I have watched many Youtube videos with the former Greek minister of finance, including television interviews, academic debates and a radio appearance in Australia commenting on the Greek elections as a young economics PhD. The man talks brilliantly. Because he speaks with an Oxbridge accent and adorns his well-formed sentences with tangible metaphors, he brings a subject as wry as the ECBs monetary policy to life. It’s such a delight to have public intellectuals who consistently appears in the European media – and even have them as ministers of finance. Alas, since Yanis is not the average politician, he stepped down the moment he felt he could no longer represent his voters.
But he will be back with his movement for democracy in Europe and I hope he will be successful. Why do I rally – or fall – for the man? It might be his appearance and reputation as a motorcycling superhero coming to our rescue. Is it because he is a delightfully extravagant figure in the corridors of power that we tend to cynically dismiss? Is it his sharpness as a debater, his thorough understanding of economics, or his commanding eloquence?
I know he is critical of Piketty’s “panacea” (wealth tax) to overcome the great wealth inequality, the gap that is, if you allow me to blunt the dominant leftist narrative thus, inevitably widening until we end up with another major war. I’m also a fan of Piketty (of course, he, too, is hailed as a rock star economist). But that is not it. I’ve heard Mr. Varoufakis talking about “restoring health economic growth” in almost every interview and it got my tongue itching to ask him about the circular, no-growth, post-capitalistic, economy. Of course, questioning economic growth is still anathema even to the far left side of the political establishment, and probably will be for decades to come.
But Yanis is an economics professor. He should have his thoughts about slowing down economic growth, performing a soft landing to spare the belly of our transforming economies. When he talks about growth and “being competitive” on the world stage, what kind of vision for the world does that imply? Is the paradigm of growth economics also subject to democratic debate? Is economic growth in times of environmental degradation only permissible if the kind of growth is strictly controlled by elected experts (eg. renewables)? And if such growth doesn’t yield the rate the system requires of 3% per annum, does that mean that the system should go out of the window? Are ECB-bonds as radical as it gets?
Think about that, Yanis, and you have my vote. I sign off with a quote I came acros in a video, that hopefully characterizes Mr. Varoufakis best.
“I borrow ideas from von Hayek, von Misis, Keynes, Marx, Friedman, Thatcher, from whoever has good ideas to give me. The reason why I am left-wing is because I cannot see how the accumulation of financialized capital can be made compatible with a good society – but that’s a big discussion, it’s not for now”