Monday, 29 September 2008

Not The End of Capitalism.

The crisis of finance capital continues with the nationalisation of Bradford and Bingley this morning, but it seems unlikely that the system itself is under threat. The left has nothing to gain from becoming a series of millennialist sects, in either case.

What is clear though is that there have been several important developments in how capitalism in the US and UK is being administered. First, it is now difficult to deny the conclusions of John Gray and others who say that free markets require strong, interventionist states to keep them artificially afloat. Second, a precedent has been set by the 700 billion dollars about to be spent to that purpose: when companies "too big to fail" gamble at long odds or cook the books to maximise their short-term profit and are discovered, it has now become the state's responsibility to bail them out. Third, and perhaps most importantly, the wave of nationalisations and state investment into finance gives the state a renewed corporatist aspect. If these companies were too big to fail when it was only workers' jobs and management salaries at risk, imagine the future profits to be made from investing in a company partially owned by the state, with an almost infinite stack of chips to cover its lost bets.

This aside, look at how this bubble has worked: at ground level, assets were significantly overvalued, ridiculously high and undersecured loans issued and a fat margin was taken by all the participants, as when Lehman Brothers paid their executives 70 million dollar salaries. Ultimately, when it turned out that the emperor was wearing no clothes, the prices of these assets plummeted and suddenly none of the banks found that they had money to lend each other. Short-termism paid off, however, because taxpayers are going to be paying for it.

Of course, there is no possibility of UK or US taxpayers actually paying anything in the short term, because it is unserviceable: any significant increase in taxation on the rich or their companies would be uncompetitive and would lead to capital flight. So the cycle continues.

2 comments:

Robert said...

Well they have only got away with it if it succeeds, the next twelve months will be hard for people, I think we will be very lucky if these banks do not come back for more and if more is not forthcoming god help us all.

But of course worse could come if we have more famine more flood and more things going wrong in the world.

Red Eyes said...

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Red eyes