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.
The Autumn Statement reveals but one thing: the Chancellor and his advisers are both ill-advised and dangerously ill-prepared for the forthcoming prolonged Depression. (And if you think I exaggerate, let me remind you that 20 years after the Japanese debt bubble burst, Tokyo house prices are still falling, and the stock market is worth 60% less than 20 years ago. And the Japanese economy was in a healthier state then, than the UK is today, thanks to an export surplus.)
Today’s penalising of the innocent – public sector workers, pensioners and those hundreds of thousands of young people entering the labour market - is a result of a deeply flawed economic analysis by the Chancellor of the causes of the global financial crisis.
By Ann Pettifor. An edited version of this piece was published on Left Foot Forward, 14 September, 2011. This original, longer version posted 19 September, 2011.
The game is up. The 2007-9 private banking crisis that started with the unpayable debts of the US sub-prime sector, was never over. The crisis has now moved on to include the unpayable debts of sovereigns owed to private European bankers. It is increasingly clear that there is declining political and institutional support for further private bank bailouts. The dramatic resignation on Friday 9th September of Jürgen Stark, architect of Europe’s equivalent of the Gold Standard – the Growth and Stability Pact – marks an important step in the resistance to bailouts by the ECB; in the inevitable collapse of the Maastricht Pact, and with it, the utopian vision of the neoliberal Euro.
And so the age of liberalised, de-regulated finance appears to be over – at least in Europe. That is the conclusion of investors in both Wall St and the City of London and explains the collapse of confidence in banks and the volatility of stock markets as investors rush for the exits, transferring speculative gains into the safety of government bonds.
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)
Some of our friends were irked by my observation this week that Paul Krugman is:
“an extremely controversial figure for Keynes scholars. He champions a mainstream interpretation of Keynes’s work known as the neo-classical synthesis”
Many rightly applaud him for using his platform at the New York Times to defend further fiscal stimulus in the US – against a hostile political crowd, not to mention the downright opposition of neo-liberal economists – and we commend him for that.
However, because he has such an important platform, it matters more that he lacks a proper understanding of the nature of credit. Our beef with him – and the vast array of neo-liberal economists - is well expressed, and evidenced by Steve Keen in his latest blog: “Dude! Where’s my recovery?” Namely that:
“Neoclassical economists ignore the level of private debt, on the basis of the a priori argument that “one man’s liability is another man’s asset”, so that the aggregate level of debt has no macroeconomic impact. They reason that the increase in the debtor’s spending power is offset by the fall in the lender’s spending power, and there is therefore no change to aggregate demand.
Like Catholics organising a conference on Protestantism and excluding Protestants, the Cambridge organisers of a conference to ‘celebrate the 75th anniversary of the publication of Keynes’s General Theory of Employment, Interest and Money’, have excluded Keynes scholars. By contrast, most of those who will address the conference subscribe to the ‘classical’ theory that Keynes thought he had defeated.
The one name on the list that is identified with Keynes, at least in the public eye, is Professor Paul Krugman of Princeton University, who will be giving the ‘Plenary Lecture’. However, in his opening remarks to the conference, Prof. Krugman poses the question: “What am I doing here?” and modestly suggests that:
I’m arguably not qualified to [give this talk]. I am, after all, not a Keynes scholar, nor any kind of serious intellectual historian. Nor have I spent most of my career doing macroeconomics. Until the late 1990s my contributions to that field were limited to international issues; although I kept up with macro research, I avoided getting into the frontline theoretical and empirical disputes.
Krugman is an extremely controversial figure for Keynes scholars. He champions a mainstream interpretation of Keynes’s work known as the neo-classical synthesis, and seems to have avoided any discussion with those actually working in the field. Many fear that his adherence to a rightly discredited version of Keynes’s theory serves Keynes very badly indeed.
Qualification for participation in this event hosted by the Cambridge Faculty of Economics and Cambridge Finance appears to be complete detachment from scholarly debates about the nature of Keynes’s work. Scholars were hard pushed to recall one contribution to the Keynes literature written by any on the list of participating economists. The UK Post-Keynesian Economics Study Group, a body dedicated to the serious pursuit of these matters since 1988, with an on-line community of over 300 academics, found out about the conference by accident. “Even by the standards of the economics profession, this is staggering”, one member observed.
Have just been told that my post on the Left Foot Forward on Ed Balls’s speech crashed the site “under weight of people wanting to read it”…so here it is for those of you that may have missed it….
David Cameron was delighted when the formidable Ed Balls walked straight into his framing of the debate on the deficit – and was promptly trapped.
That framing goes as follows. We (the government) have spent beyond our means. And the way to pay for it, is by cutting (public sector) jobs, and raising taxation - like VAT.
Ed Balls’s speech concedes (as Labour has done since Alastair Darling’s time at the Treasury) the deficit-reduction-emphasis agenda set by his opponents. And by so doing – implicitly concedes the need to cut public sector jobs.
But I am being unfair. Balls began his speech by mentioning Labour’s “emphasis on jobs and growth” But the speech immediately morphed into Labour’s concession to the Coalition: that what is needed is “a steady and balanced approach to halve the deficit in four years”. The implication being that cuts must be matched by ‘jobs and growth’.
But the highlight of the speech – the sound-byte that his spin doctors no doubt intended the media to emphasize- is a call for a cut in VAT “to boost consumer confidence and jump-start the economy.”
Cameron flashed back his retort: ”slashing taxes” he argued, would only make the UK’s fiscal deficit worse.