Resisting Financial Conquest

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As published on Counterpunch Back in January upon coming into office, Syriza probably could not have won a referendum on whether to pay or not to pay. It didn’t have a full parliamentary majority, and had to rely on a nationalist party for Tsipras to become prime minister. (That party balked at cutting back Greek military spending, which was 3% of GDP, and which the troika had helpfully urged to be cut back in order to balance the government’s budget.) Seeing how unyielding the opposition was, Syriza’s stance was: “We would like to pay. But there’s no money.” This kept throwing the ball back into the troika’s court. The Institutions were so unyielding that Syriza’s approval rating in the polls rose by 13% ...

Incorporating the Rentier Sectors into a Financial Model

by Dirk Bezemer and Michael Hudson As published in the World Economic Association's World Economic Review Vol #1. ABSTRACT Current macroeconomics ignores the roles that rent, debt and the financial sector play in shaping our economy. We discuss the Classical view on rents and policy responses to the rentier sector in the 19th century. The finance, insurance & real estate sector is today’s incarnation of the rentier sector. This paper shows how financial flows can be conceptually and statistically studied separately from (but interacting with) the real sector. We discuss finance’s interaction with government and with the international economy. 1. Introduction Now that the Bubble Economy has given way to debt deflation, the world is discovering the shortcoming of models that fail to explain how ...

Europe’s Transition From Social Democracy to Oligarchy

As first published in Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung The easiest way to understand Europe’s financial crisis is to look at the solutions being proposed to resolve it. They are a banker’s dream, a grab bag of giveaways that few voters would be likely to approve in a democratic referendum. Bank strategists learned not to risk submitting their plans to democratic vote after Icelanders twice refused in 2010-11 to approve their government’s capitulation to pay Britain and the Netherlands for losses run up by badly regulated Icelandic banks operating abroad. Lacking such a referendum, mass demonstrations were the only way for Greek voters to register their opposition to the €50 billion in privatization sell-offs demanded by the European Central Bank (ECB) in autumn ...

Democracy and Debt

Has the Link been Broken? *This article appeared in the Frankfurter Algemeine Zeitung on December 5, 2011. Book V of Aristotle’s Politics describes the eternal transition of oligarchies making themselves into hereditary aristocracies – which end up being overthrown by tyrants or develop internal rivalries as some families decide to “take the multitude into their camp” and usher in democracy, within which an oligarchy emerges once again, followed by aristocracy, democracy, and so on throughout history. Debt has been the main dynamic driving these shifts – always with new twists and turns. It polarizes wealth to create a creditor class, whose oligarchic rule is ended as new leaders (“tyrants” to Aristotle) win popular support by cancelling the debts and redistributing property or taking ...

Australia’s Needless Foreign Borrowing

Michael Hudson and Shann Turnbull* (First published via Prosper Australia, written during Michael's recent Oz tour.) Confronted by the global financial crisis that is burying foreign economies deeper in debt deflation each month, Australia needs to protect itself – indeed, to liberate itself from as many costs and risks as it can. Fortunately, many of its costs and risks are unnecessary, merely a result of the inertia of old ways of thinking. 
Australia has the means to protect its growth and to keep more of its income at home. But if it is to remain immune to the GFC meltdown, it must escape from the risky environment of foreign financial dependency. This requires new arrangements to take account of the rapidly changing character ...

Saving, Asset-Price Inflation, and Debt-Induced Deflation

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Post-Keynesian Conference Kansas City Summary The exponential growth of savings and debt takes the form mainly of loans to finance the purchase of real estate, stocks and bonds. These loans extract interest and amortization charges that divert revenue away from being spent on goods and services. The payment of debt service by the economy’s non-financial sectors interrupts the circular flow that Say’s Law postulates to exist between producers and consumers. Financial institutions re-lend their interest and other financial inflows as new loans to finance asset purchases. The result is that net savings do not increase for the economy as a whole. Meanwhile, lending out savings helps bid up asset prices, but does not necessarily promote new tangible investment and employment or increase real wages ...

The Mathematical Economics of Compound Rates of Interest: A Four-Thousand Year Overview Part I

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“Whoever enters here must know mathematics.” That was the motto of Plato’s Academy. Emphasizing such abstract ratios as the Pythagorean proportions of musical temperament and the calendrical regularities of the sun, moon and planets, its philosophy used the mathematics of nature to reveal an underlying harmony and order in the universe and hence, in an ideal society. But there was little quantitative analysis of economic relations. Although the Greek and Roman economies were increasingly wracked by debt, there was no measurement of this phenomenon, or of overall production, distribution and other macroeconomic measures. The education of modern economists still consists largely of higher mathematics whose use remains more metaphysical than empirically measuring the most important trends. Over a century ago John ...

The New Economic Archaeology of Debt

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Introduction to Debt and Economic Renewal in the Ancient Near East (ed. with Marc Van De Mieroop) (CDL Press, Baltimore, 2002) Economists, anthropologists and assyriologists have discussed the origins of debt and the setting of interest rates from such different perspectives that there has been remarkably little overlap or mutual discussion. Indeed, when economic theorists have ventured to speculate on the origins of debt, they usually have based their reasoning on a priori market-oriented principles rather than looking at the historical record. One of the aims of this colloquium is therefore to establish a more historically grounded basis for tracing the course of commercial and agrarian debt in Bronze Age Mesopotamia, and the logic that underlay the Clean Slates that annulled ...