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Talking to My Daughter About the Economy, Yanis Varoufakis

"My reason for writing it was the conviction that the economy is too important to leave to the economists."


"Debt, money, faith, and state all go hand in hand. Without debt there is no easy way to manage agricultural surplus. As debt appeared, money flourished. But for money to have value, an institution, the state, had to make it trustworthy. When we talk about the economy, this is what we are talking about: the complex relations that emerge in a society with a surplus."

p. 16

"It's incredibly easy to convince ourselves that the order of things--especially when it favors us--is logical, natural, and just. But at the same time be hard on your own temptation to accept the inequalities that you, today, as a teenager, find outrageous. When you feel as if you're about to give in to the idea that outrageous inequality is somehow unavoidable, remember how it all begins: with babies born naked into a society that segregates those it will dress up in expensive outfits and the others, whom it condemns to hunger, exploitation, and misery. Maintain your outrage but sensibly, tactically, so that when the time comes you can invest in what needs to be done to make our world truly logical, natural, and just."

p. 24

"Oscar Wilde wrote that a cynical person is someone who knows the price of everything but the value of nothing. Our societies tend to make us all cynics. And no one is more cynical than the economist who sees exchange value as the only value, trivializing experiential value as unnecessary in a society where everything is judged according to the criteria of the market. But how exactly did exchange value manage this triumph over experiential value?"

p. 31

"As you grow up and experience more of the ups and downs of the economy, you will notice a piece of mind-bending hypocrisy: during the good times, bankers, entrepreneurs--rich people in general--tend to be against government. They criticize it as a "brake on development," a "parasite" feeding off the private sector through taxation, an "enemy of freedom and entrepreneurship." The cleverer among them even go as far as to deny that government has any moral right, or duty, to serve society, by claiming that "there is no such thing as society--there are just individuals and families," or "society is not well defined enough for the state to be able to serve it." And yet, when a crash occurs that is brought on by their actions, those who have delivered the fieriest of speeches vehemently opposing substantial government intervention in the economy suddenly demand the state's aid. "Where is the government when we need it?" they yelp."

p. 82

"What is truly interesting about the story is that it reminds us why money is, and must always be, political. That money is political is not something Bitcoin's supporters dispute. Their love for Bitcoin and other so-called cryptocurrencies stems from what they see as their anarchic, anti-establishment, counter-authoritarian nature. This is as political as it gets. What Bitcoin supporters would not like, however, is what I am going to say next: the idea that money can be kept separate from the state and from the political process that leads to the formation of our governments and their policies is a dangerous illusion."

p. 159

"Something that angers and terrifies me more than almost anything else is the thought of being the plaything of forces and people of which I am oblivious. I think most people feel this way. That's why movies like The Matrix and V for Vendetta have proved so popular: they appeal to our need to be self-directing, autonomous, freethinkers. 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."

p. 191

"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."

p. 193

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