counter Adults in the Room: My Battle with Europe's Deep Establishment (Audiobook) - Free Download Books
Hot Best Seller

Adults in the Room: My Battle with Europe's Deep Establishment (Audiobook)

Availability: Ready to download


Compare

30 review for Adults in the Room: My Battle with Europe's Deep Establishment (Audiobook)

  1. 5 out of 5

    Judith

    A work for the ages! "Adults in the Room" masterfully oscillates between the thrilling and the lyrical, the very personal and the universal, giving us a unique glimpse behind the high walls of power. This book will be uncomfortable or even dangerous for many current politicians, from Europe's governments and EU institutions to the IMF and of course Greece's Syriza party. Former Greek Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis (boy, does that title ever feel inadequate given the impact he had and has!) ne A work for the ages! "Adults in the Room" masterfully oscillates between the thrilling and the lyrical, the very personal and the universal, giving us a unique glimpse behind the high walls of power. This book will be uncomfortable or even dangerous for many current politicians, from Europe's governments and EU institutions to the IMF and of course Greece's Syriza party. Former Greek Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis (boy, does that title ever feel inadequate given the impact he had and has!) never made a secret of the fact that he comes to politics as an outsider. He is not a member of any party, not even the one that put him in office (which they couldn't fail to do after he won more votes than any other MP). As such, he is not entangled with a net of interests and he has no qualms to tell all that he saw during his time on the 'inside' of international politics. Behind closed doors, politicians like German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble turn out to be not monsters but protagonists of a classic Greek tragedy. Varoufakis is not unkind or unsympathetic to him - which should come as a big surprise to anyone who bought into the mainstream media reporting of the time, which often presented the 2015 negotiations as a cock fight between Varoufakis and Schäuble. But the mainstream media were/are not uninvolved in the Greek crisis, they have a role to play, too, in a system that, like the Soviet Union in the late 80s, will deny basic economic and political truths and pretend that all is well until the very moment of its collapse. Varoufakis came as a non-insider to save the system, flawed as it may be, knowing that a collapse would cause untold hardships for tens of millions of people. And after having discovered, over the course of the time period narrated in this book, that the insiders well know the truth, and know what needs to be done, but are unable or unwilling to do it, the logical next step is to expose them, so that the light of transparency may bring about the change that working with these people could not. That is also one of the ideas of the movement he founded last year, DiEM25 (Democracy in Europe Movement 2025), which demands not just a re-orientation of the EU to serve its people, but also complete transparency of all powerful illegitimate (formally non-existent) institutions like the Eurogroup. Disclaimer: after one year of volunteering, DiEM25 has now become a near full-time occupation of mine and I regularly talk to Varoufakis because of that. I knew that Yanis Varoufakis could make even dull subjects very interesting, as proven in the economics textbooks he authored and his account of the history of a common currency. Given an interesting subject to start with, one that affects everyone who is concerned about the future of the European Union, his writing becomes absolutely breathtaking. Highly recommended!

  2. 4 out of 5

    Paul

    Author thinks he's the biggest badass on the planet and economic Jesus (the sacrifice bit, less of the saving angle). I guess if he failed then there's no hope for Greece. I find it curious how he constantly portrays himself as the only honest politician who's repeatedly being played for a fool by everyone around him friends and enemies alike. He is clearly a clever man so this makes me question how genuine his stories are. Also in case you've not picked up on how principled he is he recounts at Author thinks he's the biggest badass on the planet and economic Jesus (the sacrifice bit, less of the saving angle). I guess if he failed then there's no hope for Greece. I find it curious how he constantly portrays himself as the only honest politician who's repeatedly being played for a fool by everyone around him friends and enemies alike. He is clearly a clever man so this makes me question how genuine his stories are. Also in case you've not picked up on how principled he is he recounts at the very beginning his father's story of selfless sacrifice in the name of principles just to make sure you get it. He's definitely not pretending to be humble but I wouldn't go as far as accusing him of narcissism. Despite my doubts and this being purely biographical (was expecting some discussion of economic problems but found none) it's still interesting to catch a glimpse of how politics is done. Edit: If you're interested in this topic (debt crisis, not Varoufakis) from a more global perspective and in greater scope I can recommend Crashed by Adam Tooze.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Margitte

    This is an explosive tale, or autobiography, of the former Greek minister of finance, from January to July 2015, who almost destroyed the troika: European Commission, European Central Bank, and International Monetary Fund (and ultimately the EU as well if he succeeded). Yanis Varoufakis rejected the bailout offer from Germany or the EU. In his charismatic, robust, bold and brash manner this highly popular, internationally well-known professor of economic theory, tried to take on the big guns and This is an explosive tale, or autobiography, of the former Greek minister of finance, from January to July 2015, who almost destroyed the troika: European Commission, European Central Bank, and International Monetary Fund (and ultimately the EU as well if he succeeded). Yanis Varoufakis rejected the bailout offer from Germany or the EU. In his charismatic, robust, bold and brash manner this highly popular, internationally well-known professor of economic theory, tried to take on the big guns and failed miserably. He came in as an outsider, belonging to no political party, and created a tsunami of truths which rattled the cages of the elusive, hidden directors of private banks and the ' shadow government' behind the EU and the rest of the world. Despite his criticism of Germany and Angela Merkel, he is still regarded as an unlikely hero in Germany. https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/w... They appreciated that you could squeeze blood out of a stone more easily than make a bankrupt entity repay its loans by lending it more money, especially if you shrink its income as part of the deal. They could see that the troika, even if they managed to confiscate the fallen state's silverware, would fail to recoup the money used to refinance Greece's public debt. They knew that the celebrated 'rescue' or 'bailout' package was nothing more than a one-way ticket to debtor's prison. How do I know that they knew? Because they told me. He later would reveal the secret tapes he made of conversations in which top IMF officials, Germany's finance minister, leading figures in the ECB and the European Commission admitted it. They at first tried to deny it, which forced his hand to reveal the existence of the tapes. Right of the bat I must say that I wanted to read another opinion on these three institutions, known as the EU troika, fondly and ferociously hated by all who are forced to live under their austerity measures. I have just finished reading A History of Central Banking and the Enslavement of Mankind by Stephen Mitford Goodson, which I found fascinating, particularly since I knew nothing really about the history of money and banking. Goodson's book is a must-read for anyone interested in their own money! Yanis Varoufakis's book, the first one for me, but not the last, is by far one of the most eye-opening reads of this year! I was rightfully informed at last about the upcoming demise of the world as a result of usury (compound interest), the vanishing of state banks, and the dire consequences for the world when private banks forced themselves onto governments, even instigating war if these governments refused their privately printed money as outrageous loans. Even worse, spreading money that was created out of nothing, forcing tax payers and citizens to pay back real money for artificial, non-existing money. Crazy as crazy can be. Bear in mind that I'm a know-nothing-am-nothing pathetically informed reader, nothing else. I don't know about you, but I get quite emotional about my hard-earned money. Uhummmm yes, we've all seen these angry mobs burning down buildings when their 'free money' in the form of social grants, were roped in by their governments(austerity measures kicking in). I'm sadly not one of those lucky people who qualify for 'free money'. I have to work extremely hard for mine and hand over almost 45% to the government in the obvious taxes (apart from the multitude of hidden taxes). Add a little Marxist twist to our plot. Our government informed us that other people want our land for free, which we bought with loans and paid off through natural disasters, buckets full of tears, truck loads full of determination, skyrocketing interest rates and high taxes. But we did it. So, 'they' said, watch this space, you might be expropriated soon, if 'they' can get away with it. Now we're waiting and waiting and waiting...and we thank all the gods on all the planets for not being slaughtered, attacked, murdered YET as is currently happening in our country. So when I started out Yanis Varoufakis's book, it was to quench my thirst to know where our own country might be heading, and after reading Goodson's book, I had a better understanding of the Greek revolt against these banks. With Mr. Varoufakis, supporter of the Greek radical left party Syriza, and as one of their spokespersons, spilling the beans on the events, I was getting ready for a real juicy scandal or Greek tragedy. The latter it was for sure. And a scandal it is already. For him it was like watching a version of Macbeth unfold in the land of Oedipus. Just as the father of Oedipus, King Laius of Thebes, unwittingly brought about his own murder because he believed the prophecy that he would be killed by his son, so too did the smartest and most powerful players in this drama bring about their own doom because they feared the prophecy that foretold it... I have tried to see their actions and my own through the lens of an authentic ancient Greek or Shakespearean tragedy in which characters, neither good nor bad, are overtaken by the unintended consequences of their conception of what they ought to do. One of the first revelations in the book is that Greece was already bankrupt in 2010, and that the bailout was designed to save the French and German banks, but that Angela Merkel and Nicolas Sarkozy knew this; and they knew it would be a disaster. Prof. Varoufakis knew the minuscule influence or power that politicians held. According to him democracy have no effect whatsoever on money. Wall Street and a network of hedge funds, billionaires and media owners have the real power, and the art of being in politics is to recognize this as a fact of life and achieve what you can without disrupting the system. This allegation corresponds with Stephen Goodson's. Varoufakis describes himself as an erratic Marxist(but also called himself once a libertarian Marxist), and provides his reasons in this article: https://www.theguardian.com/news/2015... This memoir is hailed as one of the greatest. As one reviewer stated: "Varoufakis has written one of the greatest political memoirs of all time. It stands alongside Alan Clark’s for frankness, Denis Healey’s for attacks on former allies, and – as a manual for exploring the perils of statecraft – will probably gain the same stature as Robert Caro’s biography of Lyndon B Johnson. Source: https://www.theguardian.com/books/201... To save private banks, German and other country's tax payers, particularly America via the IMF, will foot the bill. It is inevitable. And it is already happening. Germany is not the wealthy country it once was. High taxes and over-spending by the government brought many ordinary people to their knees. It is not the glamour and glitzy state that the Greeks accuse of cruelty and Nazi-ism, burning German flags on the plains of the Greek cities. Ordinary Germans are suffering as a result too. Badly so. Very badly indeed. Despite the annoying repetitions and the confusion it created in the first part of the book, it remains a great read - often being experienced as a thriller. The European crisis eventually included countries such as Portugal, Ireland, Italy, Greece and Spain (the PIIGS countries as referred to by financial markets). The crisis kicked off a worldwide movement, with Brexit and the American election forming part of the results. Sometimes we need to have a glimpse into our own future. Start here. But watch a few Youtube videos as well about the events, and the people involved. It's a good bet when you need more background, as well as a look into the aftermath of this battle with the EU 'beasts'. In fact, the real impact on the ordinary citizens of Greece will be found elsewhere, such as Youtube. It is a wake-up call. Here is only one of them: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Pee_w... In his own article, The Six Brexit Traps That Will Defeat Theresa May Prof.Varoufakis fearlessly and straightforward express his opinion of the EU and the enslavement of European citizens to private bankers: In truth, Brussels is a democracy-free zone. From the EU’s inception in 1950, Brussels became the seat of a bureaucracy administering a heavy industry cartel, vested with unprecedented law-making capacities. Even though the EU has evolved a great deal since, and acquired many of the trappings of a confederacy, it remains in the nature of the beast to treat the will of electorates as a nuisance that must be, somehow, negated. The whole point of the EU’s inter-governmental organisation was to ensure that only by a rare historical accident would democratic mandates converge and, when they did, never restrain the exercise of power in Brussels. I don't have any knowledge of banking, so cannot voice an opinion. But he is supported by a wide group of economists from different backgrounds, countries and ideologies. Julius Assange is a fan too. I spent many days reading the book, watching Youtube videos, reading articles and learn more about Yanis Varoufakis. It was absolutely worth the time. At least it does not require a rocket scientist anymore to know where we are all heading. Here is another important documentary. All countries are in danger of collapsing, because everyone is directly, or indirectly involved, including America, and the wrong people will be blamed. You need to watch this: Europe's Debt: America's Crisis - Full Video https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uhZ0R... The Imperfect Union: The eurozone In Crisis - full documentary https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LpwpI... PS. If you're interested you can read my review of A History of Central Banking and the Enslavement of Mankind by Stephen Mitford Goodson. So by the way, remember the notorious but famous Mitford sisters of Britain? Stephen shares the same family tree. https://www.goodreads.com/review/show... However, there are excellent reviews on GR. Today is tomorrow's history, and all our names is written into the script of destiny. Those who ignore this kind of books, are fools, especially when it comes to voting. As simple as that. Ps: I just want to add this link for my own records An Economic Hit Man Speaks Out: John Perkins on How Greece Has Fallen Victim to “Economic Hit Men“ https://truthout.org/articles/an-econ...

