks will be buying more basics such as food, housing, and services which are predominantly domestic. They’ll be buying fewer discretionaries such as cars or electronics which are imports. Some essentials such as oil, clothing, and medicines require imports but currently those imports are cheap and there’s some production capacity in Greece for these sectors. That’s a very fortunate configuration for Greece’s balance of trade.

More importantly, the Bank of Greece will finally be able to run monetary policy in a way that fits Greece and not the gold standard delusions of Germany. Obviously it’ll be an expansionary Keynesian policy and the drachma will drop, but not alarmingly. Greece’s economy isn’t a basket case because of inflationary tendencies, By now it’s in a hard currency straitjacket.

Greece has massive unemployment, it’s demand-side limited, and there’s a huge amount of informal debt because of lack of liquidity. The plumber owes the teacher, the teacher owes the dentist, etc. and no-one has any money. As soon as money of any kind flows into the economy people will start paying their bills and the economy will pick up be amenable to taxation. Even if the Greek state makes up a few percent of fiscal spending with monetary easing that’s unlikely to yield so much drachma inflation to be a problem.

The third aspect of having a weak floating currency is that Greece could devalue it, deliberately or by letting it slide, to make its exports more attractive. If only Greece had exports, that would be a great idea. Greece makes its Euros from tourism and in the Grexit scenario that income would be the same or slightly less. Tourism is price sensitive but it’s not that scalable. If you have capacity for a million visitors you can’t bring in two million by being slightly cheaper the way you can scale up industrial production.

Greece’s other exports are oil product (basically running a refinery, it has no wells) and things like ore and agricultural goods. Again, what is Greece going to do? Grow twice as many tomatoes? Greece’s competitiveness problem is not having industrial, not that they’re expensive. The idea of being more competitive by devaluing the currency is beside the point for Greece. Greece’s long term competitiveness needs to come from things like boutique exports and tech startups, and there’s nothing about Grexit that works against these. Sweden is not in the Euro and full of tech startups.

Overall the supposedly disastrous scenario of Greece leaving the Euro won’t be disastrous. For Greece. It may be disastrous for the Euro, or for the careers of some politicians and mainstream economists because Greece will be doing spectacularly better almost immediately and various parties will begin to question what benefits the Euro really delivers.

Γιατί ψηφίζω όχι

Μετά απο πολλή σκέψη θα ήθελα να γράψω τα παρακάτω. Εν συντομία πιστεύω οτι το όχι είναι η μόνη σωστή, θετική, αναπτυξιακή απάντηση για την Ελλάδα και για την Ευρώπη. Αλλά όποιο και να ’ναι το αποτέλεσμα την επόμενη μέρα είμαστε όλοι μαζί το αποδεχόμαστε και το υλοποιούμε.

Είναι καλό που έγινε το δημοψήφισμα; Τι σημάινει το ναι;

Το δημοψήφισμα είναι αναμφισβήτητα μια θετική και απολύτως σωστή αντιμετώπιση του διλλήματος. Όπως είπαμε, εγώ πιστεύω πως πρέπει να ψηφίσουμε όχι. ‘Αν όμως βγει το ναι, και πάλι θα αποτελεί μια καταληκτική λύση. Μα θα έχουμε συνέχεια λιτότητα για χρόνια. Μα θα υπάρχει ανεργία και οι μόνες δουλειές θα είναι το σερβίρισμα. Θα είναι όμως επιλογή μας. Αν ψηφίσουμε ναι δε δικαιούμαστε μετα να διαμαρτυρόμαστε, να κάνουμε απεργίες, να διεκδικούμε. Θα είμαστε λοιπόν μια φτώχη χώρα με χαμηλούς μισθους και χαζές δουλειές αλλά θα έχουμε πάρει απόφαση οτι αυτή είναι η πραγματικότητα. Οπότε βάζουμε κάτω το κεφάλι και δε φωνάζουμε. Σύμφωνοι;

Παρενθετικά, ίσως τα παραπανω να εξηγούν γιατί το ναι σαν απάντηση είναι τόσο αγαπητό στους επιχειρηματίες και τα μέσα που χρηματοδοτούν αυτά τα χαρούμενα σποτάκια λες και διαφημίζουν μπύρα. Σκεφτείτε και αποφασίστε.

