August 20, 2013
We all know the way democracy and democratic regimes are functioning. Politicians are investing on pre-electoral speeches and debates and the so-called “well-informed” citizens are supposed to trust their vote based on the political programmes of the candidates. In addition, voters also acknowledge the capacities and skills of the politicians before deciding to support this or the other candidate. Meanwhile, we all know that reality abstains significantly from being perfect. But where lies the “buffet” of trust and the post-electoral following-up of the political programme?
The aftermath of elections shows that actually voters are not at all both widely and specifically informed and that politicians are not at all trustworthy nor sincere. Yet, we still want to believe that, in general, voters find their justified reasoning at the end of the day and that political men are finally bound by their commitments. Is this modified explanation and description a more lenient approach of the way democracy works? Or that the political system has been such extensively corrupted and downgraded by the information gap and the misinformation that it can no longer work?
Let us focus on the issue of austerity politics and the debt management, which has unanimously dominated the global discourse in Eurozone since 2008. After almost 5 years the situation seems more dazzling than before, isn’t it?
It is possible that we are not that excited and stunned by the fact that voters are not fully informed about the exact deficit or the exact debt or about where the essence of austerity measures ends to. But we will be surprised by the depth and width of our information gap that turns to take tremendous dimensions. In an hypothetical case study, if the European Commission decides to discern in plain rates in Eurozone who knows exactly what is the overall debt or deficit of Eurozone or at least of its state, the outcome – I am sure- would be extremely appalling. This problem of information and the inaccuracy of the data provided by the officials along with the fact that people tend to be more careful about their job and family rather than knowing the exact deficit rate of their country is the very essence of the problem.
To be more specific, these days in Greece the government has launched an additional tax on property which accompanies another tax introduced a couple of years ago -again against property- in order to increase the sources of public income. In other words, there is a deep confusion over the manner the due amount is calculated, what is the relevance with the number of properties someone possesses, whether the previous tax would be adjusted to the new one, as well as a series of questions ignored in purpose by the Ministry of Finance. Bottomline, nobody can answer to a simple question: what is the overall tax citizens are paying for their property and how this amount is calculated? And further, is this amount relevant or completely irrelevant to the income of the tax-payer?
The gap gets even bigger when independent and monitoring authorities -such as the judicial corps for instance or the the Athens Bar Association- cannot efficiently and clearly underline the wrong perceptions of the public and the biased character of some aspects of the economic and fiscal policy. Nowadays, even the independent authorities are afraid of being outspoken and fairly informative.
Athens, Madrid, Lisboa, Brussels, each capital with its government are still investing on the “gurus” of the economy and the media being assured that their credentials will be acknowledged and respected by the public when conditions get tougher. But when the discussion comes to the deficit or debt or fiscal rate these very “gurus” turn to develop an extremely problematic rhetoric, being unveiled as part of the problem and not as saviors of knowledge and truth. I bet that if you ask a bunch of economists or journalists covering the economic policy reportage, nobody would reckon the same rate or have a respective approach on how deficit is calculated. At the end of the day, you just need to run after the talk-shows to ratify your bet: nobody knows nothing concrete.
Taking into account all previous considerations, the image that comes up is completely disappointing. Voters are misinformed, politicians are willing to nourish this misinformation, whereas independent authorities are reluctant to intervene to the public discourse. In what people should finally trust?Dimitris Rapidis