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Talking to My Daughter About the Economy: A Brief History of Capitalism

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In Talking to My Daughter About the Economy, activist Yanis Varoufakis, Greece’s former finance minister and the author of the international bestseller Adults in the Room, pens a series of letters to his young daughter, educating her about the business, politics, and corruption of world economics. Yanis Varoufakis has appeared before heads of nations, assemblies of experts In Talking to My Daughter About the Economy, activist Yanis Varoufakis, Greece’s former finance minister and the author of the international bestseller Adults in the Room, pens a series of letters to his young daughter, educating her about the business, politics, and corruption of world economics. Yanis Varoufakis has appeared before heads of nations, assemblies of experts, and countless students around the world. Now, he faces his most important―and difficult―audience yet. Using clear language and vivid examples, Varoufakis offers a series of letters to his young daughter about the economy: how it operates, where it came from, how it benefits some while impoverishing others. Taking bankers and politicians to task, he explains the historical origins of inequality among and within nations, questions the pervasive notion that everything has its price, and shows why economic instability is a chronic risk. Finally, he discusses the inability of market-driven policies to address the rapidly declining health of the planet his daughter’s generation stands to inherit. Throughout, Varoufakis wears his expertise lightly. He writes as a parent whose aim is to instruct his daughter on the fundamental questions of our age―and through that knowledge, to equip her against the failures and obfuscations of our current system and point the way toward a more democratic alternative.


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In Talking to My Daughter About the Economy, activist Yanis Varoufakis, Greece’s former finance minister and the author of the international bestseller Adults in the Room, pens a series of letters to his young daughter, educating her about the business, politics, and corruption of world economics. Yanis Varoufakis has appeared before heads of nations, assemblies of experts In Talking to My Daughter About the Economy, activist Yanis Varoufakis, Greece’s former finance minister and the author of the international bestseller Adults in the Room, pens a series of letters to his young daughter, educating her about the business, politics, and corruption of world economics. Yanis Varoufakis has appeared before heads of nations, assemblies of experts, and countless students around the world. Now, he faces his most important―and difficult―audience yet. Using clear language and vivid examples, Varoufakis offers a series of letters to his young daughter about the economy: how it operates, where it came from, how it benefits some while impoverishing others. Taking bankers and politicians to task, he explains the historical origins of inequality among and within nations, questions the pervasive notion that everything has its price, and shows why economic instability is a chronic risk. Finally, he discusses the inability of market-driven policies to address the rapidly declining health of the planet his daughter’s generation stands to inherit. Throughout, Varoufakis wears his expertise lightly. He writes as a parent whose aim is to instruct his daughter on the fundamental questions of our age―and through that knowledge, to equip her against the failures and obfuscations of our current system and point the way toward a more democratic alternative.

30 review for Talking to My Daughter About the Economy: A Brief History of Capitalism

  1. 4 out of 5

    Kevin

    A favorite, surpassing the sea of ECON101 books; the storytelling alone makes me revisit this annually. The most accessible and engaging intro to "the market society" (capitalism) you can ask for, unraveling this enigma while rooted in real-life concerns and historical/global scope... The Brilliant: --A flow of stories grounded in real world history bringing to life the big-picture logic and consequences of our global market economy, with minimal jargon and zero abstract formulas. You can suppleme A favorite, surpassing the sea of ECON101 books; the storytelling alone makes me revisit this annually. The most accessible and engaging intro to "the market society" (capitalism) you can ask for, unraveling this enigma while rooted in real-life concerns and historical/global scope... The Brilliant: --A flow of stories grounded in real world history bringing to life the big-picture logic and consequences of our global market economy, with minimal jargon and zero abstract formulas. You can supplement the rest elsewhere; the purpose here is to get you inspired to explore... As a teacher of economics, I have always believed that if you are not able to explain the economy in a language young people can understand, then, quite simply, you are clueless yourself. --Varoufakis is a compelling speaker as well, with many lectures online: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list... --Here is the structure (you'll want to pair this with Varoufakis' storytelling!): 1) The historical creation of the land market (real estate): with the increasing global market in traded goods, land was given a price (commodified, no longer solely tied to ancestry/tradition) by estimating how much in commodities (ex. wool) it can generate for exchange on the global market. 2) The historical creation of the labor market (wage labor contract): the commodification of land brought about the "Enclosures", where the "Commons" (common lands) were restricted/privatized and serfs kicked off feudal land (with State force) so landlords can switch to raising commodities for the emerging global market (or at least hiring a few serfs as proto-entrepreneurs and extracting rent). ...Clearly, only some property rights matter, and only some State force is bad interference on the market. The remaining landless serfs were free to starve, or sell their labor (thus, the labor market; this process actually took a lot of violence/criminalization despite the built-in dependency of the newly-landless towards markets both for wage and goods). ... Less is More: How Degrowth Will Save the World introduces this creation of "artificial scarcity" and counters this with the "radical abundance" of expanding the Commons, which has been the pillar of rising life expectancy, i.e. public sanitation/health, education, etc. ...Land and labor are 2 unique "markets" conveniently neglected by capitalists who want to portray market exchange (of goods) as the totality of human nature, as if we live in a world of individual shopkeepers (each owning our own means of production, how convenient!) bartering our products with one another. ...A "society with markets" has now transformed into a "market society" (Varoufakis uses this phrase instead of "capitalism", which is burdened by propagandist baggage; this transformation is explored further in The Great Transformation: The Political and Economic Origins of Our Time) 3) The market society's logic: labor/land/goods are transformed into commodities for market exchange; thus, "exchange value" (i.e. what can be earned from selling on the market) triumphs over "experiential value" (called "use value" by Marx). This has plenty of consequences on labor (ex. abstracting/objectifying it into the commodity, i.e. Marx's "commodity fetishism"), money (ex. money's power to exchange for any commodity, thus endless accumulation of this power whereas there is a limit of use for too many commodities; profit becomes an end in itself), the environment (see below), etc. 4) The "Great Reversal": how capitalism begins with debt (the loan to raise the capital needed) as opposed to beginning with production (serfs farming), thus debt merges with entrepreneurial profit-seeking (selling on the global market to survive paying rent/competition and ultimately accumulate power). 5) How industrialization required such large loans that private banking became essential, where the loan money is created out of nothing (i.e. banks create credit-money, magically borrowed from the future, anticipating future productivity gains will pay it back; this accounts for most of bank lending, which is not just lending out other savers' deposits). Debt (and its accompanying expectation of future profit) fuels capitalist growth (thus, "economic growth" is synonymous with "economic health"). Here's a great short animated video of David Harvey explaining capitalism's "financial innovation": https://youtu.be/qOP2V_np2c0 6) How this debt-driven dynamism brings inherent instability (as opposed to some harmonious, natural equilibrium of perceptual growth raising all boats envisioned by capitalist utopians): private banks profit from more and bigger loans (greater interest payments), a clockwork for speculative bubbles given their magic of conjuring money/debt. We can see this transformation culturally, where many major religions used to condemn the charging of interest as "usury", but this withered away with the power relations of debt under capitalism (Debt: The First 5,000 Years). 7) Repeated crises necessitated reforms: a) Debt forgiveness (Limited Liability + bankruptcy laws instead of debtors' prisons, although overwhelmingly for the rich; history reveals how important debt forgiveness is when extended to the whole of society: ...And Forgive Them Their Debts) b) Central banking: "apolitical" money (ex. Bitcoin) is a dangerous fallacy in several ways, from its curious lack of dynamism (rigid quantity) to its lack of guarantees/crisis management. "Apolitical" actually implies being outside democratic scrutiny; the market is one-dollar-one-vote. This is why political democracy is insufficient, because power is hollowed out into the economic sphere of unaccountable banks (central and private), corporate trade organizations, etc. c) Public debt (do not be fooled by hysteria around "public debt", which happens to also act as private surplus/spending power/subsidized physical and social infrastructure that sustains private profits: The Deficit Myth: Modern Monetary Theory and the Birth of the People's Economy; government bonds is already a gift providing crucial liquidity for banks) ...these try to keep money circulation going ("recycling") and ensuring faith in private banks/money/markets so they do not become idle as capitalism spirals out of control, but this cannot resolve the paradox of banking instability (where capitalism is run on debt, and periods of stability assures bankers to make riskier loans). See Varoufakis' And the Weak Suffer What They Must? Europe's Crisis and America's Economic Future for a case study on this. 8) Private banks amplify deeper instability: human expectations of the economy’s health/other's expectations make capitalists’ hiring (labor market) + investment (money market) volatile: a) Those who believe in market equilibrium believe the market will always adjust for unemployment. If you cannot find a job at your desired wage, just drop your wage and an employer will be happy to hire you. However, labor is a unique commodity because it is a means (zero experiential value, i.e. you are not hired to be friends with the boss) to an end (profits). Dropping wages could signal a slumping economy, thus the employer may expect slumping demand and thus will not hire you despite your discounted wage. This pessimism can spread to other capitalists and become self-fulfilling! b) The same applies with the money market, where lowered interest rates (the cost of borrowing) may actually scare off capitalist investment because they expect a slumping economy... 9) Even deeper we go: the crisis of profitability... Profits are the sole driver of capitalism (not social needs, which would be socialism); without profits, the lights go off. Profits require prices > costs, but: a) Competition forces prices down and to not stray far from costs, which itself is falling through automation/large economies-of-scale. b) Automation for cost-cutting adds up to overall less employment/less wages, thus less demand (purchasing power) to pay for the increased production (overproduction). ...The irrationality of the profit motive becomes clear during crises, when wealth is hoarded and goods even destroyed as social needs are abandoned (ex. the endless Great Depression in The Grapes of Wrath, which was only ended by the creative destruction of WWII, the greatest war in human history). ...Note: even during the good times, many social needs are abandoned by lack of profitability, i.e. the millions of deaths every year from inadequate drinking water/starvation/vaccine-treatable diseases in global capitalism's most-exploited regions despite the mountains of resources, while reckless bubbles cause gentrification by inflating real estate/cost of living. 10) The existential crisis of environmental destruction: exchange value dominating experiential value results in stunning externalities (effects external to the market): a forest (immeasurable experiential value, thus immeasurable positive externality) has no exchange value until it is privatized and cut down for lumber (or privatized and sold/rented). In fact, a forest on fire has more exchange value from the firefighting stimulating economic activities! ...A key negative externality is pollution (i.e. cutting costs by dumping it on everyone else), which is rampant during capitalism's endless accumulation of "exchange values" on a finite planet where the environment's "experiential values" are essential for our survival. ...Privatizing the environment will only further exacerbate exchange value's dominance; "Tragedy of the Commons" is actually tragedy of capitalism's individualist profit-seeking! (https://youtu.be/xcwXME-PNuE and Governing the Commons: The Evolution of Institutions for Collective Action) To-be-found-elsewhere: --Varoufakis seriously needs to update his pre-capitalist historical references by replacing the rigid Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies story with David Graeber's The Dawn of Everything: A New History of Humanity and Debt: The First 5,000 Years --Western audiences (like the top negative review for this book) often need more context to grasp the historical + global scope of capitalism: 1) Imperialism/Unequal trade: weak countries are forced into rugged competition in low-productivity sectors (exporting raw materials, cash crops, and cheap labor via free market/free trade) and prevented from nurturing infant industries in high-productivity sectors, the reverse of how rich countries developed and maintain their dominance! -intro: The Divide: A Brief Guide to Global Inequality and its Solutions -intro: Bad Samaritans: The Myth of Free Trade and the Secret History of Capitalism -dive: Super Imperialism - New Edition: The Origin and Fundamentals of U.S. World Dominance: https://youtu.be/paUgY6SGlgY 2) Historical context: myopic Western opinions are so concerned with 20th century socialism, making rich country vs. poor country comparisons without any context of where socialist countries were pre-revolution (Late Victorian Holocausts: El Niño Famines and the Making of the Third World) ...So quick to condemn revolutionary struggle, while lauding "peaceful" transitions like Gandhi's India and Mandela's South Africa which silently left domestic power structures intact in what are now the benchmarks of inequality, divide-and-rule, and starvation: https://youtu.be/4hz5sXYiBo8 and the bottom of this: https://www.goodreads.com/review/show... -Global South socialism playlist: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list... -The Darker Nations: A People's History of the Third World 3) Overwhelming capitalist violence on the Global South (overt and covert military interventions, and the silent terrorism of economic strangulation and dollar imperialism): -Washington Bullets -The Jakarta Method: Washington's Anticommunist Crusade and the Mass Murder Program that Shaped Our World -The Management of Savagery: How America's National Security State Fueled the Rise of Al Qaeda, ISIS, and Donald Trump --Following up on the suggested democratization of work/money/technology/environment (i.e. "Star Trek" "Fully-Automated-Luxury-Communism", or that direction as opposed to "The Matrix"): 1) Varoufakis' synthesis of alternatives (macro and micro): Another Now: Dispatches from an Alternative Present 2) Economic democracy: worker ownership of machines + public dividend to take full advantage of automation instead of private power + public structural unemployment: -Democracy at Work: A Cure for Capitalism -Bullshit Jobs: A Theory -The Zero Marginal Cost Society: The Internet of Things, the Collaborative Commons, and the Eclipse of Capitalism 3) Another important aspect of re-imaging the value of work is valuing care work/reproductive labor: -The Invisible Heart: Economics and Family Values -Revolution at Point Zero: Housework, Reproduction, and Feminist Struggle 4) Re-imaging our relationship with the environment/Commons: -Less is More: How Degrowth Will Save the World -Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge, and the Teachings of Plants 5) Public banking (Varoufakis touches on this in "Another Now"): The Public Bank Solution: From Austerity to Prosperity