  4. 5 out of 5

    Sarah Jaffe

    I had to put this down halfway through because it was depressing me; the constant up-and-down mirroring the swing of US politics all summer. And like any horror movie where you know the ending, much of it is excruciating in that it leaves you hoping that things will end differently, only to crash when the result--the result you know is coming--arrives. Varoufakis is a hell of a writer, something rare for an economist, and he brings things to life. Other people no doubt have a different take on wh I had to put this down halfway through because it was depressing me; the constant up-and-down mirroring the swing of US politics all summer. And like any horror movie where you know the ending, much of it is excruciating in that it leaves you hoping that things will end differently, only to crash when the result--the result you know is coming--arrives. Varoufakis is a hell of a writer, something rare for an economist, and he brings things to life. Other people no doubt have a different take on what happened, but his is worth reading, I think, in any case. But make sure you're emotionally prepared. It's hard.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Pedro L. Fragoso

    The Guardian review is right, it is indeed one of greatest political memoirs of all time; also: a towering achievement, a magnificent intellectual endeavour, and one of the best and most important books I ever had the privilege and pleasure of reading. It is 2 in the bloody morning and I couldn't stop turning the damn pages! As if it was a proper thriller. And I even knew the ending. Also: After all these years, this is a book that manages to be more depressing than 1984! Unbelievable. I was remin The Guardian review is right, it is indeed one of greatest political memoirs of all time; also: a towering achievement, a magnificent intellectual endeavour, and one of the best and most important books I ever had the privilege and pleasure of reading. It is 2 in the bloody morning and I couldn't stop turning the damn pages! As if it was a proper thriller. And I even knew the ending. Also: After all these years, this is a book that manages to be more depressing than 1984! Unbelievable. I was reminded of "History will be kind to me, for I intend to write it". And of "victory in defeat, there is none higher." There's a moment in the book,  Varoufakis is meeting with Lagarde in  Washington, when he quips that "Greece is a libertarian’s wet dream" and then proceeds to illustrate a world of human disgrace. Well, the man may be the antithesis of a libertarian, but in his devastating denunciation of European statism gone rogue and the never-ending manipulation of facts by the "systemic" media, to use his characterization, this essay is inter alia a paean for liberty, in the best libertarian tradition. That's one of the myriad aspects that makes this complex, rich, multilayered book so great, to use Jo Walton's standard inquiry. What really makes the book so great is the exhaustive identification of the lack of democratic accountability in the European project and its immense cost on the present and the futures of the continent and of this world, in impeccable, even inspired, language: "The story in this book is not only symbolic of what Europe, Britain and the United States are becoming; it also provides real insights into how and why our polities and social economies have fractured. (...) During my discussions with the creditors I often warned them that crushing us was not in their interests. If our democratic, Europeanist, progressive challenge was strangled, the deepening crisis would produce a xenophobic, illiberal, anti-Europeanist nationalist international. This is exactly what transpired after the crushing of the Greek Spring. How did the so-called liberal establishment respond to the nationalist, bigoted backlash that its dark and dangerous illiberalism brought about? A little like the parricide who throws himself on the court’s mercy, demanding lenience because he is now an orphan. (...) to take back our countries, I would explain, we need to reclaim common decency and restore common sense across Europe. (...) The danger is not that we shall aim too high and miss; the real danger is that we train our eyes on the floor and end up there." Greece's ignominious predicament is shown as mainly the criminal responsibility of its disgraceful ruling elites and secondarily as the useful instrument of appeasement branded by powerful Germany officials on the rest of Europe, specially France. "Forcing new loans upon the bankrupt on condition that they shrink their income is nothing short of cruel and unusual punishment. (...) For capitalism to advance in the nineteenth century, the absurd notion that all debts are sacred had to be ditched and replaced with the notion of limited liability. After all, if all debts are guaranteed, why should lenders lend responsibly? And why should some debts carry a higher interest rate than other debts, reflecting the higher risk of going bad? (...) They appreciated that you could squeeze blood out of a stone more easily than make a bankrupt entity repay its loans by lending it more money, especially if you shrink its income as part of the deal." Ah, well, we are way past any logic or reasonability. I've just read this in Zero Hedge (published yesterday, June 15 2017, two full years after the events narrated in the book): "It appears there isn't really a deal, but merely a can kicking. As the WSJ adds, the Greek "agreement" merely unlocks a key disbursement of bailout fund but puts a decision on debt relief off until next year. Specifically, the agreement reached in Luxembourg among the finance ministers of the eurozone unlocks €8.5 billion for Greece and puts off a final decision on debt relief until August of next year. In other words, Europe agrees to pay Greece so Greece can then turn around and repay Europe the July €7 billion debt payment; meanwhile no firm, long-term deal has been reached. As the WSJ put its, "the creditors’ refusal to lighten the burden of Greece’s crushing debt reflects a mix of mistrust and indifference that leaves the depleted country with bleak prospects for the future and at risk of needing yet another bailout." This is full vindication of everything Varoufakis tried to achieve in his brief tenure, but he's not exactly celebrating, that's clear. There's lots to be said about this extraordinary masterpiece for the ages, but I'll close with the score settling, which is out of this world magnificent. To fully grasp its awesomeness is not so easy, actually, as we are into a realm of really amazing sophistication. So, first, Lagarde is treated with sympathy, even empathy, almost, but not quite, with condescension. She even figures in the acknowledgedments and she gave the book it's title. Schäuble is treated critically, but with utmost respect ("As Wolfgang told the troika that its final offer to us was worthless, one that he could not take to his parliament, I whispered to Euclid, ‘This is why I like this guy,’ fully aware as I did so that our intelligence service would probably relay this back to Maximos as further evidence that I was Wolfgang’s stooge."). Merkel is a supporting actor to the narrative, even if essential for the aftermath; she's Merkel, how we would expect her to be, personally and politically. Emmanuel Macron is presented as a decent and minimally competent European politician (this was way before he got elected). These balanced and fully realized characterizations make their powerful magic when the author goes for the kill on his actual targets: the assassinations are merciless and truly glorious, something to behold. As a lifetime reader, I was floored and humbled. Three (3) examples. Moscovici: "I turned to Pierre. Something important was at stake at that moment, I told him, something that went beyond Greece’s plight or that day’s Eurogroup meeting: it was the principle of compromise and of mutual respect and of the European Commission’s authority to safeguard them. ‘Pierre,’ I asked, ‘are you just going to submit to the enforcement of this totally one-sided communiqué against the commission’s views and the draft that you prepared?’ Avoiding eye contact and in a voice that quavered with dejection, Pierre responded with a phrase that might one day feature on the European Union’s tombstone: ‘Whatever the Eurogroup president says.’ (...) From the moment Jeroen shot down his suggestion of a compromise until the three of us walked into the Eurogroup, Pierre had remained silent. During the Eurogroup meeting, whenever I looked at him I imagined the horror Jacques Delors or any of the EU’s founding fathers would have felt had they observed the scene in Jeroen’s office. Listening to him express views in the meeting that were subservient to Schäuble and Dijsselbloem, views that I knew perfectly well he did not agree with, I was hearing the sound of the EU’s descent into ignominy. His humiliation was emblematic to me of the complete subjugation of the European Commission to forces lacking legal standing or democratic legitimacy. In the months that followed, Pierre Moscovici and I remained on friendly terms and agreed on all matters of substance, but our agreement was as irrelevant as the draft communiqué he was still holding in his hand when we left Jeroen’s office. Indeed, from that day onwards, every time he or Jean-Claude Juncker tried to help our side, I felt a sense of dread, for I knew that those with real power would strike us down pitilessly in order to teach Moscovici and Juncker a lesson and beat the European Commission back into its pen. A few weeks later Pierre began to spread the story that at that meeting in Dijsselbloem’s office on 16 February 2015 Jeroen and I had nearly come to blows and that he had had to step in to separate us. Later, in his memoirs, he claimed that it had been impossible to negotiate with me and welcomed my disappearance from the Eurogroup. I can only assume that these were attempts to deal with his own disgrace." Gabriel: "Did Sigmar Gabriel or any in his circle defend the proposal that he had seemed so keen to see me implement? The answer may not surprise you. If anything, his office helped spread the propaganda. If anyone wonders about the nature and causes of the general Waterloo now facing European social democracy, this story may provide some clues. Of course, compared to the way Sigmar Gabriel was to behave four months later, during the last week of June 2015, this change of heart does not even register on the Richter scale of cowardice." Tsipras: "Everyone was looking at Alexis. He walked over to the bay window; he was smoking a cigar – a relatively recent habit. (...) Watching him buckle under the pressure of that probability made me want to forgive, legitimize and rationalize his unforgivable, unethical and irrational slip-ups. There were many of these, but two above all: his retreat from our firm agreement, on which we had based our original strategy, that a continuation of the nation’s insolvency through a new bailout would be worse than Grexit, however painful Grexit might be; and his rejection of my plea to address the nation with the dignified surrender speech I had prepared for him, instead of organizing a referendum that he secretly hoped to lose. (...) When I saw Danae afterwards, she asked me what had happened. ‘Tonight we had the curious phenomenon of a government overthrowing its people,’ I said." "There are times in politics when you must be on the right side and lose." --John Kenneth Galbraith

