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GAZETA WYBORCZA

From Poland, No Pity For Cypriots -- Or Ourselves

When a crooked system is allowed to fester, there are few who are free of blame -- and little chance we will remained unscathed. A view from the European Union's eastern front.

Out of the shadows
Out of the shadows
Jacek Żakowski

-Essay-

I feel no pity for Cypriots, they got what they deserved. Their ‘free rider’ state has been a parasite to the European Union, and neighboring countries. Cyprus wanted to make its living by helping fraudsters. I am not surprised that nobody is running to help.

I also don’t have any sympathy for the gangsters, bribe givers, shifty businessmen and other swindlers from the EU and its surroundings, who have long since found haven for their dirty money on Cyprus. I’m not moved by the laments over their bank deposits being stolen by the state. For years they have been using Cyprus to rob their homelands, forcing their governments to turn a blind eye on this growing issue.

It’s a grotesque paradox that those who have been robbing the states are screaming the loudest, that they’re being robbed by the state.

I don’t sympathize either with us, ordinary Europeans, who will be touched by the consequences of the loss of credibility in the banking system. We let our governments tolerate a gigantic sham exempting the rich from taxes and shifting costs of state maintenance to the poor. Even when it came to light that these kinds of frauds are one of the reasons for the crisis, and despite the fact that the leaders of the world’s greatest economies acknowledged it, we accepted as citizens that it would continue.

We need to learn our lesson, even if we feel we were misled, manipulated by the crooked few telling us that this is how it has to be.

Not reality

How could this all happen? To a large extent, it's because half-a-century of tranquility made Europeans believe that the state is a kind of Limited Liability Company where the risks and costs borne by citizens are proportional to the taxes they pay. According to this neoliberal idea, if the country’s efficiency is low, we need to minimize the risk by lowering our input, meaning taxes. People should focus on their private sphere and avoid losing time on the public one. This even includes voting.

The current events shaking Cyprus remind us that those neoliberal, individualistic, selfish motives don’t fit the reality. It is clear as a bell that a state is an Unlimited Liability Company. The liability is total. Thinking that the national problems aren’t ours is a delusion. We cannot neglect the public sphere with impunity. When we citizens push problems under the rug, minding our own business, the state goes astray. If our intellectual laziness let us believe in the nonsense proclaimed by some scam artists, when we let them buy politicians, sooner or later we’ll pay for that in our own lives and well-being.

The price we are paying now is still low. The swindlers will lose their tax haven, and a part of their fortunes. Cypriots will lose the fraudulent source of their wealth. Politicians and various experts who supported this system will lose their sponsors.

And we, as citizens? We will not only lose some money, but more importantly the illusion that democracy guarantees everything, even without our active participation. It doesn’t. In matters of state, the rule of limited liability doesn’t work. Neither our money or our houses, health or even life will be safe so long as we will believe that we can simply not bother.

In democracy there’s no escape from civil responsibility. It will get us sooner or later.

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Future

Some Historical Context On The Current Silicon Valley Implosion

Tech billionaires such as Elon Musk and Mark Zuckerberg have lost far more money this year than ever before. Eccentric behavior and questionable decisions have both played a role. But there are examples in U.S. business history that have other clues.

Photo of Elon Musk looking down at screens featuring Twitter's blue bird logo

The rise and fall of Elon Musk

Daniel Eckert

-Analysis-

BERLIN — Life isn’t always fair, especially when it comes to business. Although he had already registered dozens of patents, during the global economic crisis of the 1930s, tireless inventor Nikola Tesla found himself struggling to put food on the table. Sure, investors today associate his name with runaway wealth and business achievements rather than poverty and failure: Tesla, the company that was named after him, has made Elon Musk the richest man in the world.

Bloomberg estimates the 51-year-old’s current fortune to be $185 billion. While Musk is not a brilliant inventor like Nikola Tesla, many see him as the most successful businessperson of our century.

And yet, over the past month, many are beginning to wonder if Musk is in trouble, if he has spread himself too thin. Most obvious is his messy and expensive takeover of Twitter, which includes polarizing antics and a clear lack of a strategy.

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