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Practice English Speaking&Listening with: Yanis Varoufakis: "And the Weak Suffer What They Must?" | Talks at Google

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MALE SPEAKER: Welcome, everybody,

to one more Talks at Google event.

Today's guest needs no introduction, virtually.

Today's guest is Yanis Varoufakis, the former finance

minister of Greece during one of the most tumultuous periods

of its financial history, if not history overall.

He's a professor of economic theory

at the University of Athens and a former member

of the parliament.

He is author of "The Global Minotaur," among other books,

and his newest book is "And the Weak

Must Suffer What They Must."

I would like to ask Mr. Varoufakis

to come to the podium here and share with us thoughts.

Thank you.

[APPLAUSE]

YANIS VAROUFAKIS: Good afternoon, everyone.

It's a very rare occasion for a politician,

academic, confused person like me, to be in a place like this.

I've done it before in similar organizations,

even though Google is unique for reasons

you do not need me to explain.

And I have excellent memories of trying to bring together

a techie audience with my concerns

about the ways of the world-- in other words, politics.

I'm going to talk to you today and try

to encourage you to participate, to start a dialogue with me,

on the concept of money.

The purpose is not academic.

It's not to have a philosophical discussion about money.

It's my view that we live in a very troubled world--

that Europe, and that's what this is about, is, if you want,

the part of the global economy where

the troubles of global capitalism

manifest themselves in the most poignant and magnified manner.

And Europe is perfectly capable of destabilizing the United

States.

It already has destabilized China.

And through China it has destabilized Latin America.

And if my analysis holds water, the next generation

is going to face challenges that have not

been faced since the 1930s.

I hope I'm completely wrong.

But I very much fear that I'm not.

And money is a very good starting point

of a conversation, especially with an audience

like your good selves.

The reason is that money is the most quantifiable variable

of an economy.

Love, beauty, value-- they're all supremely important.

But their qualities, any attempt that we make to quantify them,

devalues them in a sense.

But money comes in as a result of commodification

and marketization to turn values into quantities,

to quantify that which is considered by the market

to be valuable.

Now, the reason why I'm beginning with money

to tell a story about the troubles of global capitalism

and the challenges of the next generation,

is because if you think of money as a good, what is a good?

Something people want.

So tomatoes are good, potatoes are

good if people want to eat them, and money is good

if people want money.

If it is a good, then in a commodified, capitalist world,

it must also be a commodity.

And of course it is a commodity.

You just look at the foreign exchange market--

huge trades every day, money being exchanged for money.

So money is a good, and it is a commodity.

So why is its price negative in more than 40% of the world?

The price of money is the rate of interest.

It's the price one is prepared to accept for not using money,

for giving it to somebody else.

And we live in a world, especially

in Europe, where the price of money

is either 0 or extremely, very low, or indeed,

in places like Japan, in Europe, and in certain bond markets

here in the United States, it is negative.

Now, how can a good have a negative price?

It must be a bad by definition.

Negative prices are associated with bads.

So you have toxic waste in your backyard,

you're prepared to pay someone to get rid of it.

That's what negative price means.

So how can it be that money could have a negative price?

Well, the reason is that money is not just a quantity.

It is not just a commodity.

It is a lot more than that.

A 19th century revolutionary referred to it

as the alienated ability of humankind.

That was Karl Marx, by the way.

But forget Marx, since we are in California.

[LAUGHTER]

And not in Vermont, which I believe

is the people's republic of this era,

or New Hampshire or something like that.

Let's think of the reason why the price of money in Europe

today is negative, and why it is almost 0 if you look

at the Fed's overnight rates.

If you are an entrepreneur, and you're tossing and turning

in bed at night, mulling over and wondering

as to whether you should invest in a new production

line, a new company, a new product, a new line

of products, what is it that you are

worried about at that moment?

You're worried about whether that investment will

turn a proper return out.

And what will this depend on?

It will depend on two things.

It will depend on your costs, and it

will depend on the demand for the commodity

that your production line will be churning out

six months, eight months, a year from the moment you

make the investment, if you choose to make the investment.

So the price of money, the rate of interest,

is an input into the costs.

So the higher the price of money, the more costly money

is to borrow or to utilize for the purpose of your investment.

So you think, OK, so this is where

it works like a commodity.

When its price comes down, you think,

OK, my costs are coming down, so my propensity to invest

increases.

But that is not what keeps entrepreneurs awake at night,

and potential investors.

What really keeps them awake at night

is the prospect of sufficient demand for the commodity

six months, one year later.

And what does this depend on?

That depends on whether others like herself

or himself who are also turning and tossing in bed at night

will make the decision to invest,

because the aggregate level of demand

is driven by the aggregate level of investment.

So this is a problem that suddenly moves out

of the standard conception of money

as a commodity that has a price like potatoes that

have a price, because with potatoes, if you have

excess supply of potatoes, you are selling potatoes,

and you want to get rid of them before the end of the day

because you don't want to sell the same stale potatoes

tomorrow, what do you do to get rid of them?

You reduce the price, and at some point

you will hit a level of price that

will clear the market-- the market, your stalls.

People will just buy it.

If you drop it at $0.02 a ton, people

will just-- so there is a price which clears the market.

But the investment game that I just described

is precisely that.

It is a game.

And what is a game?

It is a situation where the outcome does not

depend on what you do, but it depends on what others do,

and what you think that they think that you

think that they will do.

That's what a game is, like in chess,

like in the stock exchange.

So suddenly, whether you invest or not

depends on your belief or optimism

that the level of aggregate investment

will exceed a certain threshold, because only if it exceeds

a certain threshold, only then will there

be enough demand to make your investment profitable.

So the way I-- when I was still a professor,

the way I tried to explain this to students, especially MBA

students who are cutthroat and try

to undermine each other like there's

no tomorrow-- I remember I used to love doing that.

It was great fun for me, not for them.

I used to say to them, you know what, I hate marking scripts,

so I'm going to give you your grade now,

day one, first lecture.

