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29 February 2008



Speaking about a Tragedy of the Commons...


This is such a huge problem for Greece but despite its size it is almost impossible to solve. The EU assistance is like heroine, a quick fix but sapping the strength of the people over the long term.

In regards to infrastructure, I am not sure why Greece does not use PPPs (private public partnerships) rather than EU aid. I think the Rio-Antirio bridge was completed as a PPP. Why not more? Unfortunetaly, the legal and pension system is not up to scratch which scares investors away. Even Russia is now in the process of adopting the British-Australian infrastructure model. As for agriculture they have to stop providing compensation to farmers that go bust on marginal land. A farmer cannot plead ignorance in this day and age with so much information around.

Murder every 2 days in Athens

No longer the safe haven it once was, Athens has become Chicago squared.


Linardatos artfully exposes the core problem of Greece today. The phrase "There is no need to assail honesty, merit and hard work; they have simply been rendered irrelevant" may be even declared the banner phrase of our current predicament.

At every level of public life, Greece operates "out of the envelope:" the obvious is rejected, the irrational is the rule, and corruption is the measure of "success." You need not go any farther to realize that the "model" is simply unworkable and, therefore, finite in a way that would cause major and permanent dislocations. As for the rule of law, and the protections one would normally expect from an organized state, the situation is reaching the point of no salvage. And when individual trust to government is broken, the slide becomes irreversible.



This "tragedy of the commons" seems to be in play everywhere we look nowadays. From our own personal lives to the national and international level. Perhaps it is partly attributable to the profit motive run amuck combined with a ever growing societal breakdown that perpetuates the sense of a dog eat dog world.


I was struck by this sentence:

"Under the tutelage of progressive ideas there are privileges without duties, advantages without merit, crime without punishment and hard work with no reward."

It reflects the increasingly acute malaise in American society as much as it does in Greek society.


Using a Panagiotis Kondylis approach, and to be accurate, the author probably means a certain type of "progressive ideas". Remember it was progressive ideas that led to the idea of a meritocracy before and after the French Revolution. It was also progressive ideas which led to the liberation of Greece. We should be careful not to lay all the blame on progressive ideas.

Simon Baddeley

Individualisations' consequences takes us into well ploughed territory - the internal polity. The navigational kit (compass, dividers, charts etc) for addressing the challenges have been around a long time - with new and old technique to aid their use. Greeks invented and practised the idea of an intimate relationship between self and demos - a commons destroyed with the collapse of the city-state. The history is well known. 'Something rotten in the state" leads to the bewilderment of "to be or not to be".

When humans were forced to emerge as individuals, rather than fractions of the polis, they were forced to consider the regulation of their own lives. Individuality emerged as stoic withdrawal in search of a wise emotionless imperturbability. 'Since he has no power over the world without ... he must overcome it within himself' dealing with the ‘effects which it exercises upon him (Windelband, History of Philosophy 1958). Sabine (History of Political Theory 1957) spoke of Aristotle recognising a new problem in the crisis, that ‘the virtue of a good man and the virtue of a citizen’ are no longer identical. Other emergent elements we recognise today – apatheia (not then viewed as bad, as by and large, we regard it), superficiality, cynicism and sophistry. The kit comprises courage, curiosity, intellectual analysis (ideas), creative art, the bearing of witness in song, dance, words and picture, wit including laughter but not exaggerated sarcasm nor irony, friendship (because the journey is individual and so lonelier than we can handle) ... oh yes,and...agape.

Eite de profeteiai, katargetezontai,
be it prophecies, they will cease,
eite glosai, pausontai,
be it tongues, they will be stilled,
eite gnossis katargetesetai
be it knowledge it will cease.
Nuni de menei, pistis, elpis, agape, ta tria tauta,
So remain, faith, hope and love, these three,
meidzoon de toutoon, he agape,
but the greatest of these is love.



Progress is in the eye of the beholder. What is one man's "progressive idea" is another man's harebrained scheme. I'll try to avoid being devil's advocate and agree that we are not talking about all or even most progressive ideas. Let's just say that I don't consider the following as indicative of progressive ideas:

# creating and reinforcing perceptions of victimization;
# satisfying infantile claims to entitlement, indulgence and compensation;
# augmenting primitive feelings of envy;
# rejecting personal responsibility and expecting government to solve all our problems


As I see things from my perch, it is this excessive emphasis on the individual that has gotten us into trouble. We keep losing (or throwing away) the tools in the kit you refer to. How can we expect our governments to be moral, when we are not?

The polity is increasingly alienated from the demos and visa versa. Perhaps it is because the dialogue between the two has broken down and is increasingly dependent on media. The media's role is no longer one which informs but rather it seems to me to obscure.


Stavros, don't get me wrong. I completely agree with you.

