The Eurogroup emergency meeting came to an abrupt end at 12 a.m. Brussels local time, after 9 hours of excruciating debates.  The vacuum of information caused by the Eurogroup’s closed-doors meeting fostered a twilight zone of sheer terror for some – most of the Greeks –  and patchwork of divergent rumours were abundant: that the Germans would oppose any kind of deal; that, according to a few tweets, the opposition turned into a Finnish ultimatum, and that the Grexit was finally precipitating and imminent.

Within this void, various countries’ positions formed stark opposites. Compare the eternal French “joie de vivre” and the Italian “end to humiliation” with the Finnish, German and Dutch tough-on-Greece stance. All of this underlines that, whatever the outcome of the Eurogroup talks this week, the European project has capitulated and this might merely be the visible tip of a much more profound crisis. The specter of Greece haunts Europe.

A modernization of the Greek economy? The New Greek Proposition

The proposition that the new Greek finance minister Euclid Tsakalotos tabled Thursday wasn’t in itself that different from the propositions that were deemed inacceptable by his ex-colleague Varoufakis not more than a week ago and which were also massively refused by the Greek public.

The new Greek proposal consists in its main outlines of cuts to pensions, which have already dilapidated since the onset of austerity measures in Greece, a rise in the sales tax (VAT), the progressive phasing-out of the VAT exemption for Greek islands, and the privatization of the last of the Greek public assets i.e. the port of Piraeus, which has been a point of contention.  Within the this potpourri of austerity on steroids the only silver-lining – if any –was to be found in the propositions of rising the corporate tax rate and the abolition of the exemption of taxation for ship-owners; a relic of the fascist dictatorship of colonels. These latter proposals were already turned down in previous negotiations by the Eurogroup.

Euclid Tsakolotos
Euclid Tsakolotos. Photo from Sinn Feid, Flickr CC by 2.0.

The emphasis was put on the “modernization” of Greece, by putting in place  necessary measures and adjustments to move Greece forward. This being said, drastic efforts have been put in place over the past few years to ensure that end; however the European Union has been unwilling to help with the said “modernization,” especially in terms of its financial framework, its taxation system and coming to its aid in its fight to prosecute tax evasion. The amount of Greek euros held in financial safe-havens like the London, Luxembourg and Switzerland in general, is incalculable.

Tsipras and the coup of the extreme-center

It might seem extraordinary, schizophrenic even, that, in less than a week, the Greek position, which seemed to be at the pinnacle of its power, invigorated by a crushing “Oxi” vote and the resignation of one of the main political leaders of the political opposition Antonis Samaras, capitulated to the rapacious force of the creditors. But to think anything different was failing to see the prophetic signs that those who had pillaged Greece for the past five year – some might say for decades – had any will to relinquish their hold of the Greek economy.

Thursday, as the first outlines of the new Greek proposition were tabled and the new package was put for before the Greek parliament to be voted upon, even the Greek prime minister couldn’t hide the calamity that was before Greek legislators.

Between a bad and a catastrophic choice, we are forced to choose the first […] it’s not easy but we have to,” Tsipras said. During a tense and fratricidal debate, 251 MPs, many from the ranks of the governing coalition and those of the neoliberal extreme-centre (Potami and New Democracy) voted in favour of the new proposition. Notably, Tsipras lost the foundations of his governing majority and a split within SYRIZA (of its left platform) is imminent. The anti-austerity majority rising from the still fuming victorious Oxi vote was thus transformed, within the space of a few days, into its most dreaded enemy: a reconstituted, reinvigorated, extreme centre.

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The Eurogroup meets

From financial waterboarding to financial strangling

But this “strategic retreat,” as some have dubbed it within the European left, was the obvious outcome of the negotiations from the moment ex-finance minister Varoufakis resigned amidst the elation of the crushing victory of the Oxi camp as the final votes were being counted in last weeks referendum. The stance that Tsipras took, that a strong Oxi vote was a tactical maneuver to strengthen the Greek negotiating position didn’t materialize. Instead, the hounds of austerity saw the referendum as a provocation.

The first move of the Eurogroup through the European Emergency Liquidity Assistance (ELA) was to maintain their stranglehold on the Greek public, through withholding funds that should have enabled Greek banks to reopen within this past week. This position was no different from the ELA’s position to cut all funding to Greek financial institutions from the day the referendum was called.