I'm going to give you this semester grade now,

and then we can meet for the purposes of your education

and mine.

Just take a piece of paper out, write your student number,

and I want you to add a number, a digit between 1 and 9,

including 1 and 9.

And your grade will be as follows.

I will pick up this piece of paper.

I would find the piece of paper with the lowest integer choice.

That will be the common factor of all of you.

I will multiply this by 11.

And for each one of you, I will subtract from that 11 times

the minimum your own choice.

And that will be your grade, which

means that if everybody chose 9, the minimum would be 9,

99, 9 times 11, would be the common factor for everyone,

minus 9, their own choice-- 90% everyone.

If everybody chose eight, 80% everyone.

If everybody chose one, 10% everyone, OK.

Now I can tell you, every single time I did this,

the vast majority chose 1 and everybody failed.

And this is not the prisoner's dilemma.

It's not a free rider problem.

It's not a situation where you want to cheat,

you want others to choose a high number

and for you to choose a low number.

Why?

Because if you choose the low number,

then the minimum goes low, and you lose, too.

Here is a typical coordination problem.

Everybody's trying to do the following--

the optimal strategy, by the way, in this game,

is to choose what you think the minimum will

be amongst the rest and choose that.

So if you think that everybody else will choose 9,

you're best off choosing 9, because if you choose 8,

the minimum becomes 8 and you lose, too.

If you choose the minimum will be 8, you choose 8.

So it's a guessing game.

Everybody's trying to guess the minimum.

And what they in the end do depends on the average degree

of optimism.

If the class is optimistic that people will be optimistic,

that everybody else will be optimistic,

then they all choose 9, confirming the optimism

that they imagined would be prevalent.

But if they're pessimistic, they will all--

I remember, I would pick out one of those students,

and I would say to them, OK, you chose 1.

Why did you choose 1?

Don't you realize by choosing 1, you fail and everybody fails?

And the answer is, yes, but you know what?

It is a rational belief, prediction,

to think that there will be at least one person in this room

who fears that there is another person in this room who fears

that there is someone in this room who will choose 1,

because then, 1 will be the minimum choice,

and then I'm best off, given that 1 will be the best

choice, to choose 1, because if I choose more,

than you will be subtracting more than 1

from the common factor.

Now that is the conundrum of investment.

If investors fear that the level of investment will be low,

then the level of investment will be low.

And their pessimistic expectations

are going to be confirmed.

And they will turn around and say, see?

I was right.

But that doesn't mean they were right.

It means that we live in a world of multiple equilibria--

some good-- 9, 8, 7, in the example

that I gave you, some awful-- 1, 2, 3.

And courtesy of being equilibria,

there is no one outcome which is more equilibrium

than the other.

They are all equilibria.

Some are better.

Some are worse.

What determines whether we go from

the good to the bad, or vice versa-- average optimism.

This is a problem with recessions that turn

into permanent depressions.

This is a problem when investment is completely stuck.

Have you noticed that in the United States today,

we have the following very interesting phenomenon,

and very worrying phenomenon.

We have extremely low rates of interest, extremely high profit

rates, and very low levels of investment.

How is this possible?

There rate of interest should be in equilibrium, more or less

the same, as the rate of profit.

The rate of profit should reflect the rate

of interest and vice versa.

If the two are out of kilter, it means

we have a major incongruity.

Something is broken in our economy.

And if profit rates are high, why don't people

invest to make more profit?

And yet they don't.

The example I gave you with the failure of optimism I think

offers an answer.

At the moment, we have a situation

where if you take the United States, Europe, and Britain--

the British, some of them like to be thought

of as outside of Europe-- so effectively, Europe

and the United States, we have, the last time I looked,

around $6 trillion doing nothing--

sloshing around in the financial sector, not being invested,

refusing to be invested.

Why?

It's not that those who own that money do not want to invest it.

And by the way, by investment, I mean real investment.

I don't mean buying houses and buying shares.

That's not investment.

Investment is when your company says,

OK, we're going to expand this particular sector,

we're going to invest in people, we're

going to invest in machinery, we're

going to invest in new technology.

That's investment.

So one thinks of capitalism as a system where you have savings.

You have financial intermediaries

that take those savings and lend them to companies

that then invest it.

Those investments produce the incomes that

then replenish the savings.

And this recycling process continues.

But at the moment, savings in the developed world,

let's put it this way, exceeds investment by 7 trillion.

Never before in the history of capitalism

have we had such high levels of savings

and such low levels of investment.

If you think of the rate of interest

as the price of money that must equilibrate savings

and investment, when there is excess supply of money, when

savings is there and investment is there, there must--

what happens is the price of money

must drop so that this happens.

Except the price of money drops to below 0,

and this gap is not ameliorated, doesn't go away.

And why doesn't it go away?

Let's go back to the bedroom of the entrepreneur who is

tossing and turning at night.

And let's say that this is a very old-fashioned entrepreneur

like me.

I'm not an entrepreneur, but I'm old-fashioned

because I listen to the radio at night

when I can't sleep, to the BBC World Service

since I was a kid, for some reason.

And 3 in the morning, tossing and turning, wondering, shall

I invest, shall I not invest?

And suddenly the news comes through,

Janet Yellen is reversing the tapering.

Instead of increasing interest rates

as she has announced that she will do,

she's going to reduce it even further, because of China,

because of sluggish growth, blah, blah, blah, blah-- things

you read in the Wall Street Journal and Financial Times

on a daily basis.

What do you think at that point?

Oh, good, the price of money is going further

into negative territory and we'll invest,

or do you think what I think you'll

think-- oh my goodness, for Janet to be doing this,

things must be really bad.

And then the drop in the price of money makes you do what?

Stop investing.

So it does exactly the opposite of what happens

in the market for potatoes.

In the market for potatoes, the price comes down

and the excess supply disappears.

In the money market, when we're caught in a crisis like this,

the price of money comes down, and the problem gets worse.

