Public Policy 85 - Third Full Day in Greece: Protest and Questions of Economic Justice

During our third full day in Greece, we had the opportunity to explore the city of Athens and all it has to offer.  Many chose to tour a variety of cultural and historical sights, while others chose to observe a large protest that was occurring near the University and Hellenic Parliament, an annual event commemorating the 12/6/2008 police shooting of a 15-year-old student and the riots that followed.  A building we had visited for meetings on each of the two prior days -- the Bank of Greece, the country's central bank -- was now festooned with a freshly spray-painted anarchist symbol on its main entrance.  Indeed, there are no shortages of sightseeing opportunities -- whether political or archeological -- in Athens, and we were grateful for beautiful weather to accompany our mostly open day.

In the afternoon, we regrouped at our hotel for a Skype call with Professor Nicholas Vrousalis, an Associate Professor of Political Science at Erasmus University Rotterdam.  Vrousalis, born in Greece and a leading political philosopher of distributive ethics and democratic theory, brought what some students thought was a much-needed corrective to some of our prior days' conversations with policymakers and economists.  Our conversation with Vrousalis addressed issues of inequalities across EU countries, the normative desirability of a range of solutions to these problems, and their political feasibility.  We also discussed the analytic utility and political consequences of both broader and narrower definitions of the term populism, and larger issues of democratic power, participation, and representation, as well as the future of European integration.  Many previously-unquestioned assumptions were tested and debated as a result of this combination of normative and policy analysis.

The conversation generated one of the trip's most heated and productive post-interview debates among class members.  Some students found Vrousalis's interjections to be an essential and persuasive corrective; others disagreed; and still others offered useful interjections in between.

The debates continued as our group departed for the grounds of the Acropolis, and we arrived just in time to view a beautiful Athens sunset, looking out over the entire city.  Excited to learn more about the architecture and history behind what we viewed, we then walked to the Acropolis Museum and explored the impressive collection on site until we could no longer resist the urge to find delicious Greek cuisine.  Our official day ended with a picturesque dining experience on a small Athens side street, where we shared discussion and excellent seafood.