  6. 5 out of 5

    Kevin

    Behind the closed doors of a Financial Crisis… Preamble: --I’ve read most of Varoufakis’ general public books (+ reading an academic one); this book was at the bottom of my priorities. I assume general readers enjoy suspenseful first-person narratives (given this book’s relative popularity), but I'm more interested in structural analysis of social issues rather than vicariously re-enacting an individual’s personal choices. --So, if you want to directly tackle questions of banking crises, austerity Behind the closed doors of a Financial Crisis… Preamble: --I’ve read most of Varoufakis’ general public books (+ reading an academic one); this book was at the bottom of my priorities. I assume general readers enjoy suspenseful first-person narratives (given this book’s relative popularity), but I'm more interested in structural analysis of social issues rather than vicariously re-enacting an individual’s personal choices. --So, if you want to directly tackle questions of banking crises, austerity, debt, neoliberalism, capitalism, fascism, etc., Varoufakis does so here: 1) Step-by-step ideas on postcapitalism! Another Now: Dispatches from an Alternative Present 2) The most accessible intro to real-world capitalism imaginable: Talking to My Daughter About the Economy: or, How Capitalism Works - and How It Fails 4) The heart of the US post-WWII global plan and subsequent unravelling and adaptations (The Global Minotaur: America, the True Origins of the Financial Crisis and the Future of the World Economy) and Europe’s failures in dealing with this (And the Weak Suffer What They Must? Europe's Crisis and America's Economic Future). 5) Many eloquent lectures online, playlist: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list... The Good: --Given my misgivings over its biographic format, I do wonder if giving yet another Varoufakis book a 5-stars rating would make me a fanboy (if you are concerned, skip to the end)… In my (and the book's) defense, this is a unique case study of the tight rope that a radical party must walk when facing down much-more-powerful hostile institutions, both external and domestic (see point #3 below)! --While bankers can crash the global economy with illegal behavior (illegal even by the standards of the laws they helped write!) and still be bailed out with no criminal repercussions, the proletariat who own next-to-nothing can expect no such luxuries. How do we unpack this? 1) Systemic Crises: --Do you have a notion of capitalism’s natural market equilibrium? Congratulations! If you do not own substantial capital (actually, even if you do this would still not be accurate), then you have been played. Capitalism’s tremendous growth engine is also the source of crises; even the business sector acknowledges boom/bust, bull/bear cycles (and these folks are personally well-insulated from the waves of recession or technological "creative destruction" that crash onto society, starting with the most vulnerable regions and peoples). a) Private banking: in And the Weak Suffer What They Must? Europe's Crisis and America's Economic Future, Varoufakis details the magic of private banks to conjure credit (debt) during the good times. This went into overdrive with the Euro common currency because banks no longer worried about deficit countries’ emergency option of devaluing their own currencies; under the Euro, banks confidently flooded deficit countries with loans to take advantage of their higher interest rates (from deficit countries' scarcity of money, which flowed out into surplus countries in purchases). ...If not strictly regulated, this over-lending bubble grows until it bursts. Thus, the Euro Crisis stems from the systemic failures of a common currency with inadequate long-term regulations leading to the bubble (over-lending by esp. German and French private banks) bursting. On top of this, these banks also bought plenty of toxic derivatives from Wall Street. b) Trade imbalances: remember, one's deficit is another's surplus; surpluses are sustained by other's deficits. Myopic arrogance can derail this symbiosis (i.e. failing to "recycle" some surplus back to the deficit region to feed their purchasing power); if the deficit region is left to die, the demand dies as well, which brings the crisis to the surplus region as the entire flow falls apart! ...The real world will always have asymmetrical trade relations, but certain structural logic (i.e. private banks lending to maximize profit) will exacerbate trade imbalances to unsustainable proportions, while harming the working/poor on both sides (bubbles and gentrification on the deficit side, inflation eating away real wages on the surplus side). ...The crisis grew because the EU, lacking political mechanisms (i.e. functioning central banking + democratic power) to provide long-term solutions (i.e. restraints on over-lending during the boom, restructure bad debts to revive surplus recycling during the bust, radical alternatives to profit motive to alleviate boom/bust), resorted to hide these failures by pretending to bail out Greece while actually bailing out German and French banks (as always, follow the money)! Ponzi-growth became "Ponzi-austerity". ...Varoufakis' illustrative analogy: if the State of Delaware can bring down the US economy, the problem would be in how the US economy is structured. Thus, Greece was the canary in the coalmine, the first to signal the EU’s systemic failures. 2) Morality of Debt: --Now, when the crash happens and the debts go bad, there is the blame game. Creditor or debtor? The actual moral of the story: “austerity” is a short-sighted political ploy by creditors to put 100% of the blame and burden on the debtors (which curiously omits the debtor's domestic oligarchs, interesting...). --"Over-borrowing" or "over-lending"? It is crucial to consider the scale and visibility of the actors, to prevent us from becoming a useful idiot who blames the homeless person we see on the streets for their crumbs in social assistance, and not the suits behind closed doors who gamble with billions (trillions even). --The public as individuals take on debt in our daily lives (in no small part due to the privatization and accumulation of necessities, esp. real estate), and this is visible. What are not visible are the other debtors of incomparable magnitudes (financial institutions who trade debts, corporations, the State via politicians… and not just social programs but also military spending), and the creditors. --A bank’s balance sheet still seems unfathomable to an outsider. How do banks just conjure up money out of thin air to lend (instead of solely distributing deposits) and charge interest on top of this made-up money?! Perhaps it is the morality that I have more trouble with, as technically this does fit with capitalism’s magical growth. The anticipation of growth builds confidence for future repayments, making “growth” synonymous with the health of the capitalist economy. --Graeber’s Debt - Updated and Expanded: The First 5,000 Years blows the lid off the morality of debt. I’m still looking for something unpacking the banking system’s balance sheets, perhaps: Where Does Money Come From?: A Guide To The Uk Monetary And Banking System 3) Divided-and-Conquered: --The books format highlights this sad state of affairs. I was surprised and saddened by some on the Left who elsewhere I respect, but who were complaining about Varoufakis’ supposed attitude and attire during his negotiations. Why not hang up your Leftist credentials now and work for the tabloids? The mass media (esp. domestic, i.e. Greek media), as always, played a major role in social control. They were the proxy of the Greek oligarchy who benefit from the bubble-inducing credit of the Euro system; I wish there were more details on them... --Varoufakis started with the Larry Summers dilemma of insider (i.e. to know what’s going on and make changes, you must be an “insider”, but you can only be an insider by not outing other insiders). The radicals who enter institutional power face this dilemma of being co-opted to reproduce these “black boxes”, the power from hidden information. Varoufakis makes a useful reference to Wikileaks' strategy of ossifying the arteries of the black box networks from having to contend with information leaks: -Cypherpunks: Freedom and the Future of the Internet -When Google Met Wikileaks --Hidden information and systems failures also relates to the arms race: The Doomsday Machine: Confessions of a Nuclear War Planner. The Contentious: --Now, I’m mostly a follower of Varoufakis’ academic works (i.e. outside of his short stint in Greece’s negotiations), so I am not heavily invested in supporting the details of his negotiation strategy (also, the whole “this is only one side of the story” business). I base my reflections on what I can make of his general analysis and consistency of his principles. --2 points do stick out: 1) Liberalism: Towards the end of the book, his positive characterization of “liberal” (i.e. capitalist economy, maybe parliamentary "democracy") in contrast to the EU deep state regime raised my eyebrows (after all, Varoufakis frequently points out liberalism’s roots in being against democracy, and he is a Leftist and self-proclaimed "erratic Marxist": https://youtu.be/A3uNIgDmqwI). I believe this framing comes from the fact that most of Varoufakis’ analysis is situated in the West, so within this context there is a greater range to define “liberalism”. ...I doubt a Leftist of the global south, like Vijay Prashad, would slip into this paradigm. I cannot conceptualize “liberalism” in the real world without the other side of the coin: “imperialism”. The boundaries of imperialism may be ever-changing, but the phenomenon is a constant under liberalism. Varoufakis’ citing a JFK quote was at a time when the war on Vietnam was starting, which became the target practice for more bombs than WWII. ...There's no doubt liberals (e.g. Keynes) can have valuable contributions in how the current system functions (they are in the seats of capitalist power after all), but I do not feel the need to give them more recognition that they already get with all the other silenced voices out there... ...I want to hear Varoufakis contextualize The New Deals/Keynesianism/Bretton Woods in the context of the Soviet challenge/Third World Nationalism. His portrayals I've read seems too constrained on the West learning from The Great Depression. 2) Class Power: nuanced Left critics of Varoufakis do have compelling points regarding perspectives on class power and strategy. ...I have not fully unpacked the debate with, say, Costas Lapavitsas (on Greece, on the EU: The Left Case Against the EU). How much reform can be done on the EU is just half of the debate in my eyes. The other half is on how likely the EU would completely dissolve from a chain reaction (panic, capital flight) after a member resorts to "Leave", and how the Left would fare against nationalist reactionaries primed for visceral scapegoating amidst the chaos (with the Great Depression and rise of Fascism as a historical case study). ...From elsewhere, Varoufakis contends that labor lost all bargaining power during the Great Depression. I can see his logic, but I do wonder how blunt this analysis is; I remember Howard Zinn emphasizing the power of wildcat strikes around this time; need to look more into this...