And the excess supply of money gets worse.

And this is why we are caught up in this never-ending crisis

after 2008.

The United States has stabilized itself

through the activities of the Fed,

but this incongruity between savings and investment

has not gone away.

This is why you have stagnant wages, and this is why,

after a whole generation in the United States after

the mid-'70s-- so for the first time in the history

of the United States, the end of the escalator,

between federation, between independence of the United

States and 1974, wages constantly increased.

Every generation knew that the next generation

will be better off.

From 1973 onwards, median wages have been declining,

and they have not stopped declining ever since.

Consumerism was boosted in the '80s '90s and 2000s

because of debt.

Increases in wages that stopped were replaced

by increases in indebtedness.

In 2008, our comeuppance came.

The nemesis followed for the hubris-- foreclosures,

since then stagnant wages, skyrocketing inequality.

And the result is Donald Trump in America.

In Europe we have even worse phenomena.

We have the Nazis in the Greek parliament.

We have the Alternative for Deutschland in Germany.

We have the Popular Front in France.

We have UKIP in Britain.

The list is endless.

But these are just, in my view, symptoms of this conundrum

that we're facing.

Now, many people, especially here in the United States,

tend to think that, ah, problem is the Fed.

The problem is too much easy money.

The problem is that we have lost control of the money supply,

that we ended the gold standard.

Instead of having a real commodity whose supply

is controlled by nature, we allowed

the Fed to be creating easy money before the crisis,

easy money after the crisis, and there

is a loss of credibility of the money markets.

This is all nonsense, allow me to say.

There reason is very simple.

There can be no such thing as a gold standard.

There can be no such thing as apolitical money.

And I've already explained, I think,

why-- the story about optimism, because the moment

pessimism prevails-- and it can be prevail for any reason,

for any reason.

There can be some earthquake.

There can be a bubble bursting in some subprime market,

or in some particular money market.

There are all sorts of different candidates

to spearhead a degree of pessimism

in a boisterous, dynamic, capitalist economy.

But the moment the seeds of pessimism

begin to grow and turn into an ugly plant,

at that moment, the only thing you can do

is not reduce interest rates.

It's not go through a deflationary spasm

by reducing prices, price of money, price of labor,

cheapening things that you want to increase the supply of.

The only thing you could do at that point

is to intervene politically through a political mechanism

of effectively creating-- expanding the money supply,

on the one hand, and expanding public investment

on the other hand.

This is a New Deal idea.

It's a very simple idea.

It didn't work perfectly in the 1930s,

but I can assure you-- assure you.

I would like to convince you, if I had another lecture

to talk about that, that it prevented

the slide of the United States into fascism.

If it wasn't for the New Deal, "The Grapes of Wrath,"

Steinbeck, would have led to the emergence

of extremely nasty political forces in this country.

It's even debatable whether the United States

would side with the Allies against Nazism in Europe.

So the idea that our criticism, very justifiable criticism

of the authorities, of the establishment--

and remember, I'm a left winger, so I'm the last person

to defend the established way of doing things.

But the idea that somehow we will

find a technical fix, whether you call this bitcoin,

or some technological evolution of money that

will replace the fiat money that the European Central

Bank, and so on, print-- this is simple fantasy.

And let me just make the simple point

that if you imagine that you take the bitcoin story, which

is a digital version of the gold standard,

you tie the quantity of money to some apolitical process--

in the case of gold, to how much gold you can find

under the surface of the earth.

In the case of bitcoin, to some algorithm

invented by somebody with a Japanese pseudonym.

If you do that, then you ensure two things-- firstly,

that economic development is going

to be slower than it would be otherwise long term,

simply because at some point, development will exceed--

or growth, the rate of growth, will exceed the rate of growth

of the money supply.

When that happens, this is immediately

going to have a deflationary effect.

So there will be less money chasing

after more goods, so the prices are going to have

a natural tendency to fall.

And the moment you introduce deflationary expectations

in the mindset of consumers, investors, producers

and so on and so forth, suddenly you

have a diminution in investment.

Why?

Because if you know that something

that today costs 10 tomorrow will cost 9,

you will have a natural tendency to delay consumption.

And therefore, if investors think

that you will have a natural tendency to reduce consumption,

they will have a natural tendency to reduce investment.

So that starts a downward deflationary spiral,

even if it isn't very acute.

So that's one reason.

The second reason is, when there is a crisis--

and crises will always happen.

They are to capitalism that which hell is to Christianity--

unpleasant but essential.

The system doesn't work otherwise.

[LAUGHTER]

You're going to end up with a crisis and no capacity

to boost money supply in order to create liquidity

by which to fight the insolvencies that

are as a result of the crisis.

Of course, what we have been doing,

the quantitative easing of the central banks,

which began in Japan in the 1990s, then

was transferred here in the United States,

with Ben Bernanke responding aggressively

by increasing the money supply for the purposes of what

I suggested.

And now, Europe always comes four years too late-- doing it

in Europe now.

The problem with this is that, yes,

it is a palliative for the crashing economy,

the global crashing economy, but it's only a palliative.

It's like giving aspirin to somebody who's suffering

from a far worse disease.

It helps, but this doesn't cure it.

And the central bankers know that.

So there's been a failure of the politicians to get together

and to support the central banks with the only thing that

can be the silver bullet that kills the pessimism-- the New

Deal idea.

So the point I'm trying to raise here in the heart of the tech

industry, here in Google, is that money

seems like a quantity.

People like you think, OK, quantity, technical solutions,

mathematics.

Anything that is quantified must be a mathematical problem

which we can solve without the messiness of politics.

But my message to you is that money is not just a quantity.

It's also a quality that has to do with human sentiment--

the optimism that I was referring to, which cannot be

quantified.

You remember the game that I was playing with my students,

or I was forcing upon my students,

doesn't have a solution.

It has multiple solutions.

And when you don't have-- when everything is possible,

when every outcome is a potential solution

to the mathematical model, then effectively

it is as if you don't know.

