Wednesday, 6 July 2011


So what is bank-rupt-ism? It is what has replaced capitalism.

Consider for a moment the British railways as wrecked by John Major's fag-end government, now with the track and one east coast service publically owned. We know recently about the rolling stock order that has gone to Siemens. But rolling stock these days is not owned by the service takers; it is hired. Services take place with hired stock on rented lines according to contract. It is all a huge merry go round and it is all due to the card shuffles of finance. Somewhere there has to be added value and profit, or (at least) efficient cost. The problem is no one really knows any more. So much was put into the hands of the banks, and the trick was to move money around so that there was the ability to pay off the interest. Creative accounting puzzles the most observant.

But then money was cheap, and that wasn't a pressing need. Under Gordon Brown we had the likes of Private Finance Initiatives, which were mortgages and hiding public spending behind them. Indeed there was a public service economy - some of which added value, some of which did not.

In the Blair postmodern economy we had property built in city centres that renewed the fabric. Good in itself, until you exhaust the number of museums and galleries and other such enterprises that rely on public income. All you end up with is empty bridges, and he roads start getting potholes again.

Such a service economy is necessary, but you cannot expand hanging out someone else's washing infinitely; and as for doing the washing for abroad - that just created an oversized financial sector that has different economic policy needs from manufacturing and business.

It could not last because of the world imbalance economically. The Chinese held down their exchange rate and its capitalism is forced, so it also financed the debt in the West to buy its goods. China should have expanded more like India, but then China has a State Capitalist Party in control.

The debt inflation didn't go into prices, thanks to the far Eastern real economy, so it found its way into property and then the bubble burst. But instead of letting the bubble burst and start again, we've done quantiative easing and the bubble has now moved on to commodity prices.

Thus oil is being traded in, and food, simply because they are not government bonds, the bonds that governments buy themselves that faciliate quantitative easing.

Yet we are finding some countries living beyond their means are out of rope, and yet look at it not from the perspective of Greece or Spain but Germany. We think of weak countries that may have to escape the Euro and have a dustbin currency of their own. But if Germany was the only one to have the Euro, or left the Euro for a Deutschmark, the currency would revalue to choke off German exports. In other words, it is worth it for the German economy to have weaker countries in the Euro. Even the Germans need monetary assistance given the imbalance in the world economy. And the Chinese economy is slowing in its growth because of fewer market opportunities to export. The Chinese cannot develop its home markets too much or revalue its currency (wages, prices) because of the political demands that would develop.

The fact is that the juggling act cannot go on. The Greeks have to default, and so do all the other knackered economies. The world is out of kilter and needs some sort of Jubilee start again. The fact that the banks will lose out is hard luck - they and their mad practices of spreading risk when it remained high risk still require punishment. I would world-wide nationalise the banks if necessary, which would be done if they can be forced out of business in terms of their activities and yet the State retain activity for their democratic voters.

In the end, for the Greeks and the rest, is democracy or this new bank-rupt-ism going to win out? As the UK public servants go on strike more and more, the question is also relevant here.


Battersea Boy said...

I think you're being a little harsh with John Major's rail privatisation. I don't for one moment imagine he wanted it that way but, like so many other things that run counter-intuitive, the separation of track, stock and operating companies was mandated by the EC.

Pluralist (Adrian Worsfold) said...

So why is SNCF and the German rail system united then? It could have been privatised whole, or even as two or three regions. And it certainly could have been nationalised back, but Blair wouldn't touch it, just as the government paused and freaked before it nationalised Northern Rock and part nationalised other banks.