  2. 5 out of 5

    Trevor

    This is a lovely book and I’ve asked both of my daughters to read it and have already started talking to one of them about it. It is nice for a couple of reasons. The first is that it explains complicated ideas in highly accessible ways. As he says at the start, you probably shouldn’t trust anyone who can’t explain even difficult concepts in a way that a reasonably educated person can understand. This is doubly true of economics, particularly since our world is run according to the dictates of e This is a lovely book and I’ve asked both of my daughters to read it and have already started talking to one of them about it. It is nice for a couple of reasons. The first is that it explains complicated ideas in highly accessible ways. As he says at the start, you probably shouldn’t trust anyone who can’t explain even difficult concepts in a way that a reasonably educated person can understand. This is doubly true of economics, particularly since our world is run according to the dictates of economists – you know, if you are going to ruin my life with your austerity policies, then you should have the decency to explain to me why I should do without health care and an education system for my kids. And more than the vague platitudes Dire Straits parodied (We’re gonna have to pay what’s owed, we’re gonna have to reap from some seed that’s been sowed). The book uses science fiction and Greek myths to provide metaphors to help explain economic concepts. It also references some of my favourite books – like Guns, Germs and Steel – to provide a kind of ‘why us and not them’ background to economic development. He also references some ideas from behavioural economics, not least the idea that moving from transactions of social solidarity to those of financial exchange often undermine what is best and most human about our interactions. The example he gives is of people giving blood – something dear to my heart as I’ve been doing this for years. In Australia you don’t get paid for the blood you donate. I do it because I think it is a nice way to give back to society without getting to choose who you are going to help. Too much charity is about us giving to ‘people like us’ or people so distant as to be abstract concepts, more than fellow humans – I like the idea that I’ve no idea who my blood will end up in – that it could potentially be someone like my current prime minister, who I would struggle to pour water on if he was on fire. In other countries they pay people to give blood. You might think that the countries where they pay you would end up with more blood. That they would have the people like me still doing it, but also other people (poor people perhaps) who need the money. So, A plus B ought to be more than just A alone. This isn’t how it works out. As he says, making it a financial transaction puts people off donating – because the idea of ‘selling’ your blood seems distasteful. In this case we have moved from altruism to a financial transaction – and the value of the transaction isn’t enough and perhaps never could be enough to make it seem worthwhile – whereas when it was being done for free it became something quite different. The same thing happened years ago when a city council I used to work at contracted out a service that they once provided as a community service – meals on wheels for the elderly. The organization that won the contract thought that they would be able to continue to use the volunteers that had ‘always’ helped out. But even though the contract winner would still be delivering meals to the very same old people, the volunteers were not at all happy to be asked to donate their labour so that an organization would be able to profit from it. And the organization was planning to profit from the contract. The commodification of transactions isn’t really compatible with social solidarity. The discussion in the book of the transition from Feudalism to Capitalism is also instructive and interesting. He links this to the enclosing of land and therefore the removal of peasants, who had to then go to towns searching for work. As such, they had to sell their labour for the first time – making their labour a commodity – something that is a precondition of capitalist production. The author is particularly good at explaining the difference between work that is done to sustain social interactions and work that is done in exchange for wages, and how the previous, in patriarchal societies, wasn’t always ‘fair’ either. He explains the problems associated with replacing human labour with machines and how this undermines economic development since it allows those who own the machines to horde so much of society’s wealth. I think his explanation of how and why markets are likely to fail is useful since it is so clear and so clearly, and pointedly, directed at arguments against the ‘tragedy of the commons’. This is a fast read, and one that never gets beyond the common reader who is paying attention. It explains difficult concepts like how banks can create money out of thin air, how they have incentives to do this little magic trick a little too often, and how that ultimately means governments will need to step in as the whole thing comes crashing down. It explains how inflation and interest rates work and are interrelated. Like I said, there are a lot of otherwise complex ideas explained here in ways that are both easy to follow and, in fact, really engaging. And that is as it should be.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Prerna

