Rossdavidh's Reviews > Talking to My Daughter About the Economy: A Brief History of Capitalism

Talking to My Daughter About the Economy by Yanis Varoufakis
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Before he launched Progressive International with Bernie Sanders in 2018, before he wrote books on the world's response to the 2008 financial crisis, before he was Greece's Finance Minister in 2015 during high-stakes negotiations between Greece and the EU on how to cope with Greece's economic and budgetary collapse, Yanis Varoufakis wrote a book (in Greek) explaining economics to adolescents (such as his daughter). It was subsequently translated into many other languages, but not into English until 2017.

His daughter was, I think, around 11 years old at the time he wrote this book, although I cannot find that detail just now so I might be slightly off. In any case, he was clearly writing at someone who was old enough to talk to about complex issues like how finance works, but not so old as to already have done a lot of reading on that. The book is, of course, a good book for adults to read as well, largely because most of us have not done that much reading about how finance works either.

More importantly, much of what we have read about how finance works, is not true. In some cases it was never true, but more importantly, finance today does not work the same as it did 100-200 years ago. Most of the money in our economy, today, has no physical existence, not even as paper. Most of the government debt, is not for the purpose of the government being able to spend more (it is for financial institutions such as banks to be able to buy a reliable bond that is highly liquid, and absolutely safe).

Not everything in Varoufakis' analysis is correct, in my opinion. He seems entirely too confident in the ability of democracy to rein in government excesses on behalf of the wealthy and well-connected, and therefore not particularly worried about government accumulating more and more power. It also seems clear to me that, the larger the polity, the more remote its leaders are from any given citizen (and the closer they are to the very wealthy). Thus, the government of Greece is much closer to caring about the welfare of ordinary Greeks, than the EU, which begs the question of whether it is a good idea for Greece to have committed their economic welfare into the hands of a bunch of non-Greeks in Brussels.

But, while his view of the world and how it could/should work may not be any better than the neo-liberal ideology which reigned from the end of the Cold War until 2008, it is at least a different view, and he is at his best when he is puncturing that neo-liberal ideology by pointing out the many ways in which the reality does not match the theory.

I have a 13-year old daughter; it had occurred to me when I began reading this book that I might wish to give it to her when I was done. If she had the slightest bit of interest in economics, I probably would. In the meantime, I think reading it myself has stimulated a lot of fresh thinking about how our economy works, and how it ought to work instead. Any book that does that is worth reading.
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Reading Progress

Finished Reading
January 11, 2019 – Shelved
January 11, 2019 – Shelved as: to-read
February 11, 2019 – Shelved as: black

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