THE CHRISTIAN FAITH AND THE FINANCIAL CRISIS
Part Two: The Financial Crisis
The story so far
The financial crisis - a simple view
A brief history of the London School of Economics
a) Halford Mackinder
b) Friedrich Hayek
Brian Griffiths in Mexico
Brian Griffiths in London
Inflation in 1976
Thirty glorious years
A moral problem ...
With a moral solution
A crisis of overproduction
Is this what Hayek wanted?
Substance of a talk given to the revived Brecon Political and Theological Discussion Group, 17th October 2013.
THE STORY SO FAR
This is the second part of a two part response to a talk given by Brian Griffiths in Swansea, in March 2013. Griffiths' talk was called 'The Christian Faith and the Financial Crisis.' The first part of my response, given in Llaneglwys in August 2013, concentrated on 'The Christian Faith' and was largely a discussion of two books by Griffiths - Morality and the Market-Place and The Creation of Wealth. They were published in the early 1980s before Griffiths joined the government as head of the Number 10 policy unit in 1985, but at a time when he was already being consulted by Margaret Thatcher on general economic policy, with particular reference to the financial services sector.
This was of course a time when the government was pursuing a policy of combatting inflation, mainly by refusing to support what were called 'lame duck' industries - industries that were reckoned to be unable to hold their own in a competitive world market without government support. One obvious consequence of this was a sharp rise in unemployment and one consequence of that was criticism of government policy from religious leaders, notably the then Archbishop of Canterbury, Robert Runcie. In response, Griffiths, as a strong advocate of the policy of following the logic of capitalism, was anxious to show that this logic was compatible with Christian principles - or with what he calls 'the Judaeo-Christian religion', since part of his argument is that Jesus is taking knowledge of the Jewish Bible for granted, hence economic principles outlined in the Old Testament are still valid in the era of the New Testament. These, he argues, presuppose private property and private property, he argues, presupposes market values.
The job I had in Llaneglwys was to show that Jesus's teaching is not particularly favourable to capitalist enterprise - and indeed nor are the economic principles, such as they are, that are outlined in the Pentateuch. Of the two parts of my response, that was the easier. Griffiths had set himself a difficult task trying to prove the opposite and I don't think he made a particularly good job of it, though his argument was so much in the interests of so many people who like to think of themselves as being 'Christian,' that he has a huge literature supporting him.
But I wasn't trying to argue that either Jesus's teaching or the principles of the Pentateuch were particularly favourable to Socialism. I would be quite happy to recognise that someone who shared Griffith's economic views could have as good a right as myself to the title 'Christian'. My quarrel is with the idea that there is any necessary connection between these views and the principles of the Christian faith. What I wanted to show was that historically the Christian Church had taken Jesus's strictures on private property seriously - that for some 1200 years - the great period of Christianity between the conversion of Constantine in the fourth century and the Reformation of the sixteenth century - all the significant bodies that called themselves 'Christian' (with the possible exception of the Arians in the fourth century) took it for granted that Christianity, like Buddhism, is a monastic religion - indeed that monasticism, which entails a renunciation of personal wealth and of the concerns of 'the world' is the very foundation stone of the Christian religion.
This is not to suggest that Christianity requires everyone to become a monk. Nor that anyone who happens to be living in a monastery or a convent is necessarily better than anyone else. But, regardless of the reality of monastic life, a society that recognises the monastic ideal - the ideal of the Desert Fathers - as the highest form of human life is a society that is different from a society that regards the desert ideal as mere foolishness and waste. It is a Christian society. I shall not be returning to this in the course of the present essay but the reader should perhaps keep it in mind that the establishment of such a Christian society is the aim - the only aim - I am working towards in everything I try to do.
For those who are interested, I've posted the first talk on my website. Tonight I want to look at the second issue raised in the title of Griffiths's talk - 'The Financial Crisis' - and I shall be treating it almost entirely in what we might call worldly terms - a practical logic that could be shared by anyone regardless of their religious beliefs, or lack of religious beliefs.
THE FINANCIAL CRISIS - A SIMPLE VIEW
I have had from the start a very crude and simple idea of what the financial crisis was about. In 1929/30 in North America there was 'the Great Crash' - a financial crisis of enormous proportions followed by a long period of depression in the economy. As a result legislation was introduced to prevent a recurrence, most famously the 'Glass-Steagall Act' of 1933 which - among much else - separated the roles of the ordinary high street deposit bank from the investment banking sector, which aimed to raise money for investment purposes by engaging in more risky speculative adventures. A long period followed in which - though one could hardly suggest there weren't any political crises, or that the pattern of boom and bust had been overcome - there was no major stock exchange crash in any way comparable to the Great Crash of 1929. But in October 1986, under the government of Margaret Thatcher, we had the so-called 'Big Bang' deregulation of the financial services industry in the City of London. Overnight it became possible to do things in London that were illegal elsewhere in the world, notably in the United States. As a result many international companies opened shop in London, very noticeably Goldman Sachs; and, though the older British banking companies, with their less dynamic way of doing business, suffered badly, London, which had been trailing behind in the financial services industry, rapidly took the lead, overtaking Wall Street. (1) As a result the US government came under very heavy pressure to deregulate and Glass-Steagall itself was finally repealed by the Clinton administration in 1999. Since the legislation had been introduced to prevent a major financial crash such as had occurred in 1929/30 it seemed reasonable to conclude that the removal of the legislation had something to do with the major financial crash that occurred in 2007/8.
