Don’t leave economics up to the economists, says Varoufakis

Áine O'Boyle

With most books, it is essential to begin with a healthy dose of skepticism, even more so with a book about the economy, written by the former Minister for Finance during the Greek economic crash.

“Talking to My Daughter About the Economy: A Brief History of Capitalism” is a pleasantly interesting read. Dedicated to his daughter, Xenia, Yanis Varoufakis writes as though he is telling a story, all the while trying to educate his daughter on the concept of market society, a word he chooses to use instead of capitalism.

Believing the word “capitalism” holds too much ideological baggage, the term market society serves as a more neutral definition of the world we live in, one where money is exchanged for goods and services, where the production of such goods and services are fueled by debt and where banks magically create money by typing a series of numbers into a computer.

Varoufakis admits from the offset that he wrote this book in a period of nine days, something of which many authors would most likely not admit if they wish to be taken seriously. Somehow this seems to add more charm to the book. It makes it appear to be something of a stream of consciousness as Varoufakis speaks to his daughter about the economy in a way that a teenager with little prior knowledge of economics will understand.

The book serves as a means to ensure that normal people can have even a basic understanding of how the economy works. Varoufakis states that discussion surrounding the economy should not be left to the economists as this will undermine democracy by assuming that the economy exists outside of the political realm, when in fact the two are very much intrinsically linked.

For a book that is aimed at providing a brief history of capitalism, the word “capitalism” itself is rarely used. Whilst alluding to the likes of Karl Marx and his understanding of The Communist Manifesto, the book serves more as a means to understanding how market society operates as opposed to being a condemnation of capitalism and everything it stands for.

Varoufakis quashes the idea, to the dismay of many economists, that studying the economy is a science, and instead compares it to the role of a philosopher in society.

This book about the economy is unique in the sense that its whole aim is to break down the barriers surrounding the economy. In order for a market society to survive and evolve, it should be a pre-condition that the people living within this society have the necessary language and understanding of the components of the economy to see how it thrives and crashes.

While also alluding to various works of literature and film, from Greek mythology to “The Matrix”, Varoufakis provides the necessary tools to understanding the various facets of market society.

Through explaining the basics of the economy to his daughter, Varoufakis makes readers aware of how much the economy impacts our everyday lives and why it is so important to understand the world in which we are living in.

Áine O’Boyle

Image Credit: Yanis Varoufakis Book Cover