    This is a farce of a review. This is the review equivalent of "felt cute, might delete later." My brain seems to be crashing. You have been warned. Yanis Varoufakis who was the minister of finance of Greece in 2015, witnessed firsthand the workings and implementation of the worst austerity measures in recent times and so is certainly well equipped to write an econ-101 book. We'd have to be fools to not heed his warnings. This is a very powerful book and here are some powerful things I learnt from This is a farce of a review. This is the review equivalent of "felt cute, might delete later." My brain seems to be crashing. You have been warned. Yanis Varoufakis who was the minister of finance of Greece in 2015, witnessed firsthand the workings and implementation of the worst austerity measures in recent times and so is certainly well equipped to write an econ-101 book. We'd have to be fools to not heed his warnings. This is a very powerful book and here are some powerful things I learnt from it: 1] Question : Where does money come from? Answer: Vacuum. Recent detailed studies and observations have revealed that in line with its ever-evasive nature, money also originates from nothing. Obviously you can't create something out of nothing unless you possess God-like properties. So poof! All the money in the world disappears this very instant in order to eradicate the logical fallacy created by its existence. Nah, this is just wishful thinking. Turns out, there are individuals with God-like powers who conjure up money from nothing: Creature: Banker. Dominion: Financial sector. Powers: Spontaneous generation of highly valued paper, crashing the global economy and triggering slow annihilation of the planet. How do they possess such immense powers? We gave it to them! How is this system that is surely unstable sustained? Why, of course! In the same way any religious dogma is sustained - through propoganda induced faith and some good old state sponsored violence. (Unrelated: In a recent interview, Varoufakis estimated that in 2009, 12 trillion dollars were spontaneously created and funnelled into the US economy alone. Between 2008-2020, the largest amount of money in the history of capital has been circulating in the financial system while there has been the lowest level of investment in jobs, green transaction and technology compared with the liquidity available. Is your national healthcare system crashing right now in light of the covid-19 crisis? Oh, worry not! It is not due to lack of funds, it is simply because the government has no vested interest in keeping you alive! It's nothing personal - it's just that as an individual you don't generate the massive amounts of profit that they REQUIRE.) 2] Public debt: the weapon of bankers. (Along with the blood of the young but while that's just consumed on full moons, public debt is a 24X7 thing.):- Consider the popular folklore thay the state provides services and goods in exchange for the taxes we pay. Note, however, this simple contradiction - the rich aren't taxed enough and the average worker's wages are too low to pay a compensatory tax that can collectively keep the state running. So where has the additional money come from? The answer is: public debt. And who has provided the government with the requisite loans? The bankers, of course! And where have the bankers found the money? I hardly need tell you that they have conjured it from thin air, just as they did with Miriam’s loan. You can start to see how paying low taxes works doubly in the bankers’ favour. 3] Eat the rich (obviously not literally) before they eat up the planet. :- Remember the tragedy of the commons? That popular 'theory' that was less popularly although thoroughly dismantled by Elinor Ostrom? Yeah, turns out that the rich have a propensity towards the destruction of the planet simply because it favors profit returns and have been churning-out/funding propoganda driven 'theories' for decades now. The reason the rich and powerful, along with their intellectual and ideological supporters, recommend the complete privatization of our environment is not that they are opposed to government; they’re just opposed to government interventions that undermine their property rights and threaten to democratize processes that they now control. And if, in the process, they get to own Planet Earth, that’s OK by them too! 4] Democratize vs commodify:- So this is the epic battle of our generation. Your era will be typified by the momentous clash between two opposing proposals: ‘Democratize everything!’ versus ‘Commodify everything!’ The proposal favoured by powerful and influential people and institutions is ‘Commodify everything!’ They want to convince you that the solution to our world’s problems is to accelerate and to deepen the commodification of human labour, land, machines and the environment. ‘Democratize everything!’ is the recommendation that I have been building towards throughout this book. Take your pick. The clash of these two agendas will determine your future well after I am gone. If you wish to have any say in that future, then you and your contemporaries will have to form an opinion on this matter and articulate good arguments with which to win others to your point of view. I don't share Varoufakis' optimism. I'm afraid it might already be too late to make a choice. Enough of this. Please read the book. Note: Nowhere in the book does Varoufakis say anything about bankers consuming the blood of the young. That's just my personal conspiracy theory.

  4. 5 out of 5

    May 舞

    Buddy read with R Nair "The worst slavery is that of heavily indoctrinated happy morons who adore their chains and cannot wait to thank their masters for the joy of their subservience." I've been meaning to read a book explaining how Capitalism works for a very long time, and I'm glad to say that this concise yet inclusive work of non-fiction delivers splendidly. Written in very simple language, this book explains: The necessity of surplus for states to exist. The emergence of profit as an end of i Buddy read with R Nair "The worst slavery is that of heavily indoctrinated happy morons who adore their chains and cannot wait to thank their masters for the joy of their subservience." I've been meaning to read a book explaining how Capitalism works for a very long time, and I'm glad to say that this concise yet inclusive work of non-fiction delivers splendidly. Written in very simple language, this book explains: The necessity of surplus for states to exist. The emergence of profit as an end of itself. The commodification of everything and the triumph of exchange value over experential value. How the rich have accummulated (and keep accummulating) wealth, and why there is so much inequality. How banks work and profit (including debts, interest rates, inflation and deflation). Why financial crashes happen, and how public debt is not always a bad thing. The faulty arguments of Unemployment Deniers (those who maintain that being unemployed is a personal failure stemming from the refusal to accept low wages, not a failure of our economic system). The effect of our expectations on the course of the economy. How machines and automation fit into our world. The impossibility of de-politicizing money. Why the destruction of the environment is a direct result of exchange value ruling supreme, and the call of the rich and powerful to privatize the entire planet (already happening). "The reason the rich and powerful, along with their intellectual and ideological supporters, recommend the complete privatization of our environment is not that they are opposed to government; they’re just opposed to government interventions that undermine their property rights and threaten to democratize processes that they now control. And if, in the process, they get to own Planet Earth, that’s OK by them too!" The author has also used great works like Frankenstein by Mary Shelley, Faustus (not Faust) by Marlowe, Thoreau's allergory of the stag hunters, and The Matrix movie to illustrate how our fears and attitudes towards the turn our lives and the economy have taken bleed into and influence art. These stories were especially illuminating and shall remain unforgettable. Even though reading Varoufakis's book has filled me with unmitigated despair at the world's current state of affairs, the mere act of educating ourselves offers a glimmer of hope for the future. By not blindly trusting the economists (who are not real scientists, by the way), we take matters into our own hands, and we are indeed capable of changing the course of history if we unite and remember what really matters, and that is not money in itself. We have a very powerful enemy: the rich minority who has accummulated inconceivable private wealth built and then maintained on the back of state-sponsored violence (not as a result of their honest efforts, as they would like us to believe). "State-sponsored violence isn’t the only thing governments have provided for the powerful since then. Whenever the state has used its revenues to pay for roads, tunnels and bridges over which goods can be transported, to maintain the hospitals and schools that deliver workers’ health and education, to support the downtrodden and unemployed, to police the towns and cities or to organize in any way the peaceful and stable functioning of society – whenever it has done any of these things (and many more besides), the state has provided the conditions in which individuals, especially the most powerful ones, have been able to pursue their path to wealth. Seen from this angle, the state has always provided the rich with a magnificent insurance policy. And the rich have returned the favour by doing all they can to avoid paying their premiums." However, by participating in political life, and by extension, in the economy, we have the chance to choose to "demoratize everything" instead of "commodify everything, including the forests, the rivers, the atmosphere...". Turning a blind eye will not make the problem vanish into thin air (we don't have superpowers like the greedy bankers). Amidst overwhelming propaganda, misinformation, and sheer stupidity, taking action is not a luxury; it's a must. Unless we want to confirm Agent Smith's description of us as stupid viruses: ‘You see, every mammal on this planet instinctively develops a natural equilibrium with their surrounding environment, but you humans do not…There is another organism on this planet that follows the same pattern. Do you know what it is? A virus. Human beings are a disease, a cancer of this planet. Honestly, you will learn so many things that may seem awfully obvious in hindsight, yet most of us fail to make the connections. This should be compulsory reading for every person directly touched by the economy, namely, everyone. An eye-opening, concise, and powerful read!

