Thursday, July 9, 2015

Greece from an Amateur Historian and Pretend Economist

So, as you probably have heard Greece is in some pretty serious economic trouble. Massive deficits have led to unsustainable debt. The Greek government is unable to make payments on its debt and is facing the prospect of losing its ability to borrow and more importantly its inclusion in the Eurozone. Greek banks are essentially out of money currently while the other Eurozone nations work to decide if Greece will be offered another bailout and what terms it will have.

Despite the imminent crisis the Greek government refused a bailout that was offered to the them. The terms basically were for Greece to increase taxes and drastically cut spending yet again. The Greek Government and later its voters were reasonable in turning down the offer. The austerity plan Greece has been under since taking its first bailout has shrunk the Greek economy on a level than can be termed a depression.

Greece was faced with 3 choices:

1.) Accept the bailout and face a worsening economy, but at least the currency would be stable.

2.) Flatout refuse any bailout and adopt a new currency which would be disastrous, but at least there is a way for Greece to recover in theory.

3.) Refuse the bailout, leverage the risk of #2 as well as other things to try to get a better deal.

Greece has chosen option #3 and have left the powers that be to decide how to handle the situation. After Greeks overwhelmingly voted to oppose the bailout terms Sunday, this week has seen some European nations soften their line while others haven't really done so.

The most significant issue as I see it is the matter of debt relief. Greece's debt is unsustainable no matter what the bailout terms are. If its creditors refuse to forgive some of Greece's debt but offer a bailout, this will keep happening again and again. The power-player in the Eurozone is Germany, which has flat out refused the idea of debt relief.

The political, social and economic issues here are very complex. Greece elected a liberal government early this year, which brought in an anti-austerity platform. This government has up to very recently refused to 'play ball' in the negotiations. German sentiment towards debt is that it is a blood oath to borrow money and one must alway pay their debts. Germans don't forgive debt. Germans are stringent rule-followers. The overriding fear amongst all parties involved is that if a solution is not found and Greece is forced out of the Eurozone that it would almost certainly spark a humanitarian crisis in Greece.

Greece holds a special place in the West. The first great western civilization(not really true, but that is the narrative.) The home of great thinkers like Plato and Socrates. The Parthenon. The Gods and Goddesses. The Myths. Alexander the Great. The west has sought almost since the fall of the Greek Empire to protect Greece. The risk of turning Greece into a failed state is something that may be unthinkable to some.

More important than the history of ancient Greece is the history of 20th century Germany. Europe knows the risk of having a nation with a crumbling economy. The winners of World War I forced Germany to pay impossible to pay reparations as part of the Treaty of Versailles. Germany was forced to pay in Gold and Goods. The amount of gold backing German currency dwindled. This would lead to a period of hyperinflation in the Early 20s in Germany. In response to this the German government created austerity programs that crippled the German economy, which led to the rise of the Nazi Party & Adolf Hitler.

The fear is that if Greece is forced out of the Eurozone it would have to print its own money. Greece's huge debt obligation and need to have a functioning government could lead to the printing of a lot of this new currency. A state needs a way to fund its deficit and if Greece is unable to borrow it would have to print more money, which can rapidly lead to hyper-inflation. The badly damaged economy risks a) a power vacuum or b) dangerous groups being able to rise within the Greece structure.

I personally think that Europe's continued fears of repeating the mistakes (very justified) of the years between the world wars means there will end up being a deal of some sort this weekend. The biggest stumbling block, oddly enough, will be Germany. It also seems likely to me that any deal that will be reached will be a stop-gap solution with limited or no debt relief for Greece meaning we'll come back to this situation again.

Thanks for reading.


Friday, July 3, 2015

Why I Oppose Legalizing Marijuana in Ohio

I feel like I should start this off by saying that I am entirely for the decriminalization of recreational Marijuana. I don't really want to get to in depth about why that is, but I will give my basic rational as simply as possible. There are a couple main things that would be good about decriminization of pot: 1.) It takes power and income away from criminals & 2.) It decreases government spending on law enforcement while also increasing the government's income. Add that to the fact that marijuana's status makes no sense given how alcohol is treated in the U.S. and you my reasoning on why I believe marijuana should be decriminalized.

So why am I opposed to the legalization of recreational marijuana in Ohio? There are two reasons. I believe firmly in Federalism. I also think Responsible Ohio (the organization trying to get the measure on the Ohio ballot) is shady as fuck.

Responsible Ohio has submitted a petition to the Secretary of State to get a measure on the ballot in November to allow for recreational use of marijuana in Ohio. It has roughly twice the number of required signatures, but the Secretary of State's office is going to try their best to throw out as many of those signatures as they can. However, it is likely that it will be successful and the proposed amendment to Ohio's Constitution will be on the ballot.

The issue with Responsible Ohio is that the amendment was drafted by and the campaign was financed by the proposed growers. The amendment would effectively creates a monopoly on the distribution and sale of marijuana in Ohio by only allowing 10 growers to supply the market.

The Ohio legislature is putting a second ballot measure up that would effectively nullify that proposed amendment. The proposed change the legislature is proposing is to prevent 'a special economic interest' (monopolies) from changing Ohio's Constitution with the ease Responsible Ohio is having. Provided both measure were to pass there would be a protracted and complicated legal situation that would need to be resolved.

Bigger than the shady nature of proposed amendment to legalize recreation marijuana in Ohio, is that it attacks an important foundation of our nation's republic. The principle of Federalism is key the nature of American government. Following that near disaster that was the Articles of Confederation, Federalism avoided having only one central government in a place as large and diverse as the 13 states were while at the same time avoiding having the central made impotent by the power of state and local governments. Basically, what it breaks down to is Federal law cannot be trumped by the states. What is not decided by the Federal government is left to be decided by the States. This was reaffirmed by the outcome of the American Civil War.

Marijuana is currently banned by the Federal government and it is not up to my state or any other state (looking at you Washington, Colorado & Oregon) to change that. Alabama cannot refuse to issue marriage licenses to homosexual couples anymore than Ohio can legalize pot because federal law dictates otherwise.

Avoiding conflicting laws between the federal & state government is crucial in U.S. government. It is not simply to avoid confusion amongst the public, which is definitely a valid concern. Respecting Federal law is important to protecting civil rights. The Federal government's record is far from perfect on the matter, but maintaining a strong central government with a liberty-protecting constitution is certainly the best hope we have.

Marijuana is certainly not as crucial as say, marriage equality, but it is important for states to not flippantly pass contradictory laws. If a state feels something is unjust about federal law, there is a way to challenge that law in the courts without creating the inflammatory state vs. federal dynamic that is so harmful.

Thanks for reading