Tuesday, 7 April 2009

Captured by the financial oligarchy...

Great article in the Atlantic Monthly by Simon Johnson, a former chief economist of the IMF here.

He's arguing that the US government has been captured by the Wall Street elite. It's this that is postponing the necessary cleaning of the financial stables (i.e. bank nationalisation, corralling of toxic debts, reprivatisation of the remainders as 'good' banks). The big swingers just don't want to take the hit.

This makes the US just like any number of emerging markets in crisis, where the interests of the financial and political elites have become corruptly entwined. Finally, Johnson argues that this postponing of the painful day of reckoning could precipitate depression as credit markets will not function again until banks balance sheets are rationalised.

This argument is essentially that of Liam Halligan of the Sunday Telegraph. I know he has experience at the Fund (and World Bank I believe). It seems that people familiar with the work of the Fund see the banking crises in the UK and US through the prism of many, many others, largely in emerging markets. I guess their solution is IMF standard operating procedure.

I asked the professional economist friend of mine who forwarded me the article whether the UK had experienced a similar form of political capture by the financial oligarchy. He responded: 'Yes, certainly. About one hundred years ago. Oh, and the UK's numbers look far, far worse'.

Johnson says that the dollar's reserve currency status may mean the reckoning may never happen in the US. But the corollary of this is that it is likely to happen in the UK.  Given the Government seems to be laying the groundwork for a visit to the IMF (Timm's comments at the G20, couple of comments by Mandelson), this penny seems to have dropped in cabinet.

So the chances are the UK will have to borrow a shovel and brush from the Fund and take out the banks - and bankers. Could be a very significant moment in the development of the UK's economy and society.

1 comment:

Sean said...

Its a death spiral.

Big banks need big government to clean up the shit.
Big government needs big banks to underwrite the bond market.
The one saving grace is that UK debt is issued in Stirling.

Brown and NuLab have been in the pocket of the Big Banks for ages, they saw them as the cash cow to fund their obviously righteous agendas (and they did a time) Poor Brown did not expect a bill at the end of it, with his reputation in tatters.