Τι σημαίνει το όχι;

Το μύνημα του όχι είναι οτι αυτό το Ευρωπαίκό μοντέλλο οικονομίας και αναπτυξης (ή μη ανάπτυξης) που έχει επικρατήσει δεν είναι καλό. Ίσως βοηθά τη Γερμανία και καμμιά δυο άλλες χώρες, αλλά αμφιβάλλω. Μάλλον βοηθά μεγάλα οικονομικά (βιομηχανικά και τραπεζικά) συμφέροντα σ’αυτές τις χώρες. Για τους περισσότερους Ευρωπαίους πολίτες, και τους βόρειους, το μοντέλλο είναι επιζήμιο.

  • Είναι επιζήμιο γιατί παρατείνει τα προβλήματα χρέους και οικονομικής κρίσης.
  • Γιατί δε δημιουργεί ανάπτυξη, πέρα απο χρηματιστηριακές αξίες.
  • Γιατί κρατά τους μισθούς χαμηλά, ακόμα και της Γερμανίας.
  • Γιατί δε φέρνει εξίσωση του βοιοτικού επιπέδου αλλά ανισότητα.
  • Γιατί δε φέρνει τους λαούς της Ευρώπης ουσιαστικά πιο κοντά αλλά τους χωρίζει.

Πώς το ξέρουμε οτι το μοντέλλο δεν είναι καλό; Συγκρίνετε Ευρώπη και Αμερική. Η Αμερική βγήκε απο την κρίση το 2007 σε δυο-τρία χρόνια. Η Ευρώπη, με το πεισματικά λάθος μοντέλλο ανάπτυξης που έχει, δεν έχει βγεί ακόμα. Ζούμε ακόμα τον απόηχο το 2007.

Τι είναι ένα καλύτερο όραμα για την Ευρώπη; Το όραμα της δεκαετίας του 80, που ενθουσιωδώς η Ελλάδα ήθελε να συμμετέχει, προσαρμοσμένο στη σύγχρονη πραγματικότητα:

  • Ολο και πιο κοντά, με συνεχή σύγκλιση του βοιοτικού επιπέδου.
  • Με κοινούς θεσμούς, δημοκρατικούς, και πίστη σε αυτούς.
  • Με κοινό νόμισμα, αλλά σωστά οργανωμένο.
  • Με σταθερότητα και οικονομική άνοδο για όλους.
  • Με κοινωνική συνείδηση και κοινωνικό κράτος, “όχι σαν Αμερική”.

Τα θυμάστε; Αυτό ήταν το όραμα της Ευρώπης που θέλαμε, και ακόμα θέλουμε, να συμμετέχουμε. Λέγαμε μάλιστα, εμείς θέλουμε κοινωνικό κράτος, παιδεία, υγεία, κλπ. σε όλη την Ευρώπη, όχι σαν την Αμερική που αφήνει τους ανθρώπους στο έλεος της αγοράς και του κατ’ ιδίαν πλούτου ή φτώχειας του καθενός.

Όλα αυτά τα ξέχασε η Ευρώπη τότε που έγινε η σηνθήκη το Μάαστριχτ. Απο τότε δεν πάμε πια προς μια όλο και πιο κοντά κοινωνική ήπειρο. Πάμε σ’ένα καθαρά νεοφιλελεύθερο μοντέλλο που τα κράτη πλουτίζουν ή πτωχέυουν το καθένα μόνο του, κοινωνική πρόνοια διαμέσου των χωρών δεν υπάρχει ούτε επιδιώκεται, και το μόνο που έχει σημασία είναι το ισχυρό νόμισμα και η τήρηση των εμπορικών συμφωνιών και των χρεών.

Αν είν’ έτσι να τη βράσω την Ευρώπη. Ανοικτές αγορές έχει πια όλος ο κόσμος. Η Ευρώπη έχει νόημα σαν μια πολιτική και κοινωνική δομή. Αν δέν έχει, και είμαστε όλοι χύμα στη διεθνή αγορά, κάτι έχουμε χάσει και πρέπει να το ξαναβρούμε. Το ξέρετε οτι η Αμερική είναι τώρα πιο κοινωνικό κράτος απ οτι η Ευρωπαική Ένωση; Όταν πέφτει έξω το Ντητρόιτ ή το Πόρτο Ρίκο ή κάποια άλλη περιοχή, που συμβαίνει συχνά, τους ξελασπώνει και τους καλύπτει τους ανέργους η ομοσπονδιακή κυβέρνηση. Η Ευρώπη γιατί δε θέλει να γίνει τόσο σοσιαλιστική όσο η Αμερική;

Το όχι λοιπόν λέει όχι στο ξερό νεοφιλελεύθερο μοντέλλο Ευρώπης που έχει επικρατήσει τυπικά μετα το Μάαστριχτ και ουσιαστικά μετά την ανάδειξη της κυβέρνησης Μέρκελ, ναι στο κοινωνικο και συνδετικό όραμα της Ευρώπης που όλοι θέλαμε πρίν και που για να μη λέμε οτι μας φταίνε οι Γερμανοί πρώτος και καλύτερος το οραματίζονταν ο Χέλμουτ Κόλ.