  5. 4 out of 5

    W.D. Clarke

    In this book, Varoufakis shows us how the growth of human civilization gave birth to the first systems of politically-legitimized inequality (and how ancient and feudal inequality, characterized by "societies with markets", gave way to a much different kind of world, that of the "market society", of capitalism, in which everyone is driven to, compelled to, sell their labour, and in which the only real value is "exchange value"). Varoufakis also takes us on a tour of several key moments that truly In this book, Varoufakis shows us how the growth of human civilization gave birth to the first systems of politically-legitimized inequality (and how ancient and feudal inequality, characterized by "societies with markets", gave way to a much different kind of world, that of the "market society", of capitalism, in which everyone is driven to, compelled to, sell their labour, and in which the only real value is "exchange value"). Varoufakis also takes us on a tour of several key moments that truly define the capitalist world as we now know it: the imposition of debt via the contract (with Marlowe's Dr. Faustus); the expansion of capitalism via debt-financed industrialisation (with Mary Shelley's Frankenstein); the "black magic" of how private bankers create money out of nothing (with John Steinbeck's The Grapes of Wrath); the irrational mysteries of money and labour markets (with Jean-Jacques Rousseau's fable of "The Stag and the Hares" and the myth of King Oedipus); and the triple threat of our current economy, automation, virtual currencies and environmental degradation (with Star Trek and The Matrix). In the end, this is a highly entertaining and informative little book, for the neophyte and initiate alike. I wish my own father had given something like this to me when I was a teen. Varoufakis closes with a juxtaposition of two ancient Greek concepts, idiotis vs Eudaimonia: idiots are those who place themselves outside of civilization by refusing to think of the common good: an idiot is literally a privateer, someone who minds only his own business, and ignores that of others. True happiness comes from understanding our true, interconnected nature, and involves an environment and an economy in which each of us can literally "flourish", grow from tiny acorns into mighty the oak trees of our fullest potential. Varoufakis challenges his daughter to see past the conventional wisdom of those idiots whose technocratic mumbo-jumbo would prevent us from reaching toward a more democratic world, one in which eudaimonia is a possibility for everyone. I have a hunch which side his daughter Xenia (whose name's "etymology comes from the Greek word xenos , meaning ‘stranger’ or ‘foreigner’ and translates as ‘kindness to strangers’" (146) will pick. He seems like a pretty good dad. I have a longer version of this review on my blog if you are interested in reading more about this excellent book. I have also made a "Digested read" (re-presenting, and doing some mulling over its key arguments) of it here

  6. 5 out of 5

    D. St. Germain

    Yanis Varoufakis, the cheeky former Greek minister of finance and a saavy economics professor, delivers an explanatory book on modern capitalism for the non-academic, using a variety of examples from European history, Greek mythology, and pop culture to make his points. Varoufakis believes that understanding economics is key to a truly well-functioning democracy. Yet, the jargon-filled academic field of economics obscures important ideas in strange language and uses inane examples that make it Yanis Varoufakis, the cheeky former Greek minister of finance and a saavy economics professor, delivers an explanatory book on modern capitalism for the non-academic, using a variety of examples from European history, Greek mythology, and pop culture to make his points. Varoufakis believes that understanding economics is key to a truly well-functioning democracy. Yet, the jargon-filled academic field of economics obscures important ideas in strange language and uses inane examples that make it difficult for non-economists to understand. This (willful?) opacity then makes it easier for the people who do speak the lingo to pull a fast one on the rest of us. His goal with this book is to demystify a number of the more important economic topics of the time. What's particularly interesting about Talking to My Daughter is the longer historical range/lens that Varoufakis uses to explain economic phenomenon, and its grounding in European / Greek perspective. Whether he's using the myth of Oedipus Rex to illuminate how the power of prophecy can markets to self-sabotage, or the story of Faustus selling his soul to Mephistopheles to explain the rise in contract-based debt, it is entertaining. Rarely will you find a discussion of economic phenomenon using a blend of stories from feudal Europe and Greek mythology from an American scholar; in fact, rarely do American universities teach the historical basis of economics at all, except for Smith's invisible hand. Overall, Talking to My Daughter About the Economy is a provocative alternative look at of many of the current weaknesses and threats posed by the global economic system that helps put it in global historical context. Read my longer review of the book here.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Carlos Martinez

    4.5 stars, rounded up to 5 simply because of how much I enjoyed it. This is a brilliant ABC of economics, in particular the Marxist critique of capitalism. I didn't learn all that much (mainly I got some ideas for how to Talk To My Son About the Economy), but Varoufakis is such a great storyteller, and he brings economic concepts to life in a very powerful way. An excellent primer, and goes well with the less Marxist but very useful Economics: The User's Guide. Varoufakis does a really great job 4.5 stars, rounded up to 5 simply because of how much I enjoyed it. This is a brilliant ABC of economics, in particular the Marxist critique of capitalism. I didn't learn all that much (mainly I got some ideas for how to Talk To My Son About the Economy), but Varoufakis is such a great storyteller, and he brings economic concepts to life in a very powerful way. An excellent primer, and goes well with the less Marxist but very useful Economics: The User's Guide. Varoufakis does a really great job reclaiming the concept of democracy for socialism, pointing out that the enormous disparities in wealth in market societies produce corresponding disparities in access to decision making. I knew it was coming and therefore wasn't terribly disappointed by it, but the weakness of the book is its conclusion. We're shown all the gnarly contradictions of capitalism, only to be led to a sort of radical Keynesianism brought about via parliamentary elections. This gives Varoufakis a get-out clause when it comes to making a serious analysis of actually (or formerly) existing socialism in the USSR, China, Vietnam, Cuba, Korea and Eastern Europe; and it tends to ignore the experiences of those dozens of countries, primarily in the Global South, that have sought precisely such a path as Varoufakis outlines, only to have their dreams shattered at the hands of the CIA. Chile, Indonesia, Congo, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, Philippines and Brazil all come to mind (Killing Hope: U.S. Military and C.I.A. Interventions Since World War II and The Jakarta Method: Washington's Anticommunist Crusade and the Mass Murder Program that Shaped Our World are good places to start on this topic). As such, I think 'Talking to My Daughter About the Economy' suffers from a certain eurocentrism. Nonetheless, a very useful book and I plan to read more by the author.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Malcolm

