There’s no doubt the global economy is undergoing significant changes with far-reaching, unknown consequences. Tens of trillions of dollars of fictitious wealth will need to vanish from the books of financial institutions around the world before stability can return to banking and international trade.
The panic, hysteria and hyperbole in the media are reducing the likelihood of a smooth and relatively painless transition. Drastic, ill-conceived measures like the 700 billion bail-out are not based on research or reason, but on fear. As a society, we make fear-based decisions at our peril, and the outcome is never attractive.
It’s essential that we seek out reasonable voices to explain the roots of our economic troubles and lay out research-based strategies for mitigating the impact of these vanishing trillions from world markets on our daily lives. The mainstream media is not going to help us in this respect; it is an echo chamber of “conventional wisdom” that still ascribes to the religions of free market capitalism, growth-based economics and the globalisation of trade and regards any effort at debate as a dangerous display of ignorance.
Reasonable and informed commentators do exist. Glenn Greenwald at Salon.com puts out a veritable feast of them in his effort to to address the accusation that we are ignorant or incompetent if we can’t see the necessity of socialising economic risks while leaving gains in the bumbling hands of the private sector.
Gordon Bigelow addresses the evangelical religious roots of our economic model in an article at Harpers.org.
Dr. Albert Bartlett puts the built-in self destruction of growth-based economics in a mathematical context in a lecture available on YouTube.
The IMF has released a research paper that directly contradicts the doctrine that tax-funded bailouts are beneficial to long-term economic recovery and considers the historical outcome a number of alternative measures.
Existing empirical research has shown that providing assistance to banks and their borrowers can be counterproductive, resulting in increased losses to banks, which often abuse forbearance to take unproductive risks at government expense. The typical result of forbearance is a deeper hole in the net worth of banks, crippling tax burdens to finance bank bailouts, and even more severe credit supply contraction and economic decline than would have occurred in the absence of forbearance.
We who will be stuck with the bill for any measures our governments take to stabilise capital markets should not tolerate the absence of debate or the suppression of dissenting voices. We must not allow our legislators to rush through unsound policies in reaction to the panic of business columnists and investment bankers. We must not accept without critical examination that a lack of swift, thoughtless and costly measures to rescue our crumbling banking institutions will result in catastrophic losses for us all.
There is never a better time for reason, research, caution and critical thinking than in the midst of a crisis of this magnitude and complexity. The US has passed their thoughtless bailout package, and if the IMF is correct in their analysis, the impact will only make things worse. For the rest of us, we should encourage our governments to be more cautious.