Extra material

Economists’ opinions now

In retrospect, how do economists evaluate what happened in 2015? Here are some examples:

  • Professors Jeff Sachs (Columbia) and James K. Galbraith (Texas): “Thomas Wieser’s claim that Yanis Varoufakis and the Greek government of 2015 cost their economy 200 billion euros is ludicrous. As Wieser knows – because he was one of the architects of the policy – the Greek economy in 2015 was strangled by its creditors. The creditors inflicted severe damage from the first day: by undermining liquidity of the bank system, refusing to restructure the debt, insisting on harsh austerity, and most importantly and blatantly, refusing to negotiate or even brainstorm in good faith. The creditors’ measures were highly destructive for Greece, as even former German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble admitted. Schäuble told Varoufakis that, were their positions reversed, he would not sign! The creditors’ terms were not aimed to help Greece at all. We stand with Yanis Varoufakis and with the truth.”
  • Senator Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.): “It is unacceptable that the International Monetary Fund and European policymakers have refused to work with the Greek government on a sensible plan to improve its economy and pay back its debt. At a time of grotesque wealth inequality, the pensions of the people in Greece should not be cut even further to pay back some of the largest banks and wealthiest financiers in the world. Instead of trying to force the Greek government and its people into even more economic pain and suffering, international leaders throughout the world, including the United States, should enable Greece to enact pro-growth policies that improve the lives of all of its people, not just the wealthy few.” “
  • Hans-Werner Sinn, best-known conservative German economist: “Varoufakis acted very prudently and wisely to defend Greek interests. Without his threat of introducing a parallel payments system (that could, ultimately, become the new currency that would have facilitated Grexit), the community of states would not have been willing to come up with a third rescue programme. He has saved the Greek state many billions of euros. Arguing, conversely, that his policies cost the Greek state money is an absurd distortion of the truth.”
  • Martin Wolf, Chief Economic Commentator of the Financial Times: “Greece, argues Varoufakis, has been put in a debtors’ prison and robbed of autonomy and dignity for the indefinite future. Critics would argue that he failed as finance minister in 2015 because he was insufficiently politic. More plausibly, he could never have succeeded, such were the vested interests arrayed against him. This outcome was — and is — a tragedy, because he was — and is — right. The bulk of Greek debt should indeed be cancelled outright.”

Watch this video of Yanis Varoufakis summing it up himself in 2018, on BBC Hard Talk, or, better yet, read his book “Adults in the Room” (made into a movie by Costa-Gavras).

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