Tuesday, January 29

When capitalism strays too far from meeting real human needs, we're in trouble

I'm pro-free-markets (for the most part), but when capitalism strays too far from meeting real human needs, we're in trouble. The financial sector is dominating the economy—people making money not based on trade, on natural supply and demand—but rather making what some might even call 'theoretical' profits, based purely on financial transactions.

The 'Mostly Economics' blog has an excellent post on this topic from a couple years ago called '[The] Financial Sector and its growing excesses'. It's worthwhile to bring these thoughts to the foreground again. Here are a few key excerpts (some of which are from the original articles linked within the blog post):
  • "When we say that the top one percent of tax filers now receive something over 17 percent of all taxable income, it will not surprise you that a significant fraction of that top 1 percent comes from the financial sector."
  • "The consumer financial services industry has been the single biggest contributor in the 2000 election cycle, in the 2002 election cycle, and they’re on target to do it again in the 2004 election cycle. George W. Bush’s single biggest contributor to his [2000] presidential campaign was MBNA, the second biggest credit card issuer in the country."
  • "...the last two decades have been characterized by rapid and accelerating world growth, with the trend interrupted three times: around 1997, around 2001 and now again around 2008, although we do not know yet how serious this interruption will be. These recent interruptions are not associated with wars or periods of trade disintegration. Instead all three of them have been caused by financial sector difficulties of a more or less global nature. ... In all three cases it was a certain “irrational exuberance” in the financial sector that led to the shock."
  • "...capitalism in the rich countries has increasingly changed its nature from one where the lead sector was manufacturing, to one where the role of traditional industries has declined, the share of services has increased and the financial sector is playing a leading role."
  • "...the pre-eminence of the financial sector also imparts a greater amount of 'short-termism' to the system with immediate profits a more important driver than long term considerations."
  • "...the financial sector can never be a purely private affair. It is at the heart of the modern market economy and plays an organizing role that is a public good. Its failure affects the whole economy and all citizens. The public policy maker cannot let the financial sector fail in a systemic manner and has to, in one way or another, rescue it. It is important and fair, therefore, that it is regulated in a way that encourages responsibility, a longer term horizon and an evaluation of risk by its managers, that is not truncated by the unavoidable need for the socialization of large losses."
Financial Sector and its growing excesses (Mostly Economics)

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