Sunday, May 27, 2012

When "Placing the Blame" Only Makes It Worse

A Quiet Cycle of Greed, Corruption and Destruction

There is no shortage of opposing theories which squarely place the "blame" for the European austerity on a suspiciously convenient series of "causes."  In our typical head long rush to over simplicity, our skeptical minds have probably dabbled with one after another -- each encounter reinforcing some ideological vagary, some cynical axiom or, perhaps, just the latest perverse inclination to say "I told you so."

Yet, the "debt crisis" in both Europe and the United States reveals a quite discernible, unsettlingly similar set of events, victims, participants and consequences.  The media has been dutifully segregating the perpetrators to each EuroZone member as the wheel turns, but the distinctions are synthetic.  Not surprisingly, the same ugly foundations can be found in all the cases -- including the "debt crisis" in this country.

And, not only are the "foundations" similar.  The "players" are also similar.

The main player in each instance, no matter its geographical location,  turns out to be exactly the same "player."  In every country currently "hosting a debt problem" convenient villains are becoming visible -- bankers, stock brokers, corrupt politicians and avarice soaked oligarchs.  However all these "black kettles" don't fall far from the biggest "black pot" of them all: the electorates who either sat idly by or were even complicit in contradiction to their common sense.

In every one of these countries we find an entirely similar political system -- democracy.  At every juncture where the local "debt crisis" could have been curtailed but wasn't, we have to focus on the "could have" part.

Yes, all the greedy ones exploited opportunities right and left, one after another, relentlessly painting the grave scene we see now.  But, on the other hand, fully empowered citizens of these same democracies, for a variety of unsavory reasons, happily abrogated their responsibilities to successfully operate their respective democracies, governments and economies.

The reckless behavior of United States citizens is no exception.  Inebriated by what seemed to be times of national prosperity, we happily looked away from Congressional and Presidential policies which were persistently parasitic to the nation's normal economy,  and -- for those even slightly more interested -- clearly antagonistic to long term economic stability.  Both the schemes and their perpetrators were not only adolescent in their presentation to the public, they were intrinsically dangerous.

This was no mystery.  At least, it should not have been a mystery.

One particularly damaging scheme was the short term "manufacture" of synthetic economic strength coupled with simultaneous immense borrowing.  Other, opportunistic economic values seemed to be stable, but this was a stability founded on an ever increasing Ponzi game.  The borrowing supplanted failures in economic management, and the dismal voter apathy effectively undercut the "checks and balances" fundamental of democratic discipline.

The Final Round of "The Blame Game"

We are presently facing the monumental debt because the citizens -- voters -- failed to demand any more durable, more constructive alternatives.  The same can be said for Greece, Ireland, Portugal, Spain and Italy.

Even more interesting, the "more constructive alternatives" include absolutely no rehabilitative austerity.  "More constructive alternatives" do, however, include a troublesome concept which evokes stark terror in Republicans.

Good governance.

Although there might be some bits of attractive ideology further along in the discussion, no ideology is required to post the first maxim of good governance -- spending the tax payers money on things which advance the country.  The responsibility of managing the debt only surfaces after the debt has been created, and, somewhere in the process of creating debt, taxpayers will, at least theoretically, be interested in the argument about why that debt was necessary, unavoidable or desirable..  No common ideology subscribes to the concept of perpetually borrowing more and more money for routine government expenditures.

This is what we did.  This is what Greece did.  This is what all the "debt crisis" hosts did.

Additionally, although there might be some bits of economic policies for democracies counter to this general rule, no stable economic policy for democracies subscribes to the concept of enfranchised voters perpetually acquiescing to government policies which cannot -- under even the most dynamic imaginary model -- possibly be sustained.

This is what we did.  This is what Greece did.  This is what all the "debt crisis" hosts did.

We all simply stood there, transfixed on an hypnotic indulgence in "busyness," while our economies were being looted.  Our selective memory may have very comfortably set this aside while we wail about the opportunists who wound up with all the money, but the ultimate responsibility rests with us.  We had the power to prevent this, and we didn't.

We've also had plenty of past history from which we could have learned this, and we didn't.

The salient cry would not have been "Stop stealing from us!  Stop looting the Treasury!"  Instead, we were supposed to be yelling "Govern!  Do things with our tax money that we need and can afford."

Of course there were villains, but there weren't any more or any less villains this time than there have been before.  Not a day has passed in the history of laissez faire economies when opportunists and criminals were not salivating in the wings, waiting for the insistent gaze of tax payers to falter for only a moment.

The latest "new ingredient" to really bad gruel.  (image source)

The "new ingredient" to this distasteful recipe is not a clutch of sociopathic billionaires or even their propaganda pundit servants.  They have been consistent in their ambitions and constantly  present since Lagdash.  The "new ingredient" is a working block of voters in the electorate who have now become so lax in their oversight of their own money that these outrages can not only exist at all, but flourish.

Our first inclination might be to blame those with the bulging pockets, but when we face facts, their avarice is nothing new.  This leaves us to our second inclination where we blame those who have manipulated an illiterate electorate to allow their schemes.

"Oh dear.  They have filled our heads with falsehoods and half-truths.  The have deceived us, tricked us, frightened us and convinced us -- even the presence of available and compelling evidence to the contrary -- that we are no more than untended waifs, victims of intractable economic forces of nature beyond comprehension or management."


"All these chickens have come home to roost." Johnny Depp (image source)

The American electorate didn't "arrive on the turnip truck," and, if they did, "they didn't arrive on the turnip truck that came last night."

Why are we acting as if we did?

The explanation of all this would be far simpler if, like the Romans, we had been drinking our wine from lead coated flasks.

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