Thucydides: the Reinvention of History, which gives a lucid and sometimes brilliant account of the key issues, personalities and events of the Peloponnesian War. In particular, Kagan provides an excellent portrait of the personality and career of Pericles and his relationship to the Athenian democracy, which Kagan shows us working at its best and worst. At its worst, the Athenian democracy – like all democracies – was nothing more than mob rule, with the fate of the city (and its empire) in the hands of an ignorant and fickle mass, swayed by fears and prejudice and prone to bribery and flattery.
‘Trusting the judgement of the people’ or making critical decisions according to its ‘will’ is, therefore, a very dangerous exercise and I’ve never been much in favour of it, regarding it as an easy way out for leaders that have lost the determination or know-how to govern; but the breaking news is that this is the path that Greece's PM Giorgos Papandreou has chosen to go down, having told Pasok MPs that the government is to hold a referendum on the debt deal reached last week in Brussels, in which Greece accepted a 50% haircut of its sovereign debt in return for pushing through economic and public sector reforms. I guess now we will see whether Greeks want to take the medicine prescribed to them by the EU, or whether, as Syriza, KKE and all the rest keep telling us, they are sick to death of austerity and tax rises and want to plot another path to exit the crisis.
*And here’s Nikos Dimitriou in The Guardian writing about what default and exit from the euro – which, presumably, a ‘no’ in the referendum on the debt agreement would entail – would mean for Greece. Essentially, it would mean chaos and violence to start with and then, since Greece is a fractious place with an ineffective state and a tendency to political thuggery, would mean even more chaos and violence to follow.