And the Weak Suffer What They Must, Yanis Varoufakis - a review
I didn’t expect this to be a horror story, but it is. At a time of Brexit and the rise of racism and xenophobia encouraged by its proponents, being pro-European is almost an obligatory stance. This book reveals how toxic the European Economic Union has been from day one, and how economic policy has been weaponised to crush “unworthy” members with punitive debt and economic disaster, likely to spread if left unmitigated.
The book is straightforward and easy to understand, especially for a text on Economics and International Post-War Economic History. Perfect for the layperson who wants to learn about a system that is facing a period of dismantling. It is, however, very repetitive, to the extent that I could have skipped about one third of the pages and still read all the book has to say.
I’m left thinking that a united Europe is a fine idea in theory, but something we have yet to achieve.
“… The human toll of this crisis in Europe is too high and has the capacity to reach parts of the planet that do not deserve to suffer as a result of yet another European debacle. When Gandhi was asked what he thought of Western civilization, he famously replied, ‘It would be a very good idea.’”
Quotes from the book -
“For the first time in American history, including the Great Depression, American blue-collar workers were to face an age of declining real wages. That decline, in a global economy buffeted by the ‘controlled disintegration’ Volcker unashamedly spoke of, was the price poorer Americans were to pay so the United States could maintain world dominance despite being a deficit nation. Soon the fate of America’s working class was to infect the circumstances of weaker citizens in Britain, France and, by the 1990s, even Germany. As for Africa and Latin America, the weak there suffered losses that only the great novelists can begin to recount.”
“The American vacuum cleaner, powered by Volcker’s high interest rates, could now be counted upon to suck the fresh Deutsche Marks in, preventing them from making their way immediately from France back into Germany.”
“The notion that money can be administered apolitically, by technical means alone, is dangerous folly of the grandest magnitude. The fantasy of apolitical money was what rendered the gold standard in the interwar period such a primitive system whose inevitable demise spawned fascist and Nazi thugs with effects that we all know and lament… Margaret Thatcher’s precious point was that controlling interest rates and the supply of money is a quintessentially political activity which, if removed from the purview of a democratically elected parliament, would occasion a steady descent into authoritarianism.”
“A clueless political elite, in denial of the nature and history of a crisis whose roots go back to at least 1971, is pursuing policies akin to carpet-bombing the economies of proud European nations in order to save them. Greece, Portugal, Ireland and Spain were beaten to a pulp in order to keep Italy and France in awe and the ECB in business.”