Is it that the Indian champions of the ‘free- market’ and liberalization-as-magic-wand have disappeared or is it just that I am not reading enough?
One of them, Swaminathan Anklesaria Aiyar, whose column ‘Swaminomics’ has been a byword for the neo- liberal assault in the Indian media for many years, does write on the debacle on the Wall Street, but blames it on the ‘perils of giving loans to the poor’!
The crisis arose from the bursting of a housing bubble. That bubble was created, fundamentally, by government policies and institutions seeking home ownership for all Americans, including low-income ones. Politicians rooted for such inclusive finance. But this ‘inclusion’ extended finance to ever more borrowers with fragile and low incomes, causing disaster. This holds lessons for India.
John Lanchester, writing in the LRB
has one of the finest writings from the left on the financial crisis (no, unlike the fall of ‘socialism’, it is a mere crisis, not the ‘End of History’!). Lanchester also ends with the general pessimism on the left regarding the lack of a left alternative despite the optimism generated by the vindication of its theoretical criticism of capitalism in general and the neo- liberal led globalization in particular.
Perhaps, Francis Fukuyama was right and it indeed is the end of history.
The invention which made it possible for the lending to become so reckless was securitisation: the process by which loans were added together and sold on to other institutions as packages of debt. This had the effect of making the initial lender indifferent to whether or not the loan could be repaid – he’d already sold the debt to someone else, so he didn’t need to care. These packages of debt were then sold on and resold in the form of horrendously complex and sophisticated financial instruments, and it is these which are the basis of the global jamming-up of capital markets.
Dr Girish Mishra has a very informative piece
on Karl Polanyi’s book The Great Transformation (1944). Polanyi’s name has figured in a quite a few places of late in light (or the shadow!) of the Wall Street financial crisis. As neo- liberalism recedes- its most articulate proponents now reduced to a tiny die- hard group of ostriches, it is pertinent to speculate on how things will shape now. Lessons from history may not provide recipes, but help in providing a perspective. The concluding words from the article indicate a much desired possibility, at least on the medium to long term.
A few excerpts:
The mission to create a totally self-regulating market economy is predicated on the assumption that both the human beings and natural environment are turned into pure commodities, that is, they are freely bought and sold.
Apparently, what’s good for the goose is not always good for the gander in the time of the free fall of the free market:
The IMF’s advice to Pakistan (and its no different for the rest of the third world) is to privatize the government’s assets and raise funds from the market. At the same time, the IMF chief wants the markets, in turn to raise money from the US federal government. Why not then give a handout from the US federal government directly to the rich world’s ‘burden’?
The IMF said it was encouraged that the (Pakistan) government was committed to measures to improve its financial position, including privatizing assets and raising funds from the international markets.
Four days ago, the IMF chief had the exactly the opposite take on the United States’s .7 trillion ”bail out” plan to stop the free market’s free fall:
One week of the collapse of the New York investment banking network, and its ‘rescue’ by the US federal government speaks louder than any arguments against the “free market”. The stock market, considered the ideal mechanism in identifying winners and losers and thereby contribute to an efficient system in contrast to ostensibly inefficiently run government enterprises, has spoken loudly and clearly. An unbridled, or insufficiently bridled, system where companies run by teams of specialists and accountable to no none but a small base of investors has run amok with the bad bad governments bailing out
investment banks in the heart of what Maxim Gorky once called The City of Yellow Devil
. The devil has certainly reared its bloody head all over Wall Street last few days with a vengeance.
The $700 billion bailout by the US federal reserves is nearly twice the GDP of the apparently roaring economy of India! While investment banks are in the business of making money out of nowhere, these do have an impact on the real economy since industries depend on investments by what is ultimately speculative finance capital for sustenance and growth. The whole web of finance transactions is said to be so complicated that the bankers themselves have lost track of the sources and direction of transactions.
Literature, Politics. Paradise, Labyrinths.