Wednesday, 19 October 2011

General Strike Cripples Greece

If you ever wonder if the business and finance community might view reality in a way that is subtly...different from you and I, do something fun and Google "general strike definition," then look at the top two results that come up. The first is Google's no-nonsense definition: "A strike of workers in all or most industries."

Result number two, on the other hand, is the definition from, which reads "Widespread withdrawal of labor from most or all industries, aimed at exacting concessions by paralyzing the economy of a country or region."

My stars, look at those word choices. A "withdrawal of labor" sounds like a problem with a belt fan, not a decision by human beings to put their personal welfare at risk (by giving up their income) to better the welfare of their fellow workers. And look how terrible and vindictive those fellow workers are! They EXACT things - CONCESSIONS, even! - by PARALYZING the economy.

The funny thing is that however obvious this horse puckey is to me now, I went through a brief but hideous libertarian phase in my mis-spent youth, and thus have read almost the entirety of the laissez-faire canon (from Bastiat up to Rothbard and Nozick et. al.) with a straight face. I've said it before: if you buy the non-coercion principle, the rest of libertarianism or classical liberalism makes perfect sense.

It's only with the benefit of hindsight that I see glaring contradictions, one of which is how quick the business and finance bosses - like in the definition above - are to assign coercion to an opponent and remain blind to forms of it inimical to their own point of view. There is, for example, the coercion to work when one's retirement pension is slashed. Or the coercion to sleep beneath a bridge when one's house is foreclosed on. To a libertarian, this is not force - it is, in fact, a form of freedom. The rich are just as free as the poor to sleep beneath a bridge., that non-ideological engine of clarity and concision, helpfully adds that "General strikes are rare in developed countries, the last one being in 1926 in the UK in support of a miner's union."

You spoke too soon,! A general strike has brought Greece to a standstill, and as further austerity measures are prepared for a vote, everyone - and I do mean everyone  - is upset about it. Quoth the BBC:

A general strike is under way in Greece, grounding flights, halting most public services and shutting offices and shops...The strike for Wednesday and Thursday has been called by the two big unions that cover public and private sector workers. Government departments, businesses, offices and stores have all shut, with small business owners and shopkeepers taking part in strike action for the first time.

CNN Business follows up:

"Don't bow your head, it's time for resistance and struggle," marchers chanted in Athens as numbers began to swell for a union-backed demonstration.
"I'm here for my children and everyone else's children. Those punks in there have destroyed everyone's lives," said former railway worker Diamandis Goufas, 62, pointing at parliament.

Given the "Eurozone crisis" and the France / Germany divide on how to handle public debt and credit downgrades, it's not at all clear what the next step for Greece (or any other European nation, for that matter) is. What is becoming clear, through this general strike and the #Occupy protests worldwide, is that the majority of the world's population (who are now paying the price for the misdeeds of a relatively small group of market-manipulators) is nearing the end of its collective patience.

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