George Monbiot writing in the Guardian provides a historical context for the current crisis in Greece and in the Eurozone which ought to be seen under the light of the long story of “subordinating human welfare to financial power.” This subordination has always been exercised in the name of what was historically known as “laissez-faire,” and which we know today as “market fundamentalism” or “neoliberalism.” From the 19th century Indian and Irish famines and the gold standard to the “structural adjustment programmes” administered by the IMF in the late 20th century, it is always about “keeping the majority poor while the rich enjoy a gilded age.” The Maastricht Treaty, which established the European Union, and the institutional management of the financial crisis since 2010, arose from the same impulse of an “extreme version of market fundamentalism.” Although they present themselves as “the only adults in the room,” the people who are responsible for and design these policies turn out to be “demented utopian fantasists, votaries of a fanatical economic cult.” This helps explain the “seigneurial horror with which the troika’s unelected technocrats have greeted the resurgence of democracy in Greece.”

The crushing of political choice is not a side-effect of this utopian belief system but a necessary component. Neoliberalism is inherently incompatible with democracy, as people will always rebel against the austerity and fiscal tyranny it prescribes. Something has to give, and it must be the people. This is the true road to serfdom: disinventing democracy on behalf of the elite.

Photo: Athens, June 2011. A demonstration in front of the Greek Parliament. Ggia/Wikimedia Commons