By Yanis Varoufakis
In Talking to My Daughter About the Economy, activist Yanis Varoufakis, Greece's former finance minister and the author of the international bestseller Adults in the Room, pens a series of letters to his young daughter, educating her about the business, politics, and corruption of world economics.
Yanis Varoufakis has appeared before heads of nations, assemblies of experts, and countless students around the world. Now, he faces his most important and difficult audience yet. Using clear language and vivid examples, Varoufakis offers a series of letters to his young daughter about the economy: how it operates, where it came from, how it benefits some while impoverishing others. Taking bankers and politicians to task, he explains the historical origins of inequality among and within nations, questions the pervasive notion that everything has its price, and shows why economic instability is a chronic risk. Finally, he discusses the inability of market-driven policies to address the rapidly declining health of the planet his daughter's generation stands to inherit.
Throughout, Varoufakis wears his expertise lightly. He writes as a parent whose aim is to instruct his daughter on the fundamental questions of our age and through that knowledge, to equip her against the failures and obfuscations of our current system and point the way toward a more democratic alternative.
Anna Minton on The Guardian wrote:
"Varoufakis’ brief history of capitalism unspools with characteristic fluency and verve, covering thousands of years of civilisation shot through with literary references. Doctor Faustus is used to explain debt relief, market forces find echoes in the Greek myths — even The Matrix becomes a Marxist metaphor. True to form, Varoufakis’s narrative has more than a slight leftwing bent. But those seeking to better understand the 'black magic' of bankers should look no further."
"So much contemporary discourse assumes that economics functions outside of politics, and that it is best left to professional economists and mathematicians. Varoufakis wants to smash this barrier: he argues from the outset that if we defer to experts on the economy then we hand over all our most important political decisions to them. He has decided to use Karl Polanyi’s term 'the market society' throughout. So although he is describing the history of capitalism, he dispenses with the actual term, believing it to be accompanied by too much ideological baggage. 'Market society' is preferred to the equally loaded 'market economy' – as in Margaret Thatcher’s famous phrase that 'there is no alternative' to a market economy. Varoufakis is determined to show that politics can always produce an alternative economics. He lays out where money comes from in the simple terms he has promised [...] Varoufakis comes up with a vivid comparison between money supply and the market in cigarettes in a German prisoner-of-war camp to explain inflation, deflation and interest rates, in terms any teenager – or adult – will understand. [...] His line of argument is at the opposite end of the spectrum to Thatcher’s comparison between a household budget and the economy – itself aligned with the assumption that economics is a neutral science, set apart from politics. For Varoufakis, economics is always politics, because whoever controls the money has the power [...] Varoufakis goes outside the territory usually associated with economics, ranging from antiquity through to the pre-modern period, industrialisation and beyond. And he is as keen to look forward as back, conjuring up post-human dystopian futures in the style of The Matrix. [...] while his debunking of ideology is a virtue of the book, his emphasis on the deliberate cultivation of authority by rulers as a mechanism of control – from organised religion to the new secular religion of economics – misses out on a psychological understanding that people at times cleave to power and authority."
Articles by Varoufakis
- "The Post-Capitalist Hit of the Summer", Varoufakis at Project Syndicate, 31 August 2020
Table of Contents of Talking to My Daughter
- Why So Much Inequality?
- The Birth of the Market Society
- The Marriage of Debt and Profit
- The Black Magic of Banking
- Two Oedipal Markets
- Haunted Machines
- The Dangerous Fantasy of Apolitical Money
- Stupid Viruses?