The Greek Orthodoxy



The Greek “outcome” is symptomatic of a broken economic ideology. Underlying that ideology is an expectation that private losses flowing from reckless activity will be ultimately supported by public money.

“Outcome” perhaps is too pre-emptive a word given the upcoming referendum in Greece this weekend. Greece will essentially vote on whether to remain within the European contract, or experiment, or however you choose to describe it. Greece, this home of democracy, having been forced through undemocratic means to endure austerity resulting in wiping almost 30% off its economy, is returning to democracy to seek a mandate.

Regardless of this outcome, the post global financial crisis western world has seen public bailouts following this reckless behaviour. Few people remember that the last action of the George W. Bush administration was to shepherd the largest transfer of public wealth in private hands following the unethical and immoral collatarized debt obligation tsunami brought about by the derivative market.

In Greece, derivatives were at play too with Goldman Sachs masking the debt through the cloak of clever financial instruments to lubricate membership to the EU.

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Prior to this, banks in France and Germany were only too willing to loan to an equally unethical Greek government seeking to prop up the façade that was their complete absence of tax revenue. Clearly, those governments are culpable, but where is the culpability of the bankers who made the loans? Any layer of due diligence would have revealed the façade leading to any sensible institution to determine that the loans were never going to be repaid.

There is an entitlement from those who work in the financial services industry that they reap all the benefits while the risk sits with the ignorant public. Any bailout from the troika goes to the banks, while the people of Greece have just absorbed five years of austerity.

Ireland was no different. The banks made all the mistakes, but the people were the ones who absorbed the losses, the pain, and the ignominy.

And why would the folks in the financial industry feel any different? Where is the evidence for their accountability? Where have been the wave of prosecutions following the global financial crisis? It is business as usual now, the bonuses are back, and the only real losers are the public, in every sense of the word.

There is no free market when only one group gets to set the rules.

Despite the irrefutable evidence of the flaws of this economic model following the global financial crisis, this mantra of the free market inherent in neo-liberalism, it remains the economic orthodoxy. It seems that the truth can be ignored, when it is really dogma that drives the thinking trumping the evidence.

And it is this orthodoxy that continues to drive economic discussion in Aotearoa. Our lack of economic diversity and inability to truly leverage our assets leaves us lagging in creativity and future scope. We continue to favour short term advancement over longer term thinking. It is this thinking that ultimately disarms us when we should be moving beyond this flawed orthodoxy.

In truth, we face the challenge of these generations in the reality of climate change. Yet, this government prefers to remain blind in the spotlight of our future. Our intransigence only embarrasses us and leaves us behind the curve, when we should be way out in front. Imagine our potential if we truly decide to stimulate and release it.

So, this weekend we watch as Greece attempts to make sense of their modern predicament. The moral judgement will be strong, almost overpowering, and will cloud any frank assessment of the layer of factors leading to this predicament. Ultimately, lessons will not be learned, and we will limp to another crisis under this flawed, and greedy, economic orthodoxy.

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Michael Timmins
Michael Timmins is an expert in international human rights law. Specialising in refugee rights, Michael has worked in Egypt, the United States, Australia, Thailand, Pakistan and his home country of New Zealand across roles in advocacy, academia, and government. He is also a member of the Child Poverty Action Group's Management Committee. Michael’s writing covers international human rights, counter-terrorism, international environmental law, rule of law and accountability issues, as well as anything interesting happening in international relations.


  1. This government is not blind to anything Michael .it knows exactly what it is doing , leading us to a takeover if we don’t do something soon.

  2. “The banks made all the mistakes, but the people were the ones who absorbed the losses, the pain, and the ignominy…”

    Hilarious! You clearly haven’t been reading on the topic of the Greek economy.

    For decades the Greeks have been stealing from themselves. Very few people pay taxes, the public sector unions have been awarding themselves vast pay increases and ever larger pension payouts and other freebees. The entire government is corrupt beyond belief from top to bottom.

    Goldman is guilty to the extent that they aided and abetted the Greek government in hiding the swindles, but overall the Greek people own the Greek problem.

