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I tend to agree with Sven that some reconstruction may be necessary. Before looking at that, here's my edit of  Jérôme's whole first draft (sorry if I haven't yet seen some suggestions in the thread, but I'll be back later):

In the 70s, the Economist coined the label "Dutch Disease" to describe the economic travails of the Netherlands as the country's export-oriented industrial sector struggled with increased exchange rates. These were caused by the rapid growth in gas exports following the discovery and development of the massive Groningen field. The extractive sector was so profitable that it captured a large share of new investment, and its export volume was large enough to alter the trade balance and boost the currency, further rendering other activities less attractive.

Today, a similar phenomenon, but on a larger scale, concerns the financial industry, the high profitability of which over a number of years has weakened other sectors of the economy. As this has developed around the money centers in New York and, in an even more concentrated way, London, I suggest calling this the "Anglo Disease."

Along the lines of the "oil curse" that has struck many oil exporting countries,  the Anglo Disease carries its own curse, of which the early symptoms can be observed in the current financial crisis.

The ascendancy of the financial world can readily be seen in the growth of the share of financial firms in total corporate profits (from below 20% in the 70s to above 40% today), in the capture by the richest few - most of them directly working in the financial industry, or benefitting from financial investments - of a large chunk of the net growth in total incomes, and by the concentration of foreign investment in the UK in mono-activity London.

Financiers, with their ability to monetize future revenue streams today, generate instant profits which they and, to a lesser extent, their clients and employers, can capture. That capacity to create apparent wealth out of thin air cannot be matched by any other sector in the economy. It is not surprising that it sucks in talent, resources and money. Meanwhile, the investors who have made those immediate profits possible still want to ensure that the future flows that underpin them do in fact materialise. To this end, they will impose their rules and discipline on the underlying economic activity.

Thus the financial world imposes its unrelenting focus on profits and shareholder value on all economic activities; the domination of "return on capital" criteria ensures that many activities outside finance are in decline, as they struggle to reach the required returns on potential investments. Financial analysis sees labour as a cost, reducing profits, and pushes for its reduction, either via outsourcing, offshorisation or wage stagnation. Similarly, government regulations are seen as restrictions on profit to be fought and eliminated, as also, naturally, are taxes.

But flat incomes debilitate domestic demand. Easy credit -  to the further benefit of the industry that provides the loans - has been the means to keep household spending on the increase. The combination of expansionist monetary policies in the West and mercantilist policies in China has offered rapid asset price increases at the same time as no inflation, thus generating massive (and increasingly less taxed) corporate profits. The reality, of course, was that of huge global imbalances and a massive bubble, but for a long time it looked like the holy grail of perfect growth. That illusion further appeared to validate the policies that underpinned the system.

The model of financial capitalism is thus all-encompassing, not only grabbing an increasing share of the economic pie, but also dominating all political and economic discourse.

The unfortunate result has been massive inequality, declining or stagnant living standards for the majority, who spend more than they earn, and, as a consequence, a colossal bill passed on to the future. Well, that bill is coming due. The imbalances will only be unwound if incomes match spending. There are two ways for this to happen: lower spending, or higher incomes.

In the financial capitalism model, incomes are a cost and should not increase. If that logic prevails - if our body politic is not cured of the Anglo Disease - spending will crash and a recession is not only inevitable but likely to be very painful, as the real economy slows down brutally, and the financial bets that ride it suddenly look highly unreasonable, and turn into losses (as is happening already in the subprime sector).

If, to the contrary, policies cease their focus on profit support and instead seek to increase incomes for the poor and the middle classes, to invest in the real economy (for instance via plans to boost energy efficiency in the household sector, and renewable energies) rather than in monetising its existing activities, to tax today's wealthy rather than tomorrow's citizens, then there is a chance of limiting the crash.

Just as the Dutch Disease was caused by windfalls from a new sector, the Anglo Disease was made possible by the combination of technological progress in the financial world, the long bond bull market created by Volcker's successful fight against inflation and the successful promotion of the ideology of greed by the right (with the timely fall of the Berlin Wall providing an additional boost by discrediting the other extreme of the ideological spectrum). The great middle classes created by the Keynesian policies of the New Deal have now been exploited for the past 30 years, and they are depleted. The economy will need to find another, more real, way to grow and prosper.

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Sun Feb 3rd, 2008 at 01:14:40 PM EST
I agree with ThatBritGuy and Sven's suggestion to begin with short a introductory paragraph presenting the main idea.

For the rest of my remarks, see  my comment above.

"Dieu se rit des hommes qui se plaignent des conséquences alors qu'ils en chérissent les causes" Jacques-Bénigne Bossuet

by Melanchthon on Sun Feb 3rd, 2008 at 02:53:07 PM EST
[ Parent ]
And BTW, the first sentence of the last paragraph is too long.

Suggestion:

Just as the Dutch Disease was caused by windfalls from a new sector, the Anglo Disease was made possible by the combination of technological progress in the financial world, the loosening of regulations in the financial sector and the long bond bull market created by Volcker's successful fight against inflation. It was supported by the successful promotion of the ideology of greed by the right (with the timely fall of the Berlin Wall providing an additional boost by discrediting the other extreme of the ideological spectrum). The great middle classes created by the Keynesian policies of the New Deal have now been exploited for the past 30 years. Today, they are depleted and impoverished. The economy will need to find another, more real, way to grow and prosper.


"Dieu se rit des hommes qui se plaignent des conséquences alors qu'ils en chérissent les causes" Jacques-Bénigne Bossuet
by Melanchthon on Sun Feb 3rd, 2008 at 03:06:41 PM EST
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