Not part of the mediamacro myths series, but in a way related.
Chris Giles has a recent FT article where he describes how non-Greek policymakers (lets still call them the Troika) see themselves like parents trying to deal with the “antics” of the problem child, Syriza in Greece. He splits these parents into different types: those that want to act as if the child is grown up (though they believe they are not), those who want to be disciplinarians etc. As a description of how the Troika view themselves, and present themselves to the public, the analogy rings true. It certainly accords with the constant stream of articles in the press predicting an impending crisis because the Greeks ‘refuse to be reasonable’.
In FT Alphaville Peter Doyle writes about a recent meeting at the Brookings Institution in Washington, the highly respected US social science research/policy think tank. In that meeting Wolfgang Schäuble and Yanis Varoufakis, finance ministers of Germany and Greece, gave back-to-back presentations. He describes how “Schäuble was avuncular, self-effacing, and Germanic, and was tolerated rather than warmly embraced by his hosts.” In contrast “when Varoufakis spoke, eyes burning with anger, his hosts were animatedly engaged.” The audience actively sympathised with the position of Greece, and asked “how it felt to be right but penniless”. He writes “There was no doubt where the hosts’ sympathies lay between their two guests.”
I am not surprised at all by this account. The arguments that many of us have made about how far Greece has moved and what agonies it has endured in order to satisfy the unrealistic wishes of their creditors are I think widely shared among our colleagues. We know that if Greece was not part of the Euro, but just another of a long line of countries that have borrowed too much and had to partially default, its remaining creditors would be in a weak position now that Greece has achieved primary surpluses (taxes>government spending). The reason why the Troika is not so weak is that they have additional threats that come from being the issuer of the Greek currency.
It is important to understand what the current negotiations are about. Running a primary surplus means that Greece no longer needs additional borrowing - it just needs to be able to roll over its existing debts. Part of the argument is about how large a primary surplus Greece should run. Common sense would say that further austerity should be avoided so that the economy can fully recover, when it will have much greater resources to be able to pay back loans. Instead the creditors want more austerity to achieve large primary surpluses. Of course the former course of action is better for Greece: which would be better for the creditors is unclear! The negotiations are also about imposing additional structural reforms. Greece has already undertaken many, and is prepared to go further, but the Troika wants yet more.
As Andrew Watt points out, from the perspective of the Eurozone and IMF, this is all extremely small beer.  You would think the key players on that side had more important things to do with their time. The material advantages to be gained by the Troika playing tough are minimal from their perspective, but the threats hanging over the Greek economy are damaging - not just to investment, but also to the very primary surpluses that the Troika needs. So why do the Troika insist on continuing with brinkmanship? Can it be that this is really about ensuring that an elected government that challenges the dominant Eurozone political and economic ideology must be forced to fail?
In a recent post that I (jokingly) entitled ‘Should economists rule?’ I suggested that much of the debate about the delegation of economic policy to economic experts was really an issue about political transparency rather than diminished democracy. Elected politicians normally always have ultimate control. Sometimes ‘delegation’ amounts to little more than making the advice they receive transparent: contracting out the fiscal forecast to the OBR would be an example.  All that democracy loses in this case is the ability of politicians to conceal or manipulate the advice they receive, and to fool the public as a result. Greece may be (unfortunately) a good example of how far politicians are prepared to go in misleading their own electorates to cover-up their mistakes and achieve their own political ends.
 The IMF mainly consists of hundreds of economists, but it is run by politicians, and on issues like this the politicians tend to take control.
 With central bank independence they do lose control, but normally with the power to take back control in some way. Furthermore, if the undemocratic central bank persistently made bad decisions, taking back control would be popular. An exception is the ECB, which may help explain why many of its words and actions are seriously problematic.