Global Ethics Corner: Debt and Democracy: Why Shouldn't Greeks Vote on Their Financial Future?

November 11, 2011

Greek authorities will not be staging a national referendum on a European debt deal, causing a global sigh of relief. Everyone from international investors to foreign policymakers has applauded the decision as critical for global economic stability. Everyone that is, except the Greeks themselves.

The Greek tragedy unfolding over the European debt deal raises some important questions about the bounds between debt and democracy: Why shouldn't Greeks—or any citizenry for that matter—get to vote on the economic fate of their country? If Greece truly is a sovereign state, why shouldn't it be free to decline its own financial rescue?

To outsiders, the Greek prime minister's decision to accept a multi-billion-dollar European bailout package is crucial to avert further financial ruin and insulate other vulnerable European economies.

The referendum's presumed impact on ‘project Europe' is also important. A negative outcome to the Greek referendum would have almost certainly dealt a blow to the decades-long goal of European integration.

But for Greek citizens, the decision to withdraw the option of a referendum is more controversial.

The European debt deal means Greeks will have to endure yet another round of austerity measures. Denied a referendum, Greeks themselves will have no say on this—unless of course, they continue to voice their discord outside of the ballot box. For the founders of democracy, civil unrest and popular protest might just be the only way to maintain a say in their financial future.

As the world decides Greece's economic fate, who do you think should have the most say in its bailout? Where do you draw the line between good economics and good governance?

By Marlene Spoerri

Photo Credits in Order of Appearance:

Prime Minister of the Netherlands
Tom Tziros

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