Tackling the Debt Crisis
Protests in Europe Ahead of Euro Summit
Greece was hit by violent protests and a general strike on Wednesday and workers also demonstrated in other EU nations ahead of a summit on the euro. Merkel, under fire for her handling of the crisis, repeated her tough stance as Luxembourg's foreign minister accused Berlin and Paris of "arrogance."
Greece was paralyzed by a general strike and violent protests on Wednesday and trade unions staged demonstrations in France, Spain, Belgium, Luxembourg, Denmark and the Czech Republic against government austerity measures one day ahead of what promises to be a fractious European Union summit to agree on a permanent mechanism to handle future debt crises.
In Greece, which has been undergoing radical belt-tightening to meet the conditions of its €110 billion bailout by the EU and International Monetary Fund in May, a demonstration by 20,000 people turned violent when masked protestors clashed with riot police, hurling petrol bombs and stones. Police responded by firing tear gas canisters and flash grenades.
Flights were grounded, public transport and government ministries shut down and hospitals worked on minimum staff.
The Greek parliament agreed on Tuesday to further reforms including wage cuts for state-owned bus and railway companies and a weakening of trade union power to negotiate industry-wide pay deals. In future, company level wage agreements are to take precedence.
Demonstrations were staged in Athens where authorities were on alert because previous protests have turned violent. In May, three people died in a bank that had been set on fire by rioting demonstrators. Greek journalists are also holding a 24-hour strike, causing TV, radio and Internet news blackouts. Newspapers will not be published on Thursday. moreRiot footage from Athens.
And we had rioting in Rome to protest the survival of the utterly corrupt and buffoonish Berlusconi government.
Riots break out in Rome after Silvio Berlusconi survives confidence votes
John Hooper, Rome
guardian.co.uk, Tuesday 14 December 2010 15.37 GMT
Violent clashes between police and protesters in central Rome after the Italian prime minister survives a no-confidence vote Link to this video
Rioting today swept Rome after Silvio Berlusconi's rightwing government narrowly survived a censure motion in parliament amid claims he had bought his way out of trouble.
Hooded protesters set up flaming barricades as police baton-charged demonstrators in several parts of the capital's historic centre. Cars and council vehicles were set alight, and officers fired teargas at protesters. moreOf course, the crises over debt issues is Europe-wide. Here we see a very conservative Brit lecture his fellow European parliamentarians on the fundamental absurdity of the whole Euro project. Points out the obvious failures to some of the folks responsible.
Here we see an attack on Adam Smith--one of the sacred cows of neoliberalism.
Western Civilization and Classical Economics: The Immorality of Austerity
by Prof. John Kozy
Global Research, December 12, 2010
When a civilization abandons its morality, no rationalization can be devised to justify its continued existence. It is likely that many reasons can be given for this abandonment in the Western world, although I am convinced that one predominates—the expansion of law. Law once governed various kinds of behavior. It has now encroached upon various kinds of speech and is even being applied to the realm of belief. When someone is accused of having done something wrong, the reply offered usually is something like, "What was done complied with all legal requirements." But "right" has never been defined as "conforms to law," because thoughtful people have long noticed that the law itself can be a great crime, and the worst criminals in a culture can be its lawgivers, as the people of Ireland, Portugal, France, Spain, Greece, and Great Britain are now finding out. Americans will soon find it out too.
Numerous critics of classical economists over the past two centuries have argued that it is immoral when judged by any of the recognized moral codes. Major aspects of it clearly violate the Golden Rule. It violates many, perhaps all, of the Ten Commandments. It conflicts with various teachings of Jesus. Aristotle's Ethics can be used to demonstrate its viciousness. It violates Kant's Categorical Imperative and Mill's Utilitarianism. Yet some of its proponents continue to argue that The Wealth of Nations is not inconsistent with moral principles. Clive Cook and Gavin Kennedy recently made such a claim, but what they cite as evidence doesn't withstand scrutiny.
First of all, they base the claim on Smith's earlier book, The Theory of Moral Sentiments, in which he argues that conscience results from observing the condition of others, generating sympathy, which then serves as the basis of moral judgments.
Although I have no doubt that different communities view this book differently, the philosophical community has generally considered it sophomoric. In my decades as a professor of philosophy, not once did I see the book included in the standard philosophical curriculum. Most philosophy professors I knew had little knowledge of the book's existence. So even if someone could cogently argue that The Theory of Moral Sentiments and The Wealth of Nations are philosophically consistent, that argument would have little bearing on whether classical economics is moral.
Smith has never been recognized in philosophical circles as a major thinker. As a matter of fact, he's hardly recognized at all. And even some economists have noticed the sophomoric nature of his thinking. One highly respected, renowned economist, whose name I shall let the reader guess at, said this: "His very limitation made for success. Had he been more brilliant, he would not have been taken so seriously. Had he dug more deeply, had he unearthed more recondite truth, had he used more difficult and ingenious methods, he would not have been understood. But he had no such ambitions; in fact he disliked whatever went beyond plain common sense. He never moved above the heads of even the dullest readers. He led them on gently, encouraging them by trivialities and homely observations, making them feel comfortable all along."
Yet Kennedy lists the elements of morality that Smith included in The Wealth of Nations. "[Smith] was no libertarian. . . . His idea of 'natural liberty' was almost the opposite of what it is usually taken to mean (namely, 'do as you wish'). He was at pains in both books to emphasize the importance of self-control, of regard for the opinions of others, and of an expansive role of government in providing security, rule of law, and economic infrastructure. Way ahead of his time, he was even in favor of compulsory schooling." An interesting list, but not one that justifies the view that Smith's view of the economy is moral. A moralist would have expected to see something about poverty, hunger, and suffering, all of which are absent.
A serious, irrefutable proof of the immorality embodied in The Wealth of Nations and classical economics in general is easily devised. more