Monday, 25 July 2016

"And The Weak Suffer What They Must?" - Yanis Varoufakis

Even without Yanis Varoufakis ability to write as though this book were a novel and not an economic history, this would still be a good read. The fact he does just makes the narrative a little more accessible. Unfortunately, in spite of his huge talent, that is all this book is, a good read. It would have been remarkable but for one serious problem. It is a bit 'showy-off.'

This is odd as the man, when seen live during anyone of his talks, is not given to self-aggrandisement. If anything his witty repartee is laced with self-deprecation each time the focus of his dialogue threatens to topple over into anything bearing the suggestion of his being clever. 

He engages with an audience well. Sadly, this does not transfer when adapted to the written word. It is a bit like P.G. Wodehouse who's work, be it Jeeves or Blandings, is riddled with a textural humour that leaves the reader basking in its glow with a fixed smile on their face. However, when seen on TV, the subtleties of the text are lost as it is the words themselves, not the expressions or body language of the actors that carry the humour. So it is here. The art of the speech writer is vastly different to that of the author.

Varoufakis takes us through the history of post-war Europe. From the Bretton Woods conference that instigated State Capitalism, noting on the way the near genius of John Maynard Keynes but also the American Imperialistic vision of Harry Dexter White, through to the 'Nixon Shock' of 1971.

He reveals the political shenanigans of De Gaulle, of how the French saw a united Europe as a way to extend their power base referring to their German counterparts as the industrial horse by which they could hitch their wagon only to witness the very reverse of their dream transpire. De Gaulle is presented as a man unable to forgive America for not giving France a seat at the victors table following Hitler's defeat. It was the French leader who disliked Dexter White's imperial twist of Bretton Woods that linked Europe's economy to that of the USA.

But it is with the manner in which Europe, or rather the EU, was formalised that Varoufakis takes exception to. He argues, and I for one agree, that for Europe to function as a single entity comprising a multitude of sovereign nations it should have been founded on a democratic union rather than a monetary one. In short, it should have copied the USA and formed a federal state, not a confederacy.

If ever a Ponzi scheme was best defined then it is here in modern Europe that the mother of all Ponzi scheme's was enacted. Varoufakis presents this fact authoritatively using his short-lived position as Greeks Finance Minister to lend weight to his presentation. The monetary union is shown for what it is - a tool by which the poor nations are kept in their place whilst the rich reap the rewards.

Varoufakis is an incredibly gifted man, a prodigious intellectual, a man capable of bending the ear of huge audiences leaving them laughing yet also having filled them with a better understanding of a given subject. Where his natural charm engages well with a live audience leaving them bedazzled yet not stupified here, within these pages, his narrative never succeeds in generating that understanding as it tends to spotlight how smart the man is deflecting the reader away for the reason for the book's publication - to show what an appalling history the EU has had and has still.

I have enormous admiration for him but struggled with this book in many places. 

Russell Cuts the Corn From The Brewers Whiskers.

1 comment:

Cara H said...

Economics is a study with which I struggled in high school. I got a c and called it good. My brain just isn't wired that way.

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A Utility Fish Shed Blog

A Utility Fish Shed Blog