OPINION

Greece and outsiders

The appointment of Italian economist Tommaso Padoa-Schioppa as George Papandreou’s adviser on economic issues has confirmed the Greek prime minister’s internationalist approach all the way up to the highest administrative level. However, a government that believes the country’s salvation depends on the implementation of the EU-IMF memorandum should not be concerned with economic theory. What the Papandreou administration instead needs to do is to strictly adhere to the decisions of the so-called troika. The rest is delusional stuff. In that sense, Papandreou’s problem concerns the lack of social discipline which can only come via a conservative ideology. The PASOK socialists can’t guarantee this kind of solidarity and neither can the conservative New Democracy party, at least not until Antonis Samaras shakes up the ideological foundations of his faction. Social discipline does not necessarily entail police measures. It rather means engaging in serious dialogue with the citizenry. Needless to say, of course, any dialogue must come before a crisis, when reason gets trumped by emotionalism. Social discipline can only be achieved when the political elite has a clear idea of where it wants to lead the country and shapes the nation’s ethical code accordingly. PASOK ruled the country for most of two decades by pandering to public sentiment and it is now incapable of imposing social discipline. New Democracy imitated PASOK’s practices but this did not spare it from a humiliating defeat in the last general elections. Instead of social discipline, the country risks entering a phase of civil disobedience over the coming months. Papandreou’s government may have a parliamentary majority but it does not enjoy political legitimacy in the broader sense of the term and this is admitted even by close Papandreou officials. The PASOK government essentially derives its legitimacy from the troika. Greece, of course, is no stranger to outside meddling. One would have hoped that the last 200 years would have seen some progress on that level, but that never came. Sure, the Greek people are paying the price for their lack of judgment. The problem is that the country’s rescue has been undertaken by the same people that brought it to the verge of catastrophe.