The Greek PM has just announced a “rhetorical referendum,” by which I mean that it is asking a question whose answer does not matter. Whatever the Greek people vote for, no big question will have been settled, no divisive issue will have been resolved, and we will have no more information about the public’s mood than we do today. In other words, it is a meaningless referendum.
The problem, of course, is that there is no real “choice.” Greece has defaulted, even though the default will be more orderly and might not be called a “default.” So when the PM says that the Greek people have to approve the haircut deal to help the country “stave off default,” his claim is Orwellianly ludicrous. There is no choice because the referendum does not offer alternatives as referenda are supposed to do. For lack of a better metaphor it is like letting a vegetarian choose between beef and chicken – you are past the point where the question makes sense.
All this referendum tells us that this PM is too little for Greece, that he has no backbone and no courage. After having walked you to the cliff, and as the water zeroes in on you both, he will turn and say “should we jump?” as if “yes” means that we somehow all made the decision to jump together, and if we drown it was our joint decision to drown. This referendum is no more than a petty attempt to offload responsibility and culpability by sharing it with the “people” – and in doing so he reminds us how unfortunate we are to have him as our leader in this great hour of need. And we don’t need a referendum to know that.