Parsing Blame

From my recent post, Damned:

Whatever opinion one has of the Greek people, the truth is that this entire mess was caused by their politicians and by the bailing-out of European banks. 

Eliciting this comment from βιβλία July 6, 2015 at 9:14 AM:

A point of order: “This entire mess was caused by their politicians” and the politicians were chosen by the Greek people, or some of them, and tolerated by most, or all, of the Greek people. So the Greek people are not entirely innocent.

And my reply:

Perhaps “entire” was too strong a word. I will come down to 98%, as those who stand to make billions are quite effective at manipulating those who are in it for hundreds.

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Who is to be blamed?  The actors, or those who give (or allow) the actors to have power and authority?

I will assume you are familiar with the argument by Étienne de La Boétie, to summarize: “Every tyranny must necessarily be grounded upon general popular acceptance.”

The people, more or less, get what they want; hearts filled with envy demand action by their political leaders.  There is much truth to this position.

Setting aside the examples where the politicians and bureaucrats act in direct contradiction to the vocal will of the majority of the people (and setting aside the desires of each individual in the minority), is this the balance of the issue?  The people vote (or acquiesce) and therefore the people are to be blamed – to some meaningful degree, at least?

If individual responsibility for action is to mean anything, it seems to me that the direct actors bear the vast majority of the blame: “He made me do it” doesn’t seem an appropriate way to allocate guilt among adults, especially when the “made” does not come with the threat of force behind it.  “I was just following orders” is not the strongest defense.

As already suggested, “entire” was too strong, and “98%” might also be too high.  Let’s try this:

Whatever opinion one has of the Greek people, the truth is that the overwhelming preponderance of this mess was caused by their politicians and by the bailing-out of European banks. 

Reprinted with permission from Bionic Mosquito.