Getting close

For the past few years I’ve always thought the Greek exit fears were way overblown. That now seems optimistic.

There have been some cringey moments from the Greeks. The first was Varoufakis parading around European like a university student.
When Tsipras replaced him on the negotiating team I thought that was an excellent sign: Tsipras showed restraint, authority and distance. He could have easily positioned himself as the statesman behind the scenes and continued to intervene when his negotiators got too excited. But lately he himself has come across as hysterical.
At the end of every meeting the news is leaked that the Syrizans tried to convince their counterparts to release a memo saying progress was made.
The fact this has been consistently refused – when the bar for progress would be so low – is concerning. It’s also revealing of the characters of the Greeks involved. Why waste energy and public conflict on something that is form rather than substance?
There has been a lot of talk about ‘game theory’, ‘prisoner’s dilemmas’ and so on.
This has totally backfired. There is certainly insight to be gained from these kind of thought experiments. But it is at the margin. If Varoufakis and Tsipras thought there was a way to game their counterparties – who have decades more experience
I jumped on the bandwagon and read ‘Thinking fast and slow’ by Kahneman after it was widely praised. It was certainly interesting, but by the end of it something just wasn’t quite right. Can we really draw so much insight from experiments designed with a handful of participants making faux gambling decisions? There is more to this world of ours than that.
The Greeks have attempted to play a tough negotiating game as their theory recommends – but this will not be decided by old suited men playing cards, or deciding whether to buy now or later. It will be decided by popular opinion, the wave of which all these politicians ride.
It’s another demonstration of the failure of academics in politics. Witness Miliband, his college advisors and his bizarre rhetoric. The only people more annoying than student politicians are student politicians who don’t grow up.
There is now limited time for the Greeks, and almost no goodwill. Syriza has played for domestic political support but lost the argument overseas.
On all the key metrics – unemployment, bank deposits, GDP – there has been a stepwise change for the worse. The Greeks who supported Syriza deserve better.
It didn’t have to be this way. Funnily enough a major part of their failure has been form, rather than substance. A little more respect to institutions they are asking money from might have actually helped.

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