A daydream of a proposal for how will Greece handle her impossible debt
A daydream- and
A proposal- not necessarily for how Greece might settle existing debts, but for helping
to avoid incurring them in the future. This proposal is to help reduce the natural conflict
of interest in a supposedly democratic society whereby people vote themselves endless
largesse (usually through the insitgation and mediation of power-hungry politicians) at
the expense of the society and nation at large. Proposed would be a constitutional amendment
(though given the mechanism for constitutional amendment in greece, highly unlikely to
be passed by either of the major parties. we can dream, though)
The proposal has three parts, each very simple:
First, no one on the government payrolls, government pensions, welfare,
or public offices, has a vote. Only those people who are not on the public dole or the public
purse have a say in the governing of the country.
Second, all public finance must become more local- neither taxation nor disbursement of
provincial or municipal budgets at a national scale, but at the scale of the nomos or the municipality.
Some things are indeed best left to the national government, and the people who are supporting this
system will by their own votes decide what is appropriate for the country send in to the center,
but the direction of finance would be fundamentally reversed.
The idea of regional and local autonomy is a bad joke while finance remains centralized.
Third, the state, in any form, local or national, can not be allowed to commit funds
or expenditure of any kind if the money is not already present in the treasury, and the moment
funds are committed, they must be deducted immediately from the balance of the treasury before
any new funds can be comitted. This forces the state essentially into a cash-on-hand type
of accounting, and makes any kind of public debt strictly illegal.
people who pay for the system but aren't directly dependent for their day to day living will
still likely continue to support the idea of public services like the courts, defence, some
infrastructure works, or whatever - but the conflict of interest would be much much smaller
when those who are dependent on such a system no longer can influence it directly. Politicians
would find it much harder to buy votes or buy complicity by building up huge populations of dependent
clients, empire-building bureacrats would have to answer to people put in office specifically
by those people who they have no direct control over, and there is naturally a negative
feedback in that the larger the public sector gets, the fewer people left in the private sector
will be voting more emphatically to reduce the burden- and the smaller the public sector
gets, the more of the people will be voting (and likely keep it in some kind of balance between
The localization of revenues would at least make it more possible for individual regions and
municipalities to function or even deny funding to the larger entities in the cases of crisis or
gross abuse. It would make municipalities and provinces much more accountable to their own citizens
and much more receptive to their needs and demands - because they depend for their living not
on a central ministry, parcelling out budget according to some statistical models, but instead on
the people living in their very own district. Central politicians would have one less channel of
power to potentially corrupt or be corrupted by it, and the more localized and the smaller scale
such structures and institutions get, the harder it is for them to remain nontransparent for long,
and the harder it is for them to operate unaccountably for long.
When budget comes from the center, and local grievances have to navigate a central mchinery to
ever be heard, the accountability of local authorities and governments to the people
is severely impaired and abuses can continue for a long time.
And, with the state no longer to incur debt, with its implicit guarantee of future ability
to extract revenue to repay, it should at least manage to avoid getting into that jam next time.
If the economy shrinks or slow down, the necessarily revenues , public incomes, and reciepts will
fall, and so should spending. If spending can only be done out of money already in the treasury,
the state will be compelled to actually run a surplus to keep a sufficient buffer available for
The resulting system would look a lot more like Switzerland (though with some significant differences,
as even in switzerland, short-sighted populist agendas and growing bureacracies are capable of
effecting a creeping advance against the rest of the country)
In ancient Athens, the police and civil servants were slaves, public property just as much
as a market square or a fountain or the walls of the city. They had neither a vote nor a social
rank over the people whose city they administered, quite unlike the petty nobility that
these low-rung elites make themselves out to be today. The machinery of government itself could
not usurp power. They were part of what the Romans called Res Publica - public property - the source
of the modern word republic.
Also, in the ancient world, the general lack of credit on a large scale prevented cities or states
from going into public debt. Yes, there are a handful of examples, but they are very rare.
This file and all other content on the VAXpower.org site copyright 2008 by G. Economou