07 July 2015 — Who is Euclid?
I fell into a discussion with Simon Nixon on twitter yesterday about Tsakalotos. Nixon (and a number of other commentators) have been lazily accusing Tsakalotos of being ‘hard-left’.
Tsakalotos is pro-EU, anti-Grexit (and a very nice chap on top). I had offered a review of Tsakalotos and Laskos book (Crucible of Resistance) on Amazon in 2013. I had been critical in the past of Syriza, its public pronouncements and positions. This is not because I disagree with a left alternative for Greece, but because I was disappointed with the apparent swap of places between PASOK and Syriza (and the populist, clientist baggage that comes with this). I have indeed accused Syriza of populism in my book Redefining the Market-State Relationship: Responses to the Financial Crisis and the Future of Regulation (Routledge Research in Finance and Banking Law). Tsakalotos book had gone a great way in changing my opinion of Syriza and its programme. The book comes from an authoritative source (Laskos and Tsakalotos are central members of Syriza), but it is a genuine work of scholarship. None of this un-referenced politico-ranting that Greek politicians tend to produce.
The book explains the crisis in general, the Greek crisis in particular, and offers a reflection on future paths in a well documented, convincing and scholarly manner that is still accessible to a general audience. I agree with the vast majority of the argument, and I have used the same literature and statistical data myself. The greatest contribution of the book (for me at least) is its explanation of the Syriza programme as regards Euro membership. The authors proclaim that staying within the Euro is part of a thought-through strategy of engagement with the European left, and they envisage alternative economic programmes within the European institutions, plus a deepening of democracy at the European level. I cannot say I am a great believer in this (references to Habermas aside), but it seems like a credible enough stance. Better than my (to-date) assessment of left pro-euro europeanism as a sort of blackmail strategy.
Interesting as well is the criticism of Lapavitsas and the Euro-exit left (see Crisis in the Eurozone); the authors blame the Grexit proposals for preventing reform with a left direction on the European level, as national policies will inevitably alienate fellow-travellers abroad. I admit I did not think of that, as my concern with a Grexit is the inability to manage it due to the quality of the political and administrative capacity of Greece.
Tsakalotos work has contributed to my understanding of the crisis. Since 2008 the world in general and Europe in particular has existed in a state of continuous crisis. From the collapse of Lehman Brothers, to the credit crunch, to single, double and triple dip recessions, from collapses in production, trade and consumer confidence to the sovereign debt crisis and austerity, it seems like we have lived through 7 years of unending bad news. Reflections on the role of law in the midst of this multifaceted crisis have ranged from viewing law as the source of the problem, to envisaging law as a solution. Perhaps, some even argue, this crisis is post-law, it demonstrates the irrelevance of regulatory frameworks and legal rules in the era of global financialised capitalism. I published a paper in 2014 that sought to explore the role of law in the crisis, envisaging law as occupying the space where economics and politics meet. Law in this regard (the paper hypothesises) is both the source of the problem and a tool for its eventual resolution. In attempting this reflection the paper begun by examining the relationship between law, economics and politics, utilising the Polanyian notion of economic orders dis-embedded from their social and political backgrounds. It continued by examining more closely an important instance of market disequilibrium, the sovereign debt crisis. This examination (with Greece as a focal point) allows us to test the notion that legal frameworks are to blame for what Laskos and Tsakalotos term ‘a lack of plasticity’ in European policy making. Does law restrict policy and are current European institutional structures unable to provide a solution? In testing the feasibility of solutions to the European debt problem necessitates an evaluation of the legal posibility of the infamous ‘Grexit’. The paper concluded by asking whether can law reform provide an exit from the crisis, or does the lack of institutional flexibility in Europe make ‘Drachmageddon’ inevitable? See here for access.
Having been burned by my faith in Varoufakis earlier, I am a lot more cautious now of Syriza initiatives and choices. Nonetheless, I think Tsakalotos is a good choice for Finance Minister at the moment.