When I went (with Geoffrey Marshall, Dean of Brecon cathedral) to hear Brian Griffiths in Swansea I did not know what an important role he personally had played in the process of deregulation. By the time it occurred, of course, he was already head of the Number 10 Policy Unit but even beforehand the archive that is available on the website of the Margaret Thatcher Foundation includes a number of memos and recommendations from him already pushing in this direction and there is further similar material in Charles Moore's authorised biography of Margaret Thatcher. We will probably learn much more once the second volume appears.
Throughout the 1970s Griffiths was involved with the Institute of Economic Affairs, which could be described as a 'think tank' - in the days before that term became widely used - set up to promote the free market ideas associated with the names of Friedrich Hayek and Milton Friedman in the University of Chicago. Hayek had been a lecturer in the London School of Economics in the 1930s and Griffiths was a lecturer there from 1965 to 1975, so I think a brief look at the history of the LSE might be useful.
A BRIEF HISTORY OF THE LONDON SCHOOL OF ECONOMICS
a) Halford Mackinder
The LSE was established in 1895 on an initiative of the Fabian Society after a conversation over breakfast which involved Sidney and Beatrice Webb and George Bernard Shaw. From the earliest stage, their fellow Fabian, Halford Mackinder, was involved. Mackinder was already well-established in the academic world, in Oxford and in Reading, in the field of geography. He could be said to have pioneered the study of geography as an academic subject. But what interested him in particular was what later became known as 'geopolitics'. Geopolitics treated the world as a unit - according to Mackinder: 'There is no complete geographical region either less than, or greater than, the whole of the earth's surface.' Later, in 1942, in the course of the Second World War, he declared: 'today, for the first time, the habitat of each separate human being is this global earth.' We can recognise in this what is now called 'globalisation'. (2)
Mackinder was director of the LSE from 1903 to 1908. He was also, together with the Webbs, one of the group called 'The Coefficients', which brought together Fabians and Liberal Imperialists in a common belief in the possibility of a rational organisation of British society and of what were understood to be Britain's wider international interests. Mackinder is best known for his theory of 'The Heartland' - the view that Europe and Asia together could be understood as an island with, at the heart of it, a vast tract of territory covering most of Russian and Western China which could hold the key to world domination. Britain dominated the world by sea, but any power that controlled this 'pivot area' as he also called it could challenge Britain's supremacy.
Mackinder put a great deal of energy into popularising this idea, giving lectures in schools and colleges throughout the country. The fear was that the country most likely to gain control or influence in this Heartland and make good use of it against British interests was Germany. Germany already enjoyed good relations with the Austrian and Ottoman empires, which brought it to the borders of the Russian empire. It thus became a vital foreign policy necessity to prevent Germany from developing similar good relations with Russia. The Coefficients also included - in addition to H.G.Wells, who used his membership as material for his novel The New Machiavelli - the liberal Imperialists Grey, Haldane and Milner, who could be described as the theorists and architects of Britain's alliance with France and Russia against Germany and ultimately Britain's entry into the First World War and the peculiarly vindictive policy that was meted out to Germany at Versailles.
It may be worth noting that the hero of The New Machiavelli, published in 1911, three years before the beginning of the First World War, takes the imminence of a war with Germany as a matter of course. His reasons, apart from the desirable invigorating effect on British political morality, is not that Germany is wicked but rather that, travelling on the continent, he has been impressed by how well, and efficiently, Germany is managing its affairs compared to Britain. Although nothing is said about German military ambitions its very competence is seen as a threat. It may be noted that Mackinder had a German disciple, Klaus Haushofer whose thinking had considerable influence on Hitler, especially on the foreign policy ambitions outlined in Mein Kampf, but that really is another (very interesting) story.
