Greece, Europe and Bitcoin.
Greece, one of the world’s regions that was known for ratio, philosophy and mathematics in the ancient world is under siege. These days, Greece and the lending/repayment actions are daily in the news. A lot of people are getting worked up about the EU, the European central bank, Germany, Belgium, lending policies etc. and “the poor Greek people”. To understand the EU viewpoints on Greece, just or not, and Greece itself we will have to go back in time. In the second part, we will discuss the benefit of blockchain like technologies and Bitcoin.
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Greece and US: Past and Present
To understand the current crisis in Greece, we have to go back in time. Many people, including the Greeks we spoke to, believe that “Greece had a reckoning coming for a long time.” Andros A., owner of a small Greek restaurant, told us that:
“Greece is a country that has been struggling with top level corruption, more so than other countries except maybe Italy, long before it entered into the European Union. If you know the right people and pay them a certain amount of money, they will help you with whatever you want.”
We can confirm Mr. Andros’ claims because we have visited Greece multiple times. Anyone who visited Greece in the 1990’s through the 2000’s and later will have noticed that a lot of houses didn’t have roofs on them or looked like they were half finished. The reason behind these sights was that if a Greek lived in a half-finished house or was renovating his or her house, they were exempt from paying any taxes to the Greek state. This sounds fair, but it has been taken advantage of by many citizens, and even big businesses.
Another example of corruption is that when a retiree dies, the family keeps receiving the benefits of the deceased. The only way this can happen is if the officials tasked with making the benefit payments are totally incompetent or corrupt. Based on Mr Andros’ statement — an opinion which resonates with many Greeks — it seems that corruption was the main reason behind these postmortem payouts. Both examples of corruption (incomplete houses and postmortem benefit payouts) have been confirmed by many European economics professors and even by some Greek economy professors that blame the Greek government for not doing their job.
Now where does the US, or to be more exact: the US banks, come into the playing field? From 2000-2006 Greece asked for some loans from US banks like the leman brothers, Dexia and others. Because Greece’s politicians didn’t read or possibly received some other compensation to look the other way, the banks could pull up the interest rates at any time. In an ideal world where everything works fine and everything is right, it will work. However, Greece at that time seemed to be a healthy nation on the surface but mass corruption was eating the foundation away. This was not only the case for Greece but also for Spain. It is not wonder when in 2008 the bank crisis arrived and that the veil of mis-information has been lifted.
Greece’s corruption is also partially acknowledged by the Greek economy professor George Alogoskoufis, though he downplays the years of 2000-2008. Other economics professors like Burno Merlevede, Glen Rayp, Guido Ascari, and Martin Browning see things differently. They conclude that Greece has been plagued by chronic corruption by certain members of the Greek government as well as US banks. Other people agree with these professors.
However, it should be understood that it is not the majority of Greek people that have caused these problems. Instead, much of the corruption is committed by some of the Greek upper middle class and higher lower class misused the system to further their own egoistic goals. Other big contributors to Greece’s woes are the corrupt Greek politicians and certain elements within the banks (be it Greek, international and US banks).
It is also not “the US”, “the banks” (though in this case they are one of the main instigator),”the Greek politicians” (though they too have a more than average fault to the Greek crisis) or any other generalist description. It is chronic corruption and egotistical behavior that is the core of the problem.
Greece and the EU: Present
The EU, ECB and other EU initiatives went out to countries like Spain, Italy, Portugal, Ireland and also to Greece. If we believe the corporate media, all of the aforementioned countries are “in the clear” on their debt and economic problems. However that is not the case. Spain and Portugal are also struggling, but in no way as much as Greece, even today. In a surprise meeting with Guy Quaden, Former governor or the Belgian National bank and currently involved with a lot of tasks in the EU commission and parliament, told us that “… cutting people’s income, be it pensions or stipends, may have had an adverse effect on the stability of a country because first it hits the people’s buying power which will have an effect on the small and medium sized shops. Second we hit the government itself because they will see a negative effect in the sales of products and taxes, even though they have to pay people less ( concerning people without a job and pensioners)…”.
So what is wrong with Greece? Some people, capitalists in the front line, claim that it is the Greek’s own fault. They think that the Greek people are lazy and don’t want to work. For those who think that we suggest that they pack their bags and actually talk to people. There are a lot of people that want to work but there isn’t any work to be had. Mainly these people are making claims out of ignorance. It is also quite notable that the original instigators of the Greece crisis remain out of the hot seat ( Greek politicians, US banks and others). Well it makes for a better story if you can have a headline” Greeks are defiant toward EU loans” or some such over simplifying title.
Another noteworthy development, and one that is firmly silenced by corporate media, is that big business and the wealthy elite are buying up lands in Greece. This raises more questions about the Greek crisis and gives a lot of food for thought.
The current crisis is a high value ego tripping poker game that the current Greek minister of finance is playing. On the one hand Varoufakis is running away from negotiations on multiple occasions, not offering a constructive solution or counter proposal, etc. all the while his name and fame grows. If Greece goes out the EU, he will be hailed by some as “liberator” and if Greece stays in EU he will be mentioned as “a Hercules that held Greece together”. However the core problems that Greece faces aren’t being resolved. There is no job creation to speak of, no attempt to draw in big companies ( other than buying up land), no initiatives or supportive actions for Greek population to better their living conditions etc. Furthermore the tax evaders and corrupt people that have secured their money in EU countries and tax haven countries like Belgium, Luxemburg and Switzerland ( to name a few) who have over 110 Billion $ ( that are the most conservative estimations) have been left alone, while most of them are partly involved with the current crisis.
