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Cradles of Capitalism: The City-States of Greece and Italy

There long has been a persistent academic debate as to whether an “ancient economy,” referring mainly to Greece, even existed at all. In a field dominated by Marx, Marxists, the 19th century sociologist Max Weber, and such scholars of renown as Sir Moses Finley, the lingering image of the economic world of the Greek polis is that of something very static. We imagine a leisure class lounging at the sandaled foot of an orator while slaves tended to the fields, flogging cows harnessed to ploughs stuck in the mud. It is the notion of a “primitive” economy: money made for status, not investment; credit extended for the purchase of slaves, war waged for the capture of booty, elites in control of craft guilds and tyrant-kings keeping the peace by randomly doling out the goods.

Then there is ancient epic itself, with the noble Odysseus disdaining seafaring for profit (though he did take all the pay-offs he could collect) and the great Achilles pondering a discovery of precious treasure only so far as it might estimate his aristocratic worth. From this rudimentary foundation, an entire field of Socialist-Keynesian views on the Greek economy has prevailed, with occasional libertarian scholars such as Murray Rothbard and Jesús Huerta de Soto getting a word in edgewise. In recent time, however, academia has found much more evidence of technological advances and market-driven considerations on the part of the classical polis than previously thought.

Keeping in mind that in both ancient Greece (and Renaissance Italy) that democracy was not incompatible with aristocracy, and that oligarchies and tyrants were not necessarily illiberal, several points may be made in defense of the economic model of the city-state: 1) that the stronger the city-state, the greater the industrial and economic expansion; 2) that private property was considered a fundamental economic principle; 3) that banking standards were relatively conservative;

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Preparing For EU Collapse


Claude Monet The house at Yerres 1876
 

If there is one thing the Spain vs Catalonia conflict reminds us of, it has got to be Turkey. And that is a much bigger problem for the EU than it realizes. First of all, Brussels can no longer insist that this is an internal, domestic, Spanish issue, since Catalan president Puidgemont is in…Brussels. So are 4 members of his government.

That moves decisions to be made about his situation from the Spanish legal system to its Belgian counterpart. And the two are not identical twins. Even if both countries are EU members. This may expose a very large European problem: the lack of equality among justice systems. Citizens of EU member countries are free to move and work across the Union, but they are subject to different laws and constitutions.

The way the Spanish government tries to go after Puidgemont is exactly the same as the way Turkish president Erdogan tries to get to his perceived archenemy, Fethullah Gülen, a longtime resident of Pennsylvania. But the US doesn’t want to extradite Gülen, not even now Turkey arrests US embassy personnel. The Americans have had enough of Erdogan.

Erdogan accuses Gülen of organizing a coup. Spanish PM Rajoy accuses the Catalan government of the same. But they are not the same kind of coup. The Turkish one saw violence and death. The Spanish one did not, at least not from the side of those who allegedly perpetrated the coup.

Brussels should have intervened in the Catalonia mess a long time ago, called a meeting, instead of claiming this had nothing to do with the EU, a claim as cowardly as it is cheap. You’re either a union or you’re not.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Grexit

GREXIT

QUESTION: I just read an article about Grexit and the MoU that expires in the summer of 2018. Let’s assume Greece exits EU and the Euro, what would happen to Greece and it’s people? What hardships would Grexit bring to the Greek people and what could individual Greeks do to prepare themselves for these hardships?

Thanks for your blog.
Greetings from Greece!
Cheers,

J

ANSWER: Things will be much brighter once Greece gets out of the Euro. Brussels is desperately trying to keep Greece in the Eurozone for their survival, not what is best for Greece. The major data is published by various agencies that are directly or dependent upon government and they will always champion staying in the Eurozone. If you look beyond those headlines, you see a different picture. Most of our clients in Britain who were against BREXIT, now report that things are much better. Themanufacturing industry experienced a job boom in the last quarter. Compared Q3 2016, the job market data with that for 2017 showed that the manufacturing sector witnessed a 24% increase in advertised vacancies over the past 12 months. Jobs have been created in Britain at a faster pace since the BREXIT vote, despite the headlines of the fake news.