I mention Mackinder - on the Fabian not the free market side of LSE history - because, although the inter-relation between economics and war is not the theme of this talk, I would like it to be present throughout as a ghost in the reader's mind.
b) Friedrich Hayek
Much more obviously relevant to Griffiths is the fact that during the 1930s the LSE became a main centre of opposition to the economic theories being developed in Cambridge by John Maynard Keynes. Perhaps ironically, the director of the LSE at the time was William Beveridge, author of the wartime 'Beveridge Report' on 'Social Insurance and Allied Services' which provided a basis for the postwar 'welfare state', made possible through the application of Keynes's methods. Although not a member of the Fabian Society, Beveridge was intellectually very much part of the Fabian tradition but the Professor of Economics at LSE, Lionel Robbins (who would later, as Lord Robbins, be active in the IEA), set himself in opposition and in 1931 he invited the young Austrian economist, Friedrich Hayek to join the faculty.
In opposition to Keynes, Hayek reaffirmed the traditional position of classical liberal economics that so long as money retained a stable, reliable value, the market could be relied on to regulate itself. Producers can make rational decisions on the basis of 'price signals' they receive from consumers. The price is going up, too little is being produced; the price is going down, too much is being produced. But these signals are distorted by 'monetary incontinence', that is, by excessive supplies of credit provided by the banking system. Investment should be financed on the basis of 'genuine savings' - a genuine willingness to postpone consumption on the basis of money the consumer genuinely possesses. The depression had been a product of over-investment, meaning that money was being poured into products the wider society did not either want or need. The contraction in spending it imposed had been a necessary corrective and it should have been allowed to run its course. It would not have been so severe if the over-investment that provoked it hadn't been fuelled by easy credit.
Hayek argued this case - which was not far removed from the conventional economics adopted at the time by the National Government - at a time when Keynes's Treatise on Money (1930) and General Theory on Employment, Interest and Money (1936) were arguing the opposite case: that to get the economy going again everything should be done to stimulate demand, which in turn required government intervention. In Hayek's opinion, that was inflationary. It could have a temporary effect in reducing unemployment but it could only work on a long term basis if the rate of inflation continued to grow, ultimately raising the spectre of hyperinflation. The policy needed to offset this was government control of prices and incomes, but the logic of that was, eventually, a fully planned economy, i.e. socialism, which in Hayek's view could only follow the same logic of totalitarianism it had followed in the Soviet Union.
The free market or a Soviet style totalitarianism were in Hayek's view the only alternatives. Any intermediate stage was simply a stopping place on the way to the one or the other. This was the case he argued in his most influential book, The Road to Serfdom, published in 1944. Here Hayek was anxious to establish that Fascism, far from being a last stage of capitalism as the Marxists argued, was simply a variety of Socialism, the attempt to replace the free play of the market by conscious control of the economy. Which ultimately he believed was impossible because it was impossible for a government bureaucracy to know everything that needed to be known about the needs and wishes of an entire population. To quote Hayek, from a pamphlet first published by the IEA in 1980:
'Because the division of labour is among millions of people who do not even know of the existence of most of the others for whom and in co-operation with whom they unwittingly work, their aim becomes impersonal and, in a sense, abstract. The aim of the efforts of all can no longer be the satisfaction of known demands, for they have no knowledge of the subsequent use of their products. The aim must therefore become solely the yield from the sale of their products on the market. To obtain such a return, each individual must seek to meet the demands of other people at least as cheaply as anyone else does. Everybody's effort must thus be directed at producing goods and services at costs as much as possible below current prices. The difference between costs and returns, which we disdainfully call "gain" or "profit", thus becomes the true measure of the social usefulness to others of our efforts. And production at a loss, when costs exceed the yield, becomes an offence against the best use of resources. And this is especially true when it means, as it so often does, that someone else's resources are being misused.' (3)
Robert Skidelsky's biography of Keynes describes a rare foray by Hayek into Keynes's stronghold in Cambridge 'in 1931 at the same time that the Circus in Cambridge was puzzling over the Treatise on Money which, of course drew completely opposite conclusions to Hayek: the slump was due to underinvestment, not overinvestment; the cure lay in increased spending, not saving.' After Hayek had spoken:
'His exposition was greeted with complete silence. Keynes was in London, but Richard Kahn, who was in the audience, felt he had to break the ice. 'Is it your view', he asked Hayek, 'that if I went out tomorrow and bought a new overcoat, that would increase unemployment?' 'Yes,' replied Hayek, turning to a blackboard full of triangles, 'but it would take a very long mathematical demonstration to explain why.' The contrast with Keynes's 'Whenever you save five shillings you put a man out of work for a day,' uttered on the wireless the same month, could not have been starker.' (4)
The twenty years Hayek spent in LSE, from 1931 to 1950, must have seemed like a period of total defeat. By 1950, Keynes was everywhere triumphant to the extent that his teaching had become almost synonymous with economics. Hayek went off to teach at the University of Chicago, perhaps the only university in the Anglo Saxon world where classical free market economics was still being taught as relevant to current economic policy rather than as an interesting historical phenomenon. In the 1970s, however, a process of reversal began, an intellectual challenge to the still dominant Keynesian consensus followed in the 1980s by a triumph of the Hayekian view, both in Britain under Margaret Thatcher and in the United States under Ronald Reagan. Later, though, I will be asking if this really was a triumph of Hayek's ideas.
