The world is now faced by a terrifying prospect: large scale and systemic economic failure of a globalised, highly integrated economy, caused by the collapse of massive credit and asset bubbles.
This credit bubble, created by the private, de-regulated or ‘liberalised’ finance sector, inflated other bubbles, notably in property, but also in dot.coms, stocks and shares, and more recently, commodities like oil. All these bubbles will burst. The deflation of credit will leave a vast stain of unpayable debt on the global economy which will lead to the deflation of asset, including property, prices and in turn to the deflation of prices of goods and services.
Such a debt-deflationary spiral implies high unemployment, social and political dislocation. But it will not be the result of a “failure of substance. We are stricken by no plague of locusts” to quote Franklin D. Roosevelt. And we, the taxpayers and citizens of Anglo-American economies are expected to clear up a financial mess created by the irresponsible, reckless and often fraudulent actions of a de-regulated finance sector, which, as President Sarkozy blurted out after the Societe Generale scandal “is out of its mind and …has lost sight of its purpose”.
The main concern of financiers now of course is to protect the sector from governmental or democratic oversight and regulation, and to transfer private losses to taxpayers. To do so, they need to distract attention from the sector, limit debate, prevent a coherent analysis of the causes of the crisis and blind punters to the ‘science’ of finance. The first tactic in the campaign to divert attention is to blame the victims. The most hapless of these are sub-prime borrowers – hairdressers on e.g. $7 an hour in the poorest districts of Ohio who were persuaded by dodgy mortgage-floggers that they could take on a adjustable rate mortgage at ‘teaser rates’, go to the ball and have a roof over their heads.
The game of blaming the victim is conducted in more elevated terms by the high priests of finance, and by the economics profession who explain, of course, that the crisis originated with borrowers and with the property market, not with reckless credit creation by the private finance sector.