I have explained before that when Britain abandoned the gold standard in 1931, they instantly recovered from the Great Depression. This was the case study that George Warren used to demonstrate to Roosevelt that the dollar had to be devalued to reverse the economic decline. Maintaining the gold standard back then was the equivalent of “austerity” imposed upon Europe by Germany. Everyone just gets this whole issue of currency and the Quantity of Money dead wrong. The Austrian School of economics predates the massive government debt era. Today, the government is the biggest borrower within society and they compete against the private sector reducing economic growth.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Kyle Bass Sounds Off On “Worthless” Puerto Rican Debt, The Crypto “Gold Rush”, And Guns

Kyle Bass Sounds Off On “Worthless” Puerto Rican Debt, The Crypto “Gold Rush”, And Guns

With the dollar’s recent post-Fed bout of appreciation providing some much-needed relief for Haymarket Capital’s P&L, its founder Kyle Bass sat for an interview on Friday with Bloomberg’s Erik Schatzker. During the 20 minute discussion, Bass expounded on the importance of holding gold, his cautiously optimistic view on digital currencies, the misguided notion that holders of Puerto Rican debt will someday be made whole – oh, and Bass’s next big call: Long Greece – particularly the stocks and debt of Greek banks.

A few weeks ago, Bloomberg view published a Bass-penned editorial in which the hedge fund founder and CIO called on the IMF to stop bullying Greece –  publicizing the fact that he is now effectively long Greece. Greek government bonds have performed reasonably well so far this year: They’re up about 16%.

And if Bass is right, they could have another 20% to 30% over the next 18 months if the IMF abandons its insistence on austerity and acknowledges that debt relief will need to be part of the long-term alleviation of debt. Bass added that, in the near future, voters will elect a more business-friendly government that will help reestablish the country’s creditworthiness, much like the government of Mauricio Macri did for Argentina.

I think you also have an interesting political situation in Greece where I think there’s going to be a handoff from the current Syriza government to kind of a more slightly-center-right but very economically independent new leadership in the next, call it, 18 months.

And so, I think you asked why now? And I think you’re starting to see green shoots. You’re starting to see the banks do the right things finally in Greece and you are about to have new leadership.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

The Only Real Europe is Greece


Eugene Delacroix Greece expiring on the Ruins of Missolonghi 1826
European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker, famous for his imbibition capacity and uttering -not necessarily in that order- the legendary words “when it becomes serious, you have to lie”, presented his State of the Union today. Which is of pretty much limited interest because, as Yanis Varoufakis’ book ‘Adults in the Room’ once again confirmed, Juncker is nothing but ventriloquist Angela Merkel’s sock puppet.

But of course he had lofty words galore, about how great Europe is doing, and how that provides a window for more Europe, in multiple dimensions. Juncker envisions a European Minister of Finance (Dutch PM Rutte immediately scorned the idea), and he wants to enlarge the EU by inviting more countries in, like Albania, Montenegro and Serbia (but not Turkey!).

Juncker had negative things to say about Britain and Brexit, about Poland, Prague and Hungary who don’t want to obey the decree about letting in migrants and refugees, and obviously about Donald Trump: Brussels apparently wants ‘to make our planet great again’.

What the likes of Jean-Claude don’t seem to be willing to contemplate, let alone understand or acknowledge, is that the EU is a union of sovereign countries. The meaning of ‘sovereignty’ fully escapes much of the pro-EU crowd. And if they keep that up, it will break the union into pieces.

