World Public Forum “Dialogue of Civilizations”, 9-th Annual Meeting, 6-10 October 2011, Rhodes. Panel “Post-crisis future of global economy”
AFTER THE GLOBAL CRISIS
Domenico Mario NUTI
Sapienza University of Rome
Of course Rating Agencies have proven to be highly fallible and often biased, for they have their own agendas to drive forward, have positions of conflict of interests (“issuer pays”) and opportunities for insider trading. Alternative, public Rating Agencies have been advocated, for instance in Europe, but such institutions could not be regarded as independent and therefore their credibility would be low. Better still, “the use of ratings in financial regulations should be significantly reduced over time” (as it was suggested in the de Larosiere Report of 2009 under Recommendation 3, but never acted upon by European authorities).
In order to contain the unavoidable disruption and turmoil involved by a country’s default, it would be essential to anticipate its adverse effects and counteract them beforehand, by re-capitalizing commercial banks exposed to the cross-effects of default, including central banks and above all the European Central Bank that has been acting (probably exceeding its mandate) as Lender of Last Resort to the governments of “peripheral” (meaning “high spread”) countries. An experience of default is bound to depress the price of, and thus raise yields on, old and new government bonds for the whole area; therefore contagion would worsen the sustainability conditions of debt, and therefore slow down the speed of subsequent recovery.
Furthermore, a post-crisis global economy should have renewed efforts to establish some form of global governance rather than have in place the many and inadequate ad hoc institutions cobbled together to, at present, provide some semblance of governance. But in order to be established global government now would have to be universally accepted not only in its initial form, but also in all its rules for the continuous adjustment to future, unforeseen and unforeseeable, circumstances: such acceptance now is probably out of the question. Besides, the demotion of the nation state is not necessarily desirable. For the nation state provides a layer of authority that can protect citizens from global corporations as well as from a necessarily monopolistic global governance authority that could easily misbehave out of democratic control, and without any remaining territory to which one could run for cover.
Eventually the post-crisis economy – sooner or later – will begin to recover, thanks to the profitability of production and investment being raised by depressed wages (due to mass unemployment), the accumulation of new profitable technical inventions and opportunities, the progressive depletion of existing inventories and production capacity. Once started, recovery would tend to be amplified by indirect effects, such as the usual interaction between multiplier and accelerator, until potential capacity constraints are met again and some cyclical mechanism is set in motion again in reverse. Such is the inexorable logic of the market economy. But reliance simply on market self-regulation will most probably lead to recovery much later than possible with government intervention and jump-starting. It is unfortunate that the inadequate policy responses of 2008 and their premature withdrawal should have grossly diluted their effectiveness thus making the implementation of growth policies harder today.
Changes must also be attempted in order to prevent the operation of factors that facilitated the last global crisis, or to better cope with them. The increase in banks’ capitalization, envisaged by the Basel-3 new rules, will have an initial adverse effect on the volume of lending but longer term benefits for financial stability. A new composite currency is bound to emerge, in place of the US dollar or the euro.
Regulations on the separation of credit and investment operations of banks (à la Glass-Steagall Act) are bound to be reintroduced, as already proposed in the UK by the Vickers Commission. The Over The Counter derivatives trade might be subjected to stricter regulations, such as the requirement of an underlying “insurable” interest for taking up a position in that market, or the prohibition of short-selling, temporarily introduced in the European Union on shares and government bonds. The traditional principle of Central Bank independence in the exclusive pursuit of inflation targeting – based on the now discredited theory of rational expectations and the consequent de-coupling of inflation and unemployment – is bound to change into the even more independent pursuit of multiple targets including employment and competitiveness. We might witness attempts to protect domestic industries and stop immigration – largely unsuccessful in view of the irresistible force of underlying trends.
Currently, by and large, the economic system emerging from the crisis is bound to be substantially very similar to the pre-crisis one, improved in some respects, but worsened by large scale cuts in welfare expenditure made necessary by the (debatable) purpose of achieving fiscal balance. The post-crisis system will be more conflictual and insecure, more unequal and less cohesive, less rather than more “green” – basically a more unpleasant world in which to live. It need not be.