Earlier today, I was listening to an interview with IMF head Christine Lagarde dance around the issue of the unsustainability of Greece’s debt load. And she said something very telling. She said that debt haircuts were not on the table but that maturity extensions and interest rate reductions were, but only AFTER Greece implemented reforms demanded by the Troika."Liberalized free markets and fiscal discipline" is neoliberalism in a nutshell.
What’s important to realize when Lagarde says this is that although she’s talking about Greece, the negotiations with Greece are not really about Greece itself per se. They are about the maintaining or imposing an economic paradigm for every country in the EU that Greece was not meeting – and this is a paradigm that the IMF supports as much as the ECB and the EU. Greece is just being used as an abject lessons for other larger EU economies.
Think of it this way: 25 years ago, the EU signed on to the idea of a single currency in Maastricht. The question marks at the time were Belgium and Italy – Italy because of its constant currency devaluations and Belgium because of high government debt loads. The EU figured out how to deal with Belgium and Italy by creating the stability and growth pact which said that all member states had to keep their deficits under 3% and get their debt under 60%, or at least moving in that direction. Underneath these simple rules lies a whole economic ideology though. And that orthodoxy says long-term growth and a stable currency are best maintained by liberalized free markets and fiscal discipline.…
"Liberalized free markets" means minimized government "intrusion" in the form of regulation and oversight, along with privatization of state assets ("asset stripping").
"Fiscal discipline" means government finance based on "sound money" that limits a government's fiscal space in economic policy and thereby constrains its fiscal policy. This is tantamount to operating as if on a gold standard.
The negotiations over Greece aren’t about Greece