Imagine a meteorological model, which

reports that tomorrow there is an equal probability of rain,

hail, or shine.

It may be mathematically accurate,

but it is useless for the purposes of prediction.

So the technology and the mathematics cannot substitute

for the political process which is necessary in order

to stabilize a debt deflationary global economy or national

economy or economic bloc like that of the European Union.

Of course, I am a great advocate of technological solutions

as long as we do not replace politics with technology,

as long as we fuse the politics, progressive politics,

with good technologies.

And let me just give you one example of something

that I was planning to do in the ministry of finance in Greece,

and maybe get some feedback from you.

In Europe, the reason Europe is such a basket case--

think about it.

2008 happened, unemployment rose both in Europe in America

to 12%.

You're down to 5 and 1/2 percent.

In Europe we're at 12%.

We still have deflation.

Investment is the lowest it's ever been.

Why is this?

Well, if you look at the eurozone,

the collection of countries, of 19 countries

using the same currency but without having

even a confederacy, let alone a federation,

we created an astonishing economic system.

We have a large central bank, like the Fed,

but no state next to it or behind it, no treasury.

And we have lots and lots, 19 governments,

without central banks.

So you can imagine why, when the force, the full blast

of the 2008 financial disaster, hit both America and Europe,

America had the automatic stabilizers--

not clever politicians.

Politicians could all be asleep, or they

could have all been on holiday.

The beauty of the federal system is in automatic stabilizers.

It goes into operation without anyone knowing it.

So for instance, when Nevada went under, the banks of Nevada

were salvaged immediately by the FDIC,

not by the state government of Nevada

going to Paris and to Berlin and to Washington cap

in hand begging for funds to save its banks.

Similarly, when the level of unemployment

increased in Nevada because construction workers were

unemployed following the collapse of the real estate

market, it was Social Security that immediately,

from the federal budget, supplemented that.

So the state of Nevada did not die.

If it was operating as Europe does,

it would have been a Greece-- insolvent,

with insolvent banks, constantly cap in hand

seeking more extend and pretending Ponzi loans.

So in Europe we have this situation.

Given that we had this situation,

we needed, and I think every eurozone member

state, except perhaps Germany, needs more degrees of freedom,

more fiscal space.

So here is an idea that I had on how

to create more fiscal space, even

though we don't have a central bank,

and we were locked out of money markets

because our state was bankrupt.

So this is how we did it.

This was an idea I had, and then we reached the implementation

to the level where we were almost ready,

three or four days away from pressing the button

and actually starting the system up.

The tax office, the IRS, our IRS,

has of course a website where you go in there,

you have your tax file number, your Social Security number,

you go in there, you see how much money you owe,

and you do transfer using web banking from your bank account

to the state, like everywhere.

The idea was to create a reserve account per tax file number.

And when the state-- the state owes a lot of money

to a lot of people, because it's bankrupt,

including its own citizens.

So companies that sell drugs, pharmaceuticals,

or general suppliers of the state,

it takes 18 months before they get

paid because of the lack of liquidity of the Greek state.

So I was thinking, OK, imagine we

can say to the entrepreneurs, we owe you

a million dollars from drugs you sold to the hospital.

You can wait for 18 months, or I can put this money

in your reserve account now.

Just type it.

It's just 0s and 1s that go into this reserve account.

And I give you a PIN number.

Of course, you can't take this money out,

because I don't have a central bank

and I don't have the right to monetize anything.

But I can give you a PIN number, and you may owe money

to another of your suppliers, and using that PIN number,

you can transfer it to that tax file number,

and then the third party can use this money

to repay its taxes to me.

Or you can give it to your workers.

It can be an alternative.

It's euro denominated, or dollar denominated

if this happened here, it's euro denominated,

so it's not another currency, but it

uses-- it's tax-backed liquidity that is created through the tax

system.

And the idea here was to take it further.

Even in good times, when the state doesn't have a liquidity

problem, to use the same system, but differently, to say

to people, the state doesn't owe you any money,

but if you want us to put some money in that reserve account,

we will do it.

Give me $1,000, or euros, and I'll do it.

Now, why would you want to give me 1,000 euros?

You wouldn't.

Why entrust the state with 1,000 euros when

you don't owe the state anything and the state doesn't

owe anything to you?

Well, you will have to pay tax next year, won't you?

You have a car.

You have a house.

You have sales tax, or you may have

to pay income tax-- all sorts of different taxes and charges.

Well, what if I were to say to you that, because this

is digital, it can be time stamped,

and the system knows that if you've kept this money,

you purchased it from me, you transferred real euros

to the state and I put these numbers in your reserve

account, time stamped, in a year's time

I'll give you 10% off for extinguishing

taxes-- 10% of an interest rate in this day

and age is humongous.

And this is a way that the state-- this

is peer to peer lending for the state,

between the citizens and the state,

bypassing the bond markets.

And then you could develop it further.

You could have an app that allows

you to go to the supermarket and use this to pay for things

given that the supermarket will be

able to use this for its own suppliers

and to repay its own taxes.

So this is, if you want, a parallel payment system, which

is purely digital, and which gives more degrees of freedom

to a fiscally stressed entity, whether this

is a municipality, a country in the eurozone,

whatever, or even a community that

wants to develop its own payment system, parallel payment

system, that is denominated in the same currency as the nation

or the bloc.

Now I had, of course, an additional incentive

for doing this.

When a guy called Alexis Tsipras, who then became

my prime minister, started talking to me years

ago about-- at that time I had no intention, no interest,

no inkling that I would ever get involved in politics.

I was just talking to him because he

wanted to try out some ideas.

He asked me, I remember, back in 2012, 2013,

because at that time the little political party that he led

had 4%, and it was three years later that we went up

from 4 to 40% and won government on the 25th of January

last year, 2015.

