Europe: Smashing the Spinning Plates

Source: In These Times

The outcome of the June 17 Greek election—a narrow victory for the conservative New Democracy over the leftist Syriza party, and the prompt formation of a “pro-European” coalition government—predictably unleashed a gigantic sigh of relief all over Europe. The catastrophe was averted, European unity had prevailed, etc. But, in fact, a great opportunity was missed, a unique chance for Europe to finally confront the depth of its economic and political deadlock. The sigh of relief effectively meant: We avoided the awakening. We can continue to dream.

CNN’s Richard Quest recently offered a metaphor for this dream when he compared the European officials to:

[T]he proverbial “plate spinners” from the circus. Those talented artists who balance spinning plates on sticks, ever increasing the number of sticks, rushing from one to the other, giving them a tug and pull to keep them moving, always aware that if they are too slow or too fast, one of the plates will crash to the ground. That is exactly what we have in Europe today. Only the artists are European Central Bank president Mario Draghi, Eurogroup head Jean-Claude Juncker, European Commission president José Manuel Barroso et al, while the plates are Greece, Spanish banks, Italian deficits, eurobonds and German chancellor Angela Merkel. … Daily it seems there are more plates spinning, and the antics of the spinners become more frantic as they rush from one to the other, ever proclaiming that the act is coming to a close. Unfortunately that is not the case. The plate spinning is likely to continue for some time to come.

Spinning plates is effectively what the Brussels Eurocrats are doing: endlessly postponing the critical reckoning by way of adding new plates and thus making the balance more and more fragile. Syriza was accused of promoting leftist fictions—but it is the austerity plan imposed by Brussels that is a fiction. In a strange gesture of collective make-believe, everyone knows that the Greek state cannot ever repay its debt, and everyone ignores the obvious nonsense of the financial projections on which the plans are based.

So why does Brussels impose these plans? What matters in contemporary capitalism is that agents act upon their putative beliefs about future prospects, regardless of whether they really believe in those prospects. And, as we also all know, the true aim of these rescue measures is not to save Greece, but to save the European banks.

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