Democracy Being a Free Good Endangers its Existence

By Con George-Kotzabasis

Breathing democratic freedom is neither easy nor free; it entails both rights and obligations and most importantly knowledge of current fundamental issues. But in most democracies their constituents tend to uphold and demand more their rights than their obligations, and more deplorably, a sizable number of them exercise their rights in a state of ignorance. This imbalance, however, between rights and obligations, as well as lack of knowledge of the real issues, puts in jeopardy the functioning of a politically just and economically productive democracy, and indeed endangers its existence as a form of government.

Moreover, it makes its voters who are uninformed of the points at issue captive to populist slogans and to that everlasting traducer of democracy, identified by Aristotle, demagogy, that appeals to the hopes and fears of the electors and by propagandistic lies and false promises opens the doors of power to demagogues. This is exemplified by two recent political events in our times: Alexis Tsipras and his party of Syriza winning the elections in Greece on a wave of populism and unprecedented lies and false promises in the political history of the country, and of the plebiscite of the UK, whose two leaders of Brexit, Boris Johnson and Nigel Farage, with a farrago of lies and dire fictions were able to hoodwink a major part of the populace to vote for the exit of Britain from the European Union. On a smaller scale this also has happened in the Australian elections, when the Labor Party by its scare campaign that the Liberal Coalition would privatize Medicare, succeeded in convincing a large part of the electorate of this fictitious threat with the result of Liberals losing so many seats that brought the country on the edge of a hang parliament.

How can one remedy the weaknesses of democracy and protect its constituents from becoming victims to populism and to demagogy with catastrophic results to the well-being of society and to its continued economic prosperity? Some people believe that the answer lies in bringing cultural and ethical changes among the people that would make them immune to this toxic virus of populist-demagogy; and thus leading gradually to the cashiering and inexorable dismissal of all demagogic and populist leaders from the domain of politics. The difficulty and danger of such a solution however is that cultural change is a slow process and during its gestation and vicissitudes in a long run may in the meantime unhinge democracy from its door of freedom, by the actions of feckless, inept, and irresponsible politicians, and incarcerate it within the dungeon of dictatorship. A safer and faster solution would be to enact radical changes to the electoral voting system by suspending in certain circumstances temporarily parts of the electorate from voting.

On what principle could one suggest such an unequal voting system that would discriminate so deliberately between social groups in the ambience of democracy, and which group would be the unequal part in the democratic process? The guiding principle of the first part of the question must explicitly aim to the continued viability and stability of a democratic system, in the context of which, the economic well-being of society depends and guarantees the further expansion of wealth that renders to the people a wide choice where to employ their talents and skills that would push their living standard onto higher plateaus and make their lives congenial to their desires. The second part, i.e., the social group that would be unequally treated, would be identified as that part that depends on welfare for its living and as a ‘debtor’ client of the government easily succumbs to populist slogans and rabble rousing; also, due to its low educational level and lack of interest in important matters, it deprives it from having adequate knowledge of the issues involved and hence is completely unqualified to make a sober judgment on these issues. It is mainly this social group that brings to power demagogues and millenarian ideologues that imperil the stability of the polity and its economic system. And, indeed, ironically pits this same social group into absolute poverty, and in turn destabilizes democracy itself, as it has happened with the political rise of Hugo Chavez and Nicolas Maduro in Venezuela; where its people after a contrived false prosperity are presently hunting dogs and cats to feed themselves. The same has happened with the Marxist Alexis Tsipras in Greece, where the pauperization of many of its ordinary people is exacerbated every day and has reached unprecedented high levels under his totally inept, ideologically barren and irresponsible government.

The enactment of this radical legislation would specifically suspend from the right to vote any person who had been on social welfare or unemployed for more than a year, and only with his/her ceasing on being on welfare or unemployed his/her right to vote would be restored. Such legislation would not only strengthen and secure the viability of democracy and the prosperity of its economic system, but would also deprive populist demagogues and political parties of a constituency upon whose existence they depend. Moreover, it would substantially reduce the spending of the welfare state and make it less precarious to the fiscal policy of the state and hence to the well-being of the country. This radical enactment takes a leaf from the cradle of democracy in classical Greece, Athenian democracy. The latter disenfranchised and suspended from voting citizens who had failed to pay a debt to the polis. Likewise, in a modern democracy people who were in debt for their living to the government, that is on welfare, would be suspended from casting a vote.

Needless to say, such a radical proposal, to occur in the ambit of the ‘spoils’ of the welfare state that has spoiled at least two generations of people by our carefree and stand at ease democracy, will not be easy to implement as it will rouse all the wrath and opposition of the ‘progressive’ bien pensants and the ‘good fellows’ of the dole. It will require extraordinarily strong and sagacious political leadership that will unite parliamentary opposition parties into a gigantic wave that relentlessly will sweep away this ‘progressivist’ praetorian guard of the human rights, without responsibilities, of the dole takers, and throw this defiance of the sanctimonious goody-goodies into the dust bin of history.