He said to me, if we challenge the creditors

and we say to them that the policies they're

imposing upon us are killing the cow that is supposed to produce

the milk that they want, so it's in their interest not to kill

the cow, our country, our economy, our taxpayers,

our private sector, and to reboot this agreement,

what do you think the first challenge we will face

is going to be?

And I was very clear on this.

I told him-- I wrote him a memo back in 2012, 2013.

I said the first thing that will happen

is they will close our banks down, or they will try to,

in order to throttle us, in order to asphyxiate us,

to force us to retreat.

By the way, let me just now go to the future,

or to the more recent past.

I became the minister of finance on the 27th.

We won the election on the 25th of January.

I became minister of finance the 27th.

On the 30th, three long days afterwards-- oh,

by the way, another embedded story.

The first day I moved in on the 27th,

I convened a meeting of the treasury officials to ask them

the pressing question, what's our funding like?

The answer was, minister, we're not doing very badly.

And I said, OK, define not very badly.

We have 11 days before we default.

[LAUGHTER]

Now, that is a very inauspicious beginning

to a ministerial career for a minister of finance.

So that happened the 27th.

Two days later, I had the president of the Eurogroup--

the Eurogroup is the body of finance ministers

of the eurozone, as well as what we call the troika--

Christine Lagarde, representing the International Monetary

Fund, Mario Draghi, the president of the European

Central Bank, our Fed, and the representatives of the European

Commission.

The president of this body, a gentleman

called Jeroen Dijsselbloem, the finance

minister of the Netherlands, came to see me in my office.

And lo and behold, it was as if on cue.

We had several meetings with minders and assistants

and all that bureaucratic, boring stuff,

and then the fun was when we met together in my office, just

the two of us, tete-a-tete to get to know each other.

Instead of nice to meet you, let's work together,

I got the following-- what do you

intend to do with the program.

That's almost science fiction, the program.

The program is all the economic policies

that were being applied between 2000 and 2015, which

led to the loss of 1/3-- 1/3-- of GDP, of nominal GDP

in Greece.

That's worse than the 1930s in the United States.

So this program is the reason why

we were elected, because the Greek people had enough of it,

and we were elected to renegotiate it.

And I tried to be as moderate as I could, and I said to him,

look, we were elected to challenge this program.

But, of course, this is a program

that the rest of the European Union is committed to.

So what happens in a democracy when

you have two principles that clash, two programs that clash?

You sit down and you find a compromise.

So why don't we sit down and start with a clean sheet

and ask ourselves a very simple question-- how

can we help the Greek economy recover in such a way

as to allow the Greek people to regain hope and the creditors

to get some of their money back, because the way we're going,

there will be no money for you guys,

simply because the country will be dead.

We will have created a desert and called it

peace-- Tacitus, Roman Empire.

And the answer was, if you insist

on renegotiating the program, your banks will be

closed by the 28th of February.

That was on the 30th of January.

So what I had said to Tsipras in 2012,

'13 happened on the third day.

In the end, they closed the banks down,

and they overthrew our government,

but this is not for you Googlers here.

But I'm trying to explain, remember the payment system,

the digital parallel payment system that I was planning?

This was also a way of creating a system that

would be functional and operative if they close

the banks down, giving us a capacity

to maintain a semblance of normality

in the economy, a system of transactions

that would survive.

So the only reason I'm mentioning this

is not only because it's, I think, topical,

but because it speaks to what I was saying before,

that I believe that technological solutions,

digitization of money, is the way to go,

but calling upon you not to fall prey

to the fantasy of apolitical money, to the fantasy

that technology can take the politics out of money.

In this book, I mention a scene from the House

of Commons, Britain's parliament,

where a woman that I spent my youth despising

and demonstrating again and again

and again against, Mrs. Margaret Thatcher,

a very right-wing politician-- nevertheless, a politician who

on the last day of her prime ministership,

the day she was fired by her own cabinet--

there was a coup d'etat within the cabinet orchestrated

by ministers who wanted Britain to join the euro.

And Thatcher was opposing them tooth and nail,

and they overthrew her.

So it became clear to her during the cabinet meeting of that day

that she was out.

People who were in the room, I have

friends-- one friend who was in the room

told me that it was the first time ever that she shed a tear.

She was visibly-- the Iron Lady cracked.

But then she regained her poise and went to the House.

She was still prime minster.

And there was a scheduled prime minister's question time.

But of course, the news had spread

that this was her last one.

And she let rip.

She allowed herself to enjoy her last appearance in the House

of Commons as a prime minister.

And a question from the opposition,

a very silly question from the opposition,

who tried to undermine her and to split the Conservative party

between those who wanted to go into the euro

and who didn't, like Thatcher, was

what did she think about-- why was she

opposed to the idea of a central bank which

is outside the political process, the European Central

Bank, depoliticizes Europe's money,

and allows Europe to unite in a monetary union

without money being in the hands of politicians?

And this right-wing politician at moment

said something that really appealed to me, and still does.

I think it was probably the most prescient and correct statement

on money by any European politician of the last 30

years.

That doesn't mean that I agree with everything else she did.

I still am proud that I opposed her government,

that I joined every demonstration I

could find against her.

She said, who controls interest rates, who

controls monetary policy in Europe,

controls the politics of Europe.

That cannot be changed with technology.

But a new form of progressive politics,

together with a new technological, innovative

approach to digitizing money and creating parallel systems

for payment, that give maximum degrees of freedom

to regional governments, to municipalities, to communities,

is, I think, the way to go.

And allow me to finish up by saying that this idea has

to have a global manifestation.

In 1944, somewhere in New Hampshire, Bretton Woods,

there was this conference of 150 delegates that

designed the postwar global plan, as I call it,

the Bretton Woods system, as it has come to be known,

to which I devote a couple of chapters in the book.

The idea there was to create a monetary system that is global,

with a surplus recycling mechanism very

similar to the idea of the New Deal,

but applied at a global level-- a system which would find ways

of taking the surpluses from the regions in which they are

produced and recycling them as productive investments

in the regions that are in deficit.