    Yanis Varoufakis, economics professor and former finance minister of Greece, subscribes to a simple view that I share: if you can’t teach your subject to kids, you’re not such a good teacher….. (OK, string theorists might get a let off on that one, but only maybe). Now, for those of us who teach history, sociology, cultural studies and the like it might seem that we’re getting off easily in comparison to Varoufakis, who teaches economics. Towards the end of the engaging and highly accessible his Yanis Varoufakis, economics professor and former finance minister of Greece, subscribes to a simple view that I share: if you can’t teach your subject to kids, you’re not such a good teacher….. (OK, string theorists might get a let off on that one, but only maybe). Now, for those of us who teach history, sociology, cultural studies and the like it might seem that we’re getting off easily in comparison to Varoufakis, who teaches economics. Towards the end of the engaging and highly accessible history of capitalism he turns his focus on those who see economics as a science, whose complex economic models obscure and obfuscate the everyday experience of those of who live with their edicts, and the window-dressing of politicians who implement their plans and advice – and he is in no way forgiving of those who make his/their area of expertise one of untrammelled confusion. Varoufakis teaches by story-telling and cutting through the density of much that passes for economic theory to find everyday events, situation and scenarios that can help explain the points he making about money, markets, power, work & labour and global (or, rather glocal) ecosystems. In keeping with Syriza, the party for whom he became finance minister, his history is largely a Marxist one constrained by the historiographical insights of Karl Polyani while his economics is, for the most part, Keynsian, but what we might see as small-state Keynsian in that he sees a world that is predominantly democratic where decision-making rests on cooperative community approaches with a democratic state (although he doesn’t suggest the relationship between these two levels, and that’s not the point of the book). In that sense, he is working in a framework provided by fairly orthodox heterodox economics (if that’s not an oxymoron). As orthodoxically heterodox, Varoufakis is in good company and although there is quite a lot about that outlines economic approaches that reject the dominant neo-liberal leave-it-to-the-market style, there is little I have seen that is this accessible and this engaging; he seems to have read his intended audience well. Of course, that means there are many who will find fault – for not being sufficiently Marxist or Keynsian or whatever the preferred style is, for being over-reliant on game theory or underplaying the environmental aspects of capitalism’s development and order or countless other problems. Then there are those who will find fault with his ‘oversimplification’ of economics or his politicisation of the ‘market’. One of the many things I have learned as a teacher, alongside the need for humility, is that there are many ways to tell the same story or make the same point and our readers/students/pupils need to hear several different forms to get it: we hear and read differently, and diversity in writers’/teachers’ voices is essential. To my mind, Varoufakis has achieved something more of us should aim for; demystifying a set of social relations more often than not presented in complex ways that limit our ability to be involved in debates about and the politics of those relations. When that limitation is imposed on something as essential as ‘the economy’ it is profoundly undemocratic and dangerous. If this invigorating economics ‘text’ demystifies those relations and enhances our economic literacy, which I am convinced it must, Varoufakis has done us all a favour. If you’re concerned that there is an economic discussion going on around you and want to get to understand the underpinning system – set aside the frankly magical and mystifying language of economic management and go for politics and systems analysis. This is good place to start – but beware it will encourage you to find more demanding texts, and so it should! I would have liked a suggestion for further reading – but Naomi Klein’s No is Not Enough is a good start.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Ali Khosravi

    Probably one of the best books ever written about the economy and the history of Capitalism (and to think that he finished writing it in only 9 days), the difference being that Varoufakis is not afraid to demystify and simplify his vocation whereas his colleagues have a egotistical tendency to make economic concepts sound more complicated than they actually are to attract more research funding. This is an absolute must read for every young person today, to understand what kind of a world we will Probably one of the best books ever written about the economy and the history of Capitalism (and to think that he finished writing it in only 9 days), the difference being that Varoufakis is not afraid to demystify and simplify his vocation whereas his colleagues have a egotistical tendency to make economic concepts sound more complicated than they actually are to attract more research funding. This is an absolute must read for every young person today, to understand what kind of a world we will inherit and what to do with our inheritance.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Wick Welker

    We have two options: democratize or commoditize. I highly enjoyed this one-sided conversation that Varoufakis has with his daughter. He lets go of the heady economic theory and just talks brass tacks: the ins, outs and flaws of market economies. He lays out some interesting and hilarious ground rules: economists don't know why they're talking about and should stop thinking of themselves as scientist on a foundation of established theory. What we have here is a definition of the market economy and We have two options: democratize or commoditize. I highly enjoyed this one-sided conversation that Varoufakis has with his daughter. He lets go of the heady economic theory and just talks brass tacks: the ins, outs and flaws of market economies. He lays out some interesting and hilarious ground rules: economists don't know why they're talking about and should stop thinking of themselves as scientist on a foundation of established theory. What we have here is a definition of the market economy and the inequality that is a natural consequence. Societies used to just have simple markets: the buying and exchange of goods in a market within a society. This was transformed with the advent of surplus. Surplus is the direct driver that transformed our civilization into a market culture where everything, including human labor, is commoditized. Surplus is what causes the concentration of wealth. Surplus is the driver of the modern economy because with surplus, comes currency, credit and debt. Credit is not new. Credit is ancient. With credit and the debt it creates, bankers are able to employ their "black magic", meaning they sell money for interest rates, creating artificial market bubbles that inevitably collapse, driving bank runs and mass financial failure for those most vulnerable in the system. This isn't a flaw, it's a feature. Enter the State, the bureaucracy, the boogieman. The lie is that the corporatist or people who actually believe free markets exist, is that the State destroys wealth and hinders innovation. But the truth is that the corporatists would not exist without the protection the State offers via state-enforced violence and also the creation of public debt. Let's make something very clear: public debt benefits the elite. Public debt benefits the market economy. In no way does the US debt in particular have any harmful effects on the economy. There is no crowding out when the State is the issuer of its own currency. Not a single private system will ever have to pay back this debt. If you believe otherwise, you have been manipulated by a politician. Public debt is a private surplus. Public debt is the guardian of the false free markets. The State steps in and puts a bandaid over the bankers black magic, propping up recycling of the market economy to being another ride around the roller coaster. This is Keynesian and MMT. It is how the world economy currently operates. Destroying the human labor force along with the environment, and to do it faster than your competitor via AI, is the cornerstone of the current market economy. Through monopolization, tax dodging, predatory merging, weakening of unions, automation and prohibitory employee contracts, the labor force has been weakened into a serfdom. Varoufakis makes no distinction between corporate oligarchs and political bureaucrats--they are now the same. The world and the US economy is run by a corporate plutocracy. A minority of white, rich men control the world. This is an unassailable fact. Solutions? Varoufakis offers two choices: commoditize everything or democratize everything. Commoditization will not stop. Varoufakis claims that we are far too entrenched do scale back our global market economy and the disasters that follow. It's almost like he's saying to go further. What I mean is, he's saying that you commoditize everything and democratize the ownership. The atmosphere is not owned by anyone. Hence, there is zero financial motivation to protect the atmosphere for carbon emission. However, if someone owned the atmosphere, say the public, then there could be a price for destroying the atmosphere which would incentive better environmental practices while benefiting the public. This is a smart, brief and fascinating read by an incredibly smart person. I highly recommend.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Nishanth

    Yanis Varoufakis just moved up a notch in my personal list of favorite authors. What an outstanding book this is. To reinforce my rating ,I would like to first mention another book Principles of Economics ,regarded as one of the more popular Economics textbooks for beginners, (I now have second thoughts as to whether there even exists such a thing as a 'Textbook' in economics) that I happened to read before I stumbled upon this gem and the contrast could not be much sharper. Gregory Mankiw in hi Yanis Varoufakis just moved up a notch in my personal list of favorite authors. What an outstanding book this is. To reinforce my rating ,I would like to first mention another book Principles of Economics ,regarded as one of the more popular Economics textbooks for beginners, (I now have second thoughts as to whether there even exists such a thing as a 'Textbook' in economics) that I happened to read before I stumbled upon this gem and the contrast could not be much sharper. Gregory Mankiw in his 800 page 'textbook' uses complex mathematical and statistical models, graphs, theories and so on (The Neoclassical approach I'm told) to explain how the Economy works. Yanis doesn't need all that and takes just under 200 pages to put his point across and does he do it well : In fact the words 'Supply' and 'Demand' just appear once and that too at the fag end of this book- no mean feat for someone who sets out to explain economics for introductory readers- In this book he is trying to explain how the economy works to his daughter and the way he goes about achieving this is truly heartwarming. With all due respect to Gregory Mankiw, I couldn't help but reflect on his 'textbook' after finishing this and my mind keeps going back to this passage where Yanis writes "The more I understood the economists theories and mathematics the more I realized that the so called experts in our great universities, on our TV screens etc., did not have a clue". He then writes more scathingly and rubs salt into a mainstream economist's wounds by saying "The second raters among economic commentators" -(Now, there are quite a few of them in India with regular columns in leading newspapers ramming the neoliberal ideology into peoples minds), "not only did not understand the models of the great economists, whom they worshipped, but remarkably did not seem to care that they did not understand them".! . It is not an overstatement if I say that this book opened up a whole new world for me to explore. The author also cautions us on the type of world we have been moving towards for quite sometime now where all 'experiential value'- is to be converted into 'exchange value', monetized and commodified. Amazon's attempt to pay our neighbors and turn them into deliverymen in order to cut their logistics costs (https://www.theguardian.com/technolog...) is a case in point that comes to mind where the experiential value of helping out our neighbors for the sheer joy of it is being turned into exchange value. This book has had me thinking long and hard and probably is the best that I have read this year. The epilogue at the end is the icing on the cake. I'm hoping to try and get my sister to read this, who isn't much of a reader I have to say. Essential reading for anyone interested in knowing how the actual economy works.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Bridget McGovern

