On CBC Radio’s ‘Writers’ Program: Interviewed by Eleanor Wachtel on the Global Minotaur

Over the past few years, I have been interviewed extensively on my views of the Crisis and my writings. Of all these interviews, this is the one that I enjoyed giving the most. Eleanor Wachtel generously afforded me the space to talk about Greece, my parents (and my experiences of growing up in Greece in the 60s and 70s), life choices that shaped me, the myth of the Minotaur, the global economy and much more. Thank you Eleanor. 

Lastly, note that this was the first interview in a series of programs under the general heading: Greece: The Unfolding Drama


20 thoughts on “On CBC Radio’s ‘Writers’ Program: Interviewed by Eleanor Wachtel on the Global Minotaur

  1. Most comments here focus on Greece, but nobody realises that Greece is not the (main) issue of this crisis.

    What is happening in Greece, is happening everywhere in Europe. One by one, countries are falling into the trap. For every country, there is a particular narrative, which, it should be said, resembles more to a caricature than to the image of a real people.

    No country can escape, no matter how ‘good’ or ‘bad’ its economy stands, no matter how ‘corrupt’ or ‘honest’ its citizens are. We are witnessing perverse historical moments.

    Have a look at this humorous imaginary dialogue I spotted in some comment, which, however, makes its point:

    – “The European Commission has warned that Spain and Slovenia must quickly tackle the imbalances in their economies.”

    – Oh, really? What a disaster! And what should they do, Master?

    – “Spain has to deliver a “decisive” reform programme by the end of the month. Urgent policy action is needed”.

    – And Slovenia, how can we save it from oblivion?

    – “The new Slovenian prime minister, Alenka Bratusek and her government are already working “day and night” to save the country’s banking system.”

    – But, Master, how did all of this happen? Everything was so good six years ago.

    – “Our (European) citizens are still paying the price for the unchecked development of imbalances in the past.”

    – Master, forgive me for not fully understanding what you mean. But I believe you, because you are wise. But, please tell me that this will be the last time. After that, EU and the Euro will be ok?

    – Ach bitte, sei nicht so naiv. “11 European Union countries experiencing “macroeconomic imbalances” to a lesser degree than Spain or Slovenia were Belgium, Bulgaria, Denmark, France, Italy, Hungary, Malta, the Netherlands, Finland, Sweden and the United Kingdom.” The order is alphabetic, so that nobody knows when his turn comes. Genial, nicht wahr?

    This isn’t an imaginary dialogue. Or, to be more exact, only the questions are imaginary. The answers come from a BBC article: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-22089641It is the new diktat from the Kommission.

    No reproach intended for the Germans. The average German is also a victim of what’s happening. But their current leadership and their Brussels entourage, oh dear…

    • Carl K – “No country can escape, no matter how ‘good’ or ‘bad’ its economy stands, ” – This statement is exactly wrong and bordering on the idiotic. I’m not sure what your point is with the rest of your comment.

    • @ Richard Carl K No country can escape, no matter how good or bad its economy stands,

      This statement is exactly right. No country will escape, especially and including Germany – though for different reasons.

      Carl K’s comment post is so outstanding that I have forwarded it to +100 people. That you find it so incomprehensible suggests that you should study it closely to see what you are up against.

  2. That was a great interview. I thought I had a colorful family! Your parents sound like great people. And I learned so much more about your views than I do in the usual ten-minute interviews.

  3. Europe nowdays remind me of my childhood when we were gathering at the street to play ball and often the boy who brougth the ball wanted also to referee and say which goal counts or when it’s foul or not, else “I take the ball and go home”, That kind of attitude “I own the ball therefore I own the game” usually ended with the ball kicked over the fence, a stonefight or the ball stolen and a chase and all of the above, but always in tears. Next day more balls appeared and things were quieter -the power of competition- 🙂 anyway in the end we learned to play ball even when there was only one ball in the game.
    How long until europe learns to play ball?

  4. @ Richard

    Greeks have certainly been abused by their own government, but that is hardly the whole story and is not the point made by Varoufakis.

