Yanis Varoufakis Would Tell Grant Robertson That Neoliberalism’s Rules Are For Breaking – Not Keeping.

By   /   December 12, 2017  /   24 Comments

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IMAGINE THE REACTION if Finance Minister, Grant Robertson, announced a broad-ranging, government-sponsored seminar on progressive economics chaired by Yanis Varoufakis. Vilified and demonized by EU bankers and politicians for his heterodox economic ideas, Varoufakis resigned as Greece’s Finance Minister rather than impose yet another of the European Central Bank’s crushing economic diktats on his impoverished homeland.

IMAGINE THE REACTION if Finance Minister, Grant Robertson, announced a broad-ranging, government-sponsored seminar on progressive economics chaired by Yanis Varoufakis. Vilified and demonized by EU bankers and politicians for his heterodox economic ideas, Varoufakis resigned as Greece’s Finance Minister rather than impose yet another of the European Central Bank’s crushing economic diktats on his impoverished homeland.

Inviting Varoufakis to chair a seminar on progressive economics would constitute the clearest possible proof that the Labour-NZ First Coalition’s promise to be a “transformational government” was genuine. International and domestic market reaction to such an announcement would, however, be instantaneous and extreme. New Zealand’s government would be portrayed as having taken leave of its senses.

And, in many respects, the markets would be right. Varoufakis is one of neoliberal capitalism’s most outspoken and acute critics. Winston Peters might have declared his determination to give capitalism a human face, but Varoufakis would likely argue that the necessary transplant operation would entail far more effort than it was worth! Hardly surprising given his belief that the leading capitalist nations have been waging an unrelenting war on their poorest citizens for the past forty years.

Writing for the latest newsletter of Project Syndicate, Varoufakis marvels at the “bourgeois rage” directed at the “militant parochialists” responsible for Brexit and Trump:

“The range of analysis is staggering. The rise of militant parochialism on both sides of the Atlantic is being investigated from every angle imaginable: psychoanalytically, culturally, anthropologically, aesthetically, and of course in terms of identity politics. The only angle that is left largely unexplored is the one that holds the key to understanding what is going on: the unceasing class war unleashed upon the poor since the late 1970s.”

As evidence for his class war claim, Varoufakis presents the following stark statistics:

“In 2016, the year of both Brexit and Trump, two pieces of data, dutifully neglected by the shrewdest of establishment analysts, told the story. In the United States, more than half of American families did not qualify, according to Federal Reserve data, to take out a loan that would allow them to buy the cheapest car for sale (the Nissan Versa sedan, priced at $US12,825). Meanwhile, in the United Kingdom, over 40% of families relied on either credit or food banks to feed themselves and cover basic needs.”

Unleashing Varoufakis on the equivalent New Zealand data would doubtless produce a series of equally startling conclusions. Which is why Grant Robertson, himself, would, almost certainly, resign rather than invite someone like Varoufakis to draw the obvious policy conclusions from the last 30 years of class war in New Zealand – especially since many of that war’s most destructive campaigns were conducted under the generalship of Labour Party politicians!

Robertson’s pitch to New Zealand’s capitalist class is very different from Varoufakis’s unabashed “economic humanism”. Only this morning, (11/12/17) speaking to the Auckland Chamber of Commerce, Robertson declared:

“For us to keep being able to afford the policies necessary to achieve higher living standards we must remain fiscally responsible. It goes without saying that a Government that presides over high deficits, increasing debt, or a shrinking economy could not provide the quality public services that New Zealanders want and deserve. That is why we have developed and committed to our Budget Responsibility Rules.”

Which is precisely the sort of language that Varoufakis encountered when he travelled to Brussels on his doomed missions to secure a more rational approach to managing the consequences of Greece’s crippling indebtedness. That Robertson shows every sign of being as committed to following “the rules” as the European Central Bank’s pitiless bailiffs, strongly suggests that, even if he could, somehow, be prevailed upon to organise a seminar on progressive economics, and invite Varoufakis to chair it, the maverick Greek economist would feel obliged to decline.

The former Greek Finance Minister’s own experience tells him that “the rules” formulated by the world’s economic and political elites; “the rules” bankers and politicians consider themselves bound in solemn duty to uphold and enforce at all costs; are, in reality, no more than “the rules of engagement” in neoliberal capitalism’s “unceasing class war” against the poor. If Varoufakis was ever to accept an invitation to chair a government-sponsored seminar on progressive economics, it would only be because he had already been convinced, by their actions, that the politicians asking him to elaborate a more “transformational” political economy were rule-breakers – not rule-keepers.

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24 Comments

  1. Castro says:

    Quite. Imagine if the Wage Slave Labour Party wasn’t in the pocket of the Chinese dictatorship. The only way to emancipate the poor is through armed uprising; Marie Antoinette learned that first hand.

    • Sam Sam says:

      Do you think we’re all dumb or something Castro? And yeah. Yeah I’d have to be dumb as shit to consider your ramblings on armed uprisings.