The European Court of Justice has ruled that Poland, the Czech Republic and Hungary must accept their migrant ‘quota’, as decided in Brussels, and that, too, constitutes an infringement on these countries’ sovereignty. And don’t forget, sovereignty is not something that can be divided into separate parts, some of which can be upheld while others are discarded. A country is either sovereign or it is not.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Greek Authorities To Launch Mass Confiscation Of Safe Deposit Boxes, Securities, Homes In Tax-Evasion Crackdown

Greek Authorities To Launch Mass Confiscation Of Safe Deposit Boxes, Securities, Homes In Tax-Evasion Crackdown

Last week, the Greek parliament once again approved more austerity to unlock withheld Greek bailout funds in Brussels: a symbolic move, which has little impact without any actual follow through, like for example, actually imposing austerity. And while Greeks have been very good in the former (i.e. promises), they have been severely lacking in the latter (i.e. delivery).

That may be changing. According to Kathimerini, Greek Finance Ministry inspectors are about to start seeking out the owners of all local undeclared properties, while the law will be amended to allow for financial products and the content of safe deposit boxes to be confiscated electronically. The plan for the identification of taxpayers who have “forgotten” to declare their properties to the tax authorities is expected to be ready by year-end, according to the timetable of the Independent Authority for Public Revenue.

What follows then will be a wholesale confiscation by the government of any asset whose source, origins and funding can not be explained.

The Greek tax authorities will receive support from the Land Register to that end, as by end-September IAPR inspectors are set to obtain access to the company’s database to draw details on properties. Any taxpayers identified as having skipped the declaration of their assets to the tax authorities will be asked to comply and declare them, along with paying the tax and fines dictated by law. Should taxpayers fail to do so, the asset will be “sequestered.”

Kathimerini also notes that the IAPR is also waiting for Parliament to pass regulations permitting the mass confiscation of safe deposit box contents and financial assets such as securities.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Meanwhile… In Greece

Meanwhile… In Greece

You know it’s bad when the police are rioting against the new austerity measures assigned from Brussels…

As KeepTalkingGreece reports, tension between protesters from police, fire brigades and coast guard on one side and riot police on the other side broke out shortly after 8 o’ clock in the evening on Wednesday when the angry protesters tried to break the police cordon and enter the Greek Parliament.

Riot policemen and protesters pushed and shouted at each other, with protesters shouting “Disgrace! Disgrace!”

Members of of the Greek Police, the Fire Brigades and the Coast Guard marched to the Parliament on the general strike day protesting the new austerity package that will be voted on Thursday at the Parliament.

Three squads of riot police were deployed outside the Parliament to prevent their colleagues to enter the House.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Surplus or Stimulus

Surplus or Stimulus

René Magritte Le Cri du Coeur 1960

Austerity is over, proclaimed the IMF this week. And no doubt attributed that to the ‘successful’ period of ‘five years of belt tightening’ a.k.a. ‘gradual fiscal consolidation’ it has, along with its econo-religious ilk, imposed on many of the world’s people. Only, it’s not true of course. Austerity is not over. You can ask many of those same people about that. It’s certainly not true in Greece.

IMF Says Austerity Is Over

Austerity is over as governments across the rich world increased spending last year and plan to keep their wallets open for the foreseeable future. After five years of belt tightening, the IMF says the era of spending cuts that followed the financial crisis is now at an end. “Advanced economies eased their fiscal stance by one-fifth of 1pc of GDP in 2016, breaking a five-year trend of gradual fiscal consolidation,” said the IMF in its fiscal monitor.

In Greece, the government did not increase spending in 2016. Nor is the country’s era of spending cuts at an end. So did the IMF ‘forget’ about Greece? Or does it not count it as part of the rich world? Greece is a member of the EU, and the EU is absolutely part of the rich world, so that can’t be it. Something Freudian, wishful thinking perhaps?

However this may be, it’s obvious the IMF are not done with Greece yet. And neither are the rest of the Troika. They are still demanding measures that are dead certain to plunge the Greeks much further into their abyss in the future. As my friend Steve Keen put it to me recently: “Dreadful. It will become Europe’s Somalia.”

