Austerity Measures, Can They Be Justified?

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In the aftermath of the 2008 banking crisis that incurred a massive economic destabilization on a global level, the neoliberal concept of ‘austerity measures’ have now reached the western hemisphere, with Greece and Spain as its more notable victims. In particular, the Greece bailout, which is allegedly a saving package, has imposed a myriad of conditions and restrictive measures on the Greece economy. The purpose of these structural restrictions is apparently to empower and stabilize the Greece economy, however, the opposite has happened, as has been documented in several high profile investigations.

The concept of austerity measures ranges back to the 17th century, and have more recently been adopted by the neoliberal economic doctrine as a way of dumping market failures on the state and indirectly, on the public. That austerity measures has the capacity of causing detrimental effects for the general public has been proven in Greece, and there is a history of failures with the so-called Structural Adjustment Programs imposed by the International Monetary Fund as part of their lending to developing countries, due to the conditions of austerity that these loans impose on the debtor.

Several independent sources indicate that austerity measures, such as cuts in public spending in the health, education, and other mechanisms of social security, creates human suffering on a widespread scale. With Greece, we have been given the opportunity to closely observe the social catastrophe that is created by austerity. The Truth Committee has noted that, unemployment has gone from 7.3% in 2008 to 27.9% in 2013. Youth unemployment reached a staggering 64.9% in may 2013. Due to cuts in public health expenditure more than 2.5 million persons, or one fourth of the total population of Greece, are without health insurance. Furthermore diseases such as tuberculosis, malaria and HIV have increased, and mental health problems have ballooned. Pensions have been reduced by 40 %, which have caused 45 % of Greece pensioners to fall below the poverty line. 500,000 people lives in conditions of homelessness, insecure or inadequate housing. To put it mildly, there is a humanitarian crisis in Greece.

What have been left out from the discussion on austerity measures are human rights, primarily the economic and social rights established by the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. This convention is binding on the contracting states – and Greece together with the Eurozone countries has all ratified the convention. You would hence think, that in detailing the Memorandum of Understanding between Greece and the Troika, that contains the austerity conditions imposed on Greece, there must have been a discussion on the potential impacts on Human Rights that the austerity measures could create. However, there has not been such a discussion. Instead the EU member states, the EU commission, EU central bank and the International Monetary Fund have displayed a disregard for how the austerity policies would affect the Human Rights of the people of Greece. Court rulings by the highest Greece court that have ruled the pension cuts as unconstitutional and as a breach of Human Rights, have in the 2015 Memorandum of Understanding been referred to as ‘fiscal risks’. Such a use of vocabulary when referring to the Human Rights is nothing short of remarkable.

The United Nations Human Rights Council has adopted the Guiding principles on foreign debt and human rights in July 2012. According to paragraph 56 ‘Debt relief efforts must not compromise the provision of basic services. In particular, debt relief conditions that may adversely impact the realization of human rights or undermine development in the beneficiary State must be avoided’. The UN General assembly has in September 2015 adopted a resolution (A/69/L.84), which defines nine principles on how a debt restructuring process should be directed. Among these principles is the principle of sustainability, which implies that sovereign debt restructuring should lead to a stable debt situation in the debtor state, preserving creditors’ rights while promoting economic growth and sustainable development, reducing economic and social costs, ensuring the stability of the international financial system and respecting human rights.

Not surprisingly, these principles were adopted by vote and not by consensus, with the developed countries claiming that Human Rights should not be a consideration when it comes to debt and debt relief. However this position cannot be accepted as legitimate. Obviously Human Rights is and must be an important part of economical decisions, because the very foundation of economics is Human Beings. The consequence of separating economics from Human Rights is such perversities as slavery. Possibly, this is what the new era of austerity and debt has become, a more refined form of slavery, which is free from the moral constraints of its predecessors, because it is now justified with the slick vocabulary of neoliberalism and market economy. Though, when scrutinized, austerity measures are a soulless machine working for an anonymous creditor, fueled with the accepted belief that this is the way things must be. The debt must allegedly be paid back at all costs… because… well because, the market wants it that way.

To create a heaven on earth, it is clear that all forms of commercial agreements, debt contracts accounted for, must be able to be declared null and void if they happen to breach Human Rights. This is how it should have always been, and we must ask ourselves, why this has not yet happened. The United Nations has been around for 60 years, yet still, flagrant violations of Human Rights are allowed with reference to commercial agreements. What is missing; motivation, drive, integrity or compassion? And how come we accept and allow the life of countless human beings to be reduced to numbers on a balance sheet?