Τι θα γίνει αν βγεί το όχι;

Θα τα χερειαστούν οι θεσμοί και οι κραταιές δυνάμεις της Ευρωπαικής Ένωσης, δηλαδή αυτά τα πρόσωπα και κόμματα που τώρα κυβερνουν. Μετά θα αρχίσουν να μας βαρούν για λίγο ή περισσότερο καιρό. Αυτό όμως (δηλαδή το να μας βαρούν με μέτρα όπως να κλείνουν οι τράπεζες) κλυδωνίζει το οικοδόμημα το Ευρώ και δεν είναι κάτι που θέλουν να συνεχίζεται.

Η κα. Μέρκελ και το Ευρωπαικό κεφάλαιο δεν θέλουν το Ευρώ να αποτύχει είτε γιατί χώρες σαν την Ελλάδα αρχίζουν να φεύγουν είτε γιατί μένουν με τόσο προφανή καταπιεστικά μέτρα που οι υπόλοιπές χώρες ή τα αριστερά κόμματα (και τα δεξιά τα οποία αντιπαθώ) σ’αυτές της χώρες δείχνουν τάσεις φυγής. Πιστεύω λοιπόν οτι θα βρεθεί κάπου είδους συμβιβασμός. Δεν ξέρω ποιος, αλλά μπορούμε να δούμε σενάρια απ’ το καλύτερο ως το χειρότερο.

Στην καλύτερη περίπτωση οι θεσμοί το παίρνουν απόφαση οτι ο ΣΥΡΙΖΑ είναι κυβέρνηση που εκπροσωπεί σωστά το λαό, σταματουν την τακτική να θέλουν να τον ξηλώσουν, και προσφέρουν μια συμφωνία σχετικά καλύτερη απ’ τις μέχρι τώρα. Φαντάζομαι δηλαδή μικρή παραγραφή χρέους σαν αυτή που προτείνει το ΔΝΤ, μικρότερα πλεονάσματα, και κυρίως την ευχέρεια να αποφασίζει η Ελληνική κυβέρνηση τις προτεραιότητές της. Αν δηλαδή θα κόψει τις χαμηλότερες συντάξεις ή θα φορολογήσει κάπου αλλού.

Αυτό θα είναι ένα ικανοποιητικό αποτέλεσμα. Δεν πρόκειται να μας τα χαρίσουν, αλλά να μπεί ένα πρόγραμμα με το οποίο να διαφαίνεται ανάπτυξη και κάποτε επιστροφή σε μια νορμάλ ισότιμη σχέση με την Ευρώπη. Αυτό συμφέρει τους εταίρους γιατί έτσι διαχειρίζονται την κρίση, εξομαλύνονται οι σχέσεις και δε φτάνουμε σε μεγαλύτερη ρήξη και αμφισβήτηση. Όταν ο Τσίπρας και ο Βαρουφάκης λένε οτι το όχι μας δίνει ισχυρότερη διαπραγματευτική ικανότητα, αυτό προσδοκούν.

Τι θα γίνει έτσι και βρεθούμε εκτός Ευρώ; Υπάρχει περίπτωση;

Ας δούμε τωρα και το χειρότερο δυνατό σενάριο. Αυτό που λεει οτι οι θεσμοί μετα το όχι παν να μας καταστρέψουν για να παραδειγματίσουν τους Ισπανούς, ή απλά να μας ξεφορτωθούν. Αυτό το σενάριο τελικά οδηγεί σε μερική έξοδο απ’ το Ευρώ. Όμως, έτσι τουλάχιστον πιστεύω μετά απο σκέψη αλλά χωρίς να έχω τίποτε μυστικές πληροφορίες, οτι εξοδος απ το Ευρώ δε σημαίνει οτι ένα βράδυ ολονών οι καταθέσεις σε Ευρώ μετονομάζονται σε δραχμές. Αν γίνει, θα γι΄νει κάτι άλλο πιο ομαλό. Ας το δούμε.

