Day 158: George Papandreou: Imagine a European democracy without borders.

He’s probably most famous for being the man who told the European Union that Greece had been cooking the books all along. In this talk, George Papandreou explains how Greece became the scapegoat for a bigger problem with leadership failure globally and puts forward ideas for an improved system of democracy.
When he was a teenager, Papandreou’s father was heading a powerful movement for change in Greece when soldiers marched him to prison at gunpoint. What followed were seven years of dictatorship with his family in exile. In 2010, the gun wasn’t held to Papandreou by the military but by the markets; he was given ten minutes, with a group of other European leaders, to make a decision that could save Greece from defaulting, before the Japanese markets opened.
Greece did trigger the Euro crisis, yet according to Papandreou the democratic systems of today are too big to control. Democracy is weakened by growing inequality and the ability for people to evade taxes. In Brussels, he reported they were trapped by their collective ignorance; instead of revolutionising the system, they put blind faith in austerity. Many other countries, including Ireland, have followed suit.
Papandreou believed in collective decision making, so he called a referendum to have the Greek people decide on the terms of the bailout. Democracy cannot work without people debating and taking on public responsibilities. In Ancient Greece, the name, ‘idiot’ came from ‘idio’, meaning a person who took no part in public affairs. These affairs took place in the Agra or marketplace. Markets and political discussions then gave power to the people.
So how to reconvene the Agra? Papandreou suggests that Europe, despite its recent shortcomings, should be used as a model. He proposes that immigrants should be European, rather than a single nationality, everybody should have the power to vote on a president and laws, and that the unemployed should be given a chance to study in any country. But any changes to the format of democracy aren’t likely to come from within governments. He calls on the people of TED to push for the changes. It is in the interest of the higher powers that all of us are idiots; let’s not be.

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