BRIAN GRIFFITHS IN MEXICO
The main focus of Griffiths's interest was on banking and in the early 1970s he published two books - or rather a book and a pamphlet - on the banking systems in Mexico and in Britain. Griffiths went to Mexico as an adviser to the Bank of Mexico in 1969 and in 1972 he published Mexican Monetary Policy and Economic Development. (5)
After the almost hallucinatory violence of the first twenty years of the Mexican revolution, from 1910 to 1930, the forty years from 1930 to 1970 are widely regarded as having been economically successful. There has been talk of the 'Mexican economic miracle.' Griffiths, dealing with the period 1940-70, begins by saying that it has been 'hailed by many as the outstanding success story of Latin America and the whole underdeveloped world' (p.3). The success could be measured in terms of relative stability, in the sense that people weren't killing each other in large numbers as they had been, growth rate, growth in manufacturing and in the necessary infrastructure, together with, especially from 1955 onwards, a relatively low level of inflation. Griffiths doesn't contest all this but it was nonetheless achieved largely by means of which he disapproves. The book is written in a very neutral, technical manner and the disapproval is expressed politely but we may guess from his other writings that it must have been quite strongly felt.
The policy was essentially protectionist. Imports required licenses which were issued free of charge but only for goods that were not being adequately supplied from within Mexico. 'Efficiency', Griffiths observes 'in terms of the advantage of producing the good in Mexico, compared to some other country, has been largely irrelevant' (p.51). Interestingly, exports were also discouraged through the imposition of an export tax.
The government policy was, so far as possible, to finance its expenditure, and especially its support for local industry, out of bank deposits, rather than taxation. This would be supplemented by foreign loans, preferably from foreign government rather than private funds, but the government was anxious to keep the foreign involvement to a minimum. People were encouraged to save and the banks were obliged to hold substantial reserves and to lend to socially desirable enterprises at low interest rates. Hayek would presumably at least have approved the emphasis on real savings as opposed to Keynesian incentives to encourage spending, but Griffiths comments that the policy amounted to a tax on the banking sector: 'the Mexican policy' he says 'has the effect of not paying the holder of banking system liabilities the real rate of return.' (p.7)
In his final conclusions Griffiths says: 'the rates of return to investment would be artificially distorted because of the policy of protection and the lack of a strong antimonopoly policy. This would suggest the phasing out of these policies inasmuch as otherwise the investment may be inefficient, the goods produced being available elsewhere at a cheaper price.' (p.133)
This is not an article about Mexico but it may be noted that Mexico was widely admired while it was pursuing these 'inefficient' policies. Since phasing these policies out in accordance with Brian Griffiths's recommendation it has ceased to be widely hailed as 'the outstanding success story of Latin America and of the whole underdeveloped world.'
BRIAN GRIFFITHS IN LONDON
Griffiths's criticism of the British banking system is in principle rather similar. It comes in the form of a pamphlet - Competition in Banking - published by the IEA in 1970, (6) at a moment when Edward Heath's government had just come in on a programme which rather resembled the policy associated ten years later with Margaret Thatcher. As the Editor's introduction says: 'Mr Griffiths' study is a timely contribution to academic and public discussion at a time when a new government, notably in the statements of the Prime Minister, is for the first time in decades, souding a new note of economic philosophy in emphasising the importance of competition in all sectors of the economy ...' (p.4) The IEA was soon to be disappointed in Edward Heath as he found himself having to adapt to the then apparently overwhelming force of trade union power.
Competition in Banking makes interesting reading nowadays - a glimpse into a world that is now long gone. It was a world in which the interest rates charged by the banks for their various services were pegged to the Bank Rate, the interest charged by the Bank of England, so that, since the Bank of England was controlled by the government, the government could dictate the whole range of interest rates charged by the major clearing banks. In addition Griffiths describes various devices by which the government could steer credit into socially desirable ends. 'In December 1964' he tells us for example:
'the Governor of the Bank of England issued a letter to all financial institutions establishing priorities for lending. Exports, productive investments in manufacturing and agriculture, house purchase and building were to be given priority and lending to finance consumer expenditure, property development (other than house-building), imports of manufactured goods for home consumption and stock building were discouraged.' (p.27)
Credit was also steered by various means towards the public sector, with, on occasion, limits put on the amount that could be lent to the private sector:
'if bank deposits remain constant and the quantity of credit lent to the private sector decreases, the banks are forced to hold either cash or government debt. Even though the yield on government debt is below that on advances [to the private sector - PB], it is higher than on cash. The placing of government debt and and the state of the gilt-edged market seem to have been the major preoccupations of the Bank's policy in this period. The Bank of England Quarterly Bulletin, in a comment on monetary policy, said that: "Neither interest rate policy nor credit policy is the long term consideration in debt management: this is rather to ensure so far as possible that suitable finance for the Exchequer is available."' [The quotation is from 'Official transactions in the gilt-edged market', Bank of England Quarterly Bulletin, June 1966 - PB]
Since the banks could not compete with each other by offering attractive interest rates on their different profit generating services, they had to compete by other attractions that were not necessarily in themselves profit-generating. These might include such things as ingenious advertising gimmicks, or impressive marble cladding; but he also mentions multiplying the number of branches, which presumably meant placing branches in places that would not other wise be served. It all invoked, in me at least, a certain feeling of nostalgia.