In short: it isn’t as black and white like some, for example the US corporate media, want their readers to believe. When a story or situation is explained by “we versus them”; then there is more going on than just some argument between 2 parties. Furthermore it is also logical that the EU, IMU,ECB demands certain assurances because they have been lied to before( some claim that the EU didn’t do their due diligence as well) by Greek politicians.
Europe itself will not have a lot of problems if a so called “grexit” may occur. Luc Coene, current honorary governor of the National Bank, and others within the European commission and a lot of economic professors are of the same opinion: “A Grexit will hurt Greece a lot while the Eu will not feel much of the effects if Greece will leave the EU”.
Solutions: Bitcoin and Other Alternatives
One of the main reasons is that corruption was able to take root, mainly because there was no transparency to speak of and the misuse of certain laws. If a blockchain like protocol is incorporated into systems that deals with payments of workers, employees pensioners etc. If someone dies the funds can be easily stopped.
Another thing of note is that while the banks are closed in Greece at the moment and that EU withdrawals are limited, the only Bitcoin ATM in Athens, is fully operational and working. This is because Bitcoin is decentralised and it means that people that use Bitcoin in Greece aren’t held hostage over these kinds of government decrees and laws.
There have been a lot of discussions over Bitcoin and Greece. Personally I think that it is again more complex than a simple yes or no answer. Bitcoin does offer a great deal of positive contributions to a country in need. However there are also some drawbacks. I also think that Greece should develop their own virtual currency that is partially backed up by certain assets. These “virtual dragma’s” can then be used for different useful things ( food, reductions, tourist discounts etc). However these are my opinions.
Another solution is that people should focus more in buying Greek grown and traditional Greek products. For example farming, fishing and other activities are a safe bet, but of course you need some capital to start that up. A crowd funding round(s) can be started. That way, Greece will become less dependent from import and will become a bit more self-sufficient. If we look at the fishing activities, the percentage dropped from over 35% in the 1990’s to a meagre 2% today.
Not all EU people are “angry at Greece” or find “Greece lazy and arrogant”. There are charities and NGO’s that help people in need in Greece. Miss Maartje L. is one of those people with a heart of gold. Her boyfriend, Demetrius, is from Greece (though he studies here IT and the Catholic Hogeschool Leuven). She and her boyfriend collect clothes, food and other supplies that they sent to her boyfriend’s parents’ home, on the outskirts of Athens. The parents distribute those items then to the people in need.
“If the Greek people would accept Bitcoin, they would be given a bit more breathing space. We are kept in check by the big banks and not only the EU banks but also the US banks, who are less understanding than most of the EU banks” Demetrius told Bitcoinist. “… I also believe that Varoufakis is just another corrupt politician and that he will ruin the Greek people even more. He lives with his heads in the clouds, a “silver spoon” with a nice house, talking trash and posturing constantly. Meanwhile he is ignoring his civic duties and does not want to face facts, even if those facts were an elephant that was dressed in a pink tutu… The Greek people are suffering and the politicians are just talking and doing nothing, only making it worse.
I think that, for the short term, Greek people should convert some of their money to Bitcoin. I know they may not have a lot but view it as a kind of savings account even if it is only 1 euro at the end of the month. The Bitcoin price fluctuates enormously so it is possible to make from that 1 euro a 1.2 euro much faster than if the people put their money in the banks”.
We have shown that the current crisis in Greece is not one that “suddenly appeared” or that it is solely the fault of one faction or another. In this article, we pointed out that there are a multitude of factors that contributed to the “Greek crisis”. From the US banks to corrupt influences in the Greek society, all are contributing to the problems that Greece is currently facing.
In this article, we have also talked about the fact that Greek people who own Bitcoin can go to the ATM and withdraw Their Bitcoins to Euros. In so doing they avoid the state ordered bank shutdown and the daily withdrawal limits. Also, blockhain like technologies will be able to stem the chronic corruption that has seeped in the Greek society but that is something for the long term.
A lot of Europeans feel with the Greek people and try different things to help them. Some people collect food, clothing and other things to send to charity, NGO’s and civilian initiatives.
The current attitudes, the “negotiations” with Varoufakis, posturing and chest puffing will not resolve the current problems that Greece faces. Both parties will need to let some points of their demands drop so that the people, who voted them into office, will not suffer more because of the aforementioned chest puffing and posturing.
One solution that any Greek can take is to get some Bitcoins. Even if it is only 10 Euro,1 Euro, half a Euro or even less, It doesn’t matter because you can always get to it because it is decentralised, The fluctuations in the Bitcoin price is also beneficial because your “invested euro” will be worth more.
We also need to think about the industrial grounds that big businesses are buying up. Will they try and create businesses on these plots or are they playing it as a long term investment to they can lease the grounds? Whatever the case may be, turbulent times await Greece. A Grexit will hurt Greece a lot and will hit, once again the Greek people.
How would you incorporate Bitcoin and/or Crypto technology in Greece? Let us know in the comments below!
In this article some opinions have been given. These opinions are of the people who mentioned them are not necessarily those of the Bitcoinist team. We would like to thank all those who voiced their opinion in this article.