    Yanis Varoufakis’ focus is not on internal greek politics but on the flawed economics of the eurozone and the mish-mash of political and financial (note that I don’t say economic) ‘solutions’ applied that have only exacerbated the EZ’s inherent flaws and pushed most of the eurozone countries into near or virtual bankruptcy. This is obviously a failure of monumental proportions, and no end is yet in sight.

    Even with the best of governments it is almost certain that Greece would still be in enormous trouble today – though granted not as bad.

    Therefore I take it from your comments that you disagree with the author. It would be much more interesting to hear your analysis of why.

    • Elenits – I do not know why I have to constantly say this to Greeks. In a normal country you do not have people saying these types of things. You say “Yanis Varoufakis’ focus is not on internal Greek politics but on the flawed economics of the eurozone”. The whole point is it should not matter what foreigners do! Greece has all the ammunition to be independent of the whims of foreigners. Greece has everything it needs to be the richest country in Europe. Greeks need to reject anyone that says they need help from outside, Greeks need to arrest any politician who says foreigners are forcing them to do things and charge them with treason. It is completely and utterly unacceptable, either they are doing what is best from their countrymen or they are not. Again, can you image Obama came out and said the Chinese were telling him what to do? Can you imagine it? Why is the same thing acceptable in Greece?

    • @Richard: obviously, you are ignorant of the literature on semiperipheral economies. Even with this excuse, it should be obvious that small countries with weak capital investment and a limited degree of competitiveness do not compare with global powers. The actions of global powers, or even regional ones, shape the options and realities of the weaker countries. This is the history of the world, and the reality of economics.

      Perhaps you were reading too much neoliberal propaganda?

    • Guest – Why do you waste your time replying to my comments? You obviously do not read them.

    • @Richard . The governor of California though could say to his constituents that the federal government imposed “this and that” to save them from bankruptcy.

      The wrong decision in Greece was in entering a monetary union, it is downhill from there if is not well designed, and after the fact, it is obvious it was not well designed.

      Our politicians did not foresee that their expansive monetary policies on borrowed money would precipitate a disaster once a crisis appeared, and are responsible for that blindness. But nobody is free and sovereign who owes money, and the money lenders hold the final word.

      We do have parties that advocate what you advise, and God help us if they come into power. Outright bankruptcy and social disaster will be the result. And little children dying, which is the definition of catastrophy.

    • anna v – California is not like Greece. California is like Thessaloniki or Macedonia.

      “The wrong decision in Greece was in entering a monetary union, it is downhill from there if is not well designed, and after the fact, it is obvious it was not well designed.” – There is absolutely nothing wrong with the design. The design in extremely simple. There would be no problem if governments spent the same as they took in.

      Central banks and their high street representatives do not like this because it means less government debt so less money for them. So they have sabotaged the Euro in order to bring in something like a “surplus recycling mechanism” as Prof Varoufakis advocates. They like this mechanism because it involves lots of debt. Debt which all Europeans would be on the hook for collectively.

      “Our politicians did not foresee that their expansive monetary policies on borrowed money would precipitate a disaster once a crisis appeared, and are responsible for that blindness.” – Agreed. The growth in government spending was facilitated by the ECB. Yet another reason politicians should not be controlled or dependent on foreigners.

      “But nobody is free and sovereign who owes money, and the money lenders hold the final word.” – This is not correct. We still live in free society where people are free to walk away from debts. As it should be. Governments are even more free (or at least they should be if they have not be compromised) as they do not lose assets unless someone wants to invade the country.

      “We do have parties that advocate what you advise, and God help us if they come into power.” – What do I advise?

      “Outright bankruptcy and social disaster will be the result. And little children dying, which is the definition of catastrophy.” – The government defaulted in 2009 ie it went bankrupt. You talk like it hasn’t happened. Greece is living with all the consequences of a government default with none of the upside.

      With regards to “social disaster and catastrophy” – This is nonsensical government propaganda. It is a tool of fear and those politicians who say it are terrorists. To state the obvious, politicians should not be in-sighting fear in the population. “we have nothing to fear but fear itself”

  5. Yanis – Again I have to highlight that the culprit for the problems in Greece is obvious. I say this knowing that it would put you in an almost impossible position if you expose the party that has caused the government crisis but bravery is not something I think you are short of.

