Crowdfunding Greece's Debt Will Never Work, But It's Still Nice
"In this context, symbolism matters," says a former IMF economist.
On Sunday night, 29-year-old Thom Feeney launched an Indiegogo campaign called "Greek Bailout Fund" to crowdfund €1.6 billion for the Greek economy—the amount of the repayment due to the International Monetary Fund by end of June.
In just under two days, over €200,000 has been pledged by more than 13,000 people from across the world. And those figures are still going up by the second (though given the numbers involved, the campaign is still stuck at 0 percent of the total sum needed).
When he's not busy trying to save the Greek economy, Feeney works at a shoe shop in London. Is this shoe-selling activist really the one who's going to save Greece and bring peace to the European Union? "I'm not just making a statement, this is a real attempt to do something. I hope very much that the campaign will reach the target, I think it will be a victory for people power," Feeney said in his campaign, and reiterated to me in an email. "We can help our Greek cousins by buying wonderful Greek produce such as feta, olives, wine and more."
Feeney's referring to backers' choices of perks like Greek salad, Greek aperitif ouzo and Greek wine in exchange for their generous donations. Given that the campaign aims to secure the full €1.6 billion over the course of just seven days, successfully raising the money seems like an unattainable goal.
"In this context, symbolism matters."
But the act of trying could nevertheless be beneficial in attracting widespread attention and increasing public awareness about Greece's situation.
"As a direct financial contribution to resolving Greece's and the Eurozone's difficulties, the impact will be symbolic. But in this context, symbolism matters," said senior economist Peter Doyle, formerly of the International Monetary Fund. "Not just in terms of shifting the broader political forces which have produced the current problems in the Eurozone and in Greece, but also to the Greek people who, with justification, are feeling abandoned by Europe now."
In the campaign's description, Feeney makes his own views and inspiration pretty clear. "All this dithering over Greece is getting boring. European ministers flexing their muscles and posturing over whether they can help the Greek people of not. Why don't we the people just sort it instead?" he writes.
Doyle believes that Feeney's efforts are noble and valid, even if it seems highly doubtful the campaign could ever succeed. "The crowdfunding initiative is a welcome indicator of public concern for Greece. People are putting their money where their mouths are. They are right to express these concerns in these ways," he told me.
If it were to succeed in its goals, there are a number of unanswered questions, the most important of which is how the hell things would work in terms of getting the money to Greece. In response to this, Feeney wrote: "We promise that all profits will go to the Greek people. Whether that be via the government accepting it or by other means. I suspect that there'll be plenty of people, better qualified than I am, that would be willing to help."
Indiegogo CEO Slava Rubin said, "Once the campaign reaches its goal, Indiegogo will collaborate with the campaigner to get in touch with Greek authorities and determine the best way to transfer the funds to the Greek government."
So there you have it. In the space of just 24 hours, a one-man band has come up with the solution to Greece's financial crisis. All he needs is another €1.5-and-a-bit billion and he's all set. Until the next repayment.