Lending and Borrowing in Ancient Athens

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Greece Approves Second Set of Changes Needed for Bailout

It is undeclared slavery. And even the salaries, even as a civil servant, the monthly salaries are lower than that in many instances. As the minister of labor in Greece has announced, about , people are employed with a salary of fewer than euros per month. However, people think this is not important, particularly academics who completely dismiss all these things and say that we must remain in the eurozone, without taking into consideration the severe economic situation and the predicament that many people are in and the suffering that keeps going.

The Athenians were deserting Athens and the fields were uncultivated. As a result, even the rich people said that a solution had to be found. The city was on the verge of civil war.

So they elected Solon because he was famous for his integrity and knowledge and because he was middle class, not rich and not poor. Therefore, the rich trusted him and the poor also trusted him, because when he was young he showed characteristics of patriotism. The first thing that Solon thing was institute laws which abolished lending by placing your body as collateral.

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That was the first time such a law was established in the history of humanity. The next thing that he did was to devalue the Athenian currency at the time, which was the Greek drachma. He devalued the Greek drachma to make the foreign trade of Athens more competitive.

At the same time, he created incentives for people to come and work in Athens, from other cities that were highly developed, promising to issue Athenian citizenship. He tried to augment or develop foreign trade in the context that the exports of the city had to be equalized with imports. Solon was the person who instituted the principle that, in order for a country to have self-sufficiency and to be an independent nation, the revenues achieved from exports have to be equalized with the revenues given to imports.

This was something that no Greek state politicians have achieved since Greece became an independent nation. Officials were directly elected by the people, and Solon was elected as an archon of Athens for 21 years continuously because back then you were elected for one year. This was enough time for him to take [Athens] out of its economic morass and to develop its place as one of the highest civilized nations of the ancient period. MPN: How and in what way could Greece denounce its public debt, and what does international law and international legal precedent foresee for the issue of its debt?

SL: It is very difficult to really try to eliminate the debt legally, because there is no international law which establishes the principles between creditors and debtors when nations are involved. International law, and every state have bankruptcy laws that concern companies and individuals, but in terms of international law, there are no specific principles [for nations]. Greeks have nothing to do with the losses of the banks.

Why does the Greek taxpayer have to pay because of irregularities and anomalies in the eurozone, due to the fact that this is a legal institution and is not a political or fiscal union? Why do the Greek people have to pay for all these losses?

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When you make a deal of lending and borrowing, you have two parties. Why do banks get excluded and the borrower has to carry all the weight? What type of justice is this? With the Greek situation and the suffering imposed on all Greeks, who are not all crooks, why should they be destroyed economically? This is going to take more a generation, to put Greece back where it was. Greece has lost about 15 years. Only 3 percent of the public now believes in politicians.

This is why this situation is not going to go away either. How is it possible for all these losses, which involve not just the Greek banks but also the German banks, the French banks, the Dutch banks, to have been passed only to Greece? The international system is connected, through the euro, which creates an international platform for capital to move freely from one country to another. All of these losses were in the end sustained by the Greeks because the politicians accepted this. According to the [Greek] national budget, which was voted and passed in December , it has receipts from credit money—in other words, borrowed money—of billion euros.

The total budget of the Greek state, in other words, is billion euros, while the revenues of the Greek state are 50 billion euros, of which 46 billion comes from taxes. How is it possible to claim that Greece is benefiting from this money while at the same time the economy has collapsed by more than 28 percent?

You can understand here, the impasse and the unfairness and what has happened to the Greek state. A lot of people outside [Greece] have realized this. They are talking about the looting of Greece, because now in order to [pay the debt], they are saying to Greece that it has to sell all the public assets. Now we have to sell what our fathers and our ancestors tried to create. They fought for this land, now they have to sell it to pay interest upon interest which has already been paid. This is usury!

This is one of the most extreme forms of usury. How is it possible to survive? Everything is going to fall apart. If in the epoch of Solon they were escaping Athens to save their skins and not to be sold as slaves, here [in Greece] no decent person can remain.

This is the situation of the eurozone, the legal laws that were passed creating this union which have nothing to do with humanity. And the countries that are richer are the countries of northern Europe. MPN: Would it be correct to say that Greece would be able to undertake unilateral action to declare a stoppage of payments or to denounce or write down the debt once it leaves the eurozone and returns to a national domestic currency?