I rest on my oars: Your turn now

 

 

Greece: A Government of Contrived Smiles behind which Attempts to Hide Incompetence

By Con George-Kotzabasis–January 02, 2015

Not only the ideologically antiquated and totally irresponsible and hasty announcements of the ministers of the new government, that led to the collapse of the Greek stock exchange and the stratospheric rise of interest rates, but also their body language, as shown in their performance before TV cameras, exposed with ridicule their witless incompetence. The Minister of State, Nikos Pappas, interviewed on Mega TV, was trying in despair to evade and not to answer the questions of the two interviewers and to cover the poverty of his arguments behind endless contrived smiles.

More gravely, but also more comically, the Minister of Finance Yanis Varoufakis, in the press conference held in Athens last Friday with the head of the European Union (EU) Jeroen Dijssebloem, with tongue-in-cheek and with supercilious righteousness was elaborating with complacent fabricated smiles the ‘perfectly remedial’ counter proposals of the Tsipras Government that would end the crisis to the presumably destructive austerity program of the EU that according to the government was exacerbating it. A program however that aimed, and apparently was succeeding, as indeed did in Ireland and Portugal, in pulling Greece out of the crisis, as recent economic statistics were indicating and serious international commentators were averring. Varoufakis in his last answer to the question of a journalist, in a bravura theatrical performance, described the Troika, the representatives of the EU, the IMF, and the European Central Bank, as being “rotten in its foundations” and the Greek Government would not negotiate with it but only directly with the heads of these three institutions. Dijssebloem sitting next to the Greek minister listening to the translation from Greek to English had a look on his face as if he couldn’t believe his ears. Varoufakis on the other hand had lost all his pompous confidence and showed in his movements and facial expression that he was unsure whether he had said the right thing or not. Totally riveted in his self-doubt and diffidence he seemed like a little child that had lost its way. But the crown of thorns that was placed by Dijssebloem on the head of Varoufakis came when the latter proferred his hand to the former and receiving a contemptuous cold handshake and hearing in bafflement at the same time the head of the EU whispering to him that what he said “was a big mistake.” At the end of this grandiloquent thespian performance by the minister of finance, just before the curtains fell, Varoufakis’ body language showed the depth of his confusion and perplexity and his attempt to hide them behind contrived artificial smiles.

It is by such stuff and political buffoonery that the Tsipras Government will remedy all the ills that the ‘evil’ Troika brought to Greece. This government of a medley of Marxists, socialists, and anarcho-syndicalists posit a great danger to the country as it plans to implement the by now defunct nostrums of its ideology, such as the expansion of the public sector, the nationalization of banks, airlines, ports, and electric and water services, the unbridled extension of the State, a highly regulated business sector, hence, replanting all the poisonous seeds into the soil of Greece that brought a blighted crop of economic bankruptcy.

As to Syrizas’ stand toward to the EU and the IMF, it will either stiffen it and thus lead the country to tactless insolvency and back to the drachma, or it will blink before the sharp sighted Europeans and will be forced to renege, and reverse, all the bombastic promises it made to the people before the elections. Indeed, Syriza will pour so much water in its wine and make it so tasteless that will turn all the people, who so frivolously believed its false promises and lies and voted for it, into teetotallers.

When Syrizas’ charge of the light brigade against the European Union, ‘armoured’ with its chimerical infeasible proposals will be made ‘mincemeat’ by the descendants of the Knights of the North, the romantic riders of Syrizas’ leadership will be compelled to dismount their wistful ideological hobbyhorses for the sake of holding on to power. But the latter also will be an illusion. As the Tsipras Government has failed to convince the EU of the correctness and feasibility of its economic proposals, likewise it will fail to have the support of the Greek people for policies, which preordain, as the collapse of communism, the destruction of Greece.

Functional Government a Prerequisite for Handling Crisis in Greece

I’m republishing the following short piece that was written on June 20, 2012. As events have shown since then  it was the unity of the tripartite government of New Democracy, Pasok, and the Democratic Left, that was set-up post-election, in regard to the policies to be followed with its negotiations with the European Union that has kept Greece within the union and has given the country a new opportunity to overcome the crisis. There are favorable signs that Greece under the strong and resilient leadership of Antonis Samaras the miracle of an economically resurgent Greece is about to unfold. 

By Con George-Kotzabasis

The present position of Evangelos Venizelos the leader of Pasok that the government to be formed on June 18 must include Syriza in a coalition of other parties so that it can presumably deal more effectively with European leaders in regard to the necessary modifications of the Second Memorandum, is to repeat the stupendous error of the Democratic Left, under the pusillanimous leadership of Fotis Kouvelis, when it too had placed the same pre-condition after the May 6 election. The present profound crisis of Greece needs a functional government with united policies and realistic and decisive leadership that can pull the country out of the crisis and not a government of factions whose deep differences of how to handle the negotiations with the European Union would inevitably lead to intestine fights and to the collapse of such government that would seriously exacerbate the crisis. Thus the pleading for a wider coalition as Venizelos proposes will result with mathematical precision to a dysfunctional government irretrievably incapable of handling the crisis.