And the Weak Suffer What They Must? By Yanis Varoufakis
This took about as long to read as City on Fire did, and that was 900 pages! One of the reasons why, despite only being 253 pages, is the sheer amount of detail crammed into the volume. It’s about the European Union and the crises over the Euro, but that’s only the flimsy gauze covering a massive rant about what a bunch of total bastards the Bundesbank are for letting Greece go down the crapper. Mind you, as finance minister, Yanis was told to his face that they were sticking the Greeks down the toilet as an example to the rest of the EU, so no wonder he’s pissed off.
Despite the urinal flushing by the French and German monetary system, Yanis is actually in favour of both the EU and the Euro – just not the way it’s being run at the moment. Currently there’s a system of binding laws which forbids debt relief for countries in the Euro suffering from a financial bollocking, except if you’re a favoured nation, in which case the laws can be bent and stretched. Yanis has the idea that we should keep the Euro, but instigate a more sensible system of debt relief, so nations which are going through a weak patch can be propped up by the stronger nations, and trade tariffs can be used to – eventually – level out the financial playing field so all the countries within the EU can be on an equal footing as regards imports and exports. He also believes there should be a central bank which can bail out countries which hit the skids. There might be a European Central Bank, but it’s about as much use as a no-armed man in a wanking contest, as it’s not allowed to offer a safety net.
All of which is good and true, but one thing he screws up on is his faith in the American financial system. I don’t presume to know as much about economics as Our Man Yanis, but I do know the lack of regulation in the US market, which bled to the UK market, was one of the factors responsible for bringing down the world-wide economy, but Yanis would like to stick the US financial system down his pants and jiggle about a bit, such is his star struck faith in the system. One look at Too Big To Fail (Andrew Ross Sorkin) or Inside Job (Charles Ferguson) will give you a wider picture as to why everything went tits up, and it wasn’t just down to the Euro being a bit shit. Yes, the whole economic system could be better organised and the markets used to prop up and encourage trade, and we can do without the series of punitive punishments currently inflicted on states like Greece and Ireland, but there was a concerted effort – mainly in the US – to bundle up quick-fit loans and flog them off to financial institutions in packages which were guaranteed to make money on the interest, with the idea that eventually someone – anyone – might pay the bastards off. The problem was, the markets panicked, and everyone started calling in their loans, and it all went up the creek.
It’s a lot more complicated than that, obviously, but basically a lot of greedy arseholes decided the gov would bail them out if everything went toilet-wise, and they were right. This, coupled with a poorly performing Euro due to the Bundesbank inflicting stringent rules on what should have been a flexible system, plus a failed yen, plus a shit load of toxic loans, led to the biggest arse fucking the world has ever seen, outside of a global war.
Yanis, on the other hand, is content to flick the V’s at the Germans and the French (financial system, not the people), and is hell bent on proving them to be a bunch of bastards. ‘And the Weak Suffer’ is great as a history regarding the formation of the EU and the Euro, but his genuflection to the US financial system is misguided, in this writer’s opinion.
Saying that, he’s the only finance minister to wear a leather jacket properly and ride a bike like it’s propping up his mighty balls, and for that reason alone he’s as cool as fuck.