Varufakis Yanis Explains Tax Resistance Outbreak in Greece

A while back, Greek economist Varufakis Yanis explained the recent outbreak of tax resistance in Greece (translation mine, from a Spanish language op-ed):

The last recourse for stolen dignity

With his outrageous satire Can’t pay? Won’t pay!, the playwright Dario Fo incited the audience to rethink their political responsibilities. During the last two years, Greece has witnessed a spontaneous application of Fo’s title. It began with the nation’s highways, when drivers refused to stop at toll-booths, demanding that they be permitted to pass without paying. Their defiance was prompted by the appearance of reports in which they were informed that the previous government had sold the future earnings from the toll-booths to private investors using complex financial derivative instruments that had been designed by the bank Goldman Sachs. The idea that the money that Greek drivers should pay the government during the following years for maintaining the highways had been usurped by politicians and financeers aroused the anger that propelled these protests.

Later came the continual assaults against the dwindling savings of the population, determined by a government whose panic over its own bankruptcy led it to lose any sense of decorum. All households, including those of low income, have received tax notices in which were required additional taxes of a retroactive character, without any justification, and in a form that any decent court would have declared illegal. And when, in consequence of the destruction of jobs and of salary cuts, many people found it impossible to make these payments, what did this socialist government think up? The brilliant plan to introduce new taxes, this time by means of the electric bill, with which families were extorted from by being told that if they would not cough up their dough [soltar la pasta], they would have to cook over coal stoves while their children would do their homework by candlelight.

In this climate of total bankruptcy of the social contract between the government and the governed, citizens find it easy to say that justice requires tax resistance and civil disobedience. This movement does not start as something political. The I’m not going to pay is all about the result of a sad and simple inability to cope with the payment of more taxes. But when the state reacts with aggression and without scruple, anger accumulates and, spontaneously, takes the form of a crusade to defy the predatory state.

It is likely that this will not help to resolve anything. But at least the disobedience that we are seeing everywhere, from the courtyards of the nation’s schools to the toll-booths on the highways, from the headquarters of the electric company to Syntagma Square in Athens before the Parliament, could well be the only recourse that citizens have to reclaim part of their stolen dignity.