Simon Baddeley

My intuition is that the emphasis on the individual derives from the Renaissance, the French Revolution and its spawns in other European revolutions in 1848 (preceded by 1776 in the US and 1821 in Greece). These social upheavals have taken their impetus from good sounding words like 'liberation' and 'freedom' and more recently 'self-realisation' - even the journey to Ithaka (:)). Throughout history only rare individuals culd make the personal journey that now a majority take as a kind of right or even duty - hence the radical severance of links between the individual and the demos,of men from the earth, of men from their tribes. The concept of citizenship that so preoccupies many intellectuals and even policy-thinkers Europe and USA ("Bowling Alone" was a seminal thought but David Reismann had been here in the 1960s with The Lonely Crowd and the essays in Individualism Reconsidered. The classical stoicism (and its offshoots) that I was referring to was a reaction not an initiative. We're out of balance aren't we and most thinkers know this. It's my guess that one of the attractions of Greece for many Northern Europeans wasn't just sun and sea but the persistent vestiges of communality that northerners (in all but some decaying rural backwaters) had comprehensively blighted and some would say escaped. Greek entrepreneurs and their agents have increasingly commodified the remains of its communality but now rampant progressive northern individualism walks the wondrous land - 'yearning, burning and earning'. Now before you get too depressed about this I have the most profound optimism about the recovery and reinvention of the balance we've lost and the conversations and connections we so miss. But the present trends will continue and amplify for the moment until the fever of feckless hedonism wears itself out. Meantime, unseen in cracks between the concrete, new ideas and values are being invented and cultivated. Most significant new developments have had their lustiest growth unrecognised, but when they reach the critical mass that draws them to public attention they are already slowing their rate of increase. My step-father taught me this even as he critiqued the present. He said the thing he regretted about dying was not the possibility of pain (more and more controllable),but the fact that he couldn't satisfy his insatiable curiosity about where the race was going. In typical haste. S



Despite the haste, beautifully said. At times I share your optimism, then again lately I am wracked my pessimism, especially about American democracy. The winter has been a hard one, maybe things will be different come spring.

Simon Baddeley

Our expectations of democracy are exaggerated. It's no more likely to be reliable or good than the monarchies it preceded. Trouble is we've been taught to think democracy is better than any other form of government, rather than, as Churchill said, the worst form - except for all the others. When Henry Maine, in one of his four 19th century essays on 'Popular Government', argued that people expected too much of democracy, he was criticised by idealists as being anti-democratic. What he was saying was that the values and skills required among the people to make a good democracy as similar to those required of a king or queen to make a good monarchy. It's impossible to expect these to be always present, and just as heredity can allow an incompetent and cruel monarch to inherit the crown of a good one, so the people can elect equally bad leaders. I will opt for democracy because I can try in tiny ways to influence voting in ways I cannot influence heredity. To anyone who say 'what's the use of one vote?', I say it's not only about voting, but about lobbying, campaigning, participating in government, educating and through art and exemplary citizenship that we influence who rules and how they rule, to which I'd Martin Luther King's warning that a special place in hell is reserved for those who, because they can so little, do nothing. I think it's also worth recognising that the golden age of Greek democracy lasted for hardly 50 years. We are in danger of idealising the so-called Golden Age as Ancient Greece's contribution to history when what actually influences us is far more enduring and included some of the darkest deeds. To repeat the famous cuckoo clock speech from 'The Third Man': "In Italy, for thirty years under the Borgias, they had warfare, terror, murder, bloodshed — they produced Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci and the Renaissance. In Switzerland, they had brotherly love, they had five hundred years of democracy and peace, and what did that produce? The cuckoo clock." Xerete S


Greek democracy lasted for around 275 years in various forms across 1000 city states from the Black Sea to the Mediterenean coastlands. However, oligarchy or monarchy has been more prevalent throughout Hellenic history than has democracy.

Simon Baddeley

I stand corrected. The duration refers to what i was taught at school about the Golden Age - a Latin and Northern understanding taught in British schools for a few centuries. It was not to belittle the incredible reverberation of that short period. A lifetime or less can influence a universe! S


Interesting. This book could be about the entire "Western" world actually, in its final form: crony corporatism.


But doesnt he see how nihilism has made people so rich(no pun intended). George Soros, who claims to be a nihilist, is one of the richest men alive.

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  • Keep Ithaka always in your mind. Arriving there is what you're destined for. But don't hurry the journey at all. Better if it lasts for years, so you're old by the time you reach the island, wealthy with all you've gained on the way, not expecting Ithaka to make you rich. Ithaka gave you the marvelous journey. Without her you wouldn't have set out. She has nothing left to give you now. And if you find her poor, Ithaka won't have fooled you. Wise as you will have become, so full of experience, you'll have understood by then what these Ithakas mean. C. P. Cavafy


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