[OPE-L] The Coming Credit Meltdown?

From: Jurriaan Bendien (adsl675281@TISCALI.NL)
Date: Thu Jun 21 2007 - 15:39:30 EDT

I wish that, rather than raise doomsday scenarios based on flimsy evidence,
somebody would interview some international bankers who can talk
meaningfully and in a level-headed way about the quantitative proportions of
the structure of the global credit market.

My hunch is that, if there is a downturn coming - and every boom is followed
by a bust - it will happen gradually. It doesn't necessarily have any
specific consequence with regard to the radicalisation of people. In
general, the most you can say that competition intensifies in that case, and
that more people are willing to do things they didn't do before, to survive.

The world is awash with cash and speculative capital (excess liquidity), as
many analysts show, and if that cash suddenly becomes worth a lot less, it's
bad for the people who own it, but point is the vast majority of people
don't own it anyway, they simply don't have the collateral to borrow that
much. The meltdown theory assumes that once the butter is melting in the
pan, you cannot take the pan off the stove, so that the butter must
inexorably continue to melt and burn. But where is the proof of that? I
burnt my steak tonight - I was not paying sufficient attention - but I think
we will need more than a kitchen theory of economics here.

Another way of looking at it is to examine the overall effects of previous
"crashes" and what impact they had. Sure, a few trillion dollars of finance
capital can be wiped out in a very short time, but as a matter of fact it
typically doesn't have a very big and durable effect on real economic growth
these days, except in fairly marginal or peripheral economies, where the
average person lacks significant assets of any sort, insofar as it
intensifies problems there which they're already experiencing. As I pointed
out before, real GDP growth can quite well go together with rising
structural unemployment and impoverishment of a segment of the population.

I think the Left makes itself ridiculous by constantly raising doomsday
scenarios, overlooking in so doing - as Mike Davis often pictures - the doom
already being experienced by hundreds of millions of people anyway in the
present. The debt business is a very old business and a very big one, but
the thing about credit is, that it enables one to constantly displace or
renegotiate temporally and spatially the consequences of actions taken in
the present. That game can therefore continue a long time, all it really
boils down to is that the growing wealth of some is conditional on the
relative or absolute impoverishment of others, and that the world economy
reorients to the priorities of those who have the income to claim the
additional wealth being generated.

But increasing socio-economic inequality doesn't necessarily mean an
absolute drop in aggregate demand, it means only that, more and more, a
select group of people generates a larger slice of that demand. You can have
growing aggregate demand, and growing socio-economic inequality at the same
time (the Keynesian definition of  "aggregate demand" isn't very helpful,
because it fails to identify, and differentiate appropriately, between the
different kinds of investment and consumption expenditure of the different
social classes).


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