  7. 5 out of 5

    Adam

    Thoroughly engrossing. Varoufakis tells the story of his attempt to solve the eurocrisis using the lens of an authentic ancient Greek or Shakespearean tragedy in which characters, neither good nor bad, are overtaken by the unintended consequences of their conception of what they ought to do. I suspect that I have come closer to succeeding in this task in the case of those people whom I found fascinating and rather less so in the case of those whose banality numbed my senses. For this I find it h Thoroughly engrossing. Varoufakis tells the story of his attempt to solve the eurocrisis using the lens of an authentic ancient Greek or Shakespearean tragedy in which characters, neither good nor bad, are overtaken by the unintended consequences of their conception of what they ought to do. I suspect that I have come closer to succeeding in this task in the case of those people whom I found fascinating and rather less so in the case of those whose banality numbed my senses. For this I find it hard to apologize, not least because to present them otherwise would be to diminish the historical accuracy of this account. He has three good reasons for taking this approach: 1. It mimics the game theory approach that he took to the negotiations, where he assumed that his opponents were self-interested, rational actors who'd rather reduce Greece's debt but get some payment instead of receiving no payment and punishing Greece. 2. Absurdly, he has a charge of high treason hanging over his head that's been fuelled by a character assassination campaign from Brussels. So by showing his opponents as something other than cardboard villains, he encourages people to look at him as something more than that, too. 3. His boss during the negotiation, Greek PM Alexis Tsipras's seduction by Angela Merkel over the course of the negotiations happened precisely because he first viewed her in such a dim light. As Varoufakis puts it: But Alexis saw Merkel’s behaviour differently. When she intervened before 20 February, his negative expectations resulted in euphoric surprise. Then, with his expectations raised, Merkel was at liberty to dash them at will, causing Alexis to sink into the depths of misery. She used this capacity to toy with Alexis, lifting his spirits, depressing them and raising them again as it suited her. I did my best to weaken her influence over my prime minister with my own analysis of her behaviour, arguing that the only way to secure a decent agreement was to ensure she was constantly aware that we were not afraid to press the Off button. But it was not working. By April I sensed that Alexis had succumbed to the chancellor’s spell. On the other hand, his dealings with the Troika, who agree with him in private but absolutely refuse to negotiate and in fact insist on punishing the people of Greece for no reason other than to hold on to their own power, comes off as thoroughly frustrating (and his one moment of splitting the IMF from the Troika after the referendum is so cathartic). I think Varoufakis made two major mistakes in his short time as finance minister. The first is that he should have insisted on getting rid of Chouliarakis as soon as he found out he was getting backdoored to the Troika by him. Second, he should have called the negotiations off full stop during the teleconference when it became clear that not only would the Troika not negotiate with Greece, but they wouldn't even listen to them. At that point, V should've ended the conference and prepared for default and bank closures. His mistake was thinking his colleagues would let the default happen when he himself wouldn't. Other thoughts: - the absolutely undemocratic nature of the EU is stunning. For example, most of the negotiating is done in the Eurogroup meetings. It's an in camera meeting of all the EU ministers of finance, with a rotating president. At the end of the meeting they release a statement, but only if it has unanimous consent. Varoufakis objects when the president 1. tries to release a statement without Greece's consent, and 2. decides that the group will kick Greece out of their next meeting. Varoufakis is told that, technically, the group is an informal one that doesn't have any legal standing in the EU and isn't part of any treaty, thus there are no rules to bound their conduct. - There's a really interesting idea V has for a system to fight a liquidity crunch: essentially a parallel banking system for when the real banks close, based on linking ID cards to tax files via microchips and trading tax credits. Sadly, he never gets to implement it. - Bernie Sanders and Emmanuel Macron come off well in the book, Obama and Hollande less so. Merkel it's harder to get a read on. She's really just a force that controls so much of the EU. - There's a great anecdote where V tells his advisor James Galbraith over the phone that it looks like Greece is going to default to the IMF. They hang up and Galbraith calls him back half an hour later, laughing uncontrollably: Half an hour later my phone rang again. It was Jeff, laughing uncontrollably. ‘You will not believe this, Yanis,’ he said. ‘Five minutes after we hung up, I received a call from the [US] National Security Council. They asked me if I thought you meant what you’d said! I told them that you did mean it and that, if they want to avert a default to the IMF, they’d better knock some sense into the Europeans.’ I had fully expected my phone to be tapped, but two things made Jeff ’s news remarkable. First, the eavesdroppers not only had the capacity to recognize that what I had said was of real significance but they must also have had an open line to the NSC. Second, they had no compunction whatsoever about revealing they were tapping my phone!

  8. 4 out of 5

    João Martins

    Fully aware of what I was getting myself into when I started reading this book, nothing prepared me for the impact it was to have on me. Proudly seeing and feeling myself as a European, this tale is the confirmation that the European Union I have so often romanticised does not exist (and maybe never did). The narrative beautifully details the deep European establishment - opaque, belligerent and undemocratic - through the lens of a breathtaking drama. Except that the final twist, the volte-face t Fully aware of what I was getting myself into when I started reading this book, nothing prepared me for the impact it was to have on me. Proudly seeing and feeling myself as a European, this tale is the confirmation that the European Union I have so often romanticised does not exist (and maybe never did). The narrative beautifully details the deep European establishment - opaque, belligerent and undemocratic - through the lens of a breathtaking drama. Except that the final twist, the volte-face that, at the very last minute, changes the course of the unfolding disaster never happened... On the other hand, it also accurately portraits the worst side of (more-or-less) revolutionary movements. Once in power, politicians forget the principles that got them there in the first place and rapidly betray those who they ought to represent. They themselves become insiders, the new establishment. Crushed by both sides, the only real losers are those who suffer the consequences of this Tragedy, the Greek people. Powerless and betrayed, they have become, for generations to come, trapped in a prison they are unlikely to ever escape. Like Varoufakis or not, agree or disagree with him, this is certainly the best political memoir of modern times.

