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As the Wu-Tang Clan once put it: “Cash moves everything around me... Get the money. Dollar dollar bill, y’all.”

I grew up not wanting to believe this. All the stuff that seemed worth having was hard to put a price tag on. But under global capitalism, there’s a lot of hard, sad truth to it. As an American child of the 1980s, I absorbed the message “find yourself!” “Follow your passions!” But there are powerful economic forces at work, shaping our lives and opportunities. 

My guest today experienced this in the most intense way imaginable, wrangling with the European Union over the economy of his country, Greece, in the aftermath of the 2008 financial meltdown. He saw firsthand what a house of cards global capitalism can be, and what can happen to the ones on the bottom. Yanis Varoufakis is Greece’s former finance minister and the author of two recent books: Adults in the Room and Talking to My Daughter About the Economy. 

Yanis Varoufakis quote: As we have been shifting for 300 years now into a world where most production is done not to experience that which is being produced but in order to sell it for the exchange value that it can bring the producer, you have a gentle but at the same time brutal shift in terms of values from the things that make you a better person, a happier person, allow you to develop, to grow as an individual…away from this towards “what’s in it for me?” And the delicious irony here is that…in the pursuit of more and more joy, happiness, utility, satisfaction…we become less and less satisfied. We end up with an economy which can only be described as “joyless” in the pursuit of happiness.

Surprise conversation-starter clips in this episode

Slavoj Zizek on the problem with happiness

Steven Pinker on why there are no libertarian countries

About Think Again - A Big Think Podcast: Since 2008, Big Think has been sharing big ideas from creative and curious minds. Since 2015, the Think Again podcast has been taking us out of our comfort zone, surprising our guests and Jason Gots, your host, with unexpected conversation starters from Big Think’s interview archives.

You've got 10 minutes with Einstein. What do you talk about? Black holes? Time travel? Why not gambling? The Art of War? Contemporary parenting? Some of the best conversations happen when we're pushed outside of our comfort zones. Each week on Think Again, we surprise smart people you may have heard of with short clips from Big Think's interview archives on every imaginable subject. These conversations could, and do, go anywhere.


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