Crisis and its personal impact

IMG_0739From the early 2000s, my dear friend and colleague Joseph Halevi and I were alerted to the unsustainability of the ‘global arrangements’ underpinning the global economy’s so called ‘Great Moderation’. Similarly, we were in deep doubt about the sustainability of the Eurozone. We felt that, underneath the surface, the tectonic plates were on the move, ready to repay financialised capitalism’s exorbitant hubris with an almighty crash. We wrote a couple of relevant articles but were, naturally, more or less ignored. For my part, I began a campaign in Greece warning of the tsunami that was to come; a crisis that would leave Greece in tatters and put Europe on a path toward disintegration. My warnings fell on deaf, and mocking, ears. Naturally.

Undaunted, Joseph and I started work on a book that would capture our views on the dead end facing the second phase of post-war capitalism and its connection to another dead end: that of economic theory. However, the Crash of 2008 intervened and the book had to be re-written again, with the assistance of friend and Athens University colleague Nicholas Theocarakis.

The Crash of 2008 and the subsequent metamorphoses of the crisis (in Europe and in the world at large) seem to have energised me no end. My The Global Minotaur came out, as a result, together with a stream of commentary on the crisis and its significance. When Greece became clearly insolvent, I came out in the Greek media telling it as it was. Because I had previously had a good relationship with the then Greek PM, George Papandreou, and had served as one of his (many) advisors (until December 2006 when I resigned), my view that Greece could not avoid default come-what-may stung the then socialist government. For two years I kept arguing that it was an Assault on Reason to deal with a deep insolvency (of both the public and the private sectors) by means of the largest loan in human history that came with strings attached and that, at the same time, demanded a major reduction of the national income from which the old and the new loans would have to be repaid (for this is what the austerity drive meant).

My determination to calling a spade a spade, and telling the world (and our European partners) the truth that Greece had gone bankrupt, was met with the charge of High Treason from the powers-that-be and, at once, with admiration from an increasing band of supporters. In other words, I was faced with a nightmare scenario. You see, there is nothing that I loathe more, dear reader, that an encounter with people who will reject what I say before I say it or, equally, who will believe what I say before I have said it.

As the latest Greek drama unfolded, from one traumatic phase to the next, I increasingly felt that the quality of the debate was sinking into a mire. A new cleptocracy was being founded on (and funded by) the ‘bailout’ funds whose political agents (governing politicians, bankers and the media funded by them) were claiming that the ‘bailout’ had ‘saved’ Greece. On the other side of politics, desperation, anger and a number of conspiracy theories were all the rage.

Soon after Greece’s implosion, three developments came into play: First, everything that I had worked to create at the University of Athens collapsed (both undergraduate and postgraduate programs). Secondly, my salary shrank (which is of heightened pertinence given my obligations to Xenia who lives in a country whose currency was on the up and up at the time my salary was shrinking). Thirdly, the death threats to members of my family that followed my insistence to discuss publically the Greek bankers’ latest scandals. Taken together, these three factors meant that the time had come to move out of Greece once again.

Thus, since 2012, Danae and I are living in the United States – where I teach at the Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs, at the University of Texas at Austin. With our antennae constantly trained toward the homeland we left behind. Temporarily we hope.