Tuesday, January 5, 2016

First We Screw Up, Then We Have Lunch (On Someone Else’s Tab)

The class spent a lot of Spring 2015 discussing the economic crisis in Greece.

A leading player in that was the Greek finance minister Yanis Varoufakis. He was widely viewed as obstructionist, and unwilling to negotiate seriously with other countries in Europe. Eventually he was fired by his own government.

… Mr Varoufakis infuriated almost all of his European negotiating partners. "We had countless discussions with him," remembered Pierre Moscovici, the European commissioner for economic affairs.

"These discussions were vain, pointless and academic. He only wanted to play for time, not make concrete proposals."

Now he makes a ton of money on the lecture circuit.

An email from an agent of the London Speaker Bureau, published by Proto Thema, an Athens weekly, said that Mr Varoufakis now charges $60,000 (£40,000) for one speech given “outside of Europe”. The sacked minister has a sliding scale of fees, according to the email. Mr Varoufakis will speak anywhere inside Europe for $5,000 (£3,000) – and he will give a university lecture for $1,500 (£1,000).

“The man who contributed to the Greek economy’s catastrophe by obstructing talks with international creditors and leading the country to capital controls is making a mint,” said Proto Thema.

The email reminds anyone thinking of booking Mr Varoufakis that he would also "require business class travel, accommodation, airport and ground transfers, meals and incidentals".

The next time someone asks you why politicians pursue policies for their countries that don’t make economic sense, ask yourself if they may be making economic sense for the politician.

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