Για να δούμε τα πράγματα καθαρά, οσα Ευρώ έχουμε στην Ελλάδα, αυτά έχουμε. Δε μας τα δημιουργεί το Ελληνικό κράτος, όπως έκανε με τις δραχμές, αλλά η Ευρωπαική Κεντρική Τράπεζα. Δεν υπάρχει κάποιος νόμιμος τρόπος αυτά τα Ευρώ να μετονομαστούν σε δραχμές, ούτε τα χαρτονομίσματα ούτε οι καταθέσεις. Επίσης κανείς δεν επιδιώκει κάτι τέτοιο. Αυτά τα Ευρώ που έχουμε στην Ελλάδα, όσα είναι, είναι πολύτιμα. Ούτε ο κάθε Έλληνας ούτε ο Βαρουφάκης δεν έχει κανένα συμφέρον να ανταλλάξει τα υπάρχοντα Ευρω με δραχμές.

Αλλά τότε τι; Η Ευρωπαική Κεντρική Τραπεζα αν είναι κακοπροαίρετη (που είναι) μπορεί να αποσύρει τις εγγυήσεις της προς τις Ελληνικές τράπεζες, αυτό που λέμε ELA. Το αποτέλεσμα είναι οτι οι τράπεζες δεν έχουν πιά κανένα κράτος να τις εγγυάται σε Ευρώ και πρέπει να επιπλέουν μόνες τους. Θεωρητικά, άν οι Έλληνες συνεχίζουν να πληρώνουν κανονικά τις δόσεις απο δάνεια σε Ευρώ οι τράπεζες επιπλέουν. Στην πράξη αργά ή γρήγορα ένα μέρος απ τα δάνεια θα βγούν προβληματικά και κάποιος θα πρέπει να ξελασπώσει τις Ελληνικές τραπεζες.

Αυτό δε θα μπορεί να το κανει (μετα τη ρήξη) η Τραπεζα της Ελλάδας με Ευρώ. Θα το κάνει σε δραχμές. Αν λοπόν φτάσουμε σ’αυτό το σενάριο, και η ΕΚΤ μας ξεκόψει (θυμηθείτε οτι αυτό συνεπάγεται μεγάλο κόστος για την ίδια) και μετά χρειάζονται βοήθεια οι Ελληνικές τράπεζες τότε μάλλον θα κουρευτεί μέρος των καταθέσεων σε Ευρώ, τόσο ώστε τα Ευρώ ταμειακά να ‘ρθουν στα ίσια τους, και το ποσό που κουρεύτηκε θα το καλύψει το Ελληνικό κράτος σε δραχμές. Θα αρχίσουν δηλαδή Ευρώ και δραχμές να κυκλοφορούν παράλληλα. Κάτι τέτοιο φαντάζομαι.

Είναι φυσικό να ανησυχεί κανείς για τέτοιες μεγάλες πιθανές αλλαγές, αλλά η ζωή μ’αυτό το σενάριο δε θα είναι κακή. Θυμηθείτε οτι ένα στοκ απο Ευρώ υπάρχει και κυκλοφορεί στην Ελλάδα και αυτά παραμένουν, μείον τα τζούφια δάνεια. Θα έχουμε λοιπόν κάμποσα Ευρώ μέσα στη χώρα και όσοι εισπράτουν Ευρώ απο τουρισμό ή άλλες δουλειές με ξένους θα συνεχίσουν να τα εισπράττουν. Θεωρώ προφανές οτι κάθε είδους επαγγελματίες θα διατηρήσουν τραπεζικύς λογαριασμούς και χαρτονομίσματα σε Ευρώ για την ευκολία των συναλλαγών. Πρακτικά, θα έχουμε ακόμα (και) Ευρώ.

Τώρα ηλικιωμένοι, μισθωτοί, υδραυλικοί, οδοντογιατροί και άλλοι που δε συνδιαλέγονται με ξένους, σιγά σιγά θα τους τελειώσουν τα Ευρώ και θα εξυπηρετούνται με δραχμές, όπως παλιά. Στις καθαρά εγχώριες συναλλαγές θα χρησιμοποιούμε κυρίως δραχμες. Με τη διαφορά οτι το Ελληνικό κράτος θα μπορεί επιτέλους να ασκεί οικονομική πολιτική που να ταιριάζει σ’αυτή τη χώρα και όχι στις φαντασιώσεις της Γερμανίας, κι έτσι θα έχουμε δραχμές αντί για Ευρώ που ήδη δεν έχουμε.

