George Papandreou is threatening to destroy his government, the Euro zone, and the world’s economy. How? By asking his people to vote on the EU bailout package and austerity plan.
The curses and the warnings of apocalypse are flying. You can understand the sheer betrayal that Angela Merkel and Nicolas Sarkozy, and bankers and legislators, and Tim Geithner and God himself might feel. Still, Greece gave the world democracy; it might claim to have a right to practice it. (Even the Wall Street Journal seems to agree.)
It’s a sad commentary on the European project, and on the representative governments around us that are ostensibly based on popular sovereignty but in fact are mortgaged head to foot to the banks, and on the whole sorry state of what we still presume to call democracy, that the whole shebang can be so threatened by inviting a country’s citizenry to take a simple yes-or-no vote. “You can’t keep carrying out policies against the will of the people, it won’t work,” one German lawmaker says. But everything so far suggests that, with enough threats and imprecations, you can.