Using such tactics, which have come under none or very little criticism through the European partners, as ex-finance minister Varoufakis announced the morning of the referendum, was a move with the objective of terrorizing and subduing the Greek people into voting in favour of the dictum of the Eurogroup.

With all the frenzy of a Grexit, few have noticed that Greece has been de facto under a financial embargo, which has pushed it to the fringes of the Eurozone and was a consequence of European policy and not the hidden agenda of the Greek government.

Tsipras speaks
Tsipras speaking

A symbolic death for Europe

Two dynamics have been lethal for the Greek cause within the negotiations.

First: The Eurogroup reigns supreme. Europe, having pushed its weight around, has proven that it is the only relevant instance, that its members are the real deal brokers behind the curtains, and that’s where power lies within Europe outside of the public sphere: in a place at the antipodes of democracy.

Second: the Greek referendum had a huge symbolic importance but unfortunately not much more than that. The Oxi of 61% of Greeks within the current framework of the European Union is only binding to those that care for the notions of democracy and popular sovereignty. Those notions are alien to the Schäubles and Dijsselbloems of this world.

Many have stated the cataclysmic consequences of a Grexit for Greece, but little have measured the consequences this entire process has had on the future of the European project. While making his way through the hoards of journalists awaiting some newsworthy shred of information, Dijsselbloems stated that it was “still very difficult because of the lack of confidence that reigns between lenders and the Greek government.”

The European institutions have proven right – some would say once again – the Eurosceptics in their view that the EU has a complete disregard for the democratic will of the peoples it supposedly represents. The distrust between the peoples of Europe and the European institution has taken various forms. “Fascistoid” and xenophobic political formations have capitalized on this lack of confidence. The EU that sought to “modernize” Greece is in need of a profound “modernization” itself, which is why, today, the downfall of Greece might not necessarily mean the downfall of the EU. However, for the sake of a brighter future, it must mean its demise.

As Zoe Kostantopoulou said addressing the Greek parliament, “The No of the Greek people stands above us all.” “No”s in more languages than one will come in future and that’s the specter that haunts Europe.

When you get right down to it, the odds of finding true love are pretty dismal. Considering all the factors that need to line up perfectly like attraction, chemistry and timing, British mathematician Peter Backus put the chances at one in 285 000.  He based his calculations on the Drake Equation, which was derived in 1961 to estimate the number of possible extra-terrestrial civilizations that could exist in our galaxy. While the Drake Equation looks at factors like the average rate of star formation per year in our galaxy and the fraction of those stars that have habitable planet, Backus whittled down the London dating pool by gender, age, education and attraction to a mere 26 lucky ladies.

But what if you had a magical Love Potion Number 9 that you could slip into someone’s drink to make them unwittingly and insatiably infatuated with you? How much could you charge for even a single dose?

Theoretical approaches to answering this question vary wildly, as love is one of those things that are nearly impossible to quantify in tangible terms. Different people experience it in markedly different ways, but there are some universal qualities that remain the same across race, class or sexuality. For the purpose of this piece, I refer to that boundless, can’t-get-you-out-of-my-head-but-I-don’t-even-want-to-try kind of love. In psychology, it is known as consummate love, characterized by intimacy, passion and commitment.

economicsofliveOne way of attempting to quantify the cost of love is looking at the financial costs of courtship such as dinner and a show, apology flowers for when you fuck up, a sparkling engagement ring and an unforgettable wedding. According to the research team at, you’d better start saving now because you’ll need an astonishing $43 842.

“We’re having a little fun with this, but all kidding aside, money problems are the most common reason for break ups,” noted Kelvin Mangaroo, president of

But this figure hardly compares with the monetary value of hearing the words “I love you” from your beloved’s lips for the first time. The British research group Brainjuicer polled 1,000 lottery winners and determined that the amount of happiness brought on by a declaration of love is equivalent to winning £163 424 ($256 911).

Another way of looking at the economics of relationships is by analyzing what happens to our social circles when we couple up. According to a study from Oxford University conducts by evolutionary anthropologist Brian Dunbar, we generally have about five close friends at any given point in our adult lives. To make room for a new love, one of those friends is given the boot.

