Debts that can’t be paid, won’t be

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An excerpt from a paper published for the conference Paradigm Lost: Rethinking Economics and Politics. I am speaking to this paper in Berlin this week. The full paper can be downloaded from their website (PDF). A common denominator runs throughout recorded history: a rising proportion of debts cannot be paid. Adam Smith remarked that no government ever had repaid its debt, and today the same can be said of the overall volume of private-sector debt. One way or another, there will be defaults – unless debts are paid in an illusory fashion, simply by adding the interest charges onto the debt balance until the sums finally grow to so ...

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 ...

Hudson – Today's Financial Times Article on the Euro Debt Bomb

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This is an edited version of The Coming European Debt Wars. Greece is just the first in a series of European debt bombs about to go off. Mortgage debts in the post-communist economies and Iceland are more explosive. Although most of these countries are not in the eurozone, their debts are largely denominated in euros. Some 87 per cent of Latvia's debts are in euros or other foreign currencies, and are owed mainly to Swedish banks, while Hungary and Romania owe euro-debts mainly to Austrian banks. Read more at the Financial Times

Latvia’s Cruel Neoliberal Experiment

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Latvia is being devastated by two global wars. On the geopolitical front is the Cold War’s coup de grâce. Neoliberals have managed to de-industrialize Russia and the rest of the former Soviet Union, persuading parliaments to dismantle government support for economic renewal. The “Washington Consensus” has backed a policy of giving away public enterprises and land to a newly minted oligarchy of insiders, and helped them sell shares to Western investors. The ensuing economic wreckage has helped avert future military rivalry to U.S. hegemony. Western investors are waging their own social war of finance and property against labor. Initiated by the Chicago Boys in Chile in 1973, sponsored in Britain by Margaret Thatcher’s Conservatives after 1979 and by Ronald Reagan’s Republicans in ...