SL: We should remember that we [Greece] are a member of the eurozone. In other words, we cannot take unilateral action. The de jure bankruptcy of the nation will take place while the country is still a member of the eurozone. In other words, the government can declare a moratorium, a temporary stoppage of payments of six months to foreign lenders. At the same time, the government can immediately start negotiations with the European authorities: the European Commission and the ECB.


Lending and Borrowing in Ancient Athens

The main problem of the Greek debt is that the Greek debt that has been accumulated, [placed] in the budget of , having the signature of the Greek state, amounts to billion euros, which are credit receipts. The lenders forced the Greek government to pass all future debt of the Greek state [into the budget], and the problem, the time schedule of the Greek debt [repayment] is stretched to The ratio of debt to GDP exceeds percent. This amount, most of it—about 95 percent—has not accumulated due to the extravagance and excesses of the Greek state.

Ninety-five percent of it is debt which has been incurred by the banking system as a whole, not just Greek banks, but also the whole eurozone system, involving mainly German and French banks who have lent to the Greek banks.

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Therefore, these payments are related to the whole eurozone system and not to the Greek state alone. Yet the taxpayers of the Greek state [are on the hook]. They were given to bail out the banking system! According to this study, less than 5 percent has gone to the Greek economy, and the rest, about Because the euro has an irrevocable exchange rate, and after the global crisis in , which was actually a financial crisis, it was impossible for the eurozone to cope with this. For some reason, politicians accepted this, for the losses of the entire euro system to be taken by Greece, to be paid by the Greek taxpayers, while these losses involved the whole system, because the eurozone system is a system which is very incomplete, has many faults.

MPN: What happens in the event that Greece does not find that the Europeans are willing to negotiate on the issue of the debt? SL: In my view that would be almost impossible and it would be irresponsible, because Greece represents a huge bomb of debt. The European banks are not only connected with the Greek banks, which are bankrupt, but also with the American banks — which according to certain financial analysts are exposed to a tune of more than 3 trillion euros to the European banks.

Therefore, some analysts say that the Greek case is like Lehman Brothers squared.

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As I said, 95 percent of the loans [given to Greece] are to save the banks and not the Greek state. How do you respond to these claims, and to this fear that is being repeatedly expressed? Greece holds a huge bomb of debt. Most of it, the Greek public was not responsible for. There were losses due to the imperfections in the architecture of the European system, and these losses have to be divided and shared by the other countries, not only by Greece. Greece and the Greek taxpayer are not responsible to pay taxes, a percent value-added tax VAT and enormous prices for gasoline.

Now we pay more than 1. How is it possible for this country to develop? It cannot. Everybody is terrified of a Greek exit, but Greece has to exit in order to save itself. Because of the domino effect, because of the systemic risk of the banking system. Germany wants to save their own system, a banking system which is also in terrible shape. The eurozone is a platform where all countries give up their monetary sovereignty and there is no convertibility of the euro. It is an irrevocable exchange, and therefore Germany has a uniform platform to export its own goods, to mobilize its great exporting machine, without having to fear a country devaluing.

Since, from the very beginning, it was the net exporter, it was obvious that through time, all the wealth would be accumulated [in] Germany. Right now, Germany sits on hundreds of billions of euros of net surpluses. Germany is following a neo-mercantalist model and has a tremendous benefit by exporting those goods. The other countries that have deficits, eventually they have to borrow the funds from the German surpluses. It makes direct investments in other countries, like Greece. The majority of OTE now belongs to Deutsche Telekom, and the rest belongs to other international funds.

Greece has no position there. Can you imagine if [there is a national emergency], what happens?

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It belongs to the German Federation. Forty percent remains with the Greek state, but this [is also up for privatization].

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But we already sold 14 airports. Why were they sold? Because we have to pay interest on the loans that have been imposed on us. No, debt is not debt in this particular case, because [Greece] did not create that debt!

Lending and Borrowing in Ancient Athens Lending and Borrowing in Ancient Athens
Lending and Borrowing in Ancient Athens Lending and Borrowing in Ancient Athens
Lending and Borrowing in Ancient Athens Lending and Borrowing in Ancient Athens
Lending and Borrowing in Ancient Athens Lending and Borrowing in Ancient Athens
Lending and Borrowing in Ancient Athens Lending and Borrowing in Ancient Athens
Lending and Borrowing in Ancient Athens Lending and Borrowing in Ancient Athens
Lending and Borrowing in Ancient Athens Lending and Borrowing in Ancient Athens
Lending and Borrowing in Ancient Athens Lending and Borrowing in Ancient Athens

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