    • Sam Sam says:

      Do you think we’re all dumb or something Castro? And yeah. Yeah I’d have to be dumb as shit to consider your ramblings on armed uprisings.

  2. John W says:

    If Robertson behaves himself and follows “the rules” as laid by banks and business NZ, then he will be looked after.

    Any politician who follows the low or reduced Taxation path in the face of increasing social cost and privatisation, is not working for NZ but for the bankers who run it.

    Over throwing the “rules” and private banking would be a sign if a political leader who would fight for NZ and its people and the environment that supports life.

    You can’t feed the mega parasites and maintain a healthy system.

  3. Richard Christie says:

    On one hand Chris Trotter advocates meaningful action to “prove that the Labour-NZ First Coalition’s promise to be a “transformational government” is genuine.

    On the other hand he is perfectly comfortable with NZ signing up to the current TPP11 draft which is essentially a mechanism that builds tungsten steel ramparts around the global neoliberal edifice.

  4. Quicksilver says:

    So why wasn’t this article published on Stuff, Chris, rather than your piece entitled “Lack of post-election bounce an ominous sign for new Government” – which reads as just another attempt to put the boot into the Coalition??

    The polls are actually encouraging I believe, given the vicious unrelenting propanganda war waged on the Govt by the corporate-owned MSM since the election. Your Stuff opinion piece fits with that ongoing phoney narrative.

  5. esoteric pineapples says:

    Really worth listening to him in debates and interviews on YouTube

  6. roy says:

    But is Grant really a knave? Or just a naïf?

    • OnceWasTim says:

      We’ll see if and when it all goes tits up. The IF is an inevitability if we stick to the current path. The WHEN is dependent on how long they can keep tinkering and hiding behind gated communities, and how long the masses find poverty, homelessness, shit health care, trickle up and loss of sovereignty and self-determination acceptable.
      But yeah nah, I’ll either be long gone or living somewhere in the 3rd World – with no debt

    • Patrick says:

      Chris,
      are you sure you have the right photo.
      That guy looks seriously scary.

      • David Stone says:

        He doesn’t look scary to girls Patric , They think he looks very exciting.
        It is encouraging to see many comments show people are thinking about this and getting the picture. What a pity it doesn’t seem to include labour party politicians.
        Greece’s experience ,ongoing, shows what the architects of the financial system we operate under are prepared to impose on masses of ordinary people to protect their system. Recognise that though Greece is the country in Europe most desperately in need of debt relief , and the only one denied QE money from the EU bank. Because they are too much in debt. How perverse is that?
        The collapse of the system that Wild Katipo is anticipating though will I think not come until many countries, and most people are in a worse state than Greece is now. QE will protect the 0.01% through the impoverishment of most of humanity before elected governments start serving their people. The obstacle being a grasp of the problem more than a lack of the will to do the right thing, in the face of an entrenched establishment which does understand, seeks to deceive and serve their own fraternity , and is intellectually in a different league to our politicians.
        But to reflect on what it would be to take on the changes that Varoufakis might recommend, look what opposition even the US faces when trying to adjust tax rates to manage their own economy…
        https://www.ft.com/content/eeb17eaa-de91-11e7-a8a4-0a1e63a52f9c.
        D J S

  7. WILD KATIPO says:

    Here is an interesting piece from Draco T Bastard that I retained ….

    ……………………………….
    Draco T Bastard 2.2.1.1.1.1
    12 October 2017 at 3:25 pm
    +1

    If we address the problem of the private banks creating money and make it so that only the Reserve Bank can do so, that it charges no interest to the government and that only government spending can introduce money into the economy then Keynesianism could work.
    ……………………………….

    And I believe its true.

    This business of ‘ borrowing’ and thus going into servitude to global bankers…

    When we actually do not have to. Our currency is among the most traded in the world,… and ,… being part of the ‘western conglomerate’… as it were… it would be interesting to see the shock horror if we did. And after that all subsided,.. and general acceptance, you would probably find willing trade partners eyeing us enviously as we shot ahead , – and left the interest grabbing banksters fuming…

    Three cheers for you , Mr Chris Trotter.

    You have no qualms in calling out erroneous politicians and calling them for what they really are. Robertson always was a Blairite. Sadly. Likable enough , – but still pretty much a Blairite.

    One would have hoped he would have softened – esp with the new govt and his shot at power. One would hope,… that he will eventually see sense, but I wouldn’t be holding my breath…

    Keynesianism.

    The only way this country will ever be able to return to a semblance of its former ‘egalitarian’ self. We did it once , – for a very long , long time. And it worked. It worked very well in New Zealand.

    That was , – until the Mont Pelerin society , the Business Roundtable and their puppets Roger Douglas and Ruth Richardson saw a great opportunity for self enrichment in plundering the public wealth from New Zealanders.

    New Right Fight – Who are the New Right?
    http://www.newrightfight.co.nz/pageA.html

    There is a place for people like Yanis Varoufakis , and in time , when the last vestiges of the neo liberal populace have either succumbed to illness, age , – or seen their empires burn down in flames around them … perhaps it will be then they will emerge triumphant.

