Post-Capitalist Transition Strategy Proposals by Yanis Varoufakis

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(from an interview conducted by Alice Flanagan)


Yanis Varoufakis:

"The first ingredient isn’t UBI; it’s the end of tradable shares. The idea that Rupert Murdoch can buy the shares of any newspaper in the world, and effectively turn them into his own mouthpieces, is absurd.

I mean, if that was not the case, and I came to you and said, ‘Look, I have an idea. Let’s chop up into tiny little pieces the ownership rights to every company, and then let’s trade those freely and allow the very rich to buy all the corporations,’ you would think that I am mad. That I am mad and dangerous. Yet this is what we have.

So moving from the oligarchic ownership model, where you buy as many votes... and this is how you should think of shares; shares are votes! And they are the votes in the assemblies where serious decisions are made. The serious decisions are not made in the Houses of Parliament. They are not made in the Congress or the Bundestag. They are made in the boards of directors and the general assemblies of Goldman Sachs, of Volkswagen, of Google, and so on.

This is where the big decisions are being made, the decisions that determine your life, as well as life on the planet. So these are the votes that count. And to say that there is a market for votes and the rich can buy them is the end of democracy. The democracy we have is simply a piece of propaganda. We have an oligarchy with elections and the elections are bought by the oligarchy.

So the first part is ‘one person, one share, one vote.’ That’s a very radical part, but also so simple. That’s what attracts me to it, that it is such a simple idea, and it’s what we already have in the political sphere. You have one vote; you can’t sell it, you can’t rent it, you can’t buy more. You just exercise it.

Number two is a digital bank account that everybody has with a central bank. Because at the moment you can have a bank account at the Royal Bank of Scotland or Barclays, but you cannot have a bank account with the Bank of England. But the Royal Bank of Scotland and Barclays do have a bank account with the Bank of England, which means that when the central bank is printing money, they can’t give it to you, they give it to them. And [the commercial banks] give it to the large corporations, who take that money and go buy shares. This is what we have now!

So the first thing you do is ban the trading of shares and say one share per employee, and the second thing you do is you cut out the middleman. Suddenly everything changes. Everything.

Firstly, you will never have a bank account with Barclays. Why would you want one? Why would you need one? You wouldn’t. You would have an account with the state central bank. Digital, with a smartphone app, with a plastic card.

If that happens with everyone in Britain, with everyone in the Eurozone, and so on, everybody has one row of a spreadsheet. That’s what the central bank will be. Well, if that is the case, why can’t the Bank of England then give you £1,000? To each of you, just add them to every row. That’s UBI for you!

You see, I was never in favour of UBI when it came out. I’m old enough to have been involved in the debates over UBI in the 1980’s and I was not a supporter of the idea. I was not a supporter of it because the idea then was it would be funded by taxation. I don’t like this idea. At all.

Because if you go to a hardworking blue-collar person, and you say to them, “I’m going to tax you and give the money to someone who does nothing, or to a rich person,” they say, “What? You are going to tax me in order to give money to someone who doesn’t need it, or who doesn’t deserve it?” Then the whole thing becomes toxic.

[Instead] you say to them, ‘Look, everyone takes it, because we are on this spreadsheet, and it’s just numbers and we add it on every month.’ And to the extent that these numbers facilitate economic activity, you don’t have inflation, because there’s more stuff that has been produced.

Anyone who says to me that universal basic income means people will not be motivated to work, I say, what?! Zuckerberg has billions! And he works day and night, you know? The rich never say this about their kids. They never say, ‘Oh no, he shouldn’t have a trust fund. If they aren’t starving they won’t be motivated.’ Only about the poor do they say this." (