INFLATION IN 1976
In 1976, Griffiths published what I think is his most impressive book - Inflation: the price of prosperity (since he is arguing that prosperity can be had without inflation one feels there should be a question mark at the end of the title, but there isn't). (7) It is an argument for the 'monetarist' view of inflation as opposed to what he calls in the Mexican book the 'structuralist' view. Put very crudely, the structuralist view is that inflation is an increase in prices that is caused by an increase in costs which might, for example, be an increase in oil prices such as occurred spectacularly in October 1973 when OPEC raised oil prices and cut production in response to US support for Israel in the Yom Kippur war - rather strangely this seems to go unnoticed in Griffiths's book. But of course another source of increase in the costs of production is an increase in wages and in the 1960s and 1970s there was a widespread feeling that the problem lay in the power of the unionised workforce to impose wage increases almost at will, thereby increasing the cost of production, thereby increasing prices. The problem then was seen as a social problem and the solution was a social solution - prices and incomes policy negotiated at national level between the government, the trade unions and employers' organisations. In my Llaneglwys talk I gave a brief account of my own political involvement at the time and in particular my support for the Bullock Report on Industrial Democracy, predicated on the view that unionised workers would never again accept to be just a factor in the cost of production regulated by the 'labour market' and therefore that in everyone's best interest the working class had to develop the skills necessary to manage individual industries and the economy as a whole in its own best interest.
The monetarist argument on the contrary sees the problem as an increase in the money supply which, by the normal laws of supply and demand, reduces the value of money so that more money is needed to get a given result. In the case of the inflation which became such a radical problem in the 1970s, Griffiths sees its origin in the policy of the US President Lyndon Johnson of printing more money to pay for the social support policies of the 'Great Society' and for the Vietnam war without raising taxes. Under the post war 'Bretton Woods' agreement, the exchange values of all the currencies in the countries affiliated to the International Monetary Fund were pegged to the value of the dollar and the value of the dollar itself was pegged to the value of gold. The aim was to facilitate international trade through fixed exchange rates. Instead of succumbing to the temptation to devalue their currencies, countries in financial difficulties could seek help from the IMF - as the United Kingdom did in 1956 and in 1976.
As a result of the centrality of the dollar Johnson's inflation had consequences throughout the world, especially when, in August 1971, Nixon took the dollar off the gold standard. By that time, Griffiths tells us, the nominal value of the dollars available in the world was already four times the value of all the gold in Fort Knox.
Griffiths argued that it was this international inflation triggered by the increase in dollars needed to pay for the Vietnam war that had caused the British working class to become more militant in its demand for higher wages. But the problem was exacerbated by the reaction of the Heath government which had tried to respond to this pressure by going for rapid growth in the economy by pumping in yet more money, thereby increasing the inflation yet further.
The monetarist explanation of inflation had been, Griffiths tells us, the universally agreed view of all major economists until Keynes, in the General Theory, argued that, in Griffiths' words: 'a free market economy had no inherent properties which would continuously provide full employment for the labour force. As a result, the government had a responsibility to maintain total spending at a level which would provide work for all who actively sought it' (p.4). So it was the political need - very acutely felt of course in the Depression - to maintain full employment that caused governments to abandon the prudent monetary policies that had been recommended by classical economics. In his Mexican book he says that the success of the Mexican government in keeping a relatively low level of inflation was helped by the fact that they did not have a commitment to maintaining full employment.