This is what happens in the United States.

When Boeing gets a contract to build a new fighter jet,

the stipulation is that, yes, but we

have to have a greenfield factory built

in Arizona or in Missouri, in a state which

is depressed-- not out of philanthropy towards Missouri,

but that is the only way of ensuring that California

and Washington state will continue to have their surplus,

if incomes are being produced in Missouri

through technologically advanced work that produces

both skills and income, so that the income of Missouri

can continue to produce the net exports within the dollar

zone of California and Washington state.

Now, unless we find a way of returning

to the spirit of Bretton Woods, hopefully using technologies

for a digital accounting system, a digital payments

mechanism that would penalize both surpluses and deficits

and redistribute surpluses in order

to ameliorate for the gross imbalances between savings

and investment at the global scale,

we are not going to be facing the challenges

that the next generation is facing,

both here and in Europe.

Thank you.

[APPLAUSE]

AUDIENCE: The growth of the economy overall

seems to be based on population growth.

Japan's GDP per capita is actually

continuing to increase, and yet you

don't see optimism in Japan.

And it seems like the reason is that the size

of the economy as a whole is not continuing to grow.

YANIS VAROUFAKIS: Japan is not in strife

because of population decline.

Population decline and aging is not helping.

It is not helping.

But that's not the reason.

The reason why Japan fell into this trap in the 1990s

was because there was a huge bubble in real estate,

that bubble was burst after the Plaza accords,

when effectively the United States forced

Japan to overvalue-- to revalue an already overvalued yen.

That created a massive wave of insolvencies,

both in real estate and in banking.

Then the government for years tried

to cover up the insolvency of the banks

by turning them effectively into zombies.

And by the time we reached 2008, when the rest of the economy

fell off a cliff, the rest of the global economy

fell off a cliff, a net exporting-oriented economy

like Japan simply managed to stay still, to stagnate.

Take Germany.

Germany is also shrinking, and also

in the same demographic trap as Japan.

Its growth rate has been quite positive and quite optimistic.

Now of course, Germany itself is caught up

in the trap of the eurozone.

But my view is that we should simply

be looking at GDP per capita, and there

is nothing to stop us from remaining perfectly optimistic

as long as savings and investment are balanced.

Take Japan, for instance.

Remember I was talking about the gap between savings

and investment.

It's huge in Japan.

There is so much saving compared to investment

that this gap-- this, for me, this gap

is the solvent of optimism.

It feeds on optimism negatively by creating pessimism,

and then the pessimism feeds back

into maintaining the gap between savings and investment.

What Japan needs is to open its borders to migrants.

AUDIENCE: So why wasn't the system

that you developed for payments finally deployed,

even after the referendum rejecting the terms

of the European Union?

And do you think Greece would be better off

if it had been deployed?

YANIS VAROUFAKIS: Well, it was only one of the projects

that I had in train.

The five months I was in government

were a period of conflict between us

and the troika of lenders.

It was a war that we lost.

And we lost it because our side was divided.

With Alexis Tsipras we had an agreement

that if they closed down our banks, we would retaliate.

And we had the leverage.

We had $30 billion of debt to the ECB,

which, if we restructured-- and we were perfectly

within our legal rights to do so,

because it was Greek law, not American law,

not British law-- then it would bring down

the whole QE program of Draghi.

Draghi knew that.

He would not have shut down our banks

if our threat to restructure the debt was credible.

That threat stopped being credible

when Alexis and I were disunited,

and when parts of the government--

the deputy prime minister, to be precise-- signaled

to Draghi that, don't listen to Varoufakis.

We won't let him haircut those bonds.

So the moment the other side realized

that I would not be allowed to use the leverage that I had,

it was just a matter of waiting until our surrender.

And I hoped that the referendum would

energize the prime minister to say, press the button.

It didn't.

That night he said to me, it's time to surrender.

And I said, no, it's time for you to surrender

and for me to resign.

And of course, none of the other projects

went through, because from that moment onwards,

we have a troika government.

My colleagues, my good friends who remain in government,

are not in power.

They simply rule on the basis of the emails

that they receive from Brussels.

MALE SPEAKER: So we have a few online questions,

because we have an audience around the world.

You have been a strong advocate of trying

to fix the European Union experiment

instead of letting it collapse under its poor design

and decisions of the nondemocratic Eurogroup.

How many countries will have to be sacrificed in this process?

YANIS VAROUFAKIS: I hope none.

You see, this question has embedded

in it a false assumption.

The false assumption is that I am

advocating that we should sacrifice some countries

to save the rest.

I have an organic view of the European Union.

The European Union either survives as a whole or it

collapses as a whole.

And if it collapses as a whole, if it disintegrates,

we are going to have a repetition of the 1930s.

There is going to be a rupture along the river Rhine

and across the Alps between the northeast of Europe,

that will become a new Deutschmark zone that

will be highly deflationary as the new Deutschmark goes

through the roof, and the rest, the Latin areas, plus Greece,

they're going to go through a shock

of high inflation and high unemployment

as their currency is devalued.

And no one is going to come throughout well out of that.

Political monsters will emerge when

this happens, because the conflicts will be great.

The depression is going to spread from Greece everywhere

else.

Bad things begin in Greece and spread throughout Europe.

The Cold War began in Greece.

The euro crisis began in Greece.

The disintegration of the European Union

is beginning in Greece.

I don't know why we are sort of fated

to be the harbinger of terrible things to come.

And therefore, to conclude my answer to this question,

at the moment, we are sacrificing one nation

after the other.

We are pushing them off the cliff of competitive austerity

in order to preserve something that is disintegrating

and cannot be preserved.

My suggestion is this-- we have a choice.

Either do away with the European Union

or try to fix it for everyone.

The doing away with it is going to throw us off that cliff

that I was referring, to the other cliff,

into the vortex of the 1930s.

This is my estimation.

I may be wrong.

The alternative is to-- and you know,

technically, it's very simple to stabilize the European

Union economically in a way that no one gets sacrificed.

