Bankers: Go The 'Latvian' Option

The "Latvian option" is the buzzword of the moment among European bankers and financial journalists. In October, the Latvian people voted in a coalition headed by the incumbent prime minister Valdis Dombrovskis, whose government had savaged social benefits, cut pay and inflated unemployment in 2009. Was this proof that austerity measures could not only work, but actually be popular? Was Latvia the model that Greece, Ireland and Spain should emulate? The Wall Street Journal, for one, has published several articles promoting this view. Most recently, Charles Doxbury advocated Latvia's internal devaluation and austerity strategy as the model for Europe's crisis nations to follow. The view commonly argued is that Latvia's economic freefall (the deepest of any nation from the 2008 crisis) ...

Financial Interests Dictate Sovereign Policy

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Interview with Michael Hudson, Eleftherotypia, Sunday December 12, 2010. 1. A recent article of yours, “Schemes of the Rich and Greedy,” cites the bailouts in Europe among such schemes. What are the main faults with bailouts, and for whom are they designed? The financial sector is trying to get politicians to siphon off money from labor and industry to pay bankers. This will impede capital formation and living standards. The banks misrepresented the real value of balance sheet and hence what they really were owed under actual market conditions. Now that they have taken the money and run, the «real» economy is being told to pay the off their bad loans. The arrogance of this demand prompted Angela Merkel to ask why governments ...

Adam Smith critiques the Deficit Reduction Commission

What would Adam Smith have said about the Bowles-Simpson economic report last week? What a pity the great free marketer was not around to serve on the Deficit Reduction Commission. He not only would have rolled over in his grave, he would have risen up wielding an ax to the fiscal proposals that are diametrically opposite to the fiscal principles that he and his original free market contemporaries urged. Writing in the wake of the French Physiocrats with their Impôt Unique to collect the revenues that France’s landed aristocracy drained from the countryside and towns, Smith endorsed the idea that the least burdensome tax was one that fell on land rent: A more equal land-tax, a more equal tax upon the rent of ...

Krugman, China and the role of finance.

Here’s the quandary that the U.S. economy is in: The Fed’s quantitative easing policy– creating more liquidity so that banks can lend more – aims at helping the economy “borrow its way out of debt.” But banks are not lending more, for the simple reason that a third of U.S. real estate already is in negative equity, while small and medium-sized businesses (which have created most of the new jobs in America for the past few decades) have seen their preferred collateral (real estate and sales orders) shrink. How can banks be expected to lend more to re-inflate the economy’s asset prices while wages and consumer prices continue to drift down? The “real” economy as a whole therefore must shrink. What ...

Dollar War in Detail

Eric Janszen, Interview with Dr. Michael Hudson 6 November, 2010 Janszen (E): What I’m noting, starting with the gold crisis over the last few weeks, and the public nature of some of the complaints that we’re hearing out of Brazil and China and the front page of the Financial Times, we seem to be heading into a pretty serious currency crisis. Hudson (H): Yes, the currency crisis is caused by what’s called Quantitative Easing (QE) – flooding the economy with credit, and specifically Ben Bernanke’s and Tim Geithner’s threat to create another $1 trillion worth of new Federal Reserve credit over the next twelve months. The Financial Times reports that all of the last $2 trillion the Fed created has gone to the ...

Why the IMF Meetings Failed

And the Coming Capital Controls “Coming events cast their shadows forward.” – Goethe What is to stop U.S. banks and their customers from creating $1 trillion, $10 trillion or even $50 trillion on their computer keyboards to buy up all the bonds and stocks in the world, along with all the land and other assets for sale, in the hope of making capital gains and pocketing the arbitrage spreads by debt leveraging at less than 1% interest cost? This is the game that is being played today. The outflow of dollar credit into foreign markets in pursuit of this financial strategy has bid up asset prices and foreign currencies, enabling speculators to pay off their U.S. positions in cheaper dollars, keeping the ...

Who Wins?

While Labor Unions celebrate Anti-Austerity Day in Europe, European Neoliberals raise the ante: Governments must Lower Wages or Suffer Financial Blackmail Most of the press has described Europe’s labor demonstrations and strikes on Wednesday in terms of the familiar exercise by transport employees irritating travelers with work slowdowns, and large throngs letting off steam by setting fires. But the story goes much deeper than merely a reaction against unemployment and economic recession. At issue are proposals to drastically change the laws and structure of how European society will function for the next generation. If the anti-labor forces succeed, they will break up Europe, destroy the internal market, and render that continent a backwater. This is how serious the financial coup d’etat has ...

How Brazil Can Defend Against Financialization

and Keep Its Economic Surplus for Itself CDES Conference, Brasilia, September 17, 2010 I would like to place this seminar's topic, 'Global Governance,'in the context of global control, which is what 'governance' is mainly about. The word (from Latin gubernari, cognate to the Greek root kyber) means 'steering'. The question is, toward what goal is the world economy steering? That obviously depends on who is doing the steering. It almost always has been the most powerful nations that organize the world in ways that transfer income and property to themselves. From the Roman Empire through modern Europe such transfers took mainly the form of military seizure and tribute. The Norman conquerors endowed themselves as a landed aristocracy extracting rent from the populace, ...

China's Policy Checkmate

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Interview with Xulin Dong May 2010 DX: You have strongly advocated the use of taxation as a most effective and desirable way to prevent real-estate bubble. Now in the Chinese media there’s a good deal of discussion about the need to re-design China’s real-estate tax regime. In particular, about the merit of a US type of property tax. So what are the key elements of a good real-estate regime? MH: For starters, there is confusion about just what a “land tax” is. China has a policy of granting long-term leases, for up to 70 years for residential property. The price charged for these leases is NOT a land tax. It gives security of land title – that is, of land tenure. On the ...