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

The Ever-Growing List of ADMITTED False Flag Attacks

The Ever-Growing List of ADMITTED False Flag Attacks

Painting by Anthony Freda

Presidents, Prime Ministers, Congressmen, Generals, Spooks, Soldiers and Police ADMIT to False Flag Terror

In the following instances, officials in the government which carried out the attack (or seriously proposed an attack) admit to it, either orally, in writing, or through photographs or videos:

(1) Japanese troops set off a small explosion on a train track in 1931, and falsely blamed it on China in order to justify an invasion of Manchuria. This is known as the “Mukden Incident” or the “Manchurian Incident”. The Tokyo International Military Tribunal found: “Several of the participators in the plan, including Hashimoto [a high-ranking Japanese army officer], have on various occasions admitted their part in the plot and have stated that the object of the ‘Incident’ was to afford an excuse for the occupation of Manchuria by the Kwantung Army ….” And see this, this and this.

(2) A major with the Nazi SS admitted at the Nuremberg trials that – under orders from the chief of the Gestapo – he and some other Nazi operatives faked attacks on their own people and resources which they blamed on the Poles, to justify the invasion of Poland.

(3) The minutes of the high command of the Italian government – subsequently approved by Mussolini himself – admitted that violence on the Greek-Albanian border was carried out by Italians and falsely blamed on the Greeks, as an excuse for Italy’s 1940 invasion of Greece.

(4) Nazi general Franz Halder also testified at the Nuremberg trials that Nazi leader Hermann Goering admitted to setting fire to the German parliament building in 1933, and then falsely blaming the communists for the arson.

(5) Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev admitted in writing that the Soviet Union’s Red Army shelled the Russian village of Mainila in 1939 – while blaming the attack on Finland – as a basis for launching the “Winter War” against Finland. Russian president Boris Yeltsin agreed that Russia had been the aggressor in the Winter War.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Tsipras Warns IMF, Schauble To “Stop Playing With Fire” Over Greek Debt

Tsipras Warns IMF, Schauble To “Stop Playing With Fire” Over Greek Debt

One day after Greek 2Y bond yields tumbled following press reports that for the first time in the latest Greek mini-crisis, the IMF and Eurozone creditors finally agreed on a “common stance” regarding what the Greek fiscal surplus and debt profile would look like, despite talks between Greece and its creditors ending in Brussels with no breakthrough, Greek PM Alexis Tsipras on Saturday warned the IMF and German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble to “stop playing with fire” in handling his country’s debt.

Nonetheless, striking a positive tone, Tsipras opened a meeting of his Syriza party by saying he was confident a solution would be found, and urged a change of course from the IMF. “We expect as soon as possible that the IMF revise its forecast so that discussions can continue at the technical level”, AFP reported, suggesting that contrary to initial reports, the bid-ask between the Troika and Greece still remains irreconcilable .

Tsipras also attacked Greek nemesis Wolfgang Schauble – who earlier in the week ruled out a Greek debt cut, saying “for that Greece would have to exit the currency area”- and called for German Chancellor Angela Merkel to “encourage her finance minister to end his permanent aggressiveness” towards Greece.

As documented before, ongoing feuding with the IMF has raised fears of a new debt crisis. Greece, whose economic collapse is now worse than the US Great Depression – remains embroiled in a row with its eurozone paymasters and the IMF over debt relief and budget targets that has rattled markets and revived talk of its place in the euro. 

A silver lining emerged on Friday, when Eurogroup chief Jeroen Dijsselbloem said progress had been made in the Brussels talks with Greek Finance Minister Euclid Tsakalotos and other EU and IMF officials. But he provided few details.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Greece Unleashes ‘Soft’ Cash Ban

Greece Unleashes ‘Soft’ Cash Ban

The spread of global cash bans continues with Greece unveiling their so-called ‘soft’ approach by which taxpayers will only be granted tax-allowances or deductions when payments are made via credit or debit cards. As KeepTalkingGreeece reports, the new guidelines refer to employees, pensioners, farmers, and also the unemployed.

