econintersect.com
       
  

FREE NEWSLETTER: Econintersect sends a nightly newsletter highlighting news events of the day, and providing a summary of new articles posted on the website. Econintersect will not sell or pass your email address to others per our privacy policy. You can cancel this subscription at any time by selecting the unsubscribing link in the footer of each email.



posted on 09 May 2017

Steve Keen's New Book

by Michael Hudson

Review of Steve Keen’s “Can we Avoid another financial crisis?"

At first glance Steve Keen’s new book ‘Can We Avoid Another Financial Crisis’ seems too small-sized at 147 pages. But like a well-made atom-bomb, it is compactly designed for maximum reverberation to blow up its intended target.

triumph.to.crisis.economics


Please share this article - Go to very top of page, right hand side for social media buttons.


Explaining why today’s debt residue has turned the United States, Britain and southern Europe into zombie economies, Steve Keen shows how ignoring debt the blind spot of neoliberal economics - basically the old neoclassical just-pretend view of the world. Neoclassical’s glib mathiness is a gloss for its unscientific “don’t worry about debt" message. Blame for today’s U.S., British and southern European inability to achieve economic recovery thus rests on the economic mainstream and its refusal to recognize that debt matters.

Mainstream models are unable to forecast or explain a depression. That is because depressions are essentially financial in character. The business cycle itself is a financial cycle - that is, a cycle of the buildup and collapse of debt.


Mainstream models are unable to forecast or explain a depression.


Keen’s “Minsky" model traces this to what he has called “endogenous money creation," that is, bank credit mainly to buyers of real estate, companies and other assets. He recently suggested a more catchy moniker: “Bank Originated Money and Debt" (BOMD). That seems easier to remember.

The concept is more accessible than the dry academic terminology usually coined. It is simple enough to show that the mathematics of compound interest lead the volume of debt to exceed the rate of GDP growth, thereby diverting more and more income to the financial sector as debt service. Keen traces this view back to Irving Fisher’s famous 1933 article on debt deflation - the residue from unpaid debt. Such payments to creditors leave less available to spend on goods and services.

In explaining the mathematical dynamics underlying his “Minsky" model, Keen links financial dynamics to employment. If private debt grows faster than GDP, the debt/GDP ratio will rise. This stifles markets, and hence employment. Wages fall as a share of GDP.


It is simple enough to show that the mathematics of compound interest lead the volume of debt to exceed the rate of GDP growth, thereby diverting more and more income to the financial sector as debt service.


This is precisely what is happening. But mainstream models ignore the overgrowth of debt, as if the economy operates on a barter basis. Keen calls this “the barter illusion," and reviews his wonderful exchange with Paul Krugman (who plays the role of an intellectual Bambi to Keen’s Godzilla). Krugman insists that banks do not create credit but merely recycle savings - as if they are savings banks, not commercial banks. It is the old logic that debt doesn’t matter because “we" owe the debt to “ourselves."


... debt deflation - the residue from unpaid debt.


The “We" are the 99%, the “ourselves" are the 1%. Krugman calls them “patient" savers vs “impatient" borrowers, blaming the malstructured economy on personal psychology of indebted victims having to work for a living and spend their working lives paying off the debt needed to obtain debt-leveraged homes of their own, debt-leveraged education and other basic living costs.

By being so compact, this book is able to concentrate attention on the easy-to-understand mathematical principles that underlie the “junk economics" mainstream. Keen explains why, mathematically, the Great Moderation leading up to the 2008 crash was not an anomaly, but is inherent in a basic principle: Economies can prolong the debt-financed boom and delay a crash simply by providing more and more credit, Australia-style. The effect is to make the ensuing crash worse, more long-lasting and more difficult to extricate. For this, he blames mainly Margaret Thatcher and Alan Greenspan as, in effect, bank lobbyists. But behind them is the whole edifice of neoliberal economic brainwashing.

Keen attacks this “neoclassical" methodology by pointing to the logical fallacy of trying to explain society by looking only at “the individual." That approach and its related “series of plausible but false propositions" blinds economics graduates from seeing the obvious. Their discipline is the product of ideological desire not to blame banks or creditors, wrapped in a libertarian antagonism toward government’s role as economic regulator, money creator, and financier of basic infrastructure.


Margaret Thatcher deranged the economy.