    A friend showed me your articles in hotdoc, needless to say he is a massive fan.

    Given your position as one of the most trusted sources for Greeks with regards to what is going on here I think it would be massively beneficial if you did highlight the very simple facts that led to today’s crisis.

    Namely Greek banks purchasing government debt and the ECB then monetizing this debt by loaning Greek banks money in exchange for collateral (Greek government bonds) it knew full well was worthless. Something you yourself acknowledge re our previous conflab about the ECB knowingly using over optimistic figures when calculating the value of this collateral.

    For those wanting more information on how the ECB monetised Greek government debt skip to 35.30 of this video. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mn0hsY7R0ck

    It would be naive to think the ECB is simply stupid in creating this nightmare.

    Their actions turned a structural issue in the Greek economy into the massive crisis we see to day which is rapidly turning into a life threatening situation for many Greeks with essential drugs simply being absent from the Greek market even to those people who are prepared to pay the full market value for drugs rather than the subsidized price.

    The crisis is rapidly making people in Greece unable to manage their own health both by being bled dry by the Greek government on one end through tax increases and by drugs being unavailable at the other end due to the same Greek government not paying its bills. It is an impossible situation and getting worse rapidly.

    Please Yanis, identify the enemy for the benefit of your fellow countrymen. Knowing the enemy is not the solution but it is a step in the right direction.

    The words of Margaret Thatcher are becoming more and more prophetic with each passing day. May she rest in peace.

  6. to Eleanor Wachtel & team,
    Thank you very much, mille grazie!, for introducing Yanis Varoufakis to us, his book is one of the most original and groundbreaking works on global economics & the current crisis in a long time. Great series, one of the best on radio. Keep it up. In many ways his approach fits well into the Canadian metropolis/hinterlan political economy tradition dating back to Harold Innis.
    Cheers, keep up the good work.
    ciao!, Vincent di Norcia

  7. I watched the entire interview and found it extremely comprehensive and grounded on a sound de-mystifying and very humanistic tone. Thanks for letting me know of its existence.

  8. Indeed Eleanor has a great interviewer demeanor and the segment flows very nicely with Yani on top form.

    In my view the problem comes down to equity and justice. Germany wants Greece to suffer a generational catastrophe so that German banks are saved. That is neither just nor intelligent. After 2 PSIs and a needless nationalization of its banking sector, Greece is in ruins today. Abused, unassisted and a true victim of monumental injustice.

    • Dean – Again with Germans wanting Greeks to suffer…… Its pathetic. Greeks are being abused by their own government. No one else.

    • I’m saying if Greece had a government of Greeks who were proud of their own country things would be okay. At the moment we have a group of servile incompetents who live to brown nose “prestigious” foreigners. How do we fix this issue? Prosecute any politician who says they are been forced to do anything they do not believe in. Either they take responsibility for their actions or they should resign. It is unacceptable for a Greek politician to say they are being forced to do anything. Can you imagine Obama said he had to pass tax increases because the Chinese forced him to? Americans would quite rightly think there had been a coup d’état. Why are Greeks silent in the face of an obviously treasonous government?

    • @Richard
      Shall we also prosecute all German politicians that sell us crooked submarines for 20 billions of euros? Or shall we also prosecute all European politicians that were constantly threaten the Hellenic society to either vote for these that you call “servile incompetents” (and I fully agree with you) otherwise the gates of hell will open upon us?

    • Toyristas – This is getting out of hand. Please read what I wrote. The problem is with the supposed representative of the Greek people not the people that sold him the submarine. Unless of course you want to start blaming the destructive behavior of alcoholics on the vineyard.

      Let me brutally honest. Many Greeks display the signs of Stockholm syndrome. To quote Wikipedia

      “Stockholm syndrome is a psychological phenomenon in which hostages express empathy and sympathy and have positive feelings toward their captors, sometimes to the point of **defending** them…Stockholm syndrome can be seen as a form of traumatic bonding, which does not necessarily require a hostage scenario”

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