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Thursday, September 6, 2012

Should Greece Cut Military Spending?

As the government of Greece was in the process of working out a 11.5 euro austerity plan that would involve forced retirements in public sector and pension cuts so the E.U. would approve another installment of the bailout to the state,  one Greek remarked, “Mark my words. In the coming months, there will be a revolution, and this government will fall.” This sounds a bit like “buyer’s remorse” concerning the June election wherein the anti-bailout/austerity party barely lost. What about all the Greeks who voted for Samaras? Were they so quickly turning into radicals? Is democracy so fickle?  If so, the notion of terms, extant in republics other than in Walker’s Wisconsin, is vital. That is to say, if a people would so soon turn on their own votes, it is important that the elected representatives have some protection from the momentary passion of the masses.
 
On the other hand, the German-led “austerity-only” approach to Greece had clearly exacerbated the Greek fiscal condition, as rising unemployment demands more cash from the state government so people don’t starve. Absent any sort of admission of error on the part of Angela Merkel, revolution could be the only option for a people suffering from the wrong course. That is to say, revolution is justified when government officials refuse to admit to and correct a course of action that is counter-productive and even ruinous.

                                                                                  Is keeping Greece in the euro worth the austerity?    source: times.com
 
The good in enabling elected representatives to “do the right thing” even when the masses at the moment feel otherwise can be distinguished from the bad in a stubborn politician whose ideological policy is ruinous to the people. The problem is how to design a democratic process wherein the good is protected while the bad is thwarted. Samaras needs some space to do what might not match the momentary passions of the mob, but at the same time the people need some way to “just say no” to a policy shown to have made fiscal matters worse. Recalling a head of state, such as Scott Walker in Wisconsin, just because of disagreement with a bill signed by the official is not only jejune, but also counter to the protection an elected official needs in order to be a statesman. How, therefore, can the Greek citizens “just say no” to still more austerity without eviscerating representative democracy in their state? The problem is one of constitutional design permitting statesmanship while checking tyranny. I cannot say I have a solution.
 
In terms of the austerity proposal itself, I suspect that much more could be cut without having to touch pensions or sustenance programs. Specifically, I would point to the Greek defense budget and ask whether the state requires any military at all. Greece is a state in the E.U. which mitigates the need for Greece to have a military. For instance, whereas formerly armies were needed to resolve conflicts between states, now the European Court of Justice or the European Court of Human Rights can be appealed to in resolving a dispute. Furthermore, simply being in a union reduces the likelihood of a conflict that would reach the need for military action. Lastly, the E.U. itself has a military force (at one point this was set at 60,000 troops). The notion that every E.U. state needs a defense budget is antiquated. To be sure, the American states have armies, which the U.S. president can use, but these national guards are I suspect much less costly to the U.S. states than are the defense budgets of the E.U. states.
 
In short, the Europeans may be looking too closely at budget items in cutting spending. A broader perspective is needed, from which I suspect a lot more money can be cut without “reaching bone.” Put another way, the Greek people need not suffer so much, if only their state officials would reconfigure their notions of Greece as a state in a union. The status quo can become antiquated yet people can fail to realize this. Such a deficient perspective can prevent alternatives that would show current choices to be unnecessarily difficult. Perhaps there are other broad categories of spending that Greece could reduce with relative impunity from the standpoint of citizens feeling the need to revolt. I contend that a paradigmatic shift is necessary for such benefits to be realized.

Source:

Liz Alderman, “Greek Government and Public at Odds Over New Cuts,” The New York Times, September 6, 2012. http://www.nytimes.com/2012/09/06/business/global/greek-government-and-public-at-odds-over-new-cuts.html