The problem is the political will.

This is the irreducibility of politics.

MALE SPEAKER: And one more question, which is,

in hindsight, what was the best and what was the worst measure

that you implemented as a minister?

Well, the thing is, you see, I didn't get the chance

to implement almost anything.

One of the reasons was that I had had the lenders

on the other side doing this and saying,

if you dare put anything through Parliament, any bill

without our approval, this will be casus belli and the end

of the negotiations.

Do you believe that?

So the only two bills that I pushed through Parliament, one

had to do with what we called emergency measures

against extreme poverty.

So effectively, we gave a credit card, a pre-paid credit card,

to 350,000 families who were below the lowest

of the low of low levels of extreme poverty.

And with it, they could-- it's the equivalent of food stamps,

plus provisions of minimum supplies of energy,

because their houses were disconnected

from the electricity grid, and some help with their rent.

This was the one thing that I tried to do.

And the second thing, which is, I think much more significant,

it didn't go to Parliament because we were

waiting for the negotiation.

It was a plan for ending the Greek crisis, which

was compiled together with very able people

from this country and elsewhere.

So my team comprised people like Jeffrey Sachs from Columbia,

Larry Summers-- you've heard of Larry Summers,

I think-- a former Conservative finance minister

from England, Norman Lamont, Lord Lamont,

the former chief economist of Deutsche Bank.

We killed ourselves for three, four months,

to come up with a plan for Greece's recovery, ending

the Greek crisis, that had a fiscal plan, a plan for debt

restructuring, that would alleviate

the pressures of unsustainable debt,

but in a way that would not be politically

unfathomable for the creditors, and reforms for product

markets, for the pension fund industry, and so on

and so forth.

This, I'm very proud of that document.

The fact that that was not even discussed with the lenders

because the lenders were simply dragging us through the mud

until we were overthrown, that is another matter.

But I'm still confident that that document will go down

in history as a missed opportunity.

AUDIENCE: I'm from Athens, and we have some other Greeks,

so thanks for being here.

I just wanted to ask about this payment system you mentioned.

How would you encourage people to transact in the system

if they lack faith in what backs the system-- the Greek tax

system and the Greek government?

YANIS VAROUFAKIS: Well, to begin with, in the first phase,

they would have no choice in the sense

that you're owed a million, I don't have the money

to give it to you in cash, so I'm saying to you,

here is a million, and you can use it to pay her.

AUDIENCE: Why would she accept--

YANIS VAROUFAKIS: And if she owes money to me,

if she owes money to the state-- and she

does, because I'm the state and she

is a citizen or an entrepreneur, and you can extinguish

that debt, and she can extinguish her tax debt to me,

that's all the incentive you need in the world.

It's a very efficient way of multilateral tax

extinguishment, extinction.

Extinguishment, yes.

AUDIENCE: Thank you.

So it sounds like the no vote from the referendum

became a yes in large part, as you were talking about,

with Tsipras feeling like, you could say forced to surrender.

You might phrase that differently.

But I'm wondering, what is, at this point,

is really the next realistic steps for Greece specifically?

As having family there, I'm less concerned about the rest

of the eurozone, and more specifically--

YANIS VAROUFAKIS: Yeah, but you afford to be,

because there can never be a Greek solution

without a European solution.

AUDIENCE: So is it, though, is it to take it

to the next step of sort of allowing it to get

to a forcing function point?

Or is there something that can be more readily established

in near term that could avoid that forcing function

point as you move forward in time?

YANIS VAROUFAKIS: This is a very painful question for me,

and I'll tell you why it's painful,

because we had an opportunity in 2015 to reboot the loan

agreement.

And we missed it because we were divided.

And now we signed a new agreement.

Well, we-- the government has signed a new agreement.

You only have to read the first page to despair.

And it is clear-- recently WikiLeaks

published a dialogue between two functionaries, Thomsen

and [INAUDIBLE] of the IMF, and they are saying to one another

what I'm telling you, that this can't work, it won't work.

Poor Greeks, they're being squeezed to the ground

by the Europeans, and the Europeans are making us,

the IMF, squeeze them to the ground.

And this is just terrible and we want to get out of this.

This is the IMF, speaking, right,

so you don't have to take my word for it.

So what do we do now?

You see, that was the very big question

that I was asked after I resigned.

People were coming to me, and they're supporters,

and they were pressing me, pressurizing me quite a lot

to start a new political party.

And I just couldn't do it.

What would I have promised the people?

That I would do that which I failed

to do the first time around?

And anyway, it's too late now.

The crisis has spread out beyond Greece.

Now we have a massive fight between the German finance

minister and the European Central Bank

on negative interest rates.

I don't know whether you've been following this.

My hope-- and this is what I'm doing,

and this is what I why I'm applying

all my efforts in the democracy in Europe movement.

My hope is that what we started in Greece

we can take to the rest of Europe,

because unless we reboot European policy at the center,

with French participation, German participation, Italians,

the Spaniards, the Irish and so on,

then it is impossible to reboot Greece.

It sounds quite desperate, I know,

but it's a desperate situation, and there's

no sense in stopping our pragmatism from dominating.

AUDIENCE: Thank you.

AUDIENCE: Hi.

Thank you for coming.

I have a more sort of personal question for you about--

YANIS VAROUFAKIS: Not my shirts.

AUDIENCE: What?

How did you, during this time of probably insane stress

and pressure and deadlines and difficulty,

sort of manage your process and be productive given

what was going on around you?

YANIS VAROUFAKIS: It's called adrenaline.

[LAUGHTER]

It's adrenaline.

The phone kept ringing constantly,

and every phone call was a crisis

that I had not predicted-- funding crisis, usually.

Something that-- because when the system is collapsing,

it is chaos.

You know, non-linear mathematics.

AUDIENCE: Yeah, so how do you--

YANIS VAROUFAKIS: It's completely unpredictable what's

going to hit you the next second.

