domingo, 22 de marzo de 2009

The Political and Analytical Diversions of ‘Financial Regulation’

The only thing governments seem to be doling out in greater amounts than bailouts to private banks these days are promises for all sorts of ‘financial regulation’. The EU recently promised sweeping financial regulation. Gordon Brown insists it must be international, while the Obama administration promises it will be wide-ranging and strict.
My first problem with these promises is not simply that the horses bolted long ago. It is that those now calling for doors to be shut are the same political forces that only yesterday sang the virtues of open barns and assured us that competition would ensure horses always came back. That in itself should give pause and good reason to question the motivations behind these proposals.
But my bigger problem is the implicit presumption that the current financial crisis is simply the result of a lack of effective (sweeping, international or wide-ranging) regulation, with little to no serious relationship to the underlying economic and social trends of recent years. This is not only plain wrong, but also politically diversionary.
Analytically, this presumption mirrors the weaknesses of mainstream economic theory. First there were perfect markets, financial or otherwise, and they would lead to socially efficient outcomes. Then came ‘imperfections’, typically caused by ‘informational’ or other micro-level problems with transactions, which gave rise to conflicts of interest, potential misallocations of capital and crises. Virtue lies in deducing the contracts, ‘institutions’ and state regulation that can ameliorate these microeconomic conflicts, align incentives, and help earthly markets become more perfect.
This scheme not only leaves out the destructive endogenous tendencies of financial markets towards instability, but also abstracts from the historical, social, economic and political processes that condition the formulation, enforcement and avoidance of regulation. There is no ‘optimal regulation’ that applies equally to all periods and benefits the interests of all social groups. Financial regulation is an important but nevertheless secondary element of broader economic and political regimes. It is only ‘optimal’ in relation to specific socio-political interests.
Lea toda la opinión de Paulo dos Santos aquí que aparece en un interesante blog llamado "Political Finance" cuyo propósito definido en su página de inicio es "contribuir con ideas que puedan transformar el sistema moneatario y financiero en favor de los intereses de los trabajadores. Los contribuyentes a este blog son críticos de los mecanismos financieros privados e individuales y ven favorablemente el fortalecimiento de la provisión pública y colectiva de éstos (...) "Political Finance" es igualmente relevante para todas las organizaciones políticas interesadas en desarrollar trabajos sobre la economía capitalista."

jueves, 19 de marzo de 2009

El Síndrome de Sísifo: estancamiento, financiarización y crisis en Estados Unidos

(...) El mensaje esencial del artículo estriba en que la naturaleza de la catástrofe actual consiste en una crisis del preponderante modelo de financiarización, la cual hunde sus raíces más profundas en las deficiencias estructurales de la economíareal norteamericana y del sistema monetario y financiero internacional global. Por lo tanto, la crisis de las hipotecas subprime y el carrusel de activos tóxicos implicados son la consecuencia -no la causa- de un prolongado proceso acumulativo de: estancamiento productivo; financiarización; tremebundos desequilibrios sectoriales (real y financiero); deflación de deuda; acelerada concentración de la riqueza y del ingreso y, last but not least, regulación favorable al capital financiero especulativo.
(...) Tres son las causas fundamentales que impelen a la economía estadounidense por el derrotero infausto de recurrentes y abruptos ciclos boom-bust desde hace aproximadamente 30-40 años. Primero, el estancamiento estructural del sector real. Segundo, la financiarización de la economía. Tercero, la desregulación y re-regulación a favor del capital financiero.

Lea aquí todo el excelente artículo del Dr. Ignacio Perrotini publicado en Economía Informa.

miércoles, 11 de marzo de 2009

The Crisis and the Consolidation of Class Power

Does this crisis signal the end of neo-liberalism? My answer is that it depends what you mean by neo-liberalism. My interpretation is that it’s a class project, masked by a lot of neo-liberal rhetoric about individual freedom, liberty, personal responsibility, privatisation and the free market. These were means, however, towards the restoration and consolidation of class power, and that neo-liberal project has been fairly successful.

One of the basic principles that was set up in the 1970s was that state power should protect financial institutions at all costs. This is the principle that was worked out in New York City crisis in the mid-1970s, and was first defined internationally when Mexico threatened to go bankrupt in 1982.

(...) A new state financial architecture is required. I don’t think that all existing institutions like the Bank of International Settlements and even the IMF should be abolished; I think we will need them but they have to be revolutionarily transformed. The big question is who will control them and what their architecture will be. We will need people, experts with some sort of understanding of how those institutions do work and can work. And this is very dangerous because, as we can see right now, when the state looks to see who can understand what is going on in Wall Street, they think only insiders can.

(...) There are a lot of possibilities the left should be paying attention to - this is a real opportunity. But it is where I have a problem with some Marxists who seem to think, ‘yes! It’s a crisis; the contradictions of capitalism will now be solved somehow!’ This is not a moment for triumphalism, this is a moment for problematising. First of all I think there are problems with the way Marx set up those problems. Marxists are not very good at understanding the state financial complex or urbanisation - they are terrific at understanding some other things. But now we have to rethink our theoretical posture and political possibilities.So thee is a lot of theoretical re-thinking that is needed as well as practical action.

Lea todo este buen texto de David Harvey aquí. Se recomienda además, revisar más profundamente el excelente blog de este magnífico autor.