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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

The Seven Secrets of 2020

19 days ago

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

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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

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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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Progressive Europeanism in Action

November 29, 2018

The real battle in Europe is not between north and south, but between progressives and authoritarians – whether establishment austerians or insurgent racists – in every EU country. Only transnational democracy can counter the sectarian, nationalist narratives that conceal this underlying struggle.

ATHENS – Despite its obvious significance, Brexit is a mere sideshow when compared to the muffled but more fundamental disintegration taking place across the European Union. The political center is not holding in the key member states. Nationalism is on the march everywhere. Even pro-European governments have, in practice, abandoned all blueprints for genuine consolidation and are increasingly drifting toward re-nationalization of

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What Has Google Ever Done for Us?

October 19, 2018

In using Big Tech’s services, we manufacture a portion of its capital in real time. Property rights over that portion – for all of us, rather than for any of us – should be the basis of a universal basic income.

ATHENS – Even Google’s fiercest critics use its technologies to research their fiery tirades against it or, more mundanely, to find their way around a foreign city. Let’s be honest: life without Google would be awfully more tedious in a variety of important ways. But that is not a good reason to leave Google and the other tech giants alone. On the contrary, the nature and importance of their contribution make it imperative that they be placed under democratic control – and not just because of the well appreciated need to protect

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Democratizing Brexit

September 28, 2018

Democracy can never aspire to being more than a work in progress, and decisions made collectively must constantly be reappraised collectively in the light of new evidence. Yet, in the UK’s current circumstances, nothing would be more poisonous to democracy than revisiting Brexit by means of a second referendum.

ATHENS – As deadlines approach and red lines are redrawn in the United Kingdom’s impending withdrawal from the European Union, it is imperative for the people of Britain to regain democratic control over a process that is opaque and ludicrously irrational. The question is: How?

Spencer Platt/Getty Images

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The Three Tribes of Austerity

August 30, 2018

Austerity prevails in the West because three powerful political tribes champion it. Enemies of big government have coalesced with European social democrats and tax-cutting US Republicans, to create a cartel-based, hierarchical, financialized global economic system.

ATHENS – No policy is as self-defeating during recessionary times as the pursuit of a budget surplus for the purpose of containing public debt – austerity, for short. So, as the world approaches the tenth anniversary of the collapse of Lehman Brothers, it is appropriate to ask why austerity proved so popular with Western political elites following the financial sector’s implosion in 2008.

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Behind Greece’s Deadly Fires

July 26, 2018

The deadly fires in Greece reflect the vulnerability caused by decades of irresponsible, unregulated development. Still, over the course of the last ten years, Greece has lost many more people to the tragedy caused by the EU establishment than to any flood or wildfire.

ATHENS – A biblical calamity befell Attica last Monday. I saw its first sign in the late morning at Athens airport, where I was seeing off my daughter to Australia. A strong whiff of burning wood caused me to look up to the sky, where a whitish-yellow sun beckoned, surrounded by the telltale eclipse-like daytime darkness that only thick, sky-high smoke can cause.

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Profiles in European Denial

June 28, 2018

An impartial observer of the Meseberg Summit between Angela Merkel and Emmanuel Macron would conclude that the eurozone remains as macroeconomically unsustainable as it was five years ago. And yet Europe’s establishment, oblivious to the Nationalist International preparing to devour the EU, is serving it appetizers.

ATHENS – Europe’s establishment is luxuriating in two recent announcements that would have been momentous even if they were only partly accurate: The end of Greece’s debt crisis, and a Franco-German accord to redesign the eurozone. Unfortunately, both reports offer fresh proof of the European Union establishment’s remarkable talent for never missing an opportunity to miss an opportunity.

Barcroft Media

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