Clearly, there is a rift between the reality of our world, and the principles conceptualized in our Human Rights instruments. The process of making these principles a living reality will without a doubt be a challenging venture, yet it will be through the respect for Humans on a global level, that we will be able to create a world that truly worth living in. And let us not forget that there are solutions to these problems. Even though the massive bureaucracy that is involved can make us as individuals feel as if we are small ants facing the enormous Goliath, the system is comprised of individual human beings, like you and me. By standing up, one by one, and supporting a new direction in politics and economics, we will have an impact. In democracy we each have one vote, and that is how we will be able to shift direction, through coming together and unanimously voting for a new world that is best for all.

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The Secret of Modern Day Imperialism

ImageGrowing up in the country of Sweden I was taught by my parents and in school that Sweden is a great and benevolent nation. I was taught that Sweden gives aid to the poor nations of Africa, that we support gender equality, and that we stand for a society without discrimination, where you should be treated the same regardless of sexual preference, religion, class or place of birth. Looking at the news back then, where it was shown how the western world with UN in the forefront through military effort protected the people of less democratic nations of the world, I actually believed that we as the western world, as Europe and America, had it down – we knew what we were doing and what we were doing was something good.

It is fascinating to see how many people and in particular the older generations that still hold unto this view of our country, because the truth of the matter is the my naïve childhood belief of the benevolent nation of Sweden and western industrialized countries is an absolute and complete sham. The reality is that Sweden is a big exporter of weapons and the fact is that weapons are designed to kill and wreak havoc; as such the very act of building and selling a weapon is in its nature a crime against life – a crime against human rights.

The reality is that America and Europe since long have been using organizations such as the UN to cover up their true imperialist ambitions – utilizing pretty words and fluffy terms such as the “Security Council”, “Democracy”, “Freedom”, “Solidarity” and “Human Rights” to hide the reality of their actions. The indisputable truth is the America and Europe have waged a systematic war against less fortunate nations in order to gain power and influence, in order to have access to resources, and in this NO considerations whatsoever have been given to the people of these targeted nations and the suffering that they have gone through in order to make some very few elitists disgustingly wealthy.

What I have understood through the research that I have done over the years is that our current system depicts itself in one way but the truth of what the system in-fact exists as is the complete opposite – and this is why one is not able to trust any information that is emitted through the main media channels of the world – the views coming through here are deliberately twisted and aligned to fit the picture as how the system wants to be seen.

In order to see the reality of the system it is as such suggested to research some of the more underground sources of information – and here a great source of information is the journalist John Pilger. He makes absolutely astonishing documentaries and one I warmly recommend for everyone to see is called Paying the Price – Killing the Children of Iraq, which clearly depicts the separation that exists between how the system presents itself to exist and how the system in-fact functions and exists in actuality.

What is then the Solution to this problem?

We have leaders in position of power that do not have integrity or common sense and this is our creation – we the people have through democracy selected the people in charge of making decisions that do not support life and as such it is our responsibility to utilize our power of voting and our power of becoming politically aware to select leaders that do have integrity. A first step in the right direction and a practical way that we on a individual level can contribute to this change is through assisting and supporting with the reeducation of humanity – and this can be done through such simple means as writing blogs, making vlogs, and sharing the documentaries and articles that have already been created that effectively show what issues we are facing – and within this that we also share the Solution so that we do not keep ourselves stuck in a perpetual state of feeling helpless and hopeless – but that we show that there are practical steps we can take in order to make a difference in this world.

To create a lasting impact on a global level we do require a new economic system and in this we require to ban such harmful and destructive points as the weapons industry – the Living Income Guaranteed is a political proposal that will end much of the strife, suffering and hardship that is currently existent in this world – and it will put an effective halt to the imperialistic machinery currently driving the economies of the western world. We really do not need imperialism in order to have an effective economy – what we need is humanity coming together supporting and assisting one another and this is what the Living Income Guaranteed will support with.

Thus – make your voice heard, stand up as a catalyst of common sense and effective reasoning and show those still blind to the obvious that there is another way to live where all are included and where the Human Rights of each human-being will be honored practically and where it doesn’t remain but fluffy and nicely sounding words.

Let’s get this done!