FTの懺悔

 今日はFTの懺悔です。

Seeds of its own destruction
By Martin Wolf
Published: March 8 2009 19:13 | Last updated: March 8 2009 19:13

Another ideological god has failed. The assumptions that ruled policy and politics over three decades suddenly look as outdated as revolutionary socialism.

“The nine most terrifying words in the English language are: ‘I’m from the government and I’m here to help.’” Thus quipped Ronald Reagan, hero of US conservatism. The remark seems ancient history now that governments are pouring trillions of dollars, euros and pounds into financial systems.

“Governments bad; deregulated markets good”: how can this faith escape unscathed after Alan Greenspan, pupil of Ayn Rand and predominant central banker of the era, described himself, in congressional testimony last October, as being “in a state of shocked disbelief” over the failure of the “self-interest of lending institutions to protect shareholders’ equity”?

In the west, the pro-market ideology of the past three decades was a reaction to the perceived failure of the mixed-economy, Keynesian model of the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s. The move to the market was associated with the election of Reagan as US president in 1980 and the ascent to the British prime ministership of Margaret Thatcher the year before. Little less important was the role of Paul Volcker, then chairman of the Federal Reserve, in crushing inflation.

Yet bigger events shaped this epoch: the shift of China from the plan to the market under Deng Xiaoping, the collapse of Soviet communism between 1989 and 1991 and the end of India’s inward-looking economic policies after 1991. The death of central planning, the end of the cold war and, above all, the entry of billions of new participants into the rapidly globalising world economy were the high points of this era.

Today, with a huge global financial crisis and a synchronised slump in economic activity, the world is changing again. The financial system is the brain of the market economy. If it needs so expensive a rescue, what is left of Reagan’s dismissal of governments? If the financial system has failed, what remains of confidence in markets?

It is impossible at such a turning point to know where we are going. In the chaotic 1970s, few guessed that the next epoch would see the taming of inflation, the unleashing of capitalism and the death of communism. What will happen now depends on choices unmade and shocks unknown. Yet the combination of a financial collapse with a huge recession, if not something worse, will surely change the world. The legitimacy of the market will weaken. The credibility of the US will be damaged. The authority of China will rise. Globalisation itself may founder. This is a time of upheaval.

How did the world arrive here? A big part of the answer is that the era of liberalisation contained seeds of its own downfall: this was also a period of massive growth in the scale and profitability of the financial sector, of frenetic financial innovation, of growing global macroeconomic imbalances, of huge household borrowing and of bubbles in asset prices.

In the US, core of the global market economy and centre of the current storm, the aggregate debt of the financial sector jumped from 22 per cent of gross domestic product in 1981 to 117 per cent by the third quarter of 2008. In the UK, with its heavy reliance on financial activity, gross debt of the financial sector reached almost 250 per cent of GDP.

In a recent paper Andrew Haldane, the Bank of England’s executive director for financial stability, shows how little banks understood of the risks they were supposed to manage. He ascribes these failures to “disaster myopia” (the tendency to underestimate risks), a lack of awareness of “network externalities” (spill overs from one institution to the others) and “misaligned incentives” (the upside to employees and the downside to shareholders and taxpayers).

. . .

After the crisis, we will surely “see finance less proud”, as Winston Churchill desired back in 1925. Markets will impose a brutal, if temporary, discipline. Regulation will also tighten.

Less clear is whether policymakers will contemplate structural remedies: a separation of utility commercial banking from investment banking; or the forced reduction in the size and complexity of institutions deemed too big or interconnected to fail. One could also imagine a return of much banking activity to the home market, as governments increasingly call the tune. If so, this would be “de-globalisation”.

Churchill called also for industry to be “more content”. In the short run, however, the collapse of the financial system is achieving the opposite: a worldwide industrial slump. It is also spreading to every significant sector of the real economy, much of which is clamouring for assistance.

Yet if the financial system has proved dysfunctional, how far can we rely on the maximisation of shareholder value as the way to guide business? The bulk of shareholdings is, after all, controlled by financial institutions. Events of the past 18 months must confirm the folly of this idea. It is better, many will conclude, to let managers determine the direction of their companies than let financial players or markets override them.

A likely result will be an increased willingness by governments to protect companies from active shareholders ? hedge funds, private equity and other investors. As a defective financial sector loses its credibility, the legitimacy of the market process itself is damaged. This is particularly true of the free-wheeling “Anglo-Saxon” approach.

No less likely are big changes in monetary policy. The macro economic consensus had been in favour of a separation of responsibility for monetary and fiscal policy, the placing of fiscal policy on autopilot, independence of central banks and the orientation of monetary decisions towards targeting inflation. But with interest rates close to zero, the distinction between monetary and fiscal policy vanishes. More fundamental is the challenge to the decision to ignore asset prices in the setting of monetary policy.

