Two Nobel prize-winning economists on Greece. Joseph Stiglitz:
It is hard to advise Greeks how to vote on 5 July. Neither alternative – approval or rejection of the troika’s terms – will be easy, and both carry huge risks. A yes vote would mean depression almost without end. Perhaps a depleted country – one that has sold off all of its assets, and whose bright young people have emigrated – might finally get debt forgiveness; perhaps, having shrivelled into a middle-income economy, Greece might finally be able to get assistance from the World Bank. All of this might happen in the next decade, or perhaps in the decade after that.
By contrast, a no vote would at least open the possibility that Greece, with its strong democratic tradition, might grasp its destiny in its own hands. Greeks might gain the opportunity to shape a future that, though perhaps not as prosperous as the past, is far more hopeful than the unconscionable torture of the present.
I know how I would vote.
I would vote no, for two reasons. First, much as the prospect of euro exit frightens everyone — me included — the troika is now effectively demanding that the policy regime of the past five years be continued indefinitely. Where is the hope in that? Maybe, just maybe, the willingness to leave will inspire a rethink, although probably not. But even so, devaluation couldn’t create that much more chaos than already exists, and would pave the way for eventual recovery, just as it has in many other times and places. Greece is not that different.
Second, the political implications of a yes vote would be deeply troubling. The troika clearly did a reverse Corleone — they made Tsipras an offer he can’t accept, and presumably did this knowingly. So the ultimatum was, in effect, a move to replace the Greek government. And even if you don’t like Syriza, that has to be disturbing for anyone who believes in European ideals.
And June 30 is Asteroid Day, and about a real threat rather than an imaginary one.
The End. Finis. Kaput. We grapple with peril, but the threats that frighten us – terrorism, epidemics, earthquakes – are not existential; none are capable of killing everyone, everywhere. An asteroid impact, on the other hand, could render us extinct.
Sixty-six million years ago, the Chicxulub asteroid killed off the dinosaurs. The Tunguska asteroid, which struck Siberia in 1908, destroyed 800 square miles. Estimates suggest that a Tunguska-sized asteroid will strike every 500 years; a one-kilometre object, capable of global catastrophe, every 700,000 years.
The possibility of avoiding cataclysm has inspired the people behind Asteroid Day, supported by an array of scientists, astronauts and media personalities, including the astrophysicist and Queen guitarist Brian May, the Astronomer Royal Lord Rees and Bill Nye, the Science Guy.
They are campaigning for a rapid hundred-fold increase in the tracking of Near Earth Objects (NEOs). “The more we learn about asteroid impacts,” argues May, “the clearer it becomes that the human race has been living on borrowed time. We are currently aware of less than one per cent of objects comparable to Tunguska, and nobody knows when the next big one will hit. It takes just ONE.”
P.S. It’s perhaps highly appropriate to post an asteroid impact story on the day that Greece defaults, and sends shock waves through the EU.