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Yanis Varoufakis

Yanis Varoufakis

Economics professor, quietly writing obscure academic texts for years, until thrust onto the public scene by Europe's inane handling of an inevitable crisis

Articles by Yanis Varoufakis

A Central Bank Cryptocurrency to Democratize Money

July 28, 2021

Since 2008 – and more so during the pandemic – central bank money has been showered, via private bankers, on the ultra-rich, while everyone else suffers stagnation and austerity. The time for change is now, and the way to do it is by creating central-bank cryptocurrency.

ATHENS – The history of money has been the history of the struggles to control the payment system and the money tree. Today, with control over both resting in the hands of bankers, central banks’ efforts to boost business end up amplifying inequality while failing to address either economic stagnation or the looming climate disaster. The time for ending this scandalous cartel is now; the way to do it is by creating a central-bank cryptocurrency.

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Techno-Feudalism Is Taking Over

June 28, 2021

The claim that capitalism is being toppled by a new economic mode comes on the heels of many premature forecasts of capitalism’s demise, especially from the left. But this time it may well be true, and the signs that it is have been visible for a while.

ATHENS – This is how capitalism ends: not with a revolutionary bang, but with an evolutionary whimper. Just as it displaced feudalism gradually, surreptitiously, until one day the bulk of human relations were market-based and feudalism was swept away, so capitalism today is being toppled by a new economic mode: techno-feudalism.
The Death of Free Speech in Hong Kong

Bertha Wang/AFP via Getty Images

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Austerity’s Hidden Purpose

May 17, 2021

Even if everyone agreed that printing another trillion dollars to finance a basic income for the poor would boost neither inflation nor interest rates, the rich and powerful would still oppose it. After all, their most important interest is not to conserve economic potential, but to preserve the power of the few to compel the many.

ATHENS – Back in the 1830s, Thomas Peel decided to migrate from England to Swan River in Western Australia. A man of means, Peel took along, besides his family, “300 persons of the working class, men, women, and children,” as well as “means of subsistence and production to the amount of £50,000.” But soon after arrival, Peel’s plans were in ruins.

The End of Israel’s Illusion

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Football Takes Capitalism Out of Bounds

April 26, 2021

Last week, Europeans showed the red card to the moguls – and their financiers – who tried to form a Super League of the continent’s top 15 football clubs. Now that Europeans discovered their moral Rubicon, the time may have come for a broader rethink of who owns what.

ATHENS – Europe has discovered its moral Rubicon, the frontier beyond which commodification becomes intolerable. The line in the sand that Europeans refuse to cross, come what may, has just been drawn.

Build Back the State

Getty/Bettman 

Is Stagflation Coming?

Z. Wei/Getty Images

The Geography of

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The Goldilocks Stimulus Myth

March 2, 2021

Both supporters and critics of US President Joe Biden’s $1.9 trillion stimulus plan assume that there is a dollar amount that is just right. In fact, no such figure exists: every possible stimulus size is simultaneously too little and too big.

ATHENS – US President Joe Biden, facing the great challenge of stimulating his country’s economy for the post-pandemic era, and haunted by then-President Barack Obama’s tepid stimulus in the face of the Great Recession a decade ago, has decided to err on the side of overshooting. He wants to “go big” with a $1.9 trillion spending plan.

A Realist Reset for US-Saudi Relations

Brendan Smialowski/AFP via Getty Images

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Truth After Trump

January 26, 2021

Donald Trump is more dangerous than a mere liar because he found a way to exploit the economic doppelganger of science. Behind every government policy that affects us lurks some economic hypothesis whose authority is bolstered by a peer review process that the naked eye can mistake for the scientific process.

