Thursday, March 12, 2009

The Global Collapse- A non orthodox view

The problem with Capitalism is when it takes over Democracy and then bends it to it's will.Built into Capitalism is the ability to rule the Capitalist. It is an addictive process from which there is no escape. Money becomes the alter on which the Capitalist worships.Value means monetary value, the ultimate measure of success and human values become degraded and considered valueless
Editoria1 Comment

1. The problem with ......redistributing income to the rich, you were gutting the incomes of the poor and middle classes, thus restricting demand,
2. By the end of the 1990s, with excess capacity in almost every industry, the gap between productive capacity and sales was the largest since the Great Depression.
3. The radical rise of prices of an asset far beyond real values is what is called the formation of a bubble.

The above is a summary of a fine article below. It misses out on an aspect which almost every single analyses misses out on as if they would commit blasphemy by mentioning it. This is the role of the US Financial Institutions and the role of Capitalism as practised in the US in bringing about the present economic catastrophe.
The first time that a surplus was created in the world in recent times was through the rise in oil prices.All the surplus came into the US Economy and US Banks. Subsequently South America and Asia were flooded with this money in the form of loans. This was predatory lending at it's worst and it only created bad loans, wrecked economies and huge commissions for US bankers. The next time the surplus came in the form of increased reserves of emerging markets such as China and Brazil. This also landed in the US and was lent out to finance US Mortgages again resulting in the collapse of the housing market, massive foreclosures, securitizes bad debts exported world wide and huge commissions for US Bankers.
In both cases the commissions and false profits were shared with, Rating Agencies and Legislators. Regulators looked the other way because they did not have a clue as to what was going on and deemed it their patriotic duty not to interfere in the business of wealth creation.No Analyst, Economist, Politician wants to tackle this hit and run which has happened twice in recent History and will likely happen again if people still trust America with their money.
There is a culture of greed, fraud and graft built into the American system which thank God has been exposed so that other countries ( except Europe and America) will learn from it. Here are the people who will continue to spread illusion and fantasy, The Wall Street Journal, Barrons Magazine, Fortune Magazine, Time, MSNBC, The Economist. John Stewart of the daily show recently exposed MSNBC in 10 minutes in an act of brilliant journalism. He showed how people on MSNBC were recommending the purchase of Bear Stern shares two weeks before Bear collapsed. This was not an act of deliberate deceit. It was the blind, leading the blind.
If you think, I am getting carried away, think of the people world wide who have lost 30 trillion dollars of wealth in the last 12 months and think of the people primarily in the US who were paid huge ( unimaginable) bonuses for creating these losses. The Fundamental law of Economics that has been broken is the creation of phantom value. This was and is the privilege of watch makers, who sell a watch for millions of dollars, whose intrinsic value might be a few thousand dollars. It is deemed OK if it relieves the rich of their ill gotten gains but when everything is deemed to have a value way beyond it's worth then there will be hell to pay.
It is when people forget that the best things in life are free that there is opportunity for creating value in valueless objects. Then it is happy hunting for the Madoffs of this world. Madoff should not be put in Jail, he should be teaching at Harvard. He was amongst the few who recognised how easily people could be made fools of. Not ordinary people, but captains of Industry and Society. Smart, educated, successful people. People who are the pillars of our decadent culture.


The Global Collapse: a Non-orthodox View

February 22, 2009 By Walden Bello Source: MR Zine

This is the longer version of an essay by the author released by the
British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) on 6 February 2009.

Week after week, we see the global economy contracting at a pace worse
than predicted by the gloomiest analysts. We are now, it is clear, in
no ordinary recession but are headed for a global depression that could
last for many years.

