The myth of the unbiased observer

A report being prepared by International Monetary Fund officials assessing the success of the Greek bailout deal, is being eagerly anticipated by many, though each for their own reasons.

For some people, like economists, the interest is purely scientific. Others are on the threshold of a deal with the IMF themselves and want to see what is what. For others still, like the Greek government, the report may contain enough self-criticism to comprise the perfect alibi for all the ills that have occurred since then. Greek society has entirely different reasons: It shattered, and this is something that everyone agrees on, even those who designed and imposed the austerity measures that brought it to this point.

Now an outside observer has the luxury to look at the Greek predicament in terms of figures, keeping a cool head and a sense of pragmatism. This outsider does not necessarily have to be a foreigner; it could be a Greek, but only if the memorandum has not affected his financial status, if no one in his circle of friends or family has been fired and if he does not feel too affected by all the downtrodden souls that he sees every day. And if both history and psychology have taught us that the objective observer is nothing more than a fiction, the natural sciences have taught us that the unbiased observer – who is neither affected by nor affects the object of study – is equally fictional. In the world of men, the perspective from which you view a thing often influences the way that you see it.

Therefore, we should not be expecting an unbiased, objective, scientifically sound report from the IMF experts who have come here, are collecting data, tallying up the figures and coming to conclusions that will determine where they went wrong so that they can grade the IMF (which spearheaded the program together with the European Union), the Greek government (as responsible for its implementation) and Greek society (for how well it took the implementation).

Given that the IMF did not begin its fiscal experiments in Greece and its failures are far more than its successes, if its bent for self-criticism were sincere it would have already assessed its policy line, and measures that failed in other countries would not have been applied to Greece. How many years of recession does Greece have to go through before those conducting the experiment begin assessing the true effects on the subjects?

Meanwhile, as the IMF steps forward and says it is prepared to admit its faults, our true allies in the EU, pleased with their role as the strict punisher, persist with their dogmatic stance and insist on their infallibility, despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary. There is not a whisper of self-assessment or self-criticism, even though the concept has been around on this continent for eons.