19 December 2010

Greed Is Not Good

With regards to the global financial crisis, imposing austerity is not the answer. That is like starving the slaves to improve their condition by making the plantation more profitable.   Looting the 'great house' and the barns to feed the slaves, at least temporarily, is not the answer either. The problem is obviously in the system itself.

But either expedient solution suits the external monied interests promoting the system who seek only to plunder and drain the assets and labor of others who are all their common prey, whether they feel their kinship or not. An unjust and unsustainable system tarnishes all participants and leaves them vulnerable to exploitation and decay.

It is the root causes of the debt and the imbalances in the system that must be addressed to make any reform sustainable. And this obviously includes addressing abuses such as the promotion of a global trade regime that is inherently unjust and imbalanced to the favor of the oligarchs of whatever political wrappings around the world who hold the greater profit to themselves and leave their people relatively impoverished and exploited.    And it also includes the waging of unfunded wars to protect and promote privileged commerical interests, and a political funding system that is little more than soft graft and an open invitation to corruption by special interests.

It begins with a debilitating system of taxation by the monied interests on every commercial transaction in the form of fees and commissions, and the abuse of a money system that is little more than a fraud perpetrated by private interests for the benefit of a few at the expense of the many. If you wish a simple measure of this, then look to the median wage.

Greed is not good. Greed is a disease, an abberation of simple honest ambition and necessary provision taken to excess. This simple distinction may be lost on a people no longer able to distinguish between virtue and sin, honor and expediency, appetite and gluttony, the means and the ends.  Every great religion, every school of philosophy has cautioned throughout history on the perils of unbridled and unregulated greed.  And yet this generation would make a god of it, although in fairness most really do not understand what it is that they do and how and whom they serve.

Greed, often in company with hubris, is a handmaiden of the corrupting influence of power and triumph of the will. Greed is contagious, and attacks the very contentment of society at its heart, turning it towards anarchy and oppression.
"Greed is a bottomless pit which exhausts the person in an endless effort to satisfy the need without ever reaching satisfaction." Erich Fromm
Any system that promotes greed, gluttony, and insatiability as its highest goods and fundamental ideals is a cult of perversion and addiction on a scale with ancient Rome, an imbalanced insult to the natural law, with a fatal attraction to overreach, failure and self-destruction. What the US has today is not market capitalism that rewards the merits and work of individuals, but rather is the product of dishonest and disordered minds, a system of fraud and plunder by privileged oligarchs masquerading as fair and honest markets of legitimate valuation and price discovery.
"Because the free market system is so weak politically, the forms of capitalism that are experienced in many countries are very far from the ideal. They are a corrupted version, in which powerful interests prevent competition from playing its natural, healthy role." Raghuram G. Rajan
The Banks must be restrained, and the financial system reformed, with balance restored to the economy, before there can be any sustained recovery.

Financial Interests Dictate Sovereign Policy
By Michael Hudson
December 18, 2010

"...The economic problem is not caused by sovereign debt but by bad bank loans, deceptive financial practice and neoliberal bank deregulation. Iceland’s Viking raiders, Ireland’s Anglo-Irish bank and other foreign banks are trying to avoid taking losses on financial claims that are largely fictitious, inasmuch as they exceed the ability of indebted economies to pay. The ‘crisis’ can be solved by making the banks write down their debt claims to realistic ‘junk’ valuations. There is no need to wreck economies by subjecting them to financial asset-stripping.

In such cases there’s a basic principle at work: Debts that can’t be paid, won’t be. The question is, just how won’t they be paid? As matters stand, countries are being told to subject themselves to massive foreclosure – not only a forfeiture of homes, but of national policy.

In this respect the sovereign crisis is a crisis of sovereignty itself: Who shall be in charge of the economy, its tax philosophy and public spending: elected officials acting in the public interest, or an intrusive financial oligarchy? The EU was wrong to tell governments to pay for following its advice – and pressure – to trust financial crooks and deregulate bank oversight. The European Central Bank should reimburse victimized governments for the bailouts that have been paid. This reimbursement can be done by levying a progressive tax policy and creating a central bank to help finance governments.

The proper aim of a national economy is to promote capital formation and rising living standards for the population as a whole. not a narrowing financial class at the top of the pyramid. So I see two major policies to lead the way out of this mess:

First, shift taxes back onto land and resource rent, and onto financial and capital gains. This will prevent another real estate bubble from being inflated by debt leveraging. By holding down housing prices, it will save labor from having to pay an equivalent amount in income tax. Low real estate taxes (under 1% until just recently) have not saved homeowners money in Latvia. Low property taxes merely have left more rental income to be pledged to banks, to capitalize into large mortgage loans.

Second, de-privatize basic utilities and natural monopolies to save Europe from rentiers turning it into a tollbooth economy. Europe needs a central bank that can do what central banks are supposed to do: create money to finance government deficits. But the European Central Bank and article 123 of the European Constitution as amended by the Lisbon Treaty prevents the central bank from lending to governments. This forces governments to levy taxes to pay interest to banks – for creating electronic credit that a real central bank could just as well create on its own computer keyboards.

Government banking is not necessarily inflationary. It finances what is necessary for economies to grow: investment in infrastructure and capital formation to raise productivity and minimize the cost of doing business.

What turns out to be inflationary is commercial bank lending. It inflates asset prices – unproductively. Banks lend mainly against real estate and other assets already in place, and stocks and bonds already issued. This is unproductive credit, not real wealth creation. The only way to keep this unproductive debt overhead solvent is to inflate asset prices more – by untaxing assets to leave more revenue to pay bankers on exponentially growing debts.

It doesn’t have to be this way. The recent 30 years of financial polarization is reversible. The alternative is to succumb to neoliberal austerity."

I think that most people know what needs to be done in their conscience, but their hearts have become so hardened over the past twenty years that the message will be ignored until after they undergo a period of suffering on the scale of the worst of the twentieth century. May God have mercy on us all.

Unless the Lord builds the house, the builders labor in vain.
Unless the Lord watches over the city, the guards stand watch in vain.
In vain you rise early and stay up late,
toiling for food to eat—
for he grants sleep only to those he loves.

Psalm 127