This week I appeared on Newsnight with Gillian Tett of the FT and Louise Cooper of BGC Partners. We discussed our graphs of 2011 (see mine below) and wider questions around the global financial crisis this year – and how ecnomists and policy makers need to respond.
Last week I gave a talk in Brussels at a debate moderated by Pierre Defraigne, Executive Director of the Madariaga – College of Europe Foundation. It was ACitizen’s Controversy with Lars Feld, Professor of Economic Policy at the University of Freiburg and Member of the German Council of Economic Experts.
As bank shares and stock markets plummet, and investors flock to the safety of government bonds; as obstinate EU leaders crucify their countries in a futile struggle to defend today’s equivalent of the gold standard; as British and American politicians adopt austerity policies and drive their economies closer to the cliffs of depression; and as most professional economists stand aloof from the escalating crisis – what lies ahead for ordinary punters like you and me?
First, let’s take look at the big political picture. This crisis is already sharpening the divide between left and right in both the EU and the United States. Studying a precedent – the implosion of the 1920s credit bubble in 1929 – we note that four years after that crisis erupted, the political divide sharpened decisively. The United States and Britain moved to the left. Germany chose a different path. After 1930, Germany’s Centre party under Chancellor Brüning adopted austerity policies that resulted in cuts in welfare benefits and wages, while credit was tightened. At the same time the German government engaged in wildly excessive borrowing from the liberalised international capital markets. The ground was laid for the rise of fascism.
Last month I was invited to join the ‘Labour Party Policy Review: Making growth work for the poor and generating resources for development’. The overall group was led by Harriet Harman, and the development section was chaired by Rushnara Ali MP.
Below is my short background note on mobility of capital flows, financial crises & implications for poor countries:
Capital Mobility: what others are saying
“Experience shows that when policies falter in managing capital flows, there is no limit to the damage that international finance can inflict on an economy.”
Yilmaz Akyüz, “Capital Flows to Developing Countries in a Historical Perspective: Will the current Boom End with a Bust?” South Centre:Research Paper 37, March 2011
“..capital flows, it’s like with fire. Fire can be used to turn raw meat into a wonderful steak. But it can also burn your house down.”
Jagdish Bagwhati, Professor of Economics, Columbia University, on Big Think, 17 November, 2007.
“Looking back on the crisis, the US, like some emerging-market nations during the 1990s, has learned that the interaction of strong capital inflows and weaknesses in the domestic financial system can produce unintended and devastating results. The appropriate response is…to improve private sector financial practices and strengthen financial regulation, including macroprudential oversight.”
Ben Bernanke, governor of the US’s Federal Reserve in speech to Banque de France February, 2011.
“So we have to make some choices. Let me be clear about mine: democracy and national determination should trump hyper-globalization. Democracies have the right to protect their social arrangements, and when this right clashes with the requirements of the global economy, it is the latter that should give way.” (Author’s emphasis)
The olive grove harvest. Image source: www.oxfam.org
As a follow-up to yesterday’s post on Greece: the Greeks are doing the one thing that hurts bankers most – they’re turning down invitations to their party.
In my book, ‘The coming first world debt crisis‘ I tried to spell out what actions individuals could take to defend themselves against the predations of voracious lenders.
“After all,” I wrote, “the finance sector depends on us, the world’s debtor-spenders, to come to the ball. We can turn down the invitation. We can decline the credit card, overdraft or loan. We can refuse to dance to Finance’s tune. We can live within our means.”
Well the Greeks have taken the advice, but gone further. They are taking their money out of banks.
Unemployment poster ‘jobless men keep going, we can’t take care of our own’, 1931.
We write to encourage you – to urge you on in your resistance.
In your defiance, you understand Greece is slave to the interests of private wealth.
You must understand too that it is private wealth that needs Greece. Greece does not need private wealth.
As is obvious to you – if not to EU finance ministers – Greek and other EU taxpayers are asked to shore up the immense wealth and reckless lending of private French, German, British and American banks.
Without your taxes, your sacrifices, the privatisation of your government’s assets, these bankers once again face Armageddon – as they did in autumn of 2008.
Just as then, so now they have rushed behind the ‘skirts’ of their defenders at the IMF and the EU. On their behalf, these unelected officials and some elected politicians demand that Greek and EU taxpayers shield private sector risk-takers from the consequences of their risks. The very antipathy of market principles.
In the process, the European Union is torn apart. Politicians, backed by officials, now defy the founding goals of the Community and, in the interests of private wealth, set the peoples of Europe against each other.
On 20 June, 2011 the acting Head of the IMF called for “immediate and far-reaching structural reforms, privatization, and the opening of markets to foreign ownership and competition.”
Which proves our point: private wealth needs Greece. Greece does not need private wealth.
With a backdrop of bankers looting the EU’s Treasuries (via a bailout that rivals George Bush’s TARP) let us consider one of the most significant Dem-Con appointments (and a non-appointment) to the British cabinet.
That of someone who until now was invisible: David Laws the new Chief Secretary to the Treasury.
His Wikipedia profile (updated on the day of his elevation, and before he had taken up his ministerial responsibilities) depicts him as the man that speaks for his party on matters relating to kiddie-winkies and families and, no doubt, motherhood and apple pie. He is also commended for his conciliatory role in negotiating the Scottish Parliament coalition.
No mention here of his real background.
For, according to ePolitix, David Laws was once Vice President of JP Morgan and Co and based in the United States, before becoming Managing Director of Barclays de Zoete Wedd in 1992.
Now, in my book the most obvious candidate for the job of Chancellor, or Chief Secretary to the Treasury, was surely Vince Cable, a man credited for his prescience in predicting the financial crisis, respected for his ongoing analysis of that crisis and regarded as a “scourge of City ‘fat cats’.” Continue reading… ›
Britain’s political elites are doing deals this weekend, trying to form a government. Gingerly making their way across the shifting tectonic plates of public opinion; wary of being tripped up again by voters.
For, let’s face it, the British electorate are no fools.
As the governor of the Bank of England apparently warned last week, they are mad as hell. Austerity measures will not be tolerated, and will keep any governing party out of power for a generation .
My conversation earlier this week with Elena Sisti – of Italy’s Altreconomia on macro-economics, reform of the finance sector, money, and yes, how we women have left the all-important matter of finance to the boys. Big mistake. It’s time to get in there, and exercise influence. Too much is at stake. Continue reading… ›