Keen’s exposition undercuts the most basic and fundamental assumptions of neoclassical (that is, anti-government, anti-socialist) economics by showing that instead of personifying economic classes as “individuals" (Krugman’s “prudent" individuals with their inherited fortunes and insider dealings vs. spendthrift individuals too economically squeezed to afford to buy houses free of mortgage debt), it is easier to start with basic economic categories - creditors, wage earners, employers, governments running deficits (to provide the economy with money) or surpluses (to suck out money and force reliance on commercial banks).


The financial City of London ended up the big winners, while industry or labor have suffered a debt squeeze.


His Figure 16 shows how stable UK private debt/GDP was for a century, until Margaret Thatcher deranged the economy. Debt soared, and mainstream economists applauded the boom. (He suggests calling this new wave of neoliberal policy “deform," in contrast to “reform." We certainly need a new vocabulary to counter the soporific euphemisms used by the fake economic news media.) Privatization of Council Housing and basic infrastructure forced the population deeply into debt to afford their basic needs. The financial City of London ended up the big winners, while industry or labor have suffered a debt squeeze.

Keen’s model shows that a long debt buildup can give the appearance of prosperity, until the crash comes. But when it comes, voters blame the party in power, not the earlier promoters of nationwide debt peonage. Along with Thatcher, Keen places the blame on the pied piper of Wall Street deregulation Alan Greenspan, whom he calls “a maestro of delusion, not of insight." He also cites Larry Summers as an example of the learned ignorance beclouding economic discussion - which of course is just why the Clintons and Obama were told by their Donor Class to anoint him.


The problem is that the public is brainwashed to imagine that it is the banks that need saving, not the indebted economy.


This book enables the non-mathematician to pierce the shell of mathiness in which today’s economic mainstream wraps its lobbying effort for the big banks and their product, debt. The needed escape from the debt deflation they have caused is a debt writedown.

The problem is that the public is brainwashed to imagine that it is the banks that need saving, not the indebted economy. Keen proposes a “Modern Debt Jubilee" that is essentially a swap of equity for debt. The intellectual pedigree for this policy to keep debt within the ability to pay was laid two centuries ago by Saint-Simon in France. His solution was for banks to take an equity position in their clients, so that payments to backers could rise or fall in keeping with the fortunes of the enterprise. Keen urges that this become the basis for future banking.

As a transition from todays debt stagnation, he suggests that the central banks create a lump sum to put into everyone’s account. Debtors would be required to use their gift to pay down the debt. Non-debtors would keep the transfer payment - so as not to let demagogic political opponents accuse this plan of rewarding the profligate.

If this solution is not taken, debtors will continue to lumber on under debt and tax conditions where only about a third of their nominal wages are available to spend on the goods and services that labor produces. The circular flow between producers and consumers will shrink - being siphoned off by debt service and government taxes to bail out bankers instead of their victims.

This should be what today’s politics is all about. It should be the politics of the future. But that requires an Economics of the Future - that is, Reality Economics.

Toward this end, Keen’s book should be basic reading for placing debt at the center of today’s political debate and replacing mainstream “barter" economics with a more reality-based discipline.

This first appeared on Michael Hudson's blog 02 May 2017.

Click on book image below to go to Amazon page for the book.

steve.keen.another.fin.crisis.book

>>>>> Scroll down to view and make comments <<<<<<

Click here for Historical Opinion Post Listing










Make a Comment

Econintersect wants your comments, data and opinion on the articles posted. You can also comment using Facebook directly using he comment block below.




Econintersect Opinion








search_box
Print this page or create a PDF file of this page
Print Friendly and PDF


The growing use of ad blocking software is creating a shortfall in covering our fixed expenses. Please consider a donation to Econintersect to allow continuing output of quality and balanced financial and economic news and analysis.







Keep up with economic news using our dynamic economic newspapers with the largest international coverage on the internet
Asia / Pacific
Europe
Middle East / Africa
Americas
USA Government





























 navigate econintersect.com

Blogs

Analysis Blog
News Blog
Investing Blog
Opinion Blog
Precious Metals Blog
Markets Blog
Video of the Day
Weather

Newspapers

Asia / Pacific
Europe
Middle East / Africa
Americas
USA Government
     

RSS Feeds / Social Media

Combined Econintersect Feed
Google+
Facebook
Twitter
Digg

Free Newsletter

Marketplace - Books & More

Economic Forecast

Content Contribution

Contact

About

  Top Economics Site

Investing.com Contributor TalkMarkets Contributor Finance Blogs Free PageRank Checker Active Search Results Google+

This Web Page by Steven Hansen ---- Copyright 2010 - 2017 Econintersect LLC - all rights reserved