So it's adrenaline, and a sense of responsibility.

Look, my therapy was walking everywhere in Athens.

So I had no guards or anything like that.

I would walk to Parliament.

I would walk to the prime minister's house or office,

residence.

I would walk home or go on my motorcycle.

But usually I would walk only because

of blending with people who would come and disagree

with you, but getting their energy.

Seriously, this is what kept me alive.

And it's because of that that I could not not

resign on the 5th of July.

I thought, why, to keep the chair?

I don't like this chair.

Take it away from it.

I was only happy in it when I felt

that it was a prospect for doing something good,

for rebooting the situation.

AUDIENCE: Thank you.

AUDIENCE: Thank you for coming, first of all.

At the beginning of last year, when

you started as a finance minister,

I had the impression that you were a team with Mr. Tsipras.

YANIS VAROUFAKIS: That I was--

AUDIENCE: You were a team together.

YANIS VAROUFAKIS: Yes.

That's the impression I had, too.

AUDIENCE: Yes.

[LAUGHTER]

So when you resigned and Mr. Tsipras remained there

as a prime minister, I had the impression

that he gave up on you.

And I had the impression that he used you as a bluff

against the creditors.

So my question to you is, why did he give up on you?

Do you have an answer for that?

YANIS VAROUFAKIS: No, I don't.

I don't.

And you know what?

I have a policy of not projecting my prejudice

on somebody else's mind-- the other mind

problem in philosophy.

Especially in politics, it's wrong to do it.

What I can do is I can tell you what

he has said to me, because I think that's legitimate.

But trying to project my views about him on him

and then telling you what I think he was thinking,

I will not do that.

I will never do that.

It's not productive, I don't think,

and I don't trust myself to be able to do it.

But, look, Alexis allowed the troika,

in particular Dijsselbloem, the guy who had come to my office,

and Merkel, to drive a wedge between us-- slowly at first,

and then they kept hammering it in until we were very distant.

There was a moment-- there were many moments.

I won't give you the precise details, but sometime late

March, early April, I started feeling that.

By the end of April, I was in open confrontation with him.

There was a moment when-- for me, the unsustainable debt,

and our determination when we were still a team

not to accept another euro of debt

unless we had stabilized the Greek debt,

rendered it sustainable, and rebooted the economic program

for Greece, that was our agreement.

And technically speaking, a very important part

of this agreement had to do with the primary surplus.

The primary surplus, I remind you,

is the difference between the government's tax take

and government expenditure, excluding debt repayments.

That's the primary surplus.

Now, the troika had imposed on Greece

a crazy, insane target of 3 and 1/2, 4, 4 and 1/2%

of GDP in a broken economy.

That's just-- any investor who sees

this thinks, OK, leave Greece alone, because for them,

with no credit, no investment, and a debt deflationary crisis,

they can only try to achieve that primary surplus

by increasing taxes year in, year out.

So for me, that number was important.

It was both substantially important and psychologically

important for creating a shock of optimism,

to reduce it to 1%, 1 and 1/2% at most.

And Tsipras and I had agreed on that.

At some point, end of April, I'm in his office.

I entered his office to discuss various things.

I could feel since the end of March

there were problems between us, the way

he was negotiating without me with Merkel and so on.

What Merkel had said to him was, look, ditch Varoufakis and I'll

give you a deal.

It's very simple.

And they reason why they needed to ditch me was very simple.

I had made it abundantly clear I am not signing a new bailout

loan until and unless I could see that the numbers added up.

And make my day.

Just shoot me.

I'm not doing it.

And I had credibly committed to this.

So they knew that they had to get rid of me.

Why?

Because all these agreements are signed

not by the prime minister, but by the finance ministers.

So I was an obstacle.

So they drove this wedge between us.

And I remember walking to his office.

It was 27th of April or something like that.

At that time, there was a barrage

of attacks in the press, both international and national

against me.

And he went to the restroom.

And there was a piece of paper on the coffee table.

And so I picked it up and I read it.

And I could see that he had given them 3 and 1/2%

of the primary surplus.

And he comes back, and I say, Alexis,

do I take it that you gave this without telling me because you

knew I would veto it?

He said, yeah.

At that point, I said to him, why did you do that?

You know that I can't possibly support that.

He said, Yanis, you've got to become pragmatic.

You have to give something to take something.

I said, OK, fine.

What did we take?

[LAUGHTER]

What did we take?

He said, they promised that they will give us

something on the debt.

Something on the debt-- what does that mean?

A debt restructure.

I said, Alexis, you're driving-- I used words

that I can't use now.

We're friends, right.

This is complete idiocy.

If you accept that you can reach a 3.5% primary surplus,

you're accepting that your debt is sustainable,

because you take the surplus and you give it to the creditors.

And then why would they give you a debt

restructure if you promise to give them that money?

So these are complements.

They are not competing.

So if you give this, you give that, it's

like giving a shark a little bit of blood to convince

him to go away.

No way.

And we had a major clash.

So the question is, why did I not resign that night?

Well, I wrote my letter of resignation.

It was the first one-- second one.

I wrote five.

[LAUGHTER]

I submitted the fifth.

The reason was because-- I'll tell you

why-- because I felt that even though he was bending over

backwards to please the creditors,

they would not give him an agreement whatever

he gave them.

They wanted to drag our government

through the mud as a demonstration

effect for the Spaniards, the Irish, the Portuguese--

if you dare elect a government like these people,

this is what you get.

And I felt that when the degree of humiliation for Alexis

reached a certain threshold, then he would come back

and he would say, come on, let's do it now.

It didn't happen.

AUDIENCE: Thank you.

MALE SPEAKER: And I think this is the perfect time

to thank our guest today with this intimate story of how

it went on.

So please give a hand to Mr. Yanis Varoufakis.

[APPLAUSE]

YANIS VAROUFAKIS: Thank you.

The Description of Yanis Varoufakis: "And the Weak Suffer What They Must?" | Talks at Google