book review · Shar

Talking To My Daughter About the Economy// I’m an economist now I’ve read this, right?

Yes, I know I normally post earlier than this but I have a lot of assignments to do and no time and still want to make quality content and ugh university is hard but I’m happy to be here. I have a break in 2 weeks, and I will blogify then 🙂 🙂 

Title: Talking to My Daughter About the Economy

Author: Yanis Varoufakis

Genre: Nonfiction of the ‘expert simplifies things for the noob’ variety

I picked this up (literally) when I saw it lying around my mother’s friend’s house. I liked the first chapter, which I read then, and decided to get it from the library. The readability—it was originally written in Greek, and addressed to the author’s then-10 year old daughter—appealed to me, as did his expertise. He has been a professor or economics all over the world, and had to deal with the Greek economy crash as its finance minister in 2015 (but I’m pretty sure that doesn’t mean that what went down was his fault.). This book wasn’t about the numbers that economics revolves around. The book was more about how capitalism works, how it generates inequality, and its history, as well as providing the basics of economics from the Mesopotamians to present day.

I really liked how this book was well organised into clear sections about various aspects of economics. However, I found some sentences—for all the promises of readability—unnecessarily long and complicated. There were also plenty of long words thrown about, and I’m pretty sure they weren’t all necessary. In general, while it was easier to read than most economics textbooks (I imagine—I’ve never studied the subject, which is why I read this book), I don’t think any average 10-year-old would necessarily want to read it. It wasn’t quite that readable.

Without knowing very much about it, and mostly indoctrinated by my biased upbringing, I’ve always believed that a free market economy isn’t an ideal way to run the world, mainly because it generates so much inequality. But before reading this, I didn’t entirely understand why capitalism causes such inequality. This was, in fact, the focus of the book. It was good that it criticised many aspects of capitalism and the problems it can cause, and good that it was realistic about the fact that the world can’t go back to not being centred around profit. But despite this honesty, this realism about the many grim situations caused by capitalism, Talking to My Daughter About The Economy didn’t point to any ways of solving inequality or making things better for the many impoverished people and countries of the world. Nor did it compare other political/economic strategies such as socialism to capitalism and discuss which was better in terms of equality. I’ve always thought (not to say I’m not a hypocrite), that if you critiscise something, you’ve got to offer a solution. There was a brief mention at the end of a democratic process of involvement with the economy. This book argues that economics truly drive culture and politics and affect people’s lives to an extent that they shouldn’t be left to expert economists. But there was no solution, not even a partial one, offered to the problem of inequality.

One of my other, more minor criticisms of this book was the chapter on technology. It talked very abstractly about how machines will eventually take over humans, devastating the economy as there will be no jobs, so nobody will have any money to buy anything, causing crashes and stagnation. However, I felt like it wasn’t very scientific (‘machines designing more machines’ still is more sci-fi than a future reality) and not very relevant, based mostly on hypothesis. It just annoyed me somehow.

I know economics can be a lot of numbers, as it is about money, which in its essence is the moving of numbers, and philosophy, since it’s about hypotheticals and actions. I liked how this book was more based on the historical and cultural origins of capitalism than the more obscure mathematical and philosophical aspects. For example, it began by addressing inequality by asking “Why did the British invade Australian Aborigine’s land and not the other way round?” (the answer is that a greater population and fertile land in Eurasia gave rise to farming competition and trade, driving technological innovation and profiteering to give rise to advanced shipmaking and navigating capable of going on long journeys to make more money. Wow, I sound so smart.). As the author points out, the economy is complicated because it’s so easily affected by people’s thoughts, and controlled by such a small amount of people. This book wasn’t dry at all; it was realistic and relevant.

Overall, I learned so much from Talking to My Daughter About The Economy. It’s a pity there wasn’t more hope to be gained from examining solutions to the massive problems capitalism has caused. Four stars.

Do you ever read just to learn about a particular topic? What have you got up to recently? Have you read anything good? (I’ve been kind of out of touch with the book world and I want updates! )

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6 thoughts on “Talking To My Daughter About the Economy// I’m an economist now I’ve read this, right?

  1. I hear you on the uni front – my blog’s going to be thin on posts until at least mid-May.
    Economics is definitely NOT a topic I’d read about voluntarily. It makes me think of maths! :’)

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  2. I’m pretty out of touch with the bookish world too, BUT I am studying (and at the moment failing) economics. I find it super interesting, but I’m just a little behind at the moment so hopefully I’ll have some time to catch up in the holidays. Maybe I’ll read this to make studying a little more interesting!

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  3. Have I already gotten you to read “Sacred Economics?” One of my highest-recommended must reads.

    On a different note.

    “‘machines designing more machines’ still is more sci-fi than a future reality”

    Really? I would think that pretty much everyone in robotics assumes this will certainly happen.

    Computer programs are already writing their own computer programs.

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