Accepted expenditure will be:

  • purchases for food and supermarket products, electronic and electric devices, household equipment, footwear, clothing, fuel, furniture, cigarettes, drinks
  • Restaurants, cafeterias,bars and hotels
  • Services like by hairdressers and beauty parlors, gyms and dance schools, car repair, plumbers, electricians, painters, carpenters, lawyers and accountants.
  • For doctors and pharmacy the same practice will be valid as in last year. The tax office will accept the expenditure only if payments are made per credit card or bank transfer.
  • Expenditure for utility bills, landlines and mobile phones, heating, rent, loan repayments that in fact swallow the largest amount of monthly expenditure for private households will not be accepted. Also not accepted is expenditure for toll and transport tickets.

In its “wisdom” the Greek Finance Ministry has determined the amount the taxpayers will have to pay with electronic money in order to be able to get the tax allowance:

  • 10% for annual income up to €10,000
  • 15% for annual income €10,001-€30,000
  • 20% for annual income over €30,001

The famous Greek wisdom in times of austerity, bailout agreements and economic crisis remains the same also in 2017 and as neoliberal as possible since 2010: crack the low and medium incomes, let the rich fly free

Find the Surrealism

  • income €7,000: expenditure per plastic money must be €700
  • income €10,000: expenditure per plastic money must be €1,000
  • income €30,000: expenditure per plastic money must be €4,500
  • income  €60,000 expenditure per plastic money must be €12,000

Should a taxpayer not be able to spend the necessary percentage of the annual income according to the guidelines, the punishment will be a penalty of 22% imposed on the missing difference.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

When Assets (Such as Real Estate) Become Liabilities

When Assets (Such as Real Estate) Become Liabilities

December 27, 2016

It will be the middle class that accepted the notion that “real estate is the foundation of family wealth” that will be stripmined by higher taxes on immobile assets such as real estate.

Correspondent Joel M. submitted an article that struck me as a harbinger of the future: In Greece, Property Is Debt:

“At law courts throughout Greece, people are lining up to file papers renouncing their inheritance. Not necessarily because some feckless uncle left them with a pile of debt at the end of his revels; they are turning their backs on what used to be a pillar of Greece’s economy and society: real estate. 

Growing personal debt, declining incomes and ever higher taxes as Greece’s depression grinds on have turned property and the dream of easy money into dread of a catastrophic burden.

After many years in which only very valuable properties were taxed, many Greeks went from paying almost no taxes on real estate to not having enough money to pay. 

In 2010, property taxes accounted for 0.26 percent of gross domestic product, while this year they are around 2 percent, according to state budget figures. ‘Suddenly, the state treated the Greeks as if they were rich, at the precise moment that they ceased to be rich.’

Among the many disruptions of the past few years, this one shows how traditional conceptions — and a sense of security — can be shattered. With a history full of wars, bankruptcies and rampant inflation, Greeks had always seen land as a haven.

But it is private debt — at 222 billion euros last year — that may prove an even greater danger. This shows in government revenues. With the unified tax, ownership of every kind of property is now subject to taxation.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Economic Ideas: Plato, Aristotle, and the Ancient Greeks, Part 1

The ancient Greeks left a wealth of knowledge through their surviving writings on a wide variety of themes, including science, logic, philosophy, literature, and the arts.

In addition, the city-state of Athens is considered the birthplace of intellectual freedom and democracy – lasting legacies that helped to mold the ideas that have influenced the development of Western Civilization.

But, in comparison, their discussions on economics were often few and almost always relatively unsystematic.  A primary reason for this is due to the fact that for the ancient Greeks questions concerning “economics” were considered subservient to other themes considered far more crucial to human life and society.

