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And the Weak Suffer What They Must? by Yanis Varoufakis

And the Weak Suffer What They Must? by Yanis Varoufakis
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Yanis Varoufakis could hardly have been “more radical” during his short tenure as Greece’s finance minister last year, said Paul Mason in The Guardian. US trained and something of a dandy, he “sounded like a member of the elite”; but he proved to be anything but the “neo-liberal” that many supporters of Greece’s left-wing ruling coalition, Syriza, took him for. His adamant opposition to the EU and IMF’s proposed bailout package – Greece’s third since 2010 – led to a run on the banks and nearly caused his country to exit the euro. After falling out with Greece’s Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, Varoufakis resigned in July; and the following month, the bailout package went through, replete with the austerity measures he’d so forcefully resisted. Like “everything he does”, Varoufakis’s new book is “unpredictable”. While at first it seems to be simply a “well told” academic history of the EU’s rise, it becomes a riveting account of the current crisis, “larded with anecdotes of his own time in office”.

While one would hardly expect a British Conservative minister to agree with every word of a “Greek radical socialist”, Varoufakis is right in his diagnosis of the EU’s flaws, said Michael Gove in The Sunday Times. The EU isn’t a “progressive” body, as its supporters claim, but an elite club whose goals have always been “anti-democratic”. Varoufakis, a disciple of the great liberal economist John Maynard Keynes, is right to see the punitive terms the EU imposes on debtor nations as “Versailles redux” – helping, for example, to bring “Nazis into the Greek parliament”. He is right, too, that the one European statesman to perceive the extent of the EU’s illiberality was Margaret Thatcher.

With his “motorbike, leather jacket and highly coloured shirts”, Varoufakis is a great showman, said Oliver Kamm in The Times. But his book is “vainglorious” and “abysmally written”. Although ostensibly an account of how the forces of capital have “prevailed over the common good”, it’s really a hymn to its author’s “own visionary status”. Particularly absurd is his “overwrought depiction” of Europe’s rulers as an “undemocratic cabal”, which leads him to unwisely use words such as “totalitarian”. In fact, by “restructuring Greek debt” and “monetary stimulus”, the EU managed to quell the eurozone crisis. Greece’s continuing economic woes aren’t “primarily due to austerity” but to the “lack of a productive export sector”: during his “disastrous tenure in office”, Varoufakis only made that problem worse.

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