Are the developed countries finally going to cast their gaze into the abyss opened up by the global obsession with money? Have we, at last, decided to undergo a detox cure for pure greed for profit? Many signs, such as the debate around re-industrialization, would seem to suggest it, even as major troubles still threaten. The biggest problem is not Greece, its debt, the frailties and faults of its central administration so frequently denounced by former Prime Minister Mr. Papandreou, who claims he was not ‘helped’ by his European ‘friends’ on the pressing matter of reforming his country. As France and Germany lent money to Greece in order to be reimbursed themselves, austerity measures were their only concern, not the reforms Papandreou strongly recommended. Equally, as I ask him about his concerns for Greece’s future, he is convinced that until the necessary structural reforms take place, the country will not be able to escape corruption, and will not succeed in achieving fiscal discipline.
The rise of poverty in Greece can only make things more ungovernable. Nor is Spanish debt the problem. The biggest global problem, by far, is our cardboard money. The dollar is weighed down by American debt, according to all the textbooks, to an impossible degree. Technically dead. If the dollar is still - miraculously - standing, it’s because the major global currency reserves, the oil trade and treasury bills are in US dollars. Also, unlike the euro, the dollar printing press in the US is not the focus of a clash between board members. Dollars are being printed without limit. Poor Europeans: rich in hope, but unable to compete with the American Mint. In Europe, the crisis is not so much that of debt, but of political governance of the EU. And, as economist and historian Marc Flandreau aptly points out in this issue, we need to re-inject micro-economy into the engine of major political decision-making. For two years, American emissaries and managers have been repeatedly claiming, in capitals across the world, that the real problem lay with the national sovereign debts in Europe, Europe’s lack of a recovery plan and reluctance to support growth. Drawing attention away from the much more serious difficulties faced by the US currency is a tactic well understood in military strategy, whether in the tradition of Sun Zu or West Point. Indeed, the two leading global powers are intimately linked by the destiny of the dollar. If the dollar plummets, so does the world, starting with the US and China. Sacrificing the euro would be in their view, after all, a lesser evil. Pity the unlucky ones who tried to buy their oil in euros.
So is it all the fault of the Greeks enjoying one more day at the beach? If we acknowledge that the Greek debt represents less than 5 percent of the whole Eurozone debt, then, de facto, the origin of the ‘problem’ must lie elsewhere. Not that we should minimize the geo-strategic role of Greece in a region that is constantly simmering. Indeed, it is this role that brings us back to reality. The gas reserves buried under Mediterranean waters between the European Cyprus, the non-European Cyprus, Lebanon, Palestine and Israel, as announced by the American Noble group, are going to fuel new tensions. To imagine that Greece holds no interest for the Americans would be to make a gross mistake – it’s not so much about the excessive size of the US embassy in Athens, or the acquisition by China of Athens’ port, Piraeus… Greece is a small stone holding up a wall much bigger than itself. As for the Germans, whose European sentiments are in no doubt, they are right off track, fussing for at least two years about creating two euro zones (one strong and one weak) a German debate largely ignored by their neighbors. Their position as of today is catastrophic. If the Europeans - and in particular the French and Germans - abandon Greece, this country will not stay an orphan for long. Are the two leading world powers waiting for the Hellenic pearl to fall into their hands? Some in Greece believe it will be so.
The realities on the ground are, as always, the only points of passage for revolutions, whether industrial, technological, social, political or cultural. This issue is full of them. Enjoy a good read, and have a pleasant summer!
July 2012, Jean-Christophe Nothias, Editor-in-Chief