5 anni dopo Lehman. Cosa non abbiamo imparato

In Da altri media on 18/09/2013 at 12:57

A 5 anni dall’inizio della crisi, c’è ancora tanto da fare. La recessione è finita in America ed in una parte d’Europa, ma le condizioni di vita dei lavoratori – e dei disoccupati – sono peggiori di cinque anni fa. In altri paesi, come l’Italia, siamo ancora lontanissimi dal tornare ad un normale adamento economico. Ma più in generale nulla si è fatto per cambiare quel sistema che ha portato alla crisi, dalla concentrazione bancaria, al finanz-capitalismo, all’ineguaglianza. Alcuni spunti di rilessione ci giungono dagli articoli di Joseph Stiglitz e Martin Wolf sul Financial Times.
di Joseph Stiglitz
da FT

As we mark the fifth anniversary of Lehman Brothers’ demise and the onset of the global financial crisis, we must ask: what have we learnt? How well have we done? To what extent are the persistent weaknesses in the US and Europe a result of the misdeeds of the financial sector before the crisis, the crisis itself, and the way in which the crisis was managed?

The best – and it’s a great deal – that can be said is that we avoided the worst: another Great Depression. Whether this was a result of the forceful action of governments and central bankers is an exercise in counterfactual history – what would have happened without the massive bailouts we’ll never know for sure.

What we do know is a half decade after the crisis, gross domestic product in many European countries is lower than it was before the crisis, a worse performance than in the Great Depression; that some countries – like Spain and Greece – are in depression; that labour force participation in the US is at a 35 year low; that the income and wealth of most Americans is still markedly lower than it was before the Great Recession; that the banking industry is more concentrated, the financial sector less competitive, that new abuses get uncovered almost every day, that not a single senior banking official has been held accountable, and that the financial sector has succeeded in fighting off many of the reforms that would make it more competitive, more transparent, less risky, and less prone to take advantage of ordinary citizens. We know too that the increase in debts and deficits that resulted from the downturns is now constraining actions in both Europe and the US that would enhance growth and employment.

Defenders of the massive bank bailouts suggest that now that most of the money has been repaid, there is nothing to complain about. I disagree. The state lent the banks tens of billions of dollars at close to zero interest rate, which they then lent out at higher interest rates, giving them the money to repay the government. It was an easy-to-see through shell game. Had the government demanded more of the banks, our fiscal position would have been better; had we demanded as a condition for getting our money that the banks lendmore – rather than paying out bonuses – maybe we would have had a more robust recovery. Even Hank Paulson, former US treasury security, was surprised, and offended, at the banks’ behaviour.

Though the damage done to the economy by the financial sector totals in the trillions, the financial sector should not be blamed for all the woes of Europe and America today. In part, the bubble that deregulation and low interest rates helped create masked deeper problems; but unfortunately, the crisis has made it difficult to address these.

On both sides of the Atlantic there is a need to restructure the economy, to move away from manufacturing to a service sector economy. With productivity increases in manufacturing exceeding the pace of demand, global employment inevitably decreases; and shifting comparative advantage means Europe and America will receive a smaller share of this declining global employment. Markets do not make such transitions easily – as we saw as we moved from agriculture to manufacturing; there is a need for government – just at a time when government spending is being cut back.

Both Europe and America face growing inequality – worsened by the Great Recession. Just released data from Thomas Piketty and Emmanuel Saez show that 95 per cent of the gains in the US economy from 2009 to 2012 went to the top 1 per cent. Both Europe and America face weak aggregate demand, and this growing inequality is a prime cause.

But the financial crisis has constrained the ability and willingness of governments on both sides of the Atlantic to deal with this growing inequality – an inequality for which we pay a high price, an economic price in growth, an even greater price in an increasingly divided society.

But we should be clear that the euro crisis was not fundamentally caused by the financial crisis. The flaws in the structure of the eurozone would have eventually come to the fore. The crisis simply brought them out sooner than would otherwise have been the case.

Misguided ideas shaped the economic agenda in the years before the crisis. Ideas about limited government led, ironically, to the largest government interventions in the history of mankind. But the same ideology and ideas that prevailed before the crisis have held enormous sway in the years after the crisis: not surprising, since large inequalities of economic power lead to large inequalities in political power. The result is a world which is in some ways safer, in other ways riskier – but a world in which we have postponed doing anything about the fundamental problems we confront.

  1. […] la discussione sulla crisi finanziaria, cinque anni dopo il crack di Lehman. Nel precendete post Joseph Stiglitz parlava dei danni dell’austerity e delle scelte sbagliate dei governi. In questo pezzo, […]


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