A Greek economist-turned-politician looks at the neoliberal forces arrayed against the developing world, from the central banks to the European Union.
“Greeks did splendidly when we lived austere lives, when we spent less than we earned, when we channeled [sic] our savings to the education of our children,” said incoming finance minister Varoufakis (Economics/Univ. of Athens; And the Weak Suffer What They Must?: Europe's Crisis and America's Economic Future, 2016, etc.) on the surprise victory of the leftist Syriza Party in the spring of 2015, in a time when it seemed that Greece was on the verge of leaving the EU. The sentiments were conservative—until, that is, the author went on to say that austerity is one thing, while “Ponzi austerity” is quite another, and that his government had no intention of giving the country’s oligarchs and wealthy tax evaders a free ride on the backs of the Greek people. Public austerity imposed by the World Bank and other outside institutions in order to prevent the Greek economy from failing, he argued, was destroying private parsimony, and off he went to Brussels and Berlin to argue a kind of neo-Keynesian case before the country’s key creditors. He received little sympathy from the likes of Merkel, Macron, and America, though privately, officials told him that the demands for austerity were unreasonable and doomed to fail. Indeed, although President Barack Obama had said “you cannot keep on squeezing countries that are in the midst of depression,” U.S. Treasury actively opposed Greek efforts to set their own house in order. The story is a tangled one full of many threads both political and economic—and even historical, since Varoufakis traces some contemporary domestic issues to the dawn of the Cold War and a Greece torn between East and West.
It helps to have both a scorecard and an economics degree to follow some of the thornier arguments on debt structure and liability management, but this is an eye-opening look at the recent economic crisis in the eurozone.