The Fundamental Crisis: Overaccumulation

Orthodox economics has long ceased to be of any help in understanding
the crisis. Non-orthodox economics, on the other hand, provides
extraordinarily powerful insights into the causes and dynamics of the
current crisis. From the progressive perspective, what we are seeing is
the intensification of one of the central crises or "contradictions" of
global capitalism: the crisis of overproduction, also known as
overaccumulation or overcapacity. This is the tendency for capitalism
to build up, in the context of heightened inter-capitalist competition,
tremendous productive capacity that outruns the population's capacity to
consume owing to income inequalities that limit popular purchasing
power. The result is an erosion of profitability, leading to an
economic downspin.

To understand the current collapse, we must go back in time to the
so-called Golden Age of Contemporary Capitalism, the period from 1945 to
1975. This was a period of rapid growth both in the center economies
and in the underdeveloped economies -- one that was partly triggered by
the massive reconstruction of Europe and East Asia after the devastation
of the Second World War, and partly by the new socioeconomic
arrangements and instruments based on a historic class compromise
between Capital and Labor that were institutionalized under the new
Keynesian state.

But this period of high growth came to an end in the mid-1970s, when the
center economies were seized by stagflation, meaning the coexistence of
low growth with high inflation, which was not supposed to happen under
neoclassical economics.

Stagflation, however, was but a symptom of a deeper cause: the
reconstruction of Germany and Japan and the rapid growth of
industrializing economies like Brazil, Taiwan, and South Korea added
tremendous new productive capacity and increased global competition,
while income inequality within countries and between countries limited
the growth of purchasing power and demand, thus eroding profitability.
This was aggravated by the massive oil price rises of the seventies.

The most painful expression of the crisis of overproduction was global
recession of the early 1980s, which was the most serious to overtake the
international economy since the Great Depression, that is, before the
current crisis.

Capitalism tried three escape routes from the conundrum of
overproduction: neoliberal restructuring, globalization, and

Escape Route # 1: Neoliberal Restructuring

Neoliberal restructuring took the form of Reaganism and Thatcherism in
the North and Structural Adjustment in the South. The aim was to
invigorate capital accumulation, and this was to be done by 1) removing
state constraints on the growth, use, and flow of capital and wealth;
and 2) redistributing income from the poor and middle classes to the
rich on the theory that the rich would then be motivated to invest and
reignite economic growth.

The problem with this formula was that in redistributing income to the
rich, you were gutting the incomes of the poor and middle classes, thus
restricting demand, while not necessarily inducing the rich to invest
more in production. In fact, it could be more profitable to invest in

In fact, neoliberal restructuring, which was generalized in the North
and south during the eighties and nineties, had a poor record in terms
of growth: Global growth averaged 1.1 percent in the 1990s and 1.4
percent in the '80s, compared with 3.5 percent in the 1960s and 2.4
percent in the '70s, when state interventionist policies were dominant.
Neoliberal restructuring could not shake off stagnation.

Escape Route # 2: Globalization

The second escape route global capital took to counter stagnation was
"extensive accumulation" or globalization, or the rapid integration of
semi-capitalist, non-capitalist, or pre-capitalist areas into the global
market economy. Rosa Luxemburg, the famous German radical economist,
saw this long ago in her classic "The Accumulation of Capital" as
necessary to shore up the rate of profit in the metropolitan economies.

How? By gaining access to cheap labor, by gaining new, albeit limited,
markets, by gaining new sources of cheap agricultural and raw material
products, and by bringing into being new areas for investment in
infrastructure. Integration is accomplished via trade liberalization,
removing barriers to the mobility of global capital, and abolishing
barriers to foreign investment.

China is, of course, the most prominent case of a non-capitalist area to
be integrated into the global capitalist economy over the last 25 years.

By the middle of the first decade of the 21st century, roughly 40-50
percent of the profits of US corporations came from their operations and
sales abroad, especially in China.

The problem with this escape route from stagnation is that it
exacerbates the problem of overproduction because it adds to productive
capacity. A tremendous amount of manufacturing capacity has been added
in China over the last 25 years, and this has had a depressing effect on
prices and profits. Not surprisingly, by around 1997, the profits of US
corporations stopped growing. According to one calculation, the profit
rate of the Fortune 500 went from 7.15 in 1960-69 to 5.30 in 1980-90 to
2.29 in 1990-99 to 1.32 in 2000-2002. By the end of the 1990s, with
excess capacity in almost every industry, the gap between productive
capacity and sales was the largest since the Great Depression.