Many argue that Mr Greenspan, who succeeded Mr Volcker, created the conditions for both bubbles and subsequent collapse. He used to argue that it would be easier to clean up after the bursting of a bubble than identify such a bubble in real time and then prick it. In a reassessment of the doctrine last November, Donald Kohn, Fed vice-chairman, restated the orthodox position, but with a degree of discomfort.

Mr Kohn now states that “in light of the demonstrated importance to the real economy of speculative booms and busts (which can take years to play out), central banks probably should always try to look out over a long horizon when evaluating the economic outlook and deliberating about the appropriate accompanying path of the policy rate”. Central banks will have to go further, via either monetary policy or regulatory instruments.

. . .

Yet a huge financial crisis, together with a deep global recession, if not something far worse, is going to have much wider effects than just these.

Remember what happened in the Great Depression of the 1930s. Unemployment rose to one-quarter of the labour force in important countries, including the US. This transformed capitalism and the role of government for half a century, even in the liberal democracies. It led to the collapse of liberal trade, fortified the credibility of socialism and communism and shifted many policymakers towards import substitution as a development strategy.

The Depression led also to xenophobia and authoritarianism. Frightened people become tribal: dividing lines open within and between societies. In 1930, the Nazis won 18 per cent of the German vote; in 1932, at the height of the Depression, their share had risen to 37 per cent.

One transformation that can already be seen is in attitudes to pay. Even the US and UK are exerting direct control over pay levels and structures in assisted institutions. From the inconceivable to the habitual has taken a year. Equally obvious is a wider shift in attitudes towards inequality: vast rewards were acceptable in return for exceptional competence; as compensation for costly incompetence, they are intolerable. Marginal tax rates on the wealthier are on the way back up.

Yet another impact will be on the sense of insecurity. The credibility of moving pension savings from government-run pay-as-you-go systems to market-based systems will be far smaller than before, even though, ironically, the opportunity for profitable long-term investment has risen. Politics, like markets, overshoot.

The search for security will strengthen political control over markets. A shift towards politics entails a shift towards the national, away from the global. This is already evident in finance. It is shown too in the determination to rescue national producers. But protectionist intervention is likely to extend well beyond the cases seen so far: these are still early days.

The impact of the crisis will be particularly hard on emerging countries: the number of people in extreme poverty will rise, the size of the new middle class will fall and governments of some indebted emerging countries will surely default. Confidence in local and global elites, in the market and even in the possibility of material progress will weaken, with potentially devastating social and political consequences. Helping emerging economies through a crisis for which most have no responsibility whatsoever is a necessity.

The ability of the west in general and the US in particular to influence the course of events will also be damaged. The collapse of the western financial system, while China’s flourishes, marks a humiliating end to the “uni-polar moment”. As western policymakers struggle, their credibility lies broken. Who still trusts the teachers?

These changes will endanger the ability of the world not just to manage the global economy but also to cope with strategic challenges: fragile states, terrorism, climate change and the rise of new great powers. At the extreme, the integration of the global economy on which almost everybody now depends might be reversed. Globalisation is a choice. The integrated economy of the decades before the first world war collapsed. It could do so again.

On June 19 2007, I concluded an article on the “new capitalism” with the observation that it remained “untested”. The test has come: it failed. The era of financial liberalisation has ended. Yet, unlike in the 1930s, no credible alternative to the market economy exists and the habits of international co-operation are deep.

“I’ve a feeling we’re not in Kansas any more,” said Dorothy after a tornado dropped her, her house and dog in the land of Oz. The world of the past three decades has gone. Where we end up, after this financial tornado, is for us to seek to determine.

http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/c6c5bd36-0c0c-11de-b87d-0000779fd2ac,dwp_uuid=ae1104cc-f82e-11dd-aae8-000077b07658.html

 画面スクロールお疲れさまです。

 さて、昨今の世界的な金融危機を受けて、この原因となる各種の改革を進めてきた張本人たちの懺悔が大流行しています。日本では中谷巌さんが有名ですし、アメリカではグリーンスパン元FRB議長がいます。そうした懺悔の列についにFTも加わりました。

 各種の改革とは基本的には、いわゆる自由市場を作り出す改革です。政府の規制は悪であり、規制のない自由市場こそが善であるとの考え方の下、政府の介入を徹底的に排除した新しい資本主義を目指してきました。

 今日の記事では、長々と書いていますが、要するに、そうした新しい資本主義の試みは失敗したと認めるべきだと主張しています。しかも、これは懺悔組の常套句ですが、金融危機を「its own destruction」(自滅)と性格付け、勝手に危機になったかのような言い方です。

 散々自由市場を煽っていたお前が言うな、という感じですが、裏返せば、FTが自由市場路線を批判するくらいですから、この考え方は早晩後退していくでしょう。政府規制の組み替えを指向するには絶好の時期です。くれぐれも乗り遅れないようにしましょう。

自己紹介

benyamin ♂

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