    There’s nothing quite as intoxicating as a good book. I started this book this morning and finished it by the afternoon. As someone who only has a more-or-less elementary understanding of economics, this was an excellent, accessible, and digestible primer to economic theory. He does away with pretentious academic writing and draws on anecdotal stories, Greek mythology, and books/movies from popular culture to explain capitalism. He’s definitely made me excited (and more confident) to dive deeper There’s nothing quite as intoxicating as a good book. I started this book this morning and finished it by the afternoon. As someone who only has a more-or-less elementary understanding of economics, this was an excellent, accessible, and digestible primer to economic theory. He does away with pretentious academic writing and draws on anecdotal stories, Greek mythology, and books/movies from popular culture to explain capitalism. He’s definitely made me excited (and more confident) to dive deeper into economic theory.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Doruntina Berisha

    I'm surprised that people rated the book with 2 stars! But then again people who like and profit from Capitalism obviously won't like this book. The book is brilliantly written. I'm surprised that people rated the book with 2 stars! But then again people who like and profit from Capitalism obviously won't like this book. The book is brilliantly written.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Rossdavidh

    Before he launched Progressive International with Bernie Sanders in 2018, before he wrote books on the world's response to the 2008 financial crisis, before he was Greece's Finance Minister in 2015 during high-stakes negotiations between Greece and the EU on how to cope with Greece's economic and budgetary collapse, Yanis Varoufakis wrote a book (in Greek) explaining economics to adolescents (such as his daughter). It was subsequently translated into many other languages, but not into English un Before he launched Progressive International with Bernie Sanders in 2018, before he wrote books on the world's response to the 2008 financial crisis, before he was Greece's Finance Minister in 2015 during high-stakes negotiations between Greece and the EU on how to cope with Greece's economic and budgetary collapse, Yanis Varoufakis wrote a book (in Greek) explaining economics to adolescents (such as his daughter). It was subsequently translated into many other languages, but not into English until 2017. His daughter was, I think, around 11 years old at the time he wrote this book, although I cannot find that detail just now so I might be slightly off. In any case, he was clearly writing at someone who was old enough to talk to about complex issues like how finance works, but not so old as to already have done a lot of reading on that. The book is, of course, a good book for adults to read as well, largely because most of us have not done that much reading about how finance works either. More importantly, much of what we have read about how finance works, is not true. In some cases it was never true, but more importantly, finance today does not work the same as it did 100-200 years ago. Most of the money in our economy, today, has no physical existence, not even as paper. Most of the government debt, is not for the purpose of the government being able to spend more (it is for financial institutions such as banks to be able to buy a reliable bond that is highly liquid, and absolutely safe). Not everything in Varoufakis' analysis is correct, in my opinion. He seems entirely too confident in the ability of democracy to rein in government excesses on behalf of the wealthy and well-connected, and therefore not particularly worried about government accumulating more and more power. It also seems clear to me that, the larger the polity, the more remote its leaders are from any given citizen (and the closer they are to the very wealthy). Thus, the government of Greece is much closer to caring about the welfare of ordinary Greeks, than the EU, which begs the question of whether it is a good idea for Greece to have committed their economic welfare into the hands of a bunch of non-Greeks in Brussels. But, while his view of the world and how it could/should work may not be any better than the neo-liberal ideology which reigned from the end of the Cold War until 2008, it is at least a different view, and he is at his best when he is puncturing that neo-liberal ideology by pointing out the many ways in which the reality does not match the theory. I have a 13-year old daughter; it had occurred to me when I began reading this book that I might wish to give it to her when I was done. If she had the slightest bit of interest in economics, I probably would. In the meantime, I think reading it myself has stimulated a lot of fresh thinking about how our economy works, and how it ought to work instead. Any book that does that is worth reading.

  15. 4 out of 5

    ·Karen·

    The first time I've ever understood Bitcoin. The first time I've ever understood Bitcoin.

  16. 4 out of 5

    muthuvel

    Right from the boomers upto today's newer generations of various terminologies, Economy is something that's always been a bit obscure to clarify things out. People often say it's too big to fail. In 2008, US recovered the market economy from the crises period through people's tax money of 14 trillion dollars so as to make things stable. Most of everyday influencers say that we have to leave Economics to the experts. Yanis being a Economist himself simply disagrees. "There are no economic experts. Right from the boomers upto today's newer generations of various terminologies, Economy is something that's always been a bit obscure to clarify things out. People often say it's too big to fail. In 2008, US recovered the market economy from the crises period through people's tax money of 14 trillion dollars so as to make things stable. Most of everyday influencers say that we have to leave Economics to the experts. Yanis being a Economist himself simply disagrees. "There are no economic experts. The economy is the way in which social power is organized - it's a question about democracy. So if we are to accept that there is a group of experts and we have to defer to them, then, effectively, we accept oligarchy." Yanis Varoufakis, besides being an familiar economist, is a member of Hellenic Parliament and has served briefly as finance minister of Greece in 2015 before he resigned his position due to conflicts of reconciling Greek economy and European Union's. He writes a journal to his early teen daughter who lives in Australia on her innocent question on why there's so much inequality in the world that we live in. I certainly believe that the habit of making things simple is not a matter of perception with mildly granted attitude. It's a matter of understanding and equally the ability to explicate for better perceptions. As per that, it is a rare gem of a book. Everyone especially bankers who either don't know what they're doing in the market society or perhaps, pretending not to know what they're doing, for contemporary survival, should read this work for the sake of respecting human intellect. The book covers from the concept of surplus originating from Agricultural revolution, relations between Money and Surplus, changes in the perception of usury in the modern times, gambling adventures of bankers in the market economy and role of government in being the savours for some obvious and some obvilious reasons come into picture. I loved the way author concluded the book by quoting T.S. Eliot, "We shall not cease from exploration And the end of all our exploring Will be to arrive where we started And know the place for the first time." I've been seriously thinking of translating the work in the native language. Of course, I dont mean to boast myself since I have no skills or experience in having done such works before but it geniunely kindled up my spirits to try for it and glad to help someone do the same.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Rob

    One of those rare books that rewards you with perspectives you’ll hold for the rest of your life.

  18. 5 out of 5

    R Nair

    "If the economy is the engine of society and debt is its fuel, then labour is the spark, the life-breathing force that animates that engine, while money is the lubricant without which that engine would seize up" A buddy read with May Short, sweet and concise. This book explains all the essentials that a simpleton such as yours truly has been confounded by over the years and has been too embarrassed to ask anyone about. Turns out most people don't have a fair idea about statements like " Central ba "If the economy is the engine of society and debt is its fuel, then labour is the spark, the life-breathing force that animates that engine, while money is the lubricant without which that engine would seize up" A buddy read with May Short, sweet and concise. This book explains all the essentials that a simpleton such as yours truly has been confounded by over the years and has been too embarrassed to ask anyone about. Turns out most people don't have a fair idea about statements like " Central banks warned on risk from low inflation". Here is a test to know whether you need to read this book - If you can't explain to yourself on a fundamental level what exactly is being said in the first 6 paragraphs of the link in the previous sentence then think no further - read this book. Here is a general map of what you will learn from Mr. Varoufakis: - The meaning and importance of surplus and how it influenced human history - The subsequent creation of market societies from said surplus - The deliberate creation of debt in order to run society and how that's a good thing - How Lord Voldemort is a sweet little kitten compared to the magic wielded by modern day bankers - How people don't take out more loans when interest rates are dropped in order to encourage borrowing - The best explanation of deflation and inflation I have ever come across. These concepts are explained so well through the micro-economies of World War 2 POW camps that you are sure to actually get what these terms mean and imply. - The economics of virtual currencies like Bitcoin and what the actual economic risks these currencies as they are currently, may engender. - The author's proposed solution to most of the economic (and resulting climatic) problems plaguing our civilization. *struggling to control hands* must.not.spoil.the.answer.. Go read the book if you want to know what it is since you have already read this far. Good stuff!

