Yanis Varoufakis at Project Syndicate:
We used to think, with good reason, that globalization had defanged national governments. Presidents cowered before the bond markets. Prime ministers ignored their country’s poor but never Standard & Poor’s. Finance ministers behaved like Goldman Sachs’s knaves and the International Monetary Fund’s satraps. Media moguls, oil men, and financiers, no less than left-wing critics of globalized capitalism, agreed that governments were no longer in control.
Then the pandemic struck. Overnight, governments grew claws and bared sharpened teeth. They closed borders and grounded planes, imposed draconian curfews on our cities, shut down our theatres and museums, and forbade us from comforting our dying parents. They even did what no one thought possible before the Apocalypse: they canceled sporting events.
The first secret was thus exposed: Governments retain inexorable power. What we discovered in 2020 is that governments had been choosing not to exercise their enormous powers so that those whom globalization had enriched could exercise their own.
The second truth is one that many people suspected but were too timid to call out: the money-tree is real. Governments that proclaimed their impecunity whenever called upon to pay for a hospital here or a school there suddenly discovered oodles of cash to pay for furlough wages, nationalize railways, take over airlines, support carmakers, and even prop up gyms and hairdressers.