ATHENS – Former US President Donald Trump’s opponents call him a liar. But Trump is far worse than a liar. Many politicians lie to cover up inconvenient truths. But Trump can punctuate long sequences of eye-watering mendacity with verities that no other president would ever admit to, from dismissing the dominant view of globalization as unambiguously beneficial to acknowledging that, yes, he tried to defund the

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The Seven Secrets of 2020

December 28, 2020

This year has resembled a rapidly receding tide, forcing us to confront submerged truths. One lesson we learned in 2020 is that national governments had been choosing not to exercise their enormous powers so that those whom globalization had enriched could exercise their own.

ATHENS – A house of cards. A set of lies we have unconsciously accepted. That’s what our certainties seem like during profound crises. Such episodes shock us into recognizing how unsafe our assumptions are. That is why this year has resembled a rapidly receding tide, forcing us to confront submerged truths.

The Gift of a COVID Vaccine?

The Big Picture

Joseph Prezioso/AFP via Getty Images

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How to Lose a European Country

November 30, 2020

Soon after the conservative New Democracy government took office in Greece in 2019, it started to become apparent that democracy was not the goal it had in mind. Little more than a year later, the transition to postmodern parliamentary dictatorship is well advanced.

ATHENS – “This is no time for sadness, we are too pissed off,” the head of an intensive care unit at a hospital in my Thessaloniki constituency told me recently. Along with his staff of dedicated doctors and nurses, he had not slept the previous night, which he evocatively described as “our Night of St. Bartholomew.” I asked why he was fuming. “I lost a 43-year-old who could have been saved,” he replied angrily, adding: “But it is the lies, the damned lies, and the

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As Greek Nazis Go to Prison, Their Poison Runs Free

October 15, 2020

The conviction of the leaders of the Golden Dawn – the only openly Nazi party to have won seats in any parliament since the 1940s – is a victory against far-right extremism in Europe. But while the party’s leaders were being sent to prison, their ideas, manners, and hatred of parliamentary democracy were in police uniform, terrorizing the streets.

ATHENS – October 7 was a good day for democrats. The Greek Court of Appeals upheld the convictions of the leaders of Golden Dawn, the only openly Nazi party to have won seats in any parliament since the 1940s, on charges of murder, grievous bodily harm, and directing a criminal organization. A crowd of 20,000 Athenians celebrated outside the court.

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The Eternal Marx

October 9, 2020

Shlomo Avineri’s recent biography demolishes the charge that Karl Marx was a self-hating anti-Semite. And by dragging Marx, kicking and screaming, back into the Rhinish Jewish community that shaped him, Avineri yields new insights pertinent to today’s global challenges.

ATHENS – The problem with egotists is that they are not particularly good at being selfish. They can accumulate wealth, legal rights, and power, but, in the end, they are pitiable figures who cannot know fulfillment. This assessment of the “egotistic man,” whom he defines as “an individual withdrawn behind his private interests and whim and separated from the community,” is the gravamen of Karl Marx’s critique of possessive individualism – the moral

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The COVID Class War

June 30, 2020

The European Union’s proposed recovery fund to counter the pandemic’s economic fallout seems destined to leave the majority in every member state worse off. Finance will again be protected, if badly, while workers are left to foot the bill through new rounds of austerity.

ATHENS – The euro crisis that erupted a decade ago has long been portrayed as a clash between Europe’s frugal North and profligate South. In fact, at its heart was a fierce class war that left Europe, including its capitalists, much weakened relative to the United States and China. Worse still, the European Union’s response to the pandemic, including the EU recovery fund currently under deliberation, is bound to intensify this class war, and deal

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A Chronicle of a Lost Decade Foretold

May 27, 2020

Many on the left still cling to the hope that the COVID-19 crisis will translate into the use of state power on behalf of the powerless. But those in authority have never hesitated to harness government intervention to the preservation of oligarchy, and a pandemic alone won’t change that.

ATHENS – To exorcise my worst fears about the coming decade, I chose to write a bleak chronicle of it. If, by December 2030, developments have invalidated it, I hope such dreary prognoses will have played a part by spurring us to appropriate action.

