The financial crash was predicted and avoidable.

1 12 2008


Below is a passage from the book “Economia: New economic systems to empower people and support the living world” by Australian academic Dr Geoff Davies published in 2004.

It is clear to me that before the recent reflexive soul-searching about financial institutions and systems, there have been many non-mainstream voices condemning the structures and patterns of economic globalism and financial markets (a.k.a financial casino) in particular.  This passage was written at a time well before most people had ever heard of “sub-prime”.


Financial markets, as presently structured, are intrinsically unstable. The disconnection of stock markets from the real values of commerce weakens the stabilising negative feedbacks from reality and permits the destabilising influence of speculation to take hold. The larger and stronger the financial sector becomes, the more its internal instabilities are manifest. Its instability greatly magnifies the inevitable fluctuations and surprises that result from our inability to foresee the future. That is why seemingly minor events can occasionally trigger economic catastrophe.

You may have noticed earlier. that I put ‘cycle’ in quotes when referring earlier to the business ‘cycle’ This is because ‘cycle’ is the language of equilibrium and stability. Neoclassical theory would have us believe that we are meandering along a round-bottomed valley. If we deviate too far to one side, the gently rising slope of the valley will bring us gently back towards the centre of the valley. If we overshoot, we will be brought gently back from the other side, like a pendulum. This gentle oscillation could correctly be called a cycle.

A more accurate metaphor is that we are teetering along a roundtopped ridge. If we stray to one side, we must work to climb back to the top. If we stray too far, we may have to claw our way back. If we can’t, we may slide down faster and faster until we crash into the gully below. Rather than oscillating in a gentle cycle, we are trying to tame runaway exponential instabilities, either the booming climb of a rising market or the crash of a market in free fall.

The power of the financial system has grown steadily for over half a century. The source of this growth is partly in the machinations of the financial system, which draws more wealth into itself, and partly in the strange and archaic rules of the monetary system underlying it, which are explored later in this book. The financial system ought to be an appendage to the real economy, serving its needs and involving a small fraction of its total resources. Instead, the financial system has grown to dominate the real economy, and to inflict the effects of its own pathological and selfserving internal dynamics upon the real economy.

The financial markets promote destructive instabilities, they are failing to invest capital properly for the future, and they are parasitic. These are fundamental failures. If we are to have healthy economic systems, we must reduce the role of financial markets to that of serving the real economy, and we must learn how to eliminate their intrinsic instabilities.

I’m glad these type of opinions are now getting something of an airing in the popular media.




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