    • Where do these people come from who seem determined to back up the neo liberals? Do they do it for free and if so why? Are they so in thrall to those in power that they identify with them despite not having any power themselves. It’s a mystery to me but I wish they’d find something constructive to do with their lives.

    • So when it’s New Zealand’s turn, and make no mistake at some stage we will have to pay the piper, 90 billion and counting, are you going to step up and take responsibility Andrewo? I’m not. I didn’t bloody choose to borrow it so the rich could have tax cuts.

  3. How cynical ANDREWO

    Just a decade ago Greece was a rich successful vibrant economy until the Corporations (Emron) first cab off the rank killed us all with their reckless abandonment of “fiscal responsibility”, then do do remember in thic ountry when all our financial minstitutions also went broke ???

    You was a part of this greed cycle wasn’t you as many in NZ were also?

    So its a bit rich of you, pointing the finger art Greece when you and many others were capturing profits from imaginary asset stocks/shares on our highly leveraged speculation stock market with the high speed “derivatives” ect’ ect’, – which were sometimes only imaginary asset levels not actual real asset values.

    So you say the Greeks were robbing when you were dealing also in this imaginary stock market asset bubble which is as sick & bad as the Auckland real estate market is today.

    This over extended speculation is now driving us into another big dark market crash hole, which will produce the next mega sized most serious financial depression that will harm millions & will dwarf all other previous ones the world has ever endured.

    Don’t dream on wake up!!!

  4. The obvious analogy is one of the drug dealer and the addict. Who is the more guilty, the drug dealer providing drugs to a known addict, or the addict who accepts the drugs from the dealer to maintain his bad habit? I think the answer should be pretty clear to all.

    • Indeed…its called ‘ All care …no responsibility ‘…however in this case its more like…

      ”We don’t give a rats shit bout Greece , you ,- or any other bastard for that matter – what matters is that we get filthy ferkin rich at your expense and to hell if a few thousand poor people die ”

      THAT ….is the true attitude of these fuckers.

  5. New Zealand may have comparatively little public debt (government debt), but since the Rogernomics reforms there has been a steady shift of the debt load from the state to the private households, and we are as a small country rather heavily indebted that way:

    “Kiwis’ mortgage debt has officially climbed past $200 billion, a mountain of borrowing which has doubled in the space of 10 years.”

    That continued obsession with housing, “investment” in housing to secure retirement, and never ending borrowing to afford one’s own home, is still a great pre-occupation of that “middle class” both National and Labour want to vote for them.

    But thinking of Greece, and property bubbles, of debt and possible bursts of bubbles, maybe we are not that far away from Greece after all. I heard tonight, how the stock markets in China are continuing to dive, and mega billions are written off. That market is slowing economically, that “boom market” we bet on, to sell our milk powder and so much else to.

    Europe will have to digest the Greek debt crisis, one way or another, and it will cause ripples, and in the US things are not that great either. So while Groser still hopes for a TPPA deal, I think the whole projections for economic growth will turn out as having been overly optimistic.

    Something rather volatile may be just around the corner, also for little Kiwiland, Down Under.

  6. On the news this morning in Greece, the YES votes were said to be the most,until a polling company came forward and said that vote was issued before the count of the NO vote in its entirety, changed the vote to the highest,the polling company said they never approved the YES vote statement. This is how false info influences the outcome.
    The EU and corporations have divided to rule, split the country with
    YES and No votes , instead of becoming a referendum its become a war, with cheating on results already.

    The Irish vote for independence was suspect,Uk interference maybe?????? Now the outcomes are being manipulated in Greece in favour of YES, the votes need to be well monitored and checked.EU wants Greece to stay in EU, will they cheat to get the desired result. Notice how news coverage on TV, shows close up of crowd with YES vote so no judging how many people at the rally, the NO vote is a wide angle lense, shows the huge numbers of people there . Manipulation is the name of the game worldwide.

  7. The Germans have also rather conveniently forgotten that after WW2 all of their debts were written off, and one of the countries contributing to that write off was little Greece.

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