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Varoufakis' magical realism

Talking to my Daughter about the Economy. A Brief History of Capitalism
Forfatter: Yanis Varoufakis
Forlag: The Bodley Head (UK)
By cutting the principles of capitalism to the bone and using an easy-to-understand language, Yanis Varoufakis draws on the essence of modern economics.

This article is machine translated by Google from Norwegian

Greek professor of economics Yaris Varoufakis was to be known to Norwegian readers through the role he played as politician and finance minister (end-January to early July 2015) during the economic crisis in Greece from 2008 onwards.

His book Talking to my Daughter about the Economy. A Brief History of Capitalism, released for the first time in 2013 and updated in conjunction with the new release, is written as a long letter to Varoufakis' teenage daughter Xenia, who has traveled to Australia to study. The author wants to put her in the really big contexts of the world when it comes to the beginnings and development of the global world economy. In addition, the book is just as much about how the global economy works today. In other words – a theme that should concern most.

Simplification. Through a few pages, Varoufakis manages, through simplifications and good storytelling, to extract the essence of what modern economics is all about. Some time in the text he quotes ancient Greek mathematician Archimedes, who must have said something about it barbell principle using the globe itself as an example: "Give me a fixed point and I will move the whole earth!" This means that with a long enough rod, he would be able to move on the globe itself just by a simple hand movement. Varoufakis shows with this how, with a distance perspective on how the world economy works, one can relatively easily do something to change it, provided that one actually wants to.

Varoufakis then folds out a story about the history of capitalism, where, unlike Marx, he uses maximally simplified examples. The author has deliberately loosened a number of terms in his descriptions, and perhaps most striking is that he carried out failing to use the word "capitalism".

The storytelling technique is also effective in other ways, where the strategy is to use a dialogical form. He often begins the chapters with a personal summer experience on one of the Greek islands – the hearth of ancient culture. This becomes the starting point for his further anecdotes, where, among other things, Homer's heroic deeds are used diligently. Varoufakis oscillates oscillatingly between literary and practical examples to illuminate world economic conditions, and these act as bridges that take readers across a complicated and abstract economics theoretical terrain.

Money and debt. It has been said ever since the early nineties that the big story is dead, and it is easy to say that Varoukfaris takes it back. A broad historical table of examples is woven together, from the history of the economy, money and debt. Varoufakis' great story opens with the story of how the monetary system in its time originated in ancient Mesopotamia around the year 600 BC. Then the author explains how money and debt have been an inseparable couple throughout history.

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As a red thread, emphasis is placed on how a functioning market economy cannot be conceived without the deception of debt on its part. For example, for this reason, economic development can be seen as a hazardous journey; the twin pair is always in an unstable voltage relationship with each other. With the example of the cradle of civilization in ancient river cultures, Varoufakis shows what was one of Marx's most central points, namely that work is the real determining value in all economics: the value of goods stands in an inseparable dependency relation to the work effort put into them. The reasoning around this is complicated, but the author manages to justify his point of view.

Magic. Everything is connected in a symbiosis: the work, the money and the goods. But power and dependency relationships are unevenly distributed, and it is always those who work or buy the values ​​that draw the shortest strings, both during times of boom and crisis. Some of the "magic" – a word Varoufakis uses several times – lies in the way the finance and money system interact.

The downturns that follow the market economy as surely as the upswing follows from good times lead capitalism to a series of devastating crises. The author shows how this is built into the relationship between debt and investment: To be competitive, companies must constantly lend themselves to new investments. This money is actually pushed up by the banks or simply typed into a screen of some sort Magic maneuver on the part of the rulers. The loans realize the construction of new factories and production, but it all builds a collective expectation of the market's needs. Over time, this will always lead to bubble-like conditions, where companies, but also financial institutions, are threatened to go overboard. Here, the state moves in to save both the banks and the largest companies, so that the country does not end up in an even deeper crisis. Again, who knows magi, the most resourceful are rescuing, while the common man and woman have to pay down debt and with unemployment.

The epidural of the oil. Varoufaki's solutions are rather sparse, but some are mentioned. The author speaks, among other things, that democracy should be extended to the economy as well, but here he does not go into detail.

The twin pairs of market economy and debt are always in an unstable tension relationship with each other.

Historian Harald Berntsen, a native of the left and a specialist in the history of the labor movement, has pointed to the period 1945–1980 as a unique rise in the history of capitalism. The crises have otherwise haunted the economy as a secure ghost at regular intervals over the centuries. After the war, a special recovery climate was created with an inexhaustible demand for goods. For decades, everything seemed stable and safe. Most Norwegians who live today have exclusively experiences from this particular period. Oil revenues have also, for Norway's part, created a wind shield for the major economic crises that hit Europe in the 2000s.

"The four hundredth anniversary [Danish time] brooded over the monkey [Norway]," Ibsen writes in Peer Gynt. In our time, it is the pumping of oil money into the Norwegian economy that stuns Norwegians for the painful realities of the economic crisis. Precisely for this reason, Varoufakis' book should be translated into Norwegian.

Jan Guillou recently mentioned in an interview that the world was so clear and open, not only to him, but to everyone, in 1968. Today it is far more difficult to orientate. Also, therefore, enlightening and critical books such as Talking to my Daughter about the Economy welcome here in the country.

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