  9. 4 out of 5

    John

    Astonishing. I imagine he only wrote this as potential alternative to endless screaming.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Nick Klagge

    With Q1 almost over, this is my first contender for best book I read in 2018. Yanis Varoufakis was the finance minister, briefly, of the left-insurgent Syriza government in Greece that took power in 2015. He is not a career politician, but rather an academic economist who agreed to serve as finance minister because of his strong beliefs about the injustice of the current political and economic situation of Greece. (Actually, I met Varoufakis once at a finance conference in New York, probably in With Q1 almost over, this is my first contender for best book I read in 2018. Yanis Varoufakis was the finance minister, briefly, of the left-insurgent Syriza government in Greece that took power in 2015. He is not a career politician, but rather an academic economist who agreed to serve as finance minister because of his strong beliefs about the injustice of the current political and economic situation of Greece. (Actually, I met Varoufakis once at a finance conference in New York, probably in 2010 or so, and spoke with him briefly there, well before he was world-famous.) By 2015, Greece had already been exposed as having severe economic problems that had been swept under the rug for years, had defaulted on its debt, and had accepted an austerity-heavy bailout package from the so-called "troika" of multilateral institutions (the European Central Bank, the European Commission, and the International Monetary Fund). Syriza was voted into office on a wave of popular discontent, as the Greek people realized that the bailout package was doing nothing to revive the economy. Syriza in general, and Varoufakis in particular, promised to renegotiate the bailout agreement on terms that would be more favorable to the Greek people, on the strength of their willingness to trigger "Grexit" and leave the euro if the troika refused to renegotiate. While Syriza remains in power in Greece today, they were spectacularly unsuccessful in fulfilling their popular mandate. Prime minister Alex Tsipras ultimately signed an extension of the original bailout agreement, with as much or even more austerity measures, and Varoufakis resigned immediately before this happened due to his unwillingness to countenance such an action. Even worse, this capitulation immediately followed a referendum on the extension of the bailout, called by Tsipras himself, in which the Greek people voted overwhelmingly to reject it! So finally, with that background set, I can come to Varoufakis's book. It is his memoir of his time as finance minister, as well as the lead-up in which he is convinced to run for parliament and accept the role of finance minister. He frames the book as a "Greek tragedy" of sorts--a dramatic story in which the well-meaning protagonists are brought low by their own flaws. Much like, say, "Oedipus Rex," our knowledge of how events turn out does nothing to lessen the drama of the story; indeed, I would say it largely heightens it--Syriza's capitulation was so complete that I was dying to know how it could possibly have happened. ("How could someone possibly accidentally kill his father and marry his mother??") Varoufakis does not disappoint and absolutely brings the drama. There are betrayals, a vote that the government hopes to lose, an attack with a broken bottle, even a dramatic point centering on the "author" metadata of a Microsoft Word document! The key attraction of the book is Varoufakis's detailed recounting of many, many conversations that went on behind closed doors between himself and other political and economic leaders--primarily Wolfgang Schauble, the German finance minister; Jeroen Dijsselbloem, the Dutch finance minister and leader of the Eurogroup roundtable of finance ministers; Mario Draghi, the president of the European Central Bank; Christine Lagarde, managing director of the IMF; and of course, the key domestic players such as Alex Tsipras and Yannis Stournaras, the governor of the Bank of Greece (effectively a branch of the ECB). (The very biggest players, Angela Merkel and Barack Obama, largely float above the drama like greater gods.) Although Varoufakis has plenty to be angry about, this doesn't come across as a score-settling tell-all, nor (mostly) as an attempt at self-exculpation; rather, it comes across as a real desire to communicate to "civilians" the pathologies of the current European political and economic governance structures. This is the heart of what makes this book great--it is a fascinating view into how policy is made, behind the scenes, in a formally multilateral environment where there is in fact a heavy imbalance of power (with German and global forces basically holding all the cards). It is also a very interesting portrait of how difficult it is for a radical movement to succeed within this context. Inertia, vested interests, and concern for appearances all militate heavily in favor of the status quo. I got the very strong impression from the book that Syriza, and Varoufakis in particular, planned its strategy extremely carefully and executed on it almost flawlessly--but only almost. Varoufakis himself very specifically identifies a particular meeting where, in hindsight, he believes the capitulation would have been averted if he had chosen differently--but that choice was made in a split second under immense pressure. A corollary to this point is that the book shows how difficult it is to pull the trigger on a course of action that will upset the status quo and cause significant disruption, even when you have already decided rationally that this course of action is in fact preferable to the status quo (in this case, the disruptive course of action being Grexit). For someone who studies game theory academically, Varoufakis keeps his book admirably free of jargon, but his approach to the negotiations boils down to a strategy that is easy to outline. He believes that the best outcome for Greece is a renegotiation of the bailout that eases austerity. He believes that Grexit will be extremely disruptive and burdensome on the Greek people; however, for all this, he believes that it is nonetheless preferable to a continuation of the status quo austerity bailout. Therefore, he approaches the negotiations by making it clear that he is in no way gunning for Grexit, and wants to avoid it at almost all costs--with the only cost he is not willing to pay essentially being continuation of the status quo. Because Grexit will also be very bad for those on the other side of the table, his credible threat thereof should result in a successful renegotiation, which will be better for both sides than Grexit. As I said, of course, this does not actually work. The primary weakness in the plan that Varoufakis identifies in the book is that it is not his call alone to make; that he needs the support of Tsipras, which erodes away over the course of the narrative. Varoufakis is overly willing to believe in Tsipras's commitment, even after repeated "tells" that his resolve is weakening. I don't think this is mostly naivete on Varoufakis's part, but rather, a real commitment to try every other possible option before pulling the Grexit trigger. It's hard to be an armchair finance minister and say what Varoufakis should have done differently in an extremely challenging situation. But if I had to say one thing, which I think is also externalizable to other contexts, it's that it was a mistake to structure the deterrent as one "big bang" of a bunch of stuff that gets triggered all at once. This maximizes its unpalatability, meaning you want to put it off if at all possible, and also allows for extended "cheap talk," in which your allies (Tsipras in this case) can pay lip service to the strategy without having to do anything concrete in support of it. I think it would have been preferable if Varoufakis's Grexit plan, which did have several different components, had been structured as a series of ratcheting actions to be taken as negotiations continued to fail. It may be challenging to think of the exact right way to do this, but I think it would have been possible. A final message that I took away from the book regards the incredible power of discretion by political decision-makers. Numerous times, when someone in power does not want to cooperate with Varoufakis, they "throw the book at him" or hide behind bureaucratic rules. In all of these cases, Varoufakis points out to them how the rules have been bent in the past, or more broadly how loopholes and creative solutions can be found where there is political will. (This is similar to, for example, discussions around bank bailouts during the financial crisis.) In _Seeing Like a State_, James Scott discusses at length the importance of local practices, and how this powers something like a "work-to-rule" strike. In this book, we see how "work to rule" can be used by the powerful against the weak, as well. Of course the powerful can always exercise power by enforcing rules, but by evincing the possibility of not enforcing rules, they can dissuade the weak from exercising what power they do have. Anyway, enough of the nitty-gritty. Varoufakis is a very charismatic writer (as I remember him being in person), and mixes in plenty of humor and personal stories alongside the play-by-play. He comes across as a committed leftist and a committed Europeanist (which makes the outcome all the more tragic). He uses a charmingly large amount of allusions to Greek myth and literature, which could come across as clunky but in fact seemed natural to me. As I mentioned, he does not come across as self-exculpatory, but reflects on multiple occasions when he feels in hindsight he should have acted differently. If this book has a weakness, it is that it is difficult to know how reliable a narrator Varoufakis is. Although he comes across as genuine, he clearly has an interest in portraying things a certain way, particularly given his ongoing involvement in European politics as a leader of the pan-European leftist movement DiEM25. As far as I know, none of the other players have disputed his characterizations of what went on behind closed doors, so I think we don't have any real cause to doubt his truthfulness there. But I would love to see a similarly open recounting from the perspective of one of the other major players! In particular, I ended the book still seeing Tsipras as something of a cipher. I think this is because it is the same for Varoufakis, who does his best to analyze the actions of his former comrade, but is ultimately also in the dark. The story seems to be that Tsipras was coopted by the establishment and converted into an insider. This seems credible given how things played out (Tsipras is still the PM in 2018). But I would be fascinated to know his view of the events narrated in Varoufakis's book.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Jeanette

    Just my reaction because others have said it better. This is an outstanding memoir from his precise and exact experience as Finance / Greece. It's an extremely difficult read. Difficult in depth, in context tangent (for people like me, possibly, who are NOT European), difficult to understand the Troika and its "limits" and origins of power especially, and difficult in the overwhelming frustration and depression (quite a spirit killer if you are a fan of democratic republic structure) of the hope Just my reaction because others have said it better. This is an outstanding memoir from his precise and exact experience as Finance / Greece. It's an extremely difficult read. Difficult in depth, in context tangent (for people like me, possibly, who are NOT European), difficult to understand the Troika and its "limits" and origins of power especially, and difficult in the overwhelming frustration and depression (quite a spirit killer if you are a fan of democratic republic structure) of the hopelessness involved for the debtor nation. And who "cares" about that. He's an economist and also an excellent writer. He lets you understand the futility and the nuance of "it all" despite not knowing all the power broker names and where they fit on the chess board- you will if you have the page patience. I'm from Chicago, Illinois. This is the same kind of "fighting city hall" for "fair" I've experienced for 70 years, so I thoroughly understand the Varoufakis reaction. It becomes a silent scream. Or like trying to learn to love hitting your own head against a wall to obtain logical and just consequences by law or "authority". You might think you have a seat at "the table", but you just don't. See Margitte's review. Most, most supreme for the details. That's the first time I've ever suggested another review, but it's especially worth the read.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Andrew

