Monday, 6 December 2010

Déjà-vu

Does anyone remember the 1992 currency crisis? The speculative attacks on the lira, the crown, the pound, and the franc? That was when people said: only joining the euro would prevent national economies from being easy prey to financial speculators.

In those days speculation was about the value of the currency, today it is about loans, credit-worthiness, and investors getting their money back. But still, it's the same old domino game: Iceland, Greece, Ireland. And next - Portugal, Hungary, Spain or Belgium? The irony is that this time it is largely because of the euro that countries are vulnerable. Those that never joined – like Iceland – seem better positioned for recovery than those that did.

But "countries" are perhaps the wrong unit to use. Another irony involved here is our commonsensical belief that a crisis for capitalism must also be a crisis for the capitalists. Remember Marx and his idea about the expropriators getting expropriated? That was before mechanisms were invented to nationalise the crises and pass on the bill to tax-payers. The process whereby economic crises have been redefined into crises for "countries" is certaintly not innocent and would be well worth a discourse analysis. Sometimes I wonder whether the fact that today's capitalists don't need keynesianism anymore is not best explained by the fact that they've become just as adept at making money out of economic downturns as out of upswings.

So what economists ought to think about is: how can crises be turned into crises for the capitalists again, without anyone else having to suffer?

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