So Greece has a new prime minister – Lucas Papademos – and Italy looks about to have a new one, too – Mario Monti. To which not just you and I but damn near every Italian and Greek responds, “Who?”
Neither Papademos nor Monti has ever held elective office, or even run for one. Neither has been a minister, sub-minister or even civil servant in one of their nation’s ministries. Neither has developed, or sought to develop, a public following from their careers as economic technicians, chiefly on the European supra-national level. Yet each is about to lead a major nation.
Papademos and Monti are something new under the sun: national leaders elected by the markets. Imposed, not as pro-consels by foreign occupiers, but by the European banking community, by the finance ministers of the Eurozone powers – chiefly, Germany and France. Each has an impressive resume and a good reputation with the centrist political and economic elites of his own nation, but there’s no reason why the person on the street of Rome or Athens should know who the hell they are.
But imagine if the U.S. couldn’t sell its Treasury notes (which has never been a problem, let’s be clear), and the IMF and Germany and China got together and said that Barack Obama, Joe Biden, the Cabinet and the Congress had to go. Imagine that they then designated as Obama’s successor, say, the guy who followed Tim Geithner as head of the New York Fed (I don’t even know who that is), or Robert Zoellick, the American who heads the World Bank. That’s essentially what just happened to Italy and Greece.
But there’s nothing conspiratorial about what is happening in plain view in Italy and Greece: Two economists have been imposed from on high to make changes to the Italian and Greek economies – really, to fundamental lifestyles of Italians and Greeks – that neither nation would be likely to make through the normal democratic processes. Some of the changes we’re likely about to see would probably come in any case, but surely not all: Democracies tend not vote themselves into austerity-driven penury. But Italy and Greece (the latter, need I note, the cradle of democracy) aren’t really looking like democracies just now, or even sovereign states.
So what do we call this? A coup? An occupation? The latest version of the 18th Brumaire? (That one’s for the Marxists.) If nothing else, it’s certainly a triumph of capitalism over democracy.
The luckiest man in America might be the 3rd person Rick Perry has to execute today.