  19. 4 out of 5

    Laura Mitchell Hutchinson

    Brilliant. I never thought I would be able to understand anything about the economy (even though I have a business degree... Econ101 was not my forte). This book was an absolute gem to find — an economist explaining the history of economies to his young teen daughter. The language is simple enough and there are lots of familiar pop-culture stories and metaphors woven throughout to explain theories and shifts. I learnt so much about the economy obviously but also race, history, money, technology, Brilliant. I never thought I would be able to understand anything about the economy (even though I have a business degree... Econ101 was not my forte). This book was an absolute gem to find — an economist explaining the history of economies to his young teen daughter. The language is simple enough and there are lots of familiar pop-culture stories and metaphors woven throughout to explain theories and shifts. I learnt so much about the economy obviously but also race, history, money, technology, literature, philosophy, cryptocurrencies, happiness, the environment, power, democracy... the list goes on. Many things shocked me, and I found myself babbling to relay the stories to my long-suffering husband and friends. It’s worth noting that this book also gave me a serious case of ‘stop the planet, I want to get off’. It’s heavy and really messed up how humanity got to this point. Confronting content. I am aiming to read 21 different genres in 2021. This one ticks the boxes #economics #nonfiction

  20. 4 out of 5

    Abhijeet Jain

    Amazing book! Covers a lot of ground related to economics, from ancient Egypt system to present trend of cryptocurrencies. I especially love the way Yanis presented his views. The book gives you an interesting perspective to look at markets. A society with markets vs market societies, government vs bankers, the author talked about these in quite a detail. Overall an interesting book. Would be re-reading it soon.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Dan Hamilton

    Yanis has done something noble here. He’s taken an endlessly complex topic and brought it down to a level understandable by anyone willing to listen. And he’s done so with wit, wisdom, and an unmistakable moral clarity.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Coral Davies

    "Leaving the economy to the experts is the equivalent of those who lived in the Middle Ages entrusting their welfare to the theologians, the cardinals and the Spanish inquisitors. It is a terrible idea." A necessary book for all. Not interested in economics? Find it dull and unnacessible? Honestly give this a go. Thought-provoking and relatable, Yanis once again gets us all thinking about the important questions in life with regards to the economy and politics. "Leaving the economy to the experts is the equivalent of those who lived in the Middle Ages entrusting their welfare to the theologians, the cardinals and the Spanish inquisitors. It is a terrible idea." A necessary book for all. Not interested in economics? Find it dull and unnacessible? Honestly give this a go. Thought-provoking and relatable, Yanis once again gets us all thinking about the important questions in life with regards to the economy and politics.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Roel Peters

    Without doubt, Yanis Varoufakis is a brilliant man. His book, "The Global Minotaur", was a much needed alternative vision on the state of the global economy. However, in his new book, using simple examples and some history lessons, Varoufakis tries to explain his vision in words that a teenager would understand. I agree on the starting point of the book, that many theories exist solely to legitimize the position of the ruling class and rationalize inequality. Yet, despite his obsessive reference Without doubt, Yanis Varoufakis is a brilliant man. His book, "The Global Minotaur", was a much needed alternative vision on the state of the global economy. However, in his new book, using simple examples and some history lessons, Varoufakis tries to explain his vision in words that a teenager would understand. I agree on the starting point of the book, that many theories exist solely to legitimize the position of the ruling class and rationalize inequality. Yet, despite his obsessive references to "The Matrix" and his claims that he offers his daughter "The Red Pill", his book is not the absolute truth: it is a translation of core concepts of marxian and keynesian economics and game theory into an inornate narrative. Adding a "Want to know more?" or references section could have made this book a good starting point for people interested in heterodox economics. But for now, I think there are better alternatives.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Premanand Velu

    "It would be remiss not to mention the spectre of Karl Marx" Yanis says thanking his influencers in the foreword of the book. That is an interesting way to refer to the legacy of Karl Marx as a 'Specter' coming from a close compatriot of Bernie Sanders and an evolved Marxist himself. For some one who is getting into understanding the current economics with very little understanding of nuts and bolts of it, particularly a techie like me who never had to wade through the maze of its bewildering web "It would be remiss not to mention the spectre of Karl Marx" Yanis says thanking his influencers in the foreword of the book. That is an interesting way to refer to the legacy of Karl Marx as a 'Specter' coming from a close compatriot of Bernie Sanders and an evolved Marxist himself. For some one who is getting into understanding the current economics with very little understanding of nuts and bolts of it, particularly a techie like me who never had to wade through the maze of its bewildering web, this is book is a nice reckoner. I have read an historical writing on Money by Yuval Harari which was very engaging read, but had lost the way when it meandered into the future. This book seems be picking off from that altitude and dives deeper into the arcane world of markets and debts. Initially the narration style of going along the path of fables and tales from the past, - notably from the Greek Mythology - finding parallels to explain the layman reader about the complexities of the economics is an uphill task for discerning reader. However, not long after, once you get set on the narrative, it is captivating and hooks on to you very strongly so that the magic of Debt and Markets suddenly comes out of the haze very clearly. The journey from the history of the Feudal economy with the three elements of Raw material, Land and Labor transforming into the industrial world by commodification those is convincingly explained. The author carefully avoids the usual sermonic tone that the left takes. In fact capitalism is only referred fleetingly, instead choosing more suitable phrases that appeal to the cognitive, modern world. The way he explains the change of societies with market to a complete market society is captivating and dazzling. The way he explains the value of things, especially the difference between the commodity value and experiential value puts in perspective a lot of things like value of human labour, spread of income etc. In that sense he throws bare how the banking and debt have both fired and pulled the economy and enterprise, playing both savior and destroyer when not balanced by the society and its political setup. "In the triumph of exchange values over experiential values, as societies with markets evolved into market societies, something else happened: money was transformed from being a means into an end." Slowly as we ascend into the world of Markets, Debts and currency exchange, an intense sketch evolves. The seemingly muddled world of Write-offs, speculation, Private & Public Debts slowly gets clearer and clearer, explaining the fundamentals of the banks, politics & markets and how these are closely related impacting the larger society in a not so subtle and yet, deep way. All along what strikes is that, Yanis stays true to his stated intent of explaining the economy to a little girl ( in reality an euphemism for novice readers like me ) without getting lost in the maze of technicalities of it. This could be partly because of his belief that the tenements of economy need humane touch and his refusal to accept that it should be spoken in deep technical terms thereby cutting off the larger population. "The more scientific our models of the economy become, the less relation they bear to the real, existing economy out there. This is precisely the opposite of what obtains in physics, engineering and the rest of the real sciences, where increasing scientific sophistication throws more and more light on how nature actually works." However, in spite of this and because of this, he comes out spectacularly clear explaining the intricacies of the seemingly cryptic scenarios and concepts with a ease and simplicity, yet missing no subtlety. Finally as he walks us through the current and future trends, he strongly dismisses the stated objectives of taking the currency from the control of the political organization by newer means like that of the crypto currencies as a piped dream bound to fail and in the process pulling the economy down. His thoughts about how the new cognitive world with its increased digitalization and Mechanization with the help of newer technologies can move the human race to one more Icarus moment and ways to mitigate that is something that requires a serious thought. Personally, I feel he is going off the tangent here, but then, such thoughts have propelled social transformation when harnessed properly. In the end what comes out stronger from his voice is the assertion that economy and market needs more more transparency and accountability which can be achieved by making it more democratic and not otherwise. He asserts how Central banks and Monetary bodies need to be more involved with the people and not with entitled few. However, this books stops there without getting into nuts and bolts of those stated objective and due to that it still has a tone of theoretical pronouncement. In spite of all that, I would say, he has done a great job of simplifying the understanding of the larger economy without judgement and prejudice. I think this is one of the books I would recommend and gift my friends with.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Tanroop

    A great and very accessible intro to economics. Varoufakis writes well, in a way most will understand easily, and explains key aspects of the world we inhabit today: the birth of capitalism- putting lie to the quite frustrating belief that capitalism is "just human nature"- and market societies, the role of debt, currency, banks, and so much more. A key takeaway is the volatility and perverse incentives that are integral to capitalism. Hopefully this book gets people thinking about alternatives. A great and very accessible intro to economics. Varoufakis writes well, in a way most will understand easily, and explains key aspects of the world we inhabit today: the birth of capitalism- putting lie to the quite frustrating belief that capitalism is "just human nature"- and market societies, the role of debt, currency, banks, and so much more. A key takeaway is the volatility and perverse incentives that are integral to capitalism. Hopefully this book gets people thinking about alternatives. I, at least, am convinced we need to. (I definitely plan on reading Varoufakis' "An Alternative Present"). "This is what befalls us when we assume that the profit motive is a natural human trait: it becomes the guiding force for all we do, despite the fact that it is a relatively recent invention of market societies... In ancient Greece a person who refused to think in terms of the common good was called an idiotis- a privateer, a person who minded his own business... In the 18th century, British scholars with a passion for ancient Greek text gave the word idiotis its current English meaning - a fool. In both these senses our market societies have turned us into idiots."