Το τελικό αποτέλεσμα είναι οτι δραχμές για να αγοράσουμε ντομάτες και φέτα, να νοικιάσουμε δωμάτια το καλοκαίρι, να πληρώσουμε γιατρούς, δασκάλους για τα παιδιά μας, κλπ. θα έχουμε. Ευρώ για να αγοράσουμε iPhone θα τα μετράμε. Αυτά τα είδη θα είναι σχετικά πιο ακριβά για όποιον πληρώνεται με δραχμές. Ε τι να σας πω, αποφασίστε κατά τη συνείδησή σας. Τι Είναι πιο σημαντικό για την κατάσταση που είμαστε τώρα; Αφθονία σε σίτιση, στέγαση, υπηρεσίες και άλλες βασικές αναγκες ή φθηνότερα κινητά;

Και καλά στη λαική οι ντομάτες θα έχουν δυο τιμές, σε Ευρώ και σε δραχμές; Ναι, όπως το 2001. Θύμάστε που λέγαμε οτι οι γιαγιάδες αποκλείεται αυτή την αλλαγή να τη συνηθίσουν; Τη συνήθισαν σε μερικές βδομάδες, και θα συνηθίσουν και τις νέες δραχμές. Μπορεί και να τους αρέσει.

Ομως έχουμε καταφέρει τόσα πολλά, θα πάμε πίσω;

Δε θα πάμε πίσω με το όχι. Έχετε πάρει χαμπάρι πόσο έχει πάει η χώρα πίσω τα τελευταία πέντε χρόνια που ακολουθείται η πολιτική του ναι; Έχουμε 25% συρρίκνωση της οικονομίας, κλειστές δουλειές, κλειστά μαγαζιά, τεράστια ανεργία, ανοικτές τάσεις φασισμού, πείνα. Τώρα πηγαίνουμε πίσω και επιβάλλεται να σταματήσουμε.

Μη μπερδεύετε την πρόδο με το ημερολόγιο. Απο το 1981 που μπήκαμε στην Ευρωπαική Ένωση (τότε ΕΟΚ) ως τώρα έχουν συμβεί τεράστιες θετικές, εκσυγχρονιστικές αλλαγές στη χώρα μας. Οι κάθε είδους υπηρεσίες που πρίν ήταν μπάχαλο τώρα σε γενικές γραμμές δουλεύουν. Οι επιχειρήσεις έχουν δομές ορθολογικές και παρόμοιες με τις δομές που συναντάμε στον υπόλοιπο δυτικό κόσμο. Η γνώση, τα προιόντα στην αγορά, και η επαφή μας με την Ευρώπη και τον κόσμο βρίσκονται σε άλλα επίπεδα. Τίποτε απ’ αυτά δεν πάει πίσω με το όχι, είτε με μια εντός ευρώ μερική πτώχευση είτε με μερική έξοδο. Δεν είναι το Ευρώ το τοτέμ της προόδου και του εκσυγχρονισμού. Αυτά τα πετύχαμε μόνοι μας και τα κρατάμε.

Και να σας πώ κάτί; Οι χώρες που ανήκουν στην Ευρωπαική Ένωση και για τους χ.ψ. λόγους επέλεξαν να μείνουν εκτός Ευρώ είναι η Βρεττανία, η Σουηδία, και η Δανία. Αυτές περνάν άσχημα ή μήπως έιναι τίποτε οπισθοδρομικές μπανανίες; Ακόμα η Ελβετία, η Νορβηγία, και η μικρή Ισλανδία έχουν τα θεσμικά δικαιώματα της Ευρωπαικής Ένωσης, όπως ελευθερία μετανάστευσης απ’ τη μια χώρα στην άλλη, ελεύθερο εμπόριο κλπ. χωρίς να είναι τυπικά μέλη. Ούτε εκεί βλέπετε καμμιά καταστροφή. Η Ισλανδία μάλιστα, χάρις στη δημοκρατία και χωρίς τους περιορισμούς του Ευρώ βγήκε γρήγορα απ’ την κρίση του 2007-2008.

Λένε κάποιοι σχολιαστές, όπως ο Αρίστος Δοξιάδης που βρίσκω πως κάνει μια πολύ καλή ανάλυση των ιδιαιτεροτήτων της Ελληνικής οικονομίας αν και διαφωνώ με την κατάληξή του στο ναι, οτι το μόνο που θα πάει τη χώρα ουσιαστικά μπροστά είναι οι επιχειρήσεις. Συμφώνώ. Κι εγώ θα ήθελα να έχει ή Ελλάδα δημουργικό επενδυτικό κεφάλαιο, και να στήνονται τεχνολογικά startup που μετά να τα αγοράζουν για υπέρογκα ποσά η Google και το Facebook. Εγώ τουλάχιστον δε βλέπω στο ΣΥΡΙΖΑ κάτι αντίθετο σ’αυτά. Και η Σουηδία που είναι εκτός Ευρώ είναι γεμάτη μικρές τεχνολογικές εταιρείες, το ίδιο και η Βρεττανία. Δεν τα μποκάρει το όχι αυτα.