The Lonesome Death of Hong Kong

PS OnPoint

Isaac Lawrence/AFP via Getty Images

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Solidarity Is Not What Europe Needs

April 20, 2020

As the COVID-19 outbreak in Europe worsened, the leaders of nine eurozone countries called for the issuance of “coronabonds” to help spread more evenly the additional debt governments would incur as they struggled to replace disappearing private incomes. But while the idea is sound, it was doomed by its proponents’ justification.

ATHENS – Even if Britain and America were never really divided by a common language, as George Bernard Shaw once quipped, contemporary Europe is certainly divided by a single word that was meant to represent the European Union’s foundation stone: solidarity.

The EU Should Issue Perpetual Bonds

Thierry Monasse/Getty Images

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Europe Is Unprepared for the COVID-19 Recession

March 18, 2020

If there is one European body that has consistently demonstrated its lack of fitness for managing economic crises, it is the Eurogroup of eurozone finance ministers. True to form, it will respond to the COVID-19 crisis with heroic announcements heralding impressive numbers that disguise the irrelevance and timidity of the agreed policies.

ATHENS – The Eurogroup of eurozone finance ministers is struggling to agree on a macroeconomically significant coordinated fiscal response to the enormous recessionary effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. The result, I fear, will be heroic announcements heralding impressive numbers that disguise the irrelevance and timidity of the agreed policies.
The Three

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Brexit’s Stealthy Rationality

February 21, 2020

The motives and thinking behind Brexit were even less worthy than those behind US President Richard Nixon’s move in 1971 to ditch the Bretton Woods system. But, as with the "Nixon shock," there is a singular underlying historical factor that explains Brexit.

ATHENS – At pivotal historical moments, rational political ruptures often are brought about for all the wrong reasons. UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s Brexit may prove to be a case in point.
The White Swans of 2020

Mikhail Svetlov/Getty Images

The Making of the Digital Revolution

PS OnPoint

Steve Jennings/Getty Images for TechCrunch

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Greta Thunberg, Donald Trump, and the Future of Capitalism

January 29, 2020

Some lament the Trump administration’s animosity toward young people and scientists who speak common sense about a massive threat that we should confront through global cooperation. But Trump and his cabal appear to understand something that their liberal detractors do not: Their politics is the only authentic defense of contemporary capitalism.

ATHENS – Steven Mnuchin, US President Donald Trump’s treasury secretary, outraged liberal commentators at this year’s World Economic Forum meeting in Davos with a snide remark directed at teenage climate activist Greta Thunberg. Responding to Thunberg’s call for an immediate exit from fossil fuel investments, Mnuchin said that she should go to college “to study economics” before “she can

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Imagining a World Without Capitalism

December 27, 2019

On September 24, 1599, not far from where Shakespeare was struggling to finish Hamlet, the first corporation with tradable shares was born. Liberalism’s fatal hypocrisy was to celebrate the virtuous neighborhood butchers, bakers, and brewers in order to defend all the East India Companies that have since made a mockery of freedom.

ATHENS – Anti-capitalists had a miserable year. But so did capitalism.
How Truth Survived 2019

Isaac Lawrence/AFP via Getty Images

Trump Will Make China Great Again

Getty Images

PS Commentators’ Best Reads in

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The Limits of Lagarde

November 28, 2019

Mario Draghi deserves neither hostility nor adulation for his stewardship of the European Central Bank. He proved adept at working within ridiculous constraints that forced him to do things that no central banker should ever do. What matters today is that his successor, Christine Lagarde, will have to labor within exactly the same ridiculous constraints.