  26. 5 out of 5

    Anurag Vaishnav

    As a child, when for the first time you see someone begging on the street, you wonder: why is there so much inequality in the world? The same thought comes to your mind when you get new shoes and you observe other children with holes in their shoes. You are innocent and this inequality irks you, but the only explanation you get is that some people are poor and that is just how it is.  What are the causes of this inequality, you ask? This question remains unanswered as you're a child, apparently n As a child, when for the first time you see someone begging on the street, you wonder: why is there so much inequality in the world? The same thought comes to your mind when you get new shoes and you observe other children with holes in their shoes. You are innocent and this inequality irks you, but the only explanation you get is that some people are poor and that is just how it is.  What are the causes of this inequality, you ask? This question remains unanswered as you're a child, apparently not mature enough to understand. Or perhaps because adults too don't really seem to know why either.  But this lack of understanding leads to a vicious logical contradiction that continues to shape our thinking as adults. On the one hand, you are appalled by the idea that some kids cry themselves to sleep because they are hungry; on the other, you are thoroughly convinced that your clothes and your house rightfully belong to you as you worked hard for it.  As Yanis Varoufakis puts it: "When our eyes fall on those who lack the bare necessities, we sympathise and express outrage that they do not have enough, but we do not for a moment allow ourselves to think that their deprivation may be the product of the same process that led to our affluence. This is the same psychological mechanism that convinces the haves and those in power that it is right, proper, and necessary for them to have more while others have much less." In this way, inequality becomes a self-perpetuating ideology.  In this book, Yanis Varoufakis explores the issue of inequality in market economies. Most economists would argue that these questions are far too complex for a layman to comprehend. They would use jargons that obfuscate rather than illuminate. Varoufakis breaks down the different aspects of political economy in a language simple enough for his 12-year old daughter to understand. But why bother explaining this to 12-year olds? Because economy is too important to be left to the economists and politics is too important to be left to the politicians.  In this short and simple read, Yanis Varoufakis has succinctly explained the nuances of political economy in the world today with references from pop culture, literature, and ancient wisdom making it an easy to understand and delightful read. 

  27. 5 out of 5

    James

    A very clear discussion of market economics presented as a series of missives to his daughter in Australia. Each chapter was short enough for a single commute into town, and draws on lots of comparisons with popular and more traditional (although mostly Greek) references to illustrate his points. Heartily recommended for anybody who, like me, wanted to have more of a grounding in a subject that I've previously had to rely on the BBC's Steph McGovern for all my knowledge. A point deducted as it f A very clear discussion of market economics presented as a series of missives to his daughter in Australia. Each chapter was short enough for a single commute into town, and draws on lots of comparisons with popular and more traditional (although mostly Greek) references to illustrate his points. Heartily recommended for anybody who, like me, wanted to have more of a grounding in a subject that I've previously had to rely on the BBC's Steph McGovern for all my knowledge. A point deducted as it feels a little like he loses some steam towards the end and doesn't quite flesh out his conclusions enough I thought.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Paul

    "When you were born, your name, Xenia, appealed to me greatly because its etymology comes from the Greek word xenos, meaning 'stranger' or 'foreigner' and translates as 'kindness to strangers'. The appeal of this name came in part from my belief that the best way to see your country, your society, is to see it through the eyes of an outsider, a refugee. [...] Doing so will grant you the opportunity to retain your freedom." In this book, Yanis Varoufakis who is widely regarded as one of the gr "When you were born, your name, Xenia, appealed to me greatly because its etymology comes from the Greek word xenos, meaning 'stranger' or 'foreigner' and translates as 'kindness to strangers'. The appeal of this name came in part from my belief that the best way to see your country, your society, is to see it through the eyes of an outsider, a refugee. [...] Doing so will grant you the opportunity to retain your freedom." In this book, Yanis Varoufakis who is widely regarded as one of the greatest living economists in the world, tries to explain the most important and most widely misinterpreted topics in Economics in the most simple of ways. And he has succeeded beautifully. Writing his words as if he was talking to his (at the time of writing) 14 years old daughter, Xenia, Varoufakis presents in each chapter a series of related economical concepts in a very smooth and graspable way. Any person, even the one completely new to economics, will be able to understand the ideas presented, appreciate them and finally see them in action in his/her life. As a person who has already studied and understood thoroughly these concepts in college, I cannot help but appreciate the simplicity in which Varoufakis was able to explain them in his book. And even though I am familiar with all the ideas, I enjoyed absorbing them in this simple way; which also gave me new ways to explain them to other people who are completely unfamiliar with them. Not only he presents ideas and examples, Varoufakis also poses some very important questions regarding the economic/political system in our world. Questions, I am compelled to admit, are often forgotten by the so-called "professionals" in this field but usually come to the mind of the person just starting to understand economics. The problem, as Varoufakis believes and I have come to believe also, is that "economists" are sometimes (most of the times?) failing to keep their feet on the ground... a mistake that has cost and will cost the world (especially the weakest of people) a lot. Aiming to explain, enlighten and build a critical mindset, this book is one to be remembered for a long time, I believe.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Jake

    A mathematician, a software developer and an economist walks into a bar. The bartender polishing a glass, “What is 1 + 1?” The mathematician instantly answers, “2”. The software developer waits until the mathematician is done, “1.999999….” The economist looks directly into the bartenders eyes, “What do you want it to be?” This joke was given by Varoufakis at Politics and Prose, a talk I watched before reading this book and I think it sums up his healthy cynicism of most economists. Neoliberalism and A mathematician, a software developer and an economist walks into a bar. The bartender polishing a glass, “What is 1 + 1?” The mathematician instantly answers, “2”. The software developer waits until the mathematician is done, “1.999999….” The economist looks directly into the bartenders eyes, “What do you want it to be?” This joke was given by Varoufakis at Politics and Prose, a talk I watched before reading this book and I think it sums up his healthy cynicism of most economists. Neoliberalism and capitalism, like all systems of domination envelope us in their narrative and superstitions in such a way that we can’t see past them. I think this book should be read by everyone because it does attempt to see past these assumptions. Nobody living in a society should be ignorant of the workings of the economy as the economy is something that we all interact with on a daily basis. Yanis gives a very light introduction to the history of capitalism in the beginning, talking about how the serfs swiftly became the merchant class in the wake of enclosed pastures and later draws parallels between the industrial revolutions equilibrium between capital and labour to today’s shifting equilibrium as automation enters this mix. The most provocative portion of the book is his labour equilibrium argument of automation. Essentially that most capitalists are hoping the other capitalists are stupid enough to employ people while they rake in profits. When producers overtake purchasers of goods and services in the economy ie most of the jobs are automated away, a collapse happens ushering in some new system. I find this hypothesis very plausible. Inevitable really, but I couldn’t say it in as eloquent a way as Yanis. The book was written to his teenage daughter, so the barrier of entry is quite low. Read this book.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Kurdo Chali

    I have always said that economics is not a science as any other experimental science like physics is. At last, it can be regarded as some methods and formulas of mathematics and statistics applied to the different economic situations. And unsurprisingly this fascinating book repeated my belief, but this time I heard it from a well-known economist. The brutality and inhumanity of the capitalistic world order can hardly be explained better than this. And recommend reading this book to any body who w I have always said that economics is not a science as any other experimental science like physics is. At last, it can be regarded as some methods and formulas of mathematics and statistics applied to the different economic situations. And unsurprisingly this fascinating book repeated my belief, but this time I heard it from a well-known economist. The brutality and inhumanity of the capitalistic world order can hardly be explained better than this. And recommend reading this book to any body who wants to understand the truth of the world today.

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