Τι το ψειρίζουμε λοιπόν. Έξοδο απ’ το Ευρώ δεν επιδιώκει κανείς, αλλά κι αν συμβεί δεν θα είναι η καταστροφή που τρομοκρατούν. Το να είμαστε μεσα στην Ευρωπαική Ένωση είναι δεδομένο. Δε γίνεται λόγος για κάτι άλλο. Δε θέλουμε να γυρίσουμε την πλάτη στην Ευρώπη, θέλουμε να τη φτιάξουμε.

Όχι λοιπόν σε φαύλες συμφωνίες που μας παγιδεύουν και μας πάνε πίσω, βρίσκουμε καλύτερες και πάμε προστά. Και το παράδειγμα προς τους άλλους Ευρωπαίους λαούς ειναι οτι πάμε όλοι μαζί μπροστά.

Υστερόγραφο: Γράφω το παραπάνω στο πρώτο πρόσωπο για να διαβάζεται, εγώ όμως περνάω τη μισή μου ζωή εκτός Ελλάδας. Δουλεύω σε μια διεθνή εταιρεία στη Σκωτία, με πολλά ταξίδια. Η σύντοφός μου δουλεύει στην Ελλαδα και το παιδί μας μεγαλώνει εδώ. Αυτά έχω υποχρέωση να τα αναφέρω για να μην υπάρχει θέμα ειλικρίνειας.

The ECB broke the Euro, already

Can we get something straight? Euro deposits in Eurozone banks are liabilities of Eurosystem to individual EU citizens. Euro deposits in Greek banks are liabilities of those banks, and indirectly of the ECB, to individual depositors who live in Greece. Not to the Greek state. The Greek state is not part of this contract. If Greek banks were drachma banks they’d be the responsibility of the Bank of Greece. Now that they’re Euro banks they’re the responsibility of the ECB.

This is a contract of trust between the ECB and individual residents of EU states, including the Greeks. The Greek state is another actor, in essence a very large bankrupt business. The ECB is justified to be angry that the Greek state is threatening non-payment of its debt to the ECB, but that’s a dispute between a bankrupt business called the Greek state and the ECB. Because the ECB is unhappy with the Greek state, it decided to breach its contract with individual Greek citizens and refuse to honor their deposits. Sure enough, Greek citizens have a say in what the Greek state does but in the supposedly professional world of banking and contracts the individuals and the state are not the same thing.

To put this in perspective it’s like JP Morgan, the US bank, seizing the deposits of its customers in Detroit because it is owed money by Ford, Chrysler, etc. where these same people work. JP Morgan would then say “Ford employees refused to waive their pension claims in order to give Ford money to pay us, so we’re grabbing the deposits of these same employees directly”. Americans, how does that sound? I thought so. You cannot seize one person’s private property to recover the debt of another entity, however related. Well, you can if you are a political sovereign, but not with any pretence of legality.

Spaniards, how would you like it if the ECB decided not to honour your deposits after September because you voted Podemos?

Scots, what if your country voted Yes on independence and a few months down the line the Sottish state had a falling out with England? Inconceivable, I know. What if then the Bank of England refused to honour the deposits of individual RBS customers?

Germans, your banks now have tens of billions of liabilities to Greeks, Cypriots, Spaniards, etc. who decided as individuals to transfer their deposits to Germany. In the world of banking every liability requires a corresponding asset and in the Euro system the asset is something called TARGET2 balance from Greek to German banks. The asset behind that is Euro loans of Greek citizens to Greek banks. If you let the ECB seize deposits in Greece, Euro loans in Greece will go bad, Greek banks will fail, and said TARGET2 balances would be worth nothing.

German banks will then have tens of billions of Euros of liability to individual people, many of whom happen to be Greeks and Cypriots, with no corresponding asset. What solution will you legislate for that? Will you let your banks honour individual deposits or not based on the passport of the account holder? Will you haircut all deposits in Germany? Will you bail the banks out?

The rules of the game are that he ECB is responsible for all Euro accounts. It has accounts more or less directly with states – states are treated like very large businesses. The faith of the ECB also stands behind private banks, so that the private banks can honour Euro accounts of individuals. With Cyprus, and now with Greece, the ECB has decided to price in default risk, country by country, by refusing to honour the full value of the accounts of individuals.