ATHENS – Shortly after the Eurogroup meeting of Eurozone finance ministers on June 27, 2015, I bumped into a worried-looking Mario Draghi, the president of the European Central Bank. “What on earth is Jeroen doing?” he asked me, referring to Jeroen Dijsselbloem, the Eurogroup’s then-president. “Damaging Europe, Mario. Damaging Europe,” I replied. He nodded, looking

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The IMF Should Take Over Libra

October 18, 2019

Brilliant ideas that would be catastrophic in the hands of buccaneering privateers should be pressed into public service. That way, we can benefit from their ingenuity without falling prey to their designs.

ATHENS – The Libra Association is fragmenting. Visa, Mastercard, PayPal, Stripe, Mercado Pago, and eBay have abandoned the Facebook-led corporate alliance underpinning Libra, the asset-backed cryptocurrency meant to revolutionize international money. More corporations are likely to follow as pressure upon them mounts from worried governments determined to stop Libra dead in its tracks.
The High Price of Trump’s Great Betrayal

Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post via Getty

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New Weapons for the ECB

September 24, 2019

Continued reliance on European Central Bank President Mario Draghi’s weapons will probably succeed in keeping quasi-insolvent states and banks afloat. But it will do so only at the expense of deeper stagnation and uglier political tensions.

ATHENS – During his tenure as President of the European Central Bank, Mario Draghi forged a variety of weapons that he deployed to shield the eurozone from menacing deflationary forces. Without them, the euro would have been history. However, the deflationary specter haunting Europe was never truly defeated and is now back with considerable vengeance.
The Constitution Won’t Save American Democracy

Brendan Smialowski/Getty Images

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I Am Not Boris

August 26, 2019

Leading Brexiteers, starting with UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson, have sought to portray Greece’s former finance minister as one of their own. And while they clearly know better, they must be delighted that many Remainers have embraced the same lazy analogy.

ATHENS – Ever since Boris Johnson moved into 10 Downing Street vowing to renegotiate the United Kingdom’s withdrawal agreement with the European Union, the conventional wisdom among many Brexit opponents has been that the UK’s new prime minister is “doing a Varoufakis” and will be crushed in similar fashion.
The Unsustainability of Inequality

PS OnPoint

Richard Baker/In Pictures/Getty Images

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Jeremy Corbyn’s Finest Hour?

July 30, 2019

With Boris Johnson as UK prime minister, and his Brexit strategy crystal clear, the task of the Labour opposition is equally clear. It must expose the truth about Johnson’s no-deal option – namely, that it means a Trump-deal Brexit – and put forward its own plan to end Britain’s interminable ordeal immediately.

ATHENS – Boris Johnson is the first British prime minister in a long time who is free of dilemmas regarding his approach to the European Union. For better or worse, Johnson’s strategy for attaining power has left him with only one viable option: Forget about negotiating with the EU before the October 31 Brexit deadline, call a general election for that day, seek a popular mandate for a

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Fiscal Money Can Make or Break the Euro

June 17, 2019

The parallel payment system that Greece’s government proposed in 2015 would have bolstered the eurozone. By contrast, the Italian government’s planned "mini-Treasury bills" would lead to the single currency’s demise.

ATHENS – It’s a curious feeling to watch your plan being deployed to do the opposite of what you intended. And that’s the feeling I’ve had since learning that Italy’s government is planning a variant of the fiscal money that I proposed for Greece in 2015.
Why Universal Basic Income Is a Bad Idea

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The Growing Risk of a 2020 Recession and Crisis

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A Greek Canary in a Global Goldmine

May 17, 2019

After 2008, Greece came to symbolize global capitalism’s failure to balance credit and trade flows. Today, as the global mismatch between economic reality and financial returns grows, there is clear danger that, once again, the country is foreshadowing a new phase of the global crisis.

ATHENS – The eurozone country that has become synonymous with insolvency is today proving to be a treasure-trove for some. Traders who bought Greek assets a few years ago have good reason to celebrate, having banked returns that no other market could have provided. But, as is often the case, an opportunity that seems too good to be true probably is. And this one could portend the next phase of our global crisis.