    I get the feeling Yanis Varoufakis wrote this basically as an "I didn't do it" for future historians who might be researching what the hell happened in Greece in the 2010s. And of course, it was clearly his perspective on matters, complete with heroes and villains. But... it's good. It's gripping as a narrative, and if we are to trust Varoufakis' narrative, which I'm inclined to, it's a master class on organizational failure among politicians and the perfect storm of malevolence and stupidity amo I get the feeling Yanis Varoufakis wrote this basically as an "I didn't do it" for future historians who might be researching what the hell happened in Greece in the 2010s. And of course, it was clearly his perspective on matters, complete with heroes and villains. But... it's good. It's gripping as a narrative, and if we are to trust Varoufakis' narrative, which I'm inclined to, it's a master class on organizational failure among politicians and the perfect storm of malevolence and stupidity among the elites that produced and perpetuated the Greek debt crisis.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Aris Catsambas

    I have mixed feelings about this book. Starting with style: Varoufakis's prose tends to be overly dramatic and pretentious at times, but it's also undeniably engaging, and his book reads like a thriller. Regarding substance: the book is a fascinating account of Greece's negotiation with the IMF, the ECB and the European Commission, and I am pretty sure there is much truth in it, but it needs to be taken with a mountain of salt. Varoufakis's core argument, that Greece's debt is unsustainable, is fa I have mixed feelings about this book. Starting with style: Varoufakis's prose tends to be overly dramatic and pretentious at times, but it's also undeniably engaging, and his book reads like a thriller. Regarding substance: the book is a fascinating account of Greece's negotiation with the IMF, the ECB and the European Commission, and I am pretty sure there is much truth in it, but it needs to be taken with a mountain of salt. Varoufakis's core argument, that Greece's debt is unsustainable, is fair - a position with which the IMF actually agrees. Some of his proposed solutions around debt swaps seem reasonable, as do large parts of his technical commentary (e.g. on the Troika's economic models' assumption that demand is perfectly inelastic with regards to VAT) and some of his policy actions (e.g. his attempt to establish a team to algorithmically detect tax evasion). But a great deal of his narrative is disingenuous at best. First of all, Varoufakis consistently argues that his position and his proposals were rational, in sharp contrast to that of the Troika, and that the Troika is at fault for failing to engage with them seriously. Even if that were the case though, he completely fails to account for the fact that his job was not to represent himself as a scholar defending a thesis, but to represent a government. And that government lacked credibility. It came to the negotiation table cursing the other side, promising to annul any past agreements, and seeming to drive away investment on principle (see El Dorado); contrary to Varoufakis's claims that he was planning to go after corruption and entrenched interests (and regardless of his personal views on the matter), his government appointed party apparatchiks to the public sector and passed legislation for the benefit of supportive oligarchs. Far from confronting the elite, his prime minister spent summer vacations on a shipowner's boat. So, even if the policies Varoufakis was arguing for were inarguably right on paper, why should he expect the Troika to believe that his government would be willing (or even capable) to execute them? Second, Varoufakis's argument rests on the belief that, though exiting the Euro would be terrible, it would still be better than continuing down the path of austerity. This is debatable. Moreover, Varoufakis's team was working towards a plan for managing this worst-case scenario - a plan that at its core would have the government issue electronic IOUs (to be repaid via tax deductions) that could function as a parallel currency. I have written elsewhere about this plan and do not want to expand here too much, but in short, I highly doubt this would be workable in a country where the vast majority of people do not use credit cards. Still, though Varoufakis felt that the government should be prepared for a no-deal, he believed that if the threat of a Great were credible, the EU would cave; in fact, it seems that the EU was actually prepared to go down the Grexit route. Third, Varoufakis's account of events is not verifiable. He argues his team had concrete proposals every step of the way, but the Troika accuses him of coming to meetings unprepared and with high-level ideas only; who's to say who's telling the truth? Based on anecdotal evidence, I am not sure we can take Varoufakis 100% at his word: for example, he mentions visiting Deutsche Bank and making a good impression there; an (admittedly second-hand) account I've heard, however, paints a different picture: the bankers' reaction to Varoufakis's presentation was, apparently, 'what is this guy on about'? Finally, Varoufakis presents himself as a lone warrior, battling both the Troika and the rest of Syriza, standing up for reason and moderation, an outsider who had to be dragged into politics almost against his will, and who decided to keep working with Syriza (and its ultra-right wing coalition partners) despite serious misgivings. I cannot credit any of this. Syriza broke too many of its own principles for a genuinely principled person to continue working with them. Furthermore, Varoufakis himself did many things that do not gel well with the image he is trying to craft: how does he justify voting in favour of a law that would have a terrorist and murderer (a left-wing one) released from prison to serve his sentence at home? How does he justify the uber-kitsch Paris Match photoshoot, posing and smiling for the camera, if he were as upset about his country's humiliation as he claims? How does he explain demanding gratitude of National Television reporters (who, he claims in his book, ought to be unbiased and independent)? Etc. All in all, I do feel a little sorry for Varoufakis - I imagine there is some truth to his claims that many people failed to engage with his proposals. But is he the martyr he claims? Absolutely not.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Jonny

    This is a technical read (largely limited to a day-by-day account of Varoufakis' five months as Finance Minister of Greece), but is the single clearest overview I've read of how Syriza was ultimately unable to honour its commitments to resist the troika's imposed economic policies. Although the author's account may be selective, it accurately summarises how limited the German vision of Greece's economic future is. The book also captures the sheer complexity and difficulty of conducting multilate This is a technical read (largely limited to a day-by-day account of Varoufakis' five months as Finance Minister of Greece), but is the single clearest overview I've read of how Syriza was ultimately unable to honour its commitments to resist the troika's imposed economic policies. Although the author's account may be selective, it accurately summarises how limited the German vision of Greece's economic future is. The book also captures the sheer complexity and difficulty of conducting multilateral international negotiations. All-in-all this is far less polemical than you'd might expect, and is essentially a more clearly sourced Andrew Ross Sorkin book.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Mehrsa

    This book got way too in the weeds and play by play for me--especially since I had followed a lot of this, but the general story is a must-read. Varoufakis pushed back hard on the IMF and the EU's austerity demands and in doing so, exposed some of the deep problems with neoliberal/conservative ideologies baked into these institutions and how hard it is to buck them.

  16. 4 out of 5

    John

    Varoufakis is the famously difficult character who was (briefly) the inexperienced but economically skilled Greek Finance Minister, and his account of the attempts by Greece's then new left-wing government to engineer a change of direction in Europe's economic policies is fascinating. Through detailed recollection of events, he conveys the extraordinary machinations of the 'Troika' who were responsible for the punishing austerity imposed on Greece and its people, in their collective and prolonge Varoufakis is the famously difficult character who was (briefly) the inexperienced but economically skilled Greek Finance Minister, and his account of the attempts by Greece's then new left-wing government to engineer a change of direction in Europe's economic policies is fascinating. Through detailed recollection of events, he conveys the extraordinary machinations of the 'Troika' who were responsible for the punishing austerity imposed on Greece and its people, in their collective and prolonged refusal to consider even minor changes in the policies they had adopted. Even evidence that the policies would not work (and, indeed, since Varoufakis left the finance ministry, they still haven't), does not dissuade them. Greece must be punished for its profligacy, no matter that the banks who carelessly lent it the money are allowed to get away with no punishment at all. The book is particularly fascinating in the context of Britain's exit from the EU. It shows how hard it will be to achieve a deal, and how skilled are the EU negotiators at dragging the process out until deadlines expire. All the UK negotiators who begin their task next month (june, 2017) should read Varoufakis's book.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Mike Clarke

    Gravy train derailment: a hefty read with a lot of new-endogenous theorising that went a bit over my pretty little head I'm afraid, but don't let that put you off: skip the graph-infested waters and head for the shallows, where Yanis tells a cracking tale of plucky little Greeks (the author, mainly) taking on the Eurovision commission or something. No one bar Yanis emerges from this tale with much credit - neither the Eurocrats, nor the multinational "troika" (his arch-enemy) nor his ex-comrades Gravy train derailment: a hefty read with a lot of new-endogenous theorising that went a bit over my pretty little head I'm afraid, but don't let that put you off: skip the graph-infested waters and head for the shallows, where Yanis tells a cracking tale of plucky little Greeks (the author, mainly) taking on the Eurovision commission or something. No one bar Yanis emerges from this tale with much credit - neither the Eurocrats, nor the multinational "troika" (his arch-enemy) nor his ex-comrades on the Greek left. Most are shifty, self-interested turncoats, spinners and liars and spivs. Oddly, it's the deeply shady Christine Lagarde who emerges as a sort of weird anti-hero, at least prepared to be honest with those she's shafting. It's partly the kind of self-justifying tome politicians tend to when they're finished, but if he's even half-right then we're pretty fucked, in my considered opinion, Brexit or no. The whole world order needs a shake but this isn't so much a rallying call, more a wail of frustration and anguish. Still, it's a change from Polly Toynbee, and who am I to complain?