Escape Route # 3: Financialization

Given the limited gains in countering the depressive impact of
overproduction via neoliberal restructuring and globalization, the third
escape route -- financialization -- became very critical for maintaining
and raising profitability.

With investment in industry and agriculture yielding low profits owing
to overcapacity, large amounts of surplus funds have been circulating in
or invested and reinvested in the financial sector -- that is, the
financial sector is turning on itself.

The result is an increased bifurcation between a hyperactive financial
economy and a stagnant real economy. As one financial executive noted
in the pages of the Financial Times, "there has been an increasing
disconnection between the real and financial economies in the last few
years. The real economy has grown . . . but nothing like that of the
financial economy -- until it imploded." What this observer does not
tell us is that the disconnect between the real and the financial
economy is not accidental -- that the financial economy exploded
precisely to make up for the stagnation owing to overproduction of the
real economy.

One indicator of the super-profitability of the financial sector is that
while profits in the US manufacturing sector came to one percent of US
gross domestic product (GDP), profits in the financial sector came to
two percent. Another is the fact that 40 percent of the total profits
of US financial and non-financial corporations is accounted for by the
financial sector although it is responsible for only five percent of US
gross domestic product (and even that is likely to be an overestimate) .

The problem with investing in financial sector operations is that it is
tantamount to squeezing value out of already created value. It may
create profit, yes, but it does not create new value -- only industry,
agricultural, trade, and services create new value. Because profit is
not based on value that is created, investment operations become very
volatile and prices of stocks, bonds, and other forms of investment can
depart very radically from their real value -- for instance, the stock
of Internet startups may keep rising to heights unknown, driven mainly
by upwardly spiraling financial valuations.

Profits then depend on taking advantage of upward price departures from
the value of commodities, then selling before reality enforces a
"correction, " that is a crash back to real values. The radical rise of
prices of an asset far beyond real values is what is called the
formation of a bubble.

Profitability being dependent on speculative coups, it is not surprising
that the finance sector lurches from one bubble to another, or from one
speculative mania to another. Because it is driven by speculative
mania, finance-driven capitalism has experienced about 100 financial
crises since capital markets were deregulated and liberalized in the
1980s, the most serious before the current crisis being the Asian
Financial Crisis of 1997.

Dynamics of the Subprime Implosion

The current Wall Street collapse has its roots in the Technology Bubble
of the late 1990s, when the price of the stocks of Internet startups
skyrocketed, then collapsed, resulting in the loss of $7 trillion worth
of assets and the recession of 2001-2002.

The loose money policies of the Fed under Alan Greenspan had encouraged
the Technology Bubble, and when it collapsed into a recession,
Greenspan, trying to counter a long recession, cut the prime rate to a
45-year low of 1.0 percent in June 2003 and kept it there for over a
year. This had the effect of encouraging another bubble -- the real
estate bubble.

As early as 2002, progressive economists were warning about the real
estate bubble. However, as late as 2005, then Council of Economic
Advisers Chairman and now Federal Reserve Board Chairman Ben Bernanke
attributed the rise in US housing prices to "strong economic
fundamentals" instead of speculative activity. Is it any wonder that he
was caught completely off guard when the Subprime Crisis broke in the
summer of 2007?

The subprime mortgage crisis was not a case of supply outrunning real
demand. The "demand" was largely fabricated by speculative mania on the
part of developers and financiers that wanted to make great profits from
their access to foreign money -- most of it Asian and Chinese in origin
-- that flooded the US in the last decade. Big ticket mortgages were
aggressively sold to millions who could not normally afford them by
offering low "teaser" interest rates that would later be readjusted to
jack up payments from the new homeowners.


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