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A Greek Canary in a Global Goldmine

May 17, 2019

After 2008, Greece came to symbolize global capitalism’s failure to balance credit and trade flows. Today, as the global mismatch between economic reality and financial returns grows, there is clear danger that, once again, the country is foreshadowing a new phase of the global crisis.

ATHENS – The eurozone country that has become synonymous with insolvency is today proving to be a treasure-trove for some. Traders who bought Greek assets a few years ago have good reason to celebrate, having banked returns that no other market could have provided. But, as is often the case, an opportunity that seems too good to be true probably is. And this one could portend the next phase of our global crisis.

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First They Came for Assange

April 16, 2019

Mike Pompeo, Trump’s first CIA director and now US Secretary of State, once described WikiLeaks as “a non-state hostile intelligence service.” That is exactly right, and it is an equally accurate description of what every self-respecting news outlet ought to be.

ATHENS – My meetings with WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange all took place in the same small room. As the intelligence services of a variety of countries know, I visited Assange in Ecuador’s London embassy many times between the fall of 2015 and December 2018. What these snoops do not know is the relief I felt every time I left. 
Trump’s Most Worrisome Legacy

Win McNamee/Getty Images

Brexit Fever is Breaking

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Stagnant Capitalism

March 19, 2019

A decade after the 2008 financial crisis, faith in markets’ self-regulating abilities once again lies in tatters. There simply is no single real interest rate that would spur investors to funnel all existing savings into productive investments, and employers to hire all who wish to work at the prevailing wage.

ATHENS – When the Great Depression followed the 1929 stock-market crash, almost everyone acknowledged that capitalism was unstable, unreliable, and prone to stagnation. In the decades that followed, however, that perception changed. Capitalism’s postwar revival, and especially the post-Cold War rush to financialized globalization, resurrected faith in markets’ self-regulating abilities.

Jose Luis

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Europe’s Leaders Are Aiding Italy’s Populists

March 1, 2019

The fact that Italy’s public debt has a lower credit rating than private debt is a reflection not of public debt’s intrinsic inferiority but of a political choice made by European leaders. And, by bolstering an authoritarian politician, that choice is now blowing back on them.

ATHENS – Italy is now the frontline in the battle of the euro. Deputy Prime Minister Matteo Salvini is being propelled by a political tailwind that may, after the European Parliament elections in May, enhance his capacity to inflict serious damage on the European Union. What is both fascinating and disconcerting is that the xenophobia underpinning Salvini’s ever-increasing authority is being generated by the eurozone’s faulty architecture and the ensuing

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Run Down the Brexit Clock

January 16, 2019

The terrifying prospect of a no-deal Brexit on March 29 remains in play after the British Parliament emphatically rejected Prime Minister Theresa May’s withdrawal agreement with the EU. Although it is tempting to reset the clock and give negotiations more time, that instinct must be resisted.

ATHENS – The overwhelming defeat that Britain’s Parliament inflicted upon Prime Minister Theresa May’s Brexit plan was fresh confirmation that there is no substitute for democracy. Members of Parliament deserve congratulations for keeping their cool in the face of a made-up deadline. That deadline is the reason why Brexit is proving so hard and potentially so damaging. To resolve Brexit, that artificial deadline must be removed altogether,

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Turning Brexit Into a Celebration of Democracy

December 26, 2018

Paradoxically, while the current Brexit impasse is pregnant with risk, the British should welcome it. Their discontent with the choices before them is an opportunity, not a curse, and more democracy is the antidote, not the disease.

ATHENS – Discontent without end looms over Britain. Leavers and Remainers are equally despondent. Her Majesty’s Government and the Labour opposition are equally divided. The United Kingdom is deeply divided between a Europhile Scotland and a Euroskeptic England, between pro-EU English cities (including London) and anti-EU coastal and northern towns. Neither the working nor the ruling class can unite behind any of the Brexit options making the rounds in the House of Commons. Is it any wonder that so

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