“What I suspect happens is that your attention is so wholly focused on your romantic partner that you just don’t get to see the other folks you have a lot to do with, and therefore some of those relationships just start to deteriorate and drop down into the layer below,” theorized Dunbar.

So even though romantic relationships make us poor and less popular, they ultimately bring us something else that money can’t buy: happiness. Those who place a higher value on money than love are far more likely to be unsatisfied with their lives.  After all, your money can’t hug you when you’re feeling blue, massage your feet when you’ve had a rough day or stare deeply into your eyes while reciting romantic poetry. As soon as it can, the need for love as we know it might vanish forever.

Photo credit: 14 Wyys an Economist Says I Love You –

Love it or hate it, you’ve got to have it. This is really a business column, but if any of the awesome small businesses or other worthy causes I’ll be directing you to are going to benefit from the attention at all you’ve got to have some scratch. This is easier said than done, because the cost of everything is going up, and making more than our age in salary is a distant, beautiful dream. Most of the advice out there is for people making substantially more money than I am, or anyone I know, so think of this as a basic primer in how not to irreparably fuck up your financial life before the age of thirty.

I’m fortunate to have left the uncertain world of serving for the super-lucrative career of online writing (ha!) but let’s just say that, as of yet, I’m not overburdened with worldly wealth. This means one thing. I’ve got to have a budget.

Don’t look at me like that. You need one too, if you don’t have one already. I put it off for as long as I could, but there comes a point where we all have to be financial grownups, and going without for weeks at a time while waiting for a paycheque just isn’t cutting it any more.

There’s a lot of advice out there about how to “develop a budget system.” Some of them seem okay, some are needlessly complex. Based on some fairly extensive research (I’m a nerd for brightly coloured, friendly personal finance books) here is the best way to not spend (much) more money than you have.

There are three basic laws that if you keep in mind, even if you ignore everything else in this article, will leave you okay:

Law 1: Save something every week. Anything. Even if it’s $5.
Law 2: Credit Cards will eat your brains. They also strangle kittens, stomp on cookies and hate rainbows.
Law 3: Don’t spend so much money. Seriously. Spend less money.

Pretty simple, right? Of course not. Sometimes there isn’t money to save every week. (But there’s usually something even if it’s tiny or spare change) Credit cards have valid uses, like ordering things online or when things get really hairy. Carrying a balance is awful though when I think about the money I’ve spent on interest over the years I could cry. And spending less money just seems so dismal, or impractical, or irrational.

So here are some more details. I have done these steps myself and for the first time in my adult life could survive missing a few paycheques without having to shame myself by calling my parents for a bailout. It’s a really good feeling.

Step 1
Write down your monthly income. Make note of how often you are paid and how much. For example: Sally gets paid $1200 a month, $600 each on the 1st and 15th. Mike, on the other hand gets paid $1600 a month, $400 each Thursday. Get it? Good. Income includes wages, student loan disbursements any money that comes in every month.

Step 2
Write down your expenses. You want two columns. One is fixed expenses, which include your share of the rent, phone bill, internet bill, transportation things that you can’t really change month to month. Put all of your other expenses into another column these are the variables, and can include groceries, alcohol, clothes, meals out, smoking, cosmetics etc. You get the idea. Stuff you can control.

Step 3
Subtract the total of Step 2 from the total of Step 1.

Is the number above zero? Amazing! Make things even better by giving yourself a generous weekly or monthly allowance that will cover all of your variable expenses (Mine is $500/month, for example), take it out in cash from each paycheque and the rest goes to your fixed expenses, savings and debt repayment. You’re good to go. Just make sure it’s enough that you won’t cheat or feel deprived. That way lays failure.

If the number is below zero you need to fix something. Can you lower your fixed expenses? How will you lower your variable expenses? Do it now, because someday in the not-too-distant future you’re going to have to pay the piper.
Play this song – It’s inspiring.

I found that once I started squirreling money away, I wanted to squirrel more and more of it. It’s kind of a fun challenge to see how little money I can spend each month on food, or how long I can go between haircuts. It means that when I find a cool company like Papirmasse, I can subscribe to it, you know? It may make me a more boring person but it makes me a happier, less stressed-out one too. It doesn’t look like money is going to stop making the world go round anytime soon, and I want to make sure that I have some.

Something here not make sense? Think I’m full of BS? Drop me a line at, or tell me in the comments