Xenophon Zolotas - Early Life and Career

Early Life and Career

Born in Athens in 1904, Zolotas studied economics at the University of Athens, and later studied in Leipzig and Paris. He came from a wealthy family of goldsmiths with roots in pre-revolutionary Russia. In 1928 he became Professor of Economics at Athens University and at Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, a post he held until 1968, when he resigned in protest at the military regime which had come to power in 1967. He was a member of the Board of Directors of UNRRA in 1946 and held senior posts in the International Monetary Fund and other international organisations in 1946 and 1981.

Zolotas was director of the Bank of Greece in 1944–1945, 1955–1967 (when he resigned in protest at the regime), and 1974–1981. He published many works on Greek and international economic topics. He was a Keynesian, and was active in socialist circles with his close friend, Professor Angelos Angelopoulos. He is also famous for demonstrating the contribution of Greek language to the English vocabulary by making English speeches, as he said, "using with the exception of articles and prepositions only Greek words", to foreign audiences.

When the elections of November 1989 failed to give a majority to either the PASOK party of Andreas Papandreou or the New Democracy party of Constantine Mitsotakis, Zolotas, then aged 85, agreed to become Prime Minister at head of a non-party administration until fresh elections could be held. He stepped down after the election of April 1990 which gave Mitsotakis a narrow majority.

He was a workaholic and an avid winter swimmer, making a point of swimming every morning throughout the year even into his nineties.

His book Economic Growth and Declining Social Welfare advances the idea that in modern economic growth there is an increasing output of useless and even discomforting things, such as advertising. For that reason modern economic growth cannot be at all considered as creating conditions for further human happiness, a thesis quite in agreement with ideas by authors such as Richard Easterlin or Herman Daly.

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