A roundup of the most intelligent takes on global affairs this week
The Greek Warrior – New Yorker
Varoufakis, a mathematical economist with a modest academic reputation, had become a popular writer in Greece. When the snap election was called, he interrupted his professorship at the University of Texas, flew home to Greece, and launched a ten-day election campaign whose sole expense was the cost of gas for his motorcycle…Varoufakis was elected with a larger share of the vote than any other candidate, and he was named the finance minister.
Greece’s controversial former Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis says he will miss his German counterpart Wolfgang Schäuble, whom he calls a “man of principle.” Does Schäuble feels the same for Varoufakis? Someone ask him. Please.
Pope Francis Against the World – The New Republic
The mistake made by the media all along has been to conclude that because Pope Francis can speak morally to a variety of issues we tend to think of as detached from moral reasoning (like economics, inequality, and property) that his authority is less limited than it really is. The truth is that Francis’s greatest ability outside the Church is his capacity to inspire, especially in those who don’t normally look to Catholic moral theology for their inspiration.
The general lack of international leadership and the number of current crises around the world offer an opening for a charismatic leader with the backing of a large flock. Yet, political leaders of both the left and right are confused about how (and whether) to engage him.
How to Smuggle $1,000 into North Korea – Politico EU
The smuggler will strap the items in a waterproof sack, swim across the river and bribe the guards on the North Korean border to let him pass into North Korea. These are guards that the smuggler has carefully built relationships with over time. Smuggling goods is highly punishable, and letting people pass through the North Korean border, rather than shooting them, could get the border guards killed instantly. But North Korea has become a country where money can solve any problem and can save lives.
And the cracks widen to let in a little more light. One day, North Korea will go from forgotten story to biggest story in the world in a matter of hours. And then one of the largest long-term humanitarian reclamation projects in history will have to begin.
“Death to America” and the Iran Deal – New Yorker
I talked to Iranians in Tehran from across the political spectrum about “Death to America!” I pointed out that, throughout the decades of tension, no American has been recorded going into a church and shouting “Death to Iran!” Some Iranians downplayed the revolutionary mantra’s importance; others insisted it still has strong symbolic merit. But all of them—particularly senior Iranian officials educated in the United States—seemed befuddled about why it would ever impact the fate of the nuclear deal.
When two countries refuse to talk to one another for 36 years, it takes time to find a common language. That process has only just begun, and there’s no guarantee that the two governments, or their citizens, will find much to say to one another anytime soon.
Why Greece’s Lenders Need to Suffer – New York Times Magazine
A world of bonds works only when the investors who buy the bonds are extremely nervous and wildly cautious…The bailout represented a transfer of wealth from the rest of the economy into the bond market — precisely the opposite of what is supposed to happen. Now, in the moral hand-wringing over Greece and its failure to pay, we see that bondholders expect to be bailed out constantly, even when they were obviously culpable in failing to manage their own risk.
Just as short-sided lenders helped inflate the housing bubble in the US, so Greece’s lenders helped fuel the destructive patterns of that country’s long-dysfunctional government. Another timely reminder that short-attention-span media simplifies too many stories when reality isn’t so clean.