  18. 4 out of 5

    Roman Žňava

    Worth the reading. Explains the whole chronology of the Greek crisis and provides us with a rare insider's picture of how EU negotiations look. However the great limitation of this book lies in its subjectivity. Varofakis is obsessed with the plans he had proposed and explains them over and over again. On the other hand he provides us with very shallow explanations of EU's reasons to act as it did towards Greece rendering EU's leaders as deluded, incompetent or uncaring. He provides only few rea Worth the reading. Explains the whole chronology of the Greek crisis and provides us with a rare insider's picture of how EU negotiations look. However the great limitation of this book lies in its subjectivity. Varofakis is obsessed with the plans he had proposed and explains them over and over again. On the other hand he provides us with very shallow explanations of EU's reasons to act as it did towards Greece rendering EU's leaders as deluded, incompetent or uncaring. He provides only few reasons for the U-turns of individual Syriza members, which he saw as betrayal of their cause. Varofakis portraits himself as having all the answers to the crisis and as being the ONLY person who fought for the Greek people until the very end (he's alebo confident that his plan would be a win for all other Europeans). Therefore the book provides an interesting insight but it requires the reader to make a lot of further research to be able to form an opinion about the rightfulness of both EU's and Syriza's stance.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Wendy Liu

    As memoir: wooden, defensive, overly detailed. As a glimpse into the political machinations around the Greek crisis: fascinating and at times inspiring. Only recommended if you're actually interested in the inner workings of international institutions like the IMF/ECB, not if you're simply looking for a literary memoir.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Mr. Banks

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. My summary of Adults in the Room, written by Greece’s six month left-leaning finance minister, Yanis Varoufakis, in 2015. This autobiographical account details the political workings of a Eurozone establishment, and how vetted economic models to pull Greece out of a deflationary loop did not matter to its creditors whose sole objective was to push tough austerity measures regardless of the economic cost to the average European and to the European Union itself. Some key takeaways are: - Greece’s re My summary of Adults in the Room, written by Greece’s six month left-leaning finance minister, Yanis Varoufakis, in 2015. This autobiographical account details the political workings of a Eurozone establishment, and how vetted economic models to pull Greece out of a deflationary loop did not matter to its creditors whose sole objective was to push tough austerity measures regardless of the economic cost to the average European and to the European Union itself. Some key takeaways are: - Greece’s recessionary rut was prolonged by three politically charged Eurozone bailouts extending a debt deficit and combining harsh austerity measures that depressed the economy instead of giving the country space to grow. - For each new bailout, Greece had to sign an increased austerity agreement to slash pensions, increase value added tax, increase corporation tax, and privatize state assets to pay off their previous loans. - Without the ability to devalue their currency and increase competitiveness, Greece’s austerity measures depreciated the economy and without growth they could not pay back interest on the loans forcing them to take on more bailouts. - The Eurozone is not a democracy, but a collection of debtor and creditor states forming a monetary union that contradicts its policy of stabilizing Europe by using a central bank and other institutions like the European Commision, IMF (known as the Troika), and the Eurogroup to push political agendas from the richer states onto the debt imprisoned states. - Berlin was the greatest creditor state and its finance minister, Wolfgang Schäuble, had the political power to force austerity measures onto Greece hoping to force a Grexit. - Varoufakis was able to debunk the troika’s poor economic models proving of any possible debt payback by Greece was impossible to achieve in the short, medium, and long term. - Eventually, he learned that the creditors didn’t care whether Greece could pay back the loans, they just wanted Greece to be an example to other debtor states that any attempt of negotiating a debt restructuring would be punished by harsh austerity or a forced exit from the Union. - Varoufakis’ term lasted six months during which he participated in the newly elected radical left-wing Greek party, Syriza, which began as a party promising to end the debt cycle of bailouts, but eventually transforming into a spilt party that had no energy to fight the deep establishment any longer. - The Prime Minister, and leader of the party, Alexis Tsipras, was a rousing speaker but the the politics of the Eurozone crushed his spirit when member states that promised to help Greece ended up backstabbing them to increase political power. - The internally agreed Syriza’s economic strategy formed by Varoufakis opposed any new bailouts by promising either defaulting or reaching a growth positive debt restructuring agreement, but nearing the end of his term the Syriza party turned on Varoufakis and he was made out to be an enemy of Greece’s recovery. - In June 2015, Varoufakis reluctantly resigned when Alexis turned against the Greek citizens agreeing to another bailout even after a referendum by the Greek people voted “no” by 61.2%.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Tony Gualtieri

    The collapse of the European Union into a collection of non-democratic institutions that threaten the sovereignty of its member states is one of the great disappointments of the past few decades. Something that history will record as being a lost opportunity no matter how the 21st century transpires. Yanis Varoufakis in this memoir of his time as finance minister for Greece observes these institutions (the so-called "troika" of the European Central Bank, the European Commission, and the Internat The collapse of the European Union into a collection of non-democratic institutions that threaten the sovereignty of its member states is one of the great disappointments of the past few decades. Something that history will record as being a lost opportunity no matter how the 21st century transpires. Yanis Varoufakis in this memoir of his time as finance minister for Greece observes these institutions (the so-called "troika" of the European Central Bank, the European Commission, and the International Monetary Fund) from an insiders point of view. What he shows is not pretty: technocrates caught up in a hubristic game where social programs are playing cards for egos more concerned with maintaining the status quo than positive solutions. It’s a sobering picture which eloquently makes the case for Greece's role in the debt crisis for which the contemporary left-wing government plays the sacrificial lamb for past governments' profligacy and the extravagances of Wall Street. Just as he seemed at the time, Varoufakis comes across as honest man defamed by his party, the press, and the European economic elite.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Katarina

    A fantastic political memoir. Would have loved to have some more information on the economics and I am a bit perturbed that he only admits one mistake (whilst around him friends and enemies seem to be making one after another) but other than that it was a fantastic glimpse into what happens behind closed doors in the EU and other Establishments. Really enjoyed his anecdotes about how the media and governments seem to fall apart whenever he does anything vaguely human like wear a coat or ride a mo A fantastic political memoir. Would have loved to have some more information on the economics and I am a bit perturbed that he only admits one mistake (whilst around him friends and enemies seem to be making one after another) but other than that it was a fantastic glimpse into what happens behind closed doors in the EU and other Establishments. Really enjoyed his anecdotes about how the media and governments seem to fall apart whenever he does anything vaguely human like wear a coat or ride a motorbike.

  23. 4 out of 5

    hdgsallen

    This is a fantastic historical document. He'll be charged with subjective egoism, but these accusations will fall flat against the light he shines into the black boxes that are the EU institutions. In some ways this is an ethnography - a personal journey which details the processes of negotiating with some of the most powerful institutions in human history. But it is ultimately about failure; his failure.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Bruce

    If you like sausage, you must be careful in studying too closely how the sausage is made. This epic tome of blow-by-blow labyrinthine intrigue to rescue Greece from its own Oligarchic centred financial meltdown within the EU is a must-read.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Michal Mironov

    This book is absolute must for everyone seriously interested in politics. Varoufakis provides fascinating insights on how decision-making process works on highest places and how informal debates and deals between politicians differs from official statements and actions. Besides, his narratives and writing talent turns this book into very best political thriller. Even those, who don’t agree with author’s political preferences (me included), will very likely admit he‘s a smart opponent. Want a pro This book is absolute must for everyone seriously interested in politics. Varoufakis provides fascinating insights on how decision-making process works on highest places and how informal debates and deals between politicians differs from official statements and actions. Besides, his narratives and writing talent turns this book into very best political thriller. Even those, who don’t agree with author’s political preferences (me included), will very likely admit he‘s a smart opponent. Want a proof? I made exactly 56 highlights on my kindle! :-) Here are some of them: - There is a network of power within other preexisting networks, involving participants who conspire de facto without being conscious conspirators. - The situation was truly absurd: a leftwing finance minister representing Syriza, the Alliance of the Radical Left, was arguing like a Reaganite Republican in favour of lower tax rates, including for business, against supposedly neoliberal functionaries insisting on increasing them. - The Eurogroup is an interesting beast. It has no legal standing in any of the EU treaties and yet it is the body that makes Europe’s most vital decisions... democracy had indeed died the moment the Eurogroup acquired the authority to dictate economic policy to member states without anything resembling federal democratic sovereignty. - Maximum flexibility’ is the troika’s equivalent of Henry Ford’s sales pitch for the Model T: you can have it in any colour you wish as long as it is black. - After an academic career in which success largely depended on my own efforts, I had found myself on the front line of a war, depending on comrades to guard my flanks and rear. Deciphering their thinking in order to gauge whether they had my back or not was the hardest thing I had to do... In academia one gets used to having one’s thesis torn apart, sometimes with little decorum; what one never experiences (in politics) is dead silence, a refusal to engage, a pretence that no thesis has been put forward at all.” - When a person believes one thing but chooses or is forced to advocate its opposite, the result is cognitive dissonance. Eventually, in order to endure the internal conflict, one is forced, like Orwell’s Winston Smith, to change one’s mind. But the emotional fallout from such stress must somehow be vented; someone else must take the blame. - Five minutes after we hung up, I received a call from the [US] National Security Council. They asked me if I thought you meant what you’d said! - The whole point of the institutions’ proposal was to extend the second bailout, a second programme, in order to avoid a third bailout, a third programme. But by cannibalizing the HFSF kitty to pay the ECB you are embedding a third into the second programme. This is both illegal and illogical.