If that is so the Euro has already failed. It is not one currency, it is already three: Cypriot Euro, Greek Euro, and the rest. If this policy line continues soon there will be a fourth, fifth, and more currencies all called Euro but having different net present value depending on in which country they exist as bank deposits. This is not a single currency system, it is a failure.

Ranking outcomes

Greece and the creditors are in last last-ditch negotiations where the creditors aim to keep Greece in the Eurozone and avert default. Greece aims to secure a bankruptcy deal that’s friendly to the poor and which makes growth possible. In subtext, the creditors want Greece to surrender unconditionally to the institutions to discourage similar movements elsewhere, while Greece aims for sovereignty to carry out a democratic mandate.

Recently it looks like a deal might be reached. Would that be a good outcome? I don’t think so. In my opinion the situation has deteriorated enough that walking away is better. Also we must not lose sight of better outcomes that are currently closed, opportunities that are squandered. To keep everything in context, here’s my ranking of possible outcomes from best to worst.

1. A better model for the Eurozone

The best possible outcome would be to change the architecture of the Eurozone to one that suits all economies. Currently the Euro is architected like the Deutschmark, a strong currency with very tight monetary policy similar to the gold standard and strict fiscal discipline. That has been a German political demand, but such an architecture doesn’t suit the UK (who opted out), Latin countries, and least of all weak undisciplined economies like Ireland and Greece. If the Euro were changed to be a weaker and more volatile currency like the dollar, and the ECB pursued loose monetary policy at times of trouble like the US Federal Reserve, weak economies would be better performing in general and would get out of crises easily. I’m not sure how a weak Euro would hurt Germany except psychologically.

2. A Europe with social transfers

The next best thing, if loose monetary policy and moderate inflation are out of the question, is a Europe with social transfers. A hard currency and strict fiscal discipline for governments, but a European safety net to bail out people (rather than governments) when times are bad. These would be things like EU-wide basic pensions, unemployment, and poverty line income support. Really basic stuff. Right now this is anathema in Europe, as relatively well off taxpayers in relatively prosperous economies resent paying social benefits to poorly off taxpayers in weak economies. But this is exactly the system in the United States. Individual US states and large cities routinely go bankrupt, but federal programs like food stamps and Medicaid support their poorest citizens. Is Europe really unwilling to offer the meagre social benefits that the US does?

3. Positive reform for Greece (a good deal)

After several years of deceit and mismanagement, Greek voters managed to fire the corrupt political dynasties that took turns in power and bring in outsiders (SYRIZA) intent on serious reform. Inexplicably, the creditors decided that they’d rather deal with the old guard that committed financial fraud at their expense and proceeded to undermine SYRIZA at every step. This is a squandered opportunity. For the first time in decades Greece has a morally sound government with a strong mandate and a credible agenda for reform. The same reform that Europe wants: Modern public administration, effective tax collection, making it easy to start a business. If the creditors would take Greece’s proposals seriously and engage in good faith, rapid progress would be made. Except success would look bad and Podemos in Spain would want the same.

4. Leaving the Euro and staying in the EU (no deal)

The best outcome currently open, in my view, is for Greece to walk away from negotiations and leave the Eurozone while staying in the EU. Dropping the Euro and introducing a national currency does two things: It lets the state create and circulate money in the domestic economy, and it makes imports expensive relative to domestic goods. For Greece that means the domestic economy will quickly return to health and poverty will be quickly alleviated. Food, housing, and services will be cheaper as they’re domestic. Technology imports and foreign services such as studying abroad will be expensive. The standard of living, which is mainly supported by domestic goods, will rise but Greece will feel a little backward for lack of imports. People will be able to consume more tomatoes and fewer iPhones. Greeks won’t like that because they love their iPhones, but right now tomatoes are more important.

Some common misconceptions about the impact of Greece leaving the Euro:

Greece’s debt is a separate matter from staying in the Euro. Greece owes more Euros than it can realistically pay, so in the end it’ll realistically pay less. If Greece stays in the Euro the creditors have more leverage to ruin Greece, making repayment harder. If it leaves, Greece has more prospects to recover and could decide to default with fewer consequences. Leaving the Euro is not the same thing as defaulting on debt.

In economic textbooks, leaving a currency union and devaluing is good for competitiveness. That works for an industrial economy whose output can scale a lot with small differences in producer prices. Greece produces olive oil and tourism. Tourism is price-sensitive, but it already faces strong market discipline and it’s not that scalable. If Greece drops the Euro it’ll become cheaper, it’ll sell a few more more holidays and foods, and overall it’ll make a bit less in Euros. The competitiveness argument is moot.