Of the British economy Griffiths says:
'the unrelenting inflation of the post-war years is the result of the commitment of successive governments to the concept of full employment, which was first put forward in the employment policy White Paper of 1944. It was a concept of full employment defined in a rather special way. In Full Employment in a Free Society Beveridge defined full employment to mean 'having always more vacant jobs than unemployed men' so that 'the labour market should always be a sellers' market [rather] than a buyers' market.' In such a world as this the dice are necessarily loaded. If the labour market is to be a sellers' market, then regardless of the structure of the trade-union movement, the militancy of trade unions, the degree of unionisation in society or the particular framework of the collective bargaining process, inflation must result. In fairness to Beveridge it should be said that he recognised the inflationary potential of his ideas but claimed that it could be avoided by a responsible attitude on the part of trade-union leaders.' (p.96)
In further fairness to Beveridge it may be said that his expectation that trade union leaders would have a responsible attitude was not unreasonable at a time - Full Employment was published in 1944 - when the greatest of British trade union leaders, Ernest Bevin, was running the economy and had long been arguing that the trade union movement should be concerned with the interests of the working class - and therefore to a large extent the society - as a whole and not just of the sectional interest of any particular trade union organisation. In later articles written for the IEA, Griffiths, himself of course from a working class background in Swansea, turned his attention more to trade union matters and a recurring argument was that trade union action could only succeed at the expense of other members of the working class. Either the union is an obstacle to workers who would be willing to do the same work for lower wages, or a wage increase in one section of the economy will result in decreases in other sectors of the economy.
What had happened in the post-war period was that governments - both Labour and Conservative - had felt a commitment to the interest of the working class as a whole (I think that is almost how we could define the commitment to full employment) so that, to use Marx's term, labour power was no longer being treated as a commodity, subject to the laws of supply and demand - where there's a shortage the price goes up, where there's a glut the price goes down. In Griffiths's view, this had worked fine in the period of corporate rebuilding that was necessary in the immediate aftermath of the war, but from the 1960s onwards it was producing a sclerotic economy that could only be maintained by government subsidy that was fuelling inflation. The solution was to limit the amount of money that was available in the economy and, so far as possible, to restore the disciplines of the competitive market, including the competitive market in labour. The worker was again to become a unit of production. The result would be a severe increase in unemployment but this would be temporary. As the 'lame duck' enterprises were shaken out and the overall economy adjusted to supplying the genuine needs of the society - that is, the needs people were willing to put their hands in their pockets and pay for - so the market would eventually pick up again and new sources of employment would be found. Once government stopped interfering with the market mechanism there would certainly be fluctuations between periods of low employment and periods of high employment but these should generally be shortlived.
To put it in other terms: the natural tendency in a competitive market is to drive down prices. Employers have little influence over the prices of the raw material they use or the machinery needed to process it. Wages however are flexible and can be negotiated downwards. If they sink too low, however, the workers cannot afford to buy the products of industry and the result is a depression. Keynes advocated interfering with the pure market mechanism to enable workers to become consumers to provide a market for the goods they produce. Keynes believed this could be done through government expenditure. This would entail government debt but that would be viable so long as the government continued to be creditworthy, so long as people were willing to lend to it, which was feasible so long as the economy was sufficiently buoyant to allow the government to service its debt. In the circumstances of the late sixties and early seventies, however, this system was cracking at the seams and government expenditure, instead of stimulating demand and therefore stimulating the economy, was simply fuelling inflation and thereby undermining the value of the higher wages. Griffiths was advocating that this scheme should be abandoned, full employment should no longer be regarded as a legitimate policy objective of governments and the old logic of a competition in prices should be reinstated despite its necessary tendency to drive down wages - something which, as we shall see, was largely achieved through opening the national economy up to competition from low wage economies in other parts of the world.
THIRTY GLORIOUS YEARS
That, then, was the revolution Brian Griffiths was advocating in the 1970s and when he spoke in Swansea last March, he was keen to persuade us that this revolution had been a success. I look at my notes and I see that this period, 1977 to 2007, the year when the financial crisis began to manifest itself, is characterised as thirty years of 'economic growth, high levels of employment, and the end of the pattern of boom and bust.' I think I've recorded that correctly since I remember the feeling of amazement I had when I wrote it. When I asked about the consequences of deregulation he reminded me of how dreadful things had been prior to 1986. The British banks had formed a cosy gentleman's cartel, agreeing the services they would provide and the interest rates they would charge among themselves and with the government, and keeping impossible opening hours. There was no real competition, no stimulus to innovation. The reader will remember this as the theme of the 1970 pamphlet Competition in Banking.
But in arguing that the financial crisis had to be put in the context of thirty years of success, his main point concerned what is called 'globalisation', and specifically certain events that were not at all envisaged in the 1970s and 1980s, notably the fall of the Soviet Union and the opening of China - and, to a much greater extent than previously, India - to the world market. Two billion new consumers. Who also, of course, happened to be producers, with the result, as he reminded us, that a flood of low priced goods and services from China and other far Eastern countries, helped to keep inflation under control. Which is interesting when we recall that in the 1970s his argument was that inflation was not primarily the result of an increased costs of production but through too much money being pumped into the economy.