  26. 4 out of 5

    RAJESH PARAMESWARAN

    An interesting political memoir by former Greek Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis, this is an engaging read for those who have followed the happenings after Syriza came to power in Greece after a second bailout plan imposed by EU on the country lead to a humanitarian crisis. Syriza was voted to power given their promise of no austerity. The electorate wanted tougher negotiations with the Troika and they wanted a government which didn't want to succumb to the Euro Group pressure. It was told that An interesting political memoir by former Greek Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis, this is an engaging read for those who have followed the happenings after Syriza came to power in Greece after a second bailout plan imposed by EU on the country lead to a humanitarian crisis. Syriza was voted to power given their promise of no austerity. The electorate wanted tougher negotiations with the Troika and they wanted a government which didn't want to succumb to the Euro Group pressure. It was told that Varoufakis was leading an effort to push back the Troika attempts for a 3rd bailout and further austerity. The book takes you through what happened behind those closed doors and also provides us an insight into how the entire Euro establishment functions. Do you think finance capital respects democracy? Do they allow the democratically elected representatives of individual nations to represent their people's interest within the eurozone? Your questions will find answers in this book. Varoufakis failed in his attempt to resist a 3rd bailout and further austeiry. How did he fail? Who let him down? Did he have the correct strategy? Did it really matter whether he had the right strategy? The book goes on to uncover a lot of incidents and exchanges between Finance ministers and economists which would throw light on what really ails europe. In a dramatic turn of events after 61 percent of Greece voted NO in the referendum, we saw that Varoufakis was replaced by Euclid Tsakalatos from Syriza left stable. But Greece ended up accepting another bailout and further austerity was the result. There are some interesting anecdotes on the Social Democrats of other countries of Europe , who were friendly in private and was too timid to openly support the Greek cause in the EU. Emmanuel Macron and Bernie Sanders also figure in the book , which obviously is Varoufakis' perspective on the issue. You would disagree with him on certain aspects ( I do.), but the guy is honest and was man on a mission during his tenure. He was smart and was o e who didn't mind giving it back verbally when the situation demanded so. But was it the best thing to do? How reasonable was it on his part to trust am establishment which was hardly democratic? If you are interested in the economics, there's enough in the references section and appendix. If you are merely interested in knowing the incidents with a basic understanding of bailouts and austerity, the book offers that as well. This 550 page book is a worth read for those who keenly followed the early days of Syriza Government and for those who want to know about those " adults " in the room who call the shots when it comes to the economies of Euro member nations.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Nilesh

    Mr Varoufakis' autobiography as a policymaker is a must read despite flaws. This is perhaps the best book to narrate how inadequate and shortsighted powerbrokers who decide the fate of tens of millions are. Their behind the scenes negotiations are as uncertain in the way they go about as their subsequent decisions appear in their decisiveness. And if the author's views are believed, the decisions are often based on factors that are anything but salubrious. The long-term future of Euro is particul Mr Varoufakis' autobiography as a policymaker is a must read despite flaws. This is perhaps the best book to narrate how inadequate and shortsighted powerbrokers who decide the fate of tens of millions are. Their behind the scenes negotiations are as uncertain in the way they go about as their subsequent decisions appear in their decisiveness. And if the author's views are believed, the decisions are often based on factors that are anything but salubrious. The long-term future of Euro is particularly bleak as one such crisis someday in future will unravel forces that will not be contained as they have been so far. The biography is particularly engaging because of the way it is written. The ex Finance Minister is not only thoroughly knowledgable and passionate but has a way with words. He makes most intricate default details understandable and is even better describing his emotions. As a result, here is a page turner on a real life tragedy, full of twists and drama with its own hero and a bunch of villains! That said, the book is a saga from one single Vantage Point (remember that 2008 movie?!). The author's passionate case for a debt restructuring for humanitarian, political and economic purposes is not as valid as he makes it out to be. Counterfactuals are impossible to prove, but had his conditions were implemented, it was quite possible that Euro would have cracked three years ago with many others asking for similar forgiveness/concessions and even Germany for political purposes giving up after a while if not many others. This could have led to immediate more misery all across Europe including Greece despite one round of concessions. The author spares no thoughts for potential secondary impacts of his suggestions in the near-term, let alone the moral hazards and other issues in the long-term. Eurozone's problems are definitely solved and are perhaps without permanent solutions, but the author's path was not the unequivocal best case for all involved that he makes it out to be. That shortcoming aside, this is definitely a must read.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Simon Dobson

    An emotionally charged but very readable personal account of the third stage of the Greek financial crisis, as told by one of the protagonists. It's important to bear in mind that this is autobiography, not history, and as such can be excused for being polemical in Varoufakis' defence. It's detailed and complex in its political overtones, but the core argument is very simple: the Greek financial crisis long ago ceased to be about economics and became a morality play in which the Greek state is fo An emotionally charged but very readable personal account of the third stage of the Greek financial crisis, as told by one of the protagonists. It's important to bear in mind that this is autobiography, not history, and as such can be excused for being polemical in Varoufakis' defence. It's detailed and complex in its political overtones, but the core argument is very simple: the Greek financial crisis long ago ceased to be about economics and became a morality play in which the Greek state is forced to accept increasingly steep remedies that aren't in any way intended to bring about a recovery, or even to recover monies already loaned. One can't treat the account as history, since so many of the exchanges are uncorroborated. Moreover, Varoufakis reduces his entire account of the run-up to very small sections – almost single sentences – where he admits that the Greek state had massively mismanaged its own economy. It's acceptable for him to do so, both because he's telling the story of his own involvement in events and because, quite frankly, the details are irrelevant to him as an economist. He sees a state that's incapable of repaying its loans and expects capitalism to work as it should – by imposing the losses on those foolish enough to make the loans. When the opposite happens, and the lenders (European banks) are bailed-out at the expense of the Greek citizenry and European taxpayer, he's almost at a loss to deal with the fact that the economics have become an irrelevance. His account is eerily consistent with those dealing with the Irish "bailout" (which was, similarly, no such thing – not of the state receiving it, anyway). It will remain for future historians to weigh the different accounts in the balance, and this book will be one of their main sources.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Grig O'

    As someone who spent the first half of 2015 constantly refreshing the Guardian website (and Varoufakis' blog, whom I'd discovered in his Valve days) for the latest Greece news, this book came to me like a stream of golden nectar straight from the chalice of Zeus. To anyone following these kind of geopolitical events, such a memoir is a rare glimpse behind closed doors, uncovering facts and features usually out of reach for the non-initiatied. Now, Yanis is a rockstar, and his bombastic persona mi As someone who spent the first half of 2015 constantly refreshing the Guardian website (and Varoufakis' blog, whom I'd discovered in his Valve days) for the latest Greece news, this book came to me like a stream of golden nectar straight from the chalice of Zeus. To anyone following these kind of geopolitical events, such a memoir is a rare glimpse behind closed doors, uncovering facts and features usually out of reach for the non-initiatied. Now, Yanis is a rockstar, and his bombastic persona might put some people off... which is unfortunate, because he also seems like an articulate, honourable, generous guy as well as a serious professional, with a heck of a story to tell. Obviously (aside from YV's reliance on recordings and diary entries) the book has to show just one side of the story. Yanis mentions one inconsistency between his record and P. Moscovici's memoir, ascribing it to the latter's attempt to save face. I've also read PM Tsipras say in an interview that someday maybe he'll tell his own tale of the 2015 events. Bring it on, I say! Finally, hindsight being 20-20, it's always tempting to give outsider advice. Mine would be that Yanis should've made more steps towards the pro-Grexit Left Platform. Of course, there was a major disagreement as to the final goal, but surely none of them would've been worse than that worm Chouliarakis. And let's not forget, the Left were the only faction to wholeheartedly campaign for Oxi. Sure, this might have precipitated their break with Alexis - but if you think this was coming anyway, why not have it earlier rather than not?

  30. 5 out of 5

    Luuc Brans

    Writing the most interesting political read this year, Varoufakis manages to critically show and reflect on the inner-workings of the international political machine. His metaphors hit home and he manages to build up the suspense even though you already know how this Greek tragedy ends. His indiscrete account of his negotiations with the European institutions and the troika during his five-month tenure as Greece's finance minister is juicy and interesting for anyone with a knack for internationa Writing the most interesting political read this year, Varoufakis manages to critically show and reflect on the inner-workings of the international political machine. His metaphors hit home and he manages to build up the suspense even though you already know how this Greek tragedy ends. His indiscrete account of his negotiations with the European institutions and the troika during his five-month tenure as Greece's finance minister is juicy and interesting for anyone with a knack for international politics. According to this account, it is utterly mind-boggling how staggeringly incompetent and irrational politicians such as Dijsselbloem and Schäuble behave. Varoufakis' account is thereby a welcome contrast to the journalistic cheerleading from the Dutch and German press for the way northern-European politicians acted during the 2015 Greek Spring. A bit more critical self-reflection would have been welcome, but still an absolute must-read, even if you do not agree with Varoufakis' politics!

Add a review

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Loading...
We use cookies to give you the best online experience. By using our website you agree to our use of cookies in accordance with our cookie policy.