The pandemic, markets and children in the room

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By Leda Maria Paulani*

The article, rescuing Varoufakis' book, unfolds an illuminating allegory

The coronavirus pandemic, with the harsh demands of social isolation, caused, among other results, the closure of schools. The consequences of the measure for family relationships are complex, with problems of various kinds. For certain segments of the Brazilian middle class, especially in the higher strata, one of the most visible developments is that parents who have been unaccustomed to having children for a long time have been forced (life is hard) living with them 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and for how long, God does not know.

All this without the beautiful vacation crutches, with trips, ludic places, countless news and kind organizers (GOs) in the Meds clubs of life. No, none of that. Now it's a bland everyday life, in the usual house, with the usual problems, no outings, no friends. It is not by chance that the unprecedented situation has been the object of endless jokes and memes on social networks.

Many then find out how spoiled these children are, how difficult they are to deal with, how snotty they are. The “markets” (read here fundamentally the financial market, or the finance) are like those spoiled children: at the slightest sign of annoyance they threaten with a fuss that would embarrass any parent or with a scream that would drive any mother crazy.

In a formidable book, the Greek economist Yannis Varoufakis, briefly Minister of Finance in a left-wing government in his country, provides a richly detailed description of his fight against the establishment financial. In the post-2008 crisis world, he simply sought, like Don Quixote, to make an economic policy for 99% of Greeks and free the small and historic country from the iron chain of a debt that, after all, had been imposed on it. . Symptomatically, the name of the book is Adults in the Room (Adults in the Room, in the original title in English; published in Brazil by Autonomia Literária, in 2019).

The title alludes to an expression used by Christine Lagarde, at the time director-general of the IMF, who, in the midst of sterile discussions, once stated that the only way to resolve the Greek drama was to have a grown-up conversation with adults in the living room. As if she were giving the negotiators, representatives of finance, who refused to understand the real problems of that small country in the euro zone, Lagarde called them spoiled children. The stratagem often used to scold little ill-mannered human beings is to say that they are no longer children, that they are already good guys, and that they should behave like such. Christine reversed the expedient: she called those old gentlemen, with their serious expressions, dealing with such complicated subjects "little children".

But this would have been the whole anecdote if our author had got his point. It didn't end there, however. The pulling of ears was not for real. In another episode, without having anything else to say, in the face of absolutely rational and reasonable arguments raised by Varoufakis, the same Lagarde, in a private conversation, confesses to him in a burst of sincerity: “Yannis, of course you are right, it is of course you're right, but we've already invested a lot in this path of rescues with austerity and we can't go back”… And there was no one to call her a child.

The sad history of Greece, and the fruitless attempts to resolve the country's debt issue in a non-inhumane way, is emblematic of the behavior of markets and their ability to blackmail society. As financial wealth is serelepe and lives in an environment that has been built for decades in order to satisfy the predatory instinct in its free circulation, the markets act like rich children that cannot and should not be contradicted.

And who says that is not Leda Paulani, a Marxist, leftist, esoteric and horoscopeist economist, according to her enemies. Whoever says that is the marketist archorthodox hard Mansueto Almeida, this priceless Secretary of the Treasury. In a virtual event promoted by two major newspapers on April 7, he stated that this year we are heading towards a primary deficit of around R$450 to R$500 billion, compared to R$61 billion last year. And he added: “This year it is necessary, and we will have to accept it as an adult”.

Do you hear, children? “in an adult way”. So calm down, no throwing your plate on the floor, no triggering panic mode because the government will have to pay the underprivileged half a dozen pennies to stay at home. Oh, and even Henrique Meirelles agrees that it's time to “print money”! Behave yourselves. After the pandemic, they can go back to being the usual spoiled children. Papa Mansueto will be there to guarantee bad breeding.

*Leda Maria Paulani is a professor (senior) at FEA\USP

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