If Greece leaves the Euro the financial fallout will be small. The Anglo-Saxon investors already took their losses and generally acted businesslike in this drama. European governments bailed out their investors and are now holding the bulk of Greece’s debt. Because Greece’s economy imploded, this debt is worth less than face value. If Greece leaves European governments can realise this loss, they can continue to hide it, or they can reflate it with ECB money creation – the same choices they face now.

On the other hand if Greece leaves the political fallout will be large. Being in the EU or EEA but outside the Euro is increasingly looking like the better option. It’s where the UK, Denmark, Norway, and Iceland chose to be. If Greece makes the transition relatively painlessly other countries will sooner or later follow and the Euro will either unravel or lose many of its members and become a new Deutschmark for countries west of the Rhine. For Germany, this will be a large political failure.

5. Parallel currencies

Various technical proposals are being floated about Greece issuing some currency in addition to the Euro. The idea is you’d have Euros and Drachmas in your wallet and you could use either, but Drachmas would be easier to come by and worth less. These proposals aim to quit the Euro in substance while retaining it for morale, for appearances, or for the convenience of travellers. Most view them as temporary measures. Parallel currencies are a risky proposition. They work well at small scale. At large scale they’ve been tried by Latin American countries in crisis, with mixed and hard to disentangle results. Overall, depending on the technical details, parallel currencies work out about the same as leaving the Euro or significantly worse. They’re a great plaything for economists, though.

6. Continued austerity (a bad deal)

If Greece accepts the creditor’s demands it will be a bad outcome for all sides. The creditors insist on austerity and prioritising debt repayments over growth, as they have for the past five years. Continuing on this path will keep Greece impoverished and heavily indebted for the foreseeable future, and will bring further suffering and extremism. The creditors appear less concerned with fostering growth or ending the crisis, and more intent to prevent any country from going bankrupt in the Eurozone and then recovering. It’s Europe of debt servitude. The only good thing about this outcome is that it’s pacified. The empire wins, the rebels are crushed, and there’s an unhappy stability. Greece will still be broke and recurrent debt crisis will be the new normal.

7. Capital controls (like Cyprus)

One officially sponsored outcome that’s worse than austerity is what happened to Cyprus. people in Cyprus use a currency that’s called Euro and looks like the Euro, but a Euro in a Cypriot bank or in your pocket is worth less than a Euro in France or Germany because you can’t take it out of Cyprus. What happened to Cyprus is a remarkably cynical way to fracture a currency union and punish a state (for accepting the money of rich Russians) while claiming your shiny currency union is intact. After seeing the kindness of Europe, Cypriots probably wish they’d stayed a British possession.

8. Continued uncertainty

A marginally worse outcome is continuing the uncertainty that we’ve had since January. Since SYRIZA was elected, creditors have been refusing to roll over Greece’s debts and instead are asking Greece to pay them off as they come due. The ECB cut off one form of finance to Greek banks and is reviewing the other kind (ELA) on a regular basis, effectively inciting a bank run. It’s like the US Fed announcing that Michigan state banks could go belly-up any moment now. This strategy aims to damage Greece’s finances and banking system so that Greece will more easily pay its debts, presumably.

9. Leaving the EU

There’s much good in the EU besides an ill-conceived and damaging single currency system. For poor and troubled nations like Greece the EU brings stronger human rights, freedom to settle and work in any member state, and an open market which for ordinary people means freedom from profiteering of various sorts. The great achievement of the EU is that we can be in each other’s countries as citizens, not as barely tolerated guests. We put up with stupid bureaucratic rulings on bananas and cookies to retain this privilege. It is important not to throw the EU out with the Eurozone.

10. Political meltdown

The worst possible outcome for Greece is a disorderly collapse of SYRIZA and the rise of the nazi Golden Dawn party as “national savours”. Greece is closest to the abyss, but throughout Europe the social damage of the new order of austerity is fuelling far-right parties. In France, Le Pen is on the rise. In the UK, UKIP. It would be a sad legacy for Ms. Merkel, our de-facto European president to bring about the rise of fascism everywhere but in Germany.

As said, I think the best outcome currently within reach is number 4, leaving the Eurozone. Taking a bad deal, such as the creditors insist, is currently a worse outcome, and there are many worse ones. There are also better outcomes that would be possible. Currently, the three best outcomes for Europe are politically blocked by Germany.