Have you ever heard of Yanis Varoufakis? I have to confess that until recently I certainly hadn't, but I'm glad that I've now found his blog. As a Greek economist, who can clearly see the fundamental flaws of the EU's response to the financial crisis, he provides an insightful analysis of why Europe is fighting a losing battle in shoring up Greek (and Irish and Portuguese and Spanish) debt, and in effect, underlines that we in Ireland are not crazy to question the bail-out - on the contrary, we are insane to go along with it. Additionally, reading his blog is a refreshing antidote to the suggestions emanating from northern Europe that Greece is in the position it is because of the inherent "fecklessness" or "irresponsibility" of its population - on the contrary, the citizens of Greece, like their counterparts in Ireland and indeed throughout the EU, are suffering because feckless or irresponsible investors are not being burned.
Varoufakis's latest blog post is quite disturbing, however, suggesting a creeping censorship developing in Greece that is attempting to hush up those who are suggesting that the EU and the Greek political elites are on a losing path. What is truly worrying, however, is that much of the subtle silencing of dissent that Varoufakis describes is already clearly practised in Ireland. Witness RTE's apology over a report on a jokey portrait of Biffo (understandably - why would the national broadcaster report on a protest against the government! Nothing to see here folks, move on), and we are well used to the media and government teaming up in serious group think (be it regarding the property boom, the banking guarantee, the need for Nama, or the Lisbon Treaty). The trouble is, in a crisis like this dissent is the most valuable commodity you can have. Only by considering every option can you truly decide what path is correct - and in such a time of extraordinary difficulty, the apparently maddest policy might actually turn out to be the best path forward. Don't forget, in 1940 "sane and sensible" voices were urging Britain to make peace with Germany - Churchill was seen as a warmonger for wanting to continue fighting.
Despite the many flaws Europeans see in the American system of government, one area in which the US beats Europe hands down is in freedom of speech. No matter how distasteful your views, whether you want to burn the Koran or protest against homosexuality at the funeral of fallen soldiers, you are allowed to do so. And the inherent competion in the US media ensures that no matter how crazy your beliefs, be they on the far-right or the far-left, you will be heard. Exposure to public opinion acts like natural selection for theories and beliefs - the weakest are killed off, while the strongest are recognised by wider society as having some merit. In Europe, we seem to be intent on developing a plan for dealing with the economic crisis via ideological creationism from on high - only it is very clear that the divine touch is clearly absent.
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