    After all ,… it took a massive Great Depression caused by Laissez-faire economics and a destructive 5 year long World War to really entrench Keynesian economics as the new way – even though some would say it was only put in place to ‘ save ‘ capitalism…

    I’m sure all the workers with good pay and conditions and secure state housing certainly didn’t complain about Keynesianism, – and nor did the thousands more young children who benefited from it , either.

    Think about that while you enjoy your Christmas ham this festive season , – and the incredible social program made possible for New Zealanders under Mickey Joseph Savage and his Labour Government …

    Wont you , … Mr Robertson.

    I trust you will.

  8. cs says:

    Varoufakis is an intellectual heavyweight and if I were a betting man I’d wager that he will have a major role to play in world history in the not too distant future when European states increasingly begin to elect governments opposed to the neoliberal consensus. He has all the charisma, depth and presence to lead a (mathematically coherent, Greek mythology-informed) revolution. He is perhaps the Maynard Keynes of our generation:statesman and economist who understands game theory very well.

    Unfortunately back home, we alas have Grant Robertson. Whose speeches are about as intellectually engaging to me as an episode of Pepa Pig. He truly has no new ideas. And his ideas lack coherence.

    You can’t solve NZ’s social deficit and not run budget deficits.

    • mjh says:

      Grant Robertson at Finance is certainly THE most disappointing thing about the new government. Almost anyone else would be better (that is, less inclined to accept neoliberal crap as reality). Too bad Winston didn’t insist on having the position — he is going to be wasted as Foreign Minister. And can I add that possibly the best thing in the new govt is Tracey Martin as Children’s Minister (not just “vulnerable” but all children, as she has said). We must push this govt to do what it said and undo 30 years of damage, not just incremental push backs against the past 9 years of stupidity.

      • cs says:

        Agreed.

        Winston would be better I agree.

        But an MMT based Labour/Green/NZ First government is what we really need with Bill Mitchell and Stephanie Kelton (along with Varoufakis for star value) as its key international advisors.

        I wish some journalists would ask Robertson some questions to see if he actually has any awareness of the history of progressive economic thought….. maybe we should send him a copy of the General Theory for Christmas.

        I suspect he is unaware of the political conservatism of the defunct economists he is the slave of.

  9. Zack Brando says:

    Call ME a visionary, Call ME crazy … but the world is changing … I’ll outline below:

    1. We’ve all heard the term ‘cashless society’ – it’s here and it’s called crypto-currency. It’s now just a matter of time before total global adoption.

    For thicko, self-professed keynesian Grant Robertson, get these implications through your head:

    a. Crypto-currencies (Bitcoin, Litecoin, Ripple, etc) have a fixed, immutable supply. Therefore the new monetary system is deflationary not inflationary. People who hold crypto-currencies will see their spending power increase.

    This will turn the current monetary system on it’s head … and continue until mass saturation at which point cryptos become the/a reserve currency. Divinities (SDR’s) are in for a shock

    b. Because the new global currencies are boarder-less and require NO intermediaries – extracting money from the wage slaves is going to get harder and harder … the jig is up bro. A total rethink is need …

    TOP’s capital taxes will become the new normal – why? … because in a crypto world you can’t charge GST (except maybe on gas), income tax is easily avoided, gift tax is obviously avoidable, etc, etc. Government’s will only be able to easily tax capital like houses, boats, commodities, oh and impose rates.

    Property could become worthless for a while. This is the new reality bro, so you can’t fight it, just letting you know Robertson – I mean, you’re not the sharpest pencil.

    2. Under the current/now old global monetary system, money is created by borrowing it and unlike house-holds, Government’s make money when they spend it.

    Given these facts, when I hear you speak Grant I’m like; how is this dude in-charge of our countries’ finances?

    3. If you don’t want to borrow more money, legalize cannabis … it will make the country money you thicko.

    4. You know what, I’m going to bed, you don’t get a 4 or a 5 … God save New Zealand … education, regulations and banking are totally out-dated. Grandpa Grant is living in the past – he’s a big reason I didn’t vote Labour!

  10. r-b says:

    Chris, has it occurred to you that if the Greeks had been more fiscally responsible, they wouldn’t have been burdened with “crippling indebtedness”?

    Maybe, just maybe, Robertson and others like Cullen might have something to teach Varoufakis?

  11. red-blooded says:

    Chris, has it occurred to you that if the Greeks had been more fiscally responsible, they wouldn’t have been burdened with “crippling indebtedness”?

    Maybe, just maybe, Robertson and others like Cullen might have something to teach Varoufakis?

  12. Jack says:

    Yes, this man deserves our praise for his courage. When banks stop being part of the productive economy and instead become parasitic then we have a problem with them.

    • John W says:

      The fractional reserve principle and fiat money makes banks parasitic as they are now and have been for more time than NZ has been colonised.