Sunday, 4 February 2018

Book review: Adults in the Room, Yanis Varoufakis, 2017

Adults in the Room, economist-turned-politician Yanis Varoufakis's account of his attempts while Greek finance minister to get the country's creditors to agree to write off some of its debts in the aftermath of the global financial crisis, opens like a thriller. Although it then goes on to become a slightly overlong blow-by-blow account, it always maintains its grip on your interests, even though you know how things turned out

You can understand why Varoufakis would have wanted to set the record straight with a microscopic account of the events given how he was maltreated by the media through the machinations of his political opponents, but the middle part of the book does drag slightly with the succession of meetings and papers.

On the other hand, how often do you get the chance to take a ringside seat at the eurogroup? Not very.

Among the major players, only Varoufakis and Emmanuel Macron emerge from the book with their reputations essentially intact. The Eurogroup itself, most of its member ministers, the media, the European Central Bank, the International Monetary Fund, the European Commission, Sigmar Gabriel, Wolfgang Schauble and even Angela Merkel all display varying degrees of incompetence, ineffectiveness, illogicality, callousness and foolishness, even allowing for some bias on the part of the author. 

This is a sometimes-thrilling, ultimately depressing account of how governments and institutions can allow themselves to become trapped by circumstances, group-think, myopia and stubbornness. There are glimmers of hope for a better future, not least in Macron, but will those glimmers coalesce into a guiding light?

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