For the Greek philosophers and social thinkers, the central themes were questions of “justice,” “virtue,” “the good,” and “the beautiful.” What today we call “economic” questions and problems were relegated to a narrow corner of evaluating how economic institutions and organization could be designed or modified to serve these “higher” ends or goals.

The Greek view of the society over the individual

An extension of this is an appreciation of the general view that the ancient Greeks had concerning the individual in society. Their conception was that the individual was dependent upon the society in which he was born for all that he could or did become as a person. That is, the community nurtured and molded the individual into a “civilized” human being.

The society took precedence, or priority, over the individual. The individual was born, lived, and died. The society and the State, however, they believed, lived on.

The more modern conception of man as free, autonomous agent who chooses his own ends, selects his own means to attain his desired ends, and in general lives for himself was an alien notion to the mind of the ancient Greeks.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Murder, Lifeboats, an Iceberg and an Orchestra


DPC White Star liner S.S. Olympic, sister ship of Titanic, NY 1911
The reason the Brexit debate has gotten so out of hand is nobody understands what it’s about.

The Brexit campaigns have started anew in the UK, and from what I’ve seen here from left field barely a thing has changed since the murder of MP Jo Cox. Neither side has any qualms about using her death to make their respective points. The main, and perhaps only real, point is that nobody understands what the vote is about. Jo Cox, bless her soul, didn’t either.

This lack of understanding is also, at the same time, the reason why the debate has gotten so out of hand. Nobody seems to understand it’s not about Cameron or Nigel Farage, or Michael Gove vs Boris Johnson, it’s about voting for or against the EU, for or against Juncker and Tusk and five other unelected presidents having a say in one’s life.

And that’s not all either. It’s about voting to leave, or remain in, a Union that is already dead and preserved only in a zombie state. Brexit is just one vote and many more will inevitably follow. Brexit is not the first, Grexit had that ‘honor’ last year. Later this month, elections in Italy and Spain have the potential to turn into preliminary Italix and Spexit votes. And then there will be more.

The reason why these things are taking place, and will be, going forward, is that the economies of all these countries are fast deteriorating. The sole reason why people have accepted the rule of Brussels coming from far away over their daily lives, is the promise that it would make those lives better and more comfortable.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Brexit: Wrong Discussion, Wrong People, Wrong Arguments


G.G. Bain Immigrants arriving at Ellis Island, New York 1907
There’ve been a bunch of issues and topics on my -temporarily non-writing- mind, and politics, though as I’ve often said it’s not my preferred focus, keeps on slipping in. That’s not because I’ve gotten more interested in ‘the game’, but because the game itself is changing in unrecognizable fashion, and that is intricately linked to subjects I find more appealing.For instance, in the past few days, I’ve read Matt Taibbi’s epos on the demise of America’s Republican Party in R.I.P., GOP: How Trump Is Killing the Republican Party, and Shaun King on a similar demise of the Democrats in Why I’m Leaving the Democratic Party After This Presidential Election and You Should Too, and both make a lot of sense.

But I think both also miss out on the main reason why these ‘demises’ are happening. In my view, it’s not enough, not satisfactory, to talk about disgruntled voters and corrupt politicians and the antics of Donaldo, and leave it at that. There is something bigger, much bigger, going on that drives these events.

But that I will explain in a later article (soon!). Right now, I want to address another piece of the same pie (though it’s perhaps not obvious that it is): the Brexit ‘discussion’ in Europe. A May 11 piece by ex-World Banker Peter Koenig provides as good a starting point as any:

The Collapse of the European Union: Return to National Sovereignty and to Happy Europeans? 

Imagine – the EU were to collapse tomorrow – or any day soon for that matter. Europeans would dance in the streets. The EU has become a sheer pothole of fear and terror: Economic sanctions – punishment, mounting militarization, the abolition of civil rights for most Europeans. 

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Olduvai II: Exodus
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Olduvai
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Olduvai II: Exodus
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Olduvai III: Cataclysm
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