Interestingly both in the Cardiff talk and elsewhere (8) Griffiths points out, rightly, that 'globalisation' is not a new phenomenon. The high point of globalisation was, he says, the twenty five years that preceded the First World War. I've not seen him develop this but the statement seems to me quite heavy with implications, notably that 'globalisation' is the same phenomenon as that characterised by Rosa Luxemburg and Lenin early in the twentieth century as 'Imperialism', which they regarded as primarily an economic not a political category; and in observing that this characterises the twenty five years prior to the First World War he is surely suggesting that it might have had something to do with the causes of the First World War. Perhaps the reader will begin to understand why I thought it relevant to mention Halford Mackinder, Director of the London School of Economics from 1903 to 1908, and the view of globalisation he was promoting in the years leading up to 1914.
A MORAL PROBLEM ...
But given the success of the revolution that began in 1979 how does Griffiths account for its apparent failure in the financial crisis of 2007-8?
He sees it not in any intrinsic flaw in the logic of the system but in the morality of the practitioners. His analysis of the financial crisis was almost entirely a matter of bad business practice. Northern Rock published dishonest accounts concealing its debts; banks failed to value their assets according to the correct market criteria; American banks encouraged people to take out mortgages they couldn't afford (the famous 'subprime mortgages'); politicians encouraged this largely through the government sponsored agencies, 'Fannie May' (Federal National Mortgage Association) and 'Freddie Mac' (Federal Home Loan Mortgage Corporation), set up to provide affordable housing to poor people; the politicians pushed for cheap credit; dubious financial products were made attractive with excessively high interest rates; there was the LIBOR scandal. He quotes the Deputy Governor of the Bank of England describing the culture of banking as a 'cesspit'. He referred favourably to the play The Power of Yes by the leftwing playwright David Haire in 2010, which analysed the whole problem in terms of 'greed'.
What was a little odd about all this was that Griffiths was for over fifteen years, covering the period up to the crash, Vice Chairman of Goldman Sachs International, and the people who interpret the problem in moral terms very often point the finger, justly or not as the case may be, at Goldman Sachs as one of the chief culprits. Matt Taibbi's article in Rolling Stone which accuses Goldman Sachs of engineering both the '.com bubble in the 1990s and the housing bubble of the early 2000s has been very widely read. (9) I don't feel I know enough to be able to comment but Goldman Sachs was certainly heavily involved in selling the 'collateralised debt obligations' and 'collateralised mortgage obligations' that were based on the mortgages that had been sold to people who couldn't afford them. One article defending Goldman Sachs against the charge of deceiving investors says: 'the problem is that they represented a bet on housing and that bet went horribly awry. What about that is so complex and hard to understand?' (10) and another: 'in fact, everyone was aware that CDO's were repackaging crap mortgages--that was the point. ... Everyone knew a lot of the mortgages might go bad, either by defaulting or prepaying. ... But if you pool the risk, only some of the bonds will go bad, while others pay off. The result is a less risky, less volatile investment than any individual junk mortgage bond. And it would have worked, too, if it hadn't been for a collapse in the housing market of a scale not seen since the Great Depression.' (11) Though its difficult to see how anyone could miss the possibility that the widespread selling of 'junk' mortgages in order to maintain a housing bubble would run the risk that the housing bubble would burst.
I do not know the structure of Goldman Sachs sufficiently to be sure but I rather imagine that the specific part for which Griffiths had most responsibility - Goldman Sachs International - would have been involved in the accounting manipulations that enabled Greece to conceal the true size of its budget deficit when it joined the eurozone, another case of a very widely read story accusing Goldman Sachs of immoral behaviour. (12)
WITH A MORAL SOLUTION
Griffiths did not address the reputation of the firm with which he is associated and nor was he challenged on it. In fact he took an initiative of Goldman Sachs as an example of what needed to be done. If the problem is a moral problem then clearly the solution must be a moral solution. Not a matter for government regulation or legislation. He quoted Mark Carney, then Governor of the Bank of Canada, now Governor of the Bank of England and like so many of these people a former employee of Goldman Sachs, saying: 'Virtue cannot be regulated.' (13) But happily a committee of Goldman Sachs had laid out principles to be observed as auditing compliance standards. For policy to be approved it must be shown to be:
So that's a comforting thought. Though if the defenders of Goldman Sachs I have quoted above are right and the problem was simply a matter of legitimate risk taking, 'a bet on housing' that 'went horribly awry' then moral badness is not the problem and virtuous behaviour can still result in catastrophe. One of two things, as Josef Stalin might have put it. Either the firm with which Griffiths and many other highly influential figures was intimately involved was behaving immorally, in which case a purely moral solution might be appropriate; or it was simply behaving as a rational actor in a competitive market, making mistakes as we all do, in which case the moral solution is irrelevant.
Back in 2001, six years before the crisis while he was still Vice Chairman of Goldman Sachs International, Griffiths published an article for the Institute of Economic Affairs on 'The Business Corporation as a Moral Community' (14) in which he argued that companies should adopt a strong statement of moral principles:
'a set of values, norms or ethical principles which are accepted as a benchmark, reference point or criterion for all who work within the company and which as a consequence will guide and influence behaviour. By this is meant not just that certain kinds of behaviour are deemed acceptable or unacceptable, but something stronger: namely that these kinds of behaviour are also categorised as good or bad, right or wrong. This moral standard will be the genesis of the ethical demands made upon each employee and the raw material from which the corporation creates its distinctive ethos and culture. Such a standard is set out in the business principles or mission statements of the corporation and reinforced by statements from the chairman, the chief executive officer and others in positions of leadership.' (p.18)
Griffiths believes that this practise is already widespread within the business community:
'in examining the statements of a variety of companies there are recurring themes: the need for integrity, transparency, honesty and telling the truth; a respect for the individual person because of his or her innate dignity as a fellow human being; a sense of fairness in the way people are treated; the ideal of service, especially in relation to customers but also in the style of leadership shown by executives; the value of teamwork; the responsibility of the corporation to respect the environment; and a commitment to support those communities in which the corporation has facilities. In fact, these themes appear so frequently in different sectors, different countries, different continents and different cultures, that they become less a collection of disparate values chosen by individual companies and more and more a set of universals.' (p.19)
An example might be this extract from what might be called a 'mission statement' obtained from the website of ServiceMaster, an American environmental services group. Griffiths tells us (15) that he was on the board of ServiceMaster for fifteen years:
'We Do The Right Thing
Each of us knows the difference between right and wrong. Through the choices we make every day on the job, we show a heartfelt concern for the needs of others. We do an honest day's work. We tell the truth. We obey the law. We don't cut corners, even if it puts us at a competitive disadvantage. We use our talents and technologies in a responsible way.
We Care About People
Creating a positive work environment begins with building meaningful relationships. We value and respect the concerns and feelings of others. This compassion translates into behaviors that communicate empathy toward others, respect for the individual and appreciation of diversity among associates.
We Value Teamwork
We love to compete. We love to win. We count on each person to contribute to the success of the team. We challenge and encourage each other. We don't let our teammates down.'
He went on to argue that the best guarantee of adherence to these moral standards was a commitment to one of the great monotheist religions - not, presumably Hinduism or Buddhism, but explicitly Judaism, Christianity and, one is half-surprised to see, Islam. Since these teach that all these principles are the absolute commandments of God:
'A religion such as those mentioned which sees business as a vocation or calling, so that a career in business is perceived as a life of service before God, is a most powerful source from which to establish, derive and support absolute moral standards in business life.'
I have dwelt on all this at some length but I hope the reader will understand that as an approach to understanding the financial crisis that occurred in 2007/8, I consider it to be frivolous. And far from being specifically Christian or 'monotheist' the moral standards Griffiths outlines are simply the elementary rules of ordinary human decency. Under normal circumstances one would not wish to have any dealings with anyone, regardless of their views on the great question of Eternal Life, who did not abide by those rules. Financial affairs however impose their own rules, which are not those of normal human life. Like war - and indeed like politics - competitive business is not a realm of freedom There is a necessity at work which dictates what can and cannot be done. As Charles Prince III, former chairman of the financial services corporation Citigroup famously remarked: 'So long as the music keeps playing you've got to get up and dance.' Griffiths sometimes reminds us that as a Christian he knows that human nature is sinful (though if he still sees himself as an evangelical saved Christian he also believes that he himself is free of the consequences of sin). As an Orthodox Christian I believe that our sin derives from the eating of the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, meaning that the realm of necessity, of the world, of economic activity, is the realm in which the mixture of good and evil is inescapable.
A CRISIS OF OVERPRODUCTION
An analysis that I think is much more interesting and perceptive - indeed more in keeping with the intellectual rigour of Griffiths's own writings of the 1970s - is provided by an American Marxist historian, Robert Brenner, author of a paper entitled 'What's good for Goldman Sachs is good for America'. (16) One thing I like about Brenner's account is that he doesn't spend too much time on the details of the various financial manipulations that led to the crisis. At least, he doesn't see them as autonomous bits of badness on the part of rogue traders. He is interested in why people who may be assumed to be concerned with the well-being of the real economy, whether in government or in the financial services, were willing to tolerate and even encourage such activities.
Brenner argues that underlying the collapse is a problem of overproduction - a perennial problem, indeed the perennial problem, of industrial capitalism - too many goods chasing too few buyers (we may note a difference from Griffiths's view, expressed in The Creation of Wealth, p.73, that 'the case for competitive markets is that in a world of scarcity they are superior to other practical forms of economic organisation in terms of allocating resources'):
'What happened was that, one-after-another, new manufacturing power entered the