Privatisation Without Representation: European democracy's last gasp

Once upon a time, the crying call for parliamentary democracy was: No taxation without representation.

Centuries passed and the democratic right to representation in all debates prior to taxation decisions was won.

Then came the idea that Europe’ peoples should join together, forming a European Union in order to demonstrate to the rest of the world the power of democracy; lighting the beacon that would shine in perpetuity from the top of some imaginary hill carrying to the four corners of the world the message that democracy works; that different people, speaking different tongues, believing in different creeds, can be brought together in a commonwealth of the free that is founded on the simple, yet ever so powerful, principle of democratic representation.

Lastly came the euro crisis. All of a sudden, the beacon faded into a flickering glimmer. Greece became the first country in which Europe itself imposed the harshest form of taxation: privatisation; i.e. the forced expropriation of our common property.

Naturally, a people, just like any family or business, have every right to sell part of their property. On occasion, it may indeed be sensible to do so. But what is happening today in Greece is of a different, malignant, ilk: Our European leaders have taken it upon themselves not only to decide that the Greeks will sell the family silver but, astonishingly, to effect the sale themselves.

There are of course arguments that the Greeks owe that money and what we are now witnessing is a form of confiscation, of foreclosure. But this would be to identify a people with their state and to assume perfect equivalence between the rights a state’s vocal creditors with the rights of voiceless citizens.

This is a poignant moment in Europe’s history. A moment when democratically minded Irish, Scots, French, English, Italians, Germans, Welsh, Portuguese ought to observe with a minute’s silence. For this is the moment when Europe’s democratic soul is being buried. In Athens where it was born.


  • Yanis, you won’t recall me because I was a middling economics student at The University of Sydney from 1989-1992, but I certainly recall you. I have recently stumbled over your Blog. Please drop me an email at your leisure, but suffice to say your recent commentary has been both poignant and insightful. Keep it up.

  • Yanis:

    I remember Crocodile Dundee telling the Girl the wisdom of Aborigines: “That stone was there 600 million years ago, before the dinosaurs. It will be there when humans go into stars.”

    Nations engender people. People are born and die, as the cells in a human body. Between birth and death people exchange, sometimes impose or thief, bits of paper and plastic with the word ownership engraved. Paper and plastic fade in earth, water, air and fire. Nations remain.

    Elláda is an elder among the nations of humankind. She gave the name to Europe, shaped Roman thinking and the Eastern Empire, ignited Renaissance, stood the Crusaders and Ottoman law, recovered independence 2000 years after Corinth.

    A long, long runner over Earth and Sea.

    Like people, nations sleep and are awake. Elláda is sleeping now, dreaming a mare, fighting to wake up.

    She will do.


  • Those of us on the margins just do not count. We are now neo colonies.

  • Yani, thank you so much for your insightful commentary. I also read your Greek blog at and I find it a invaluable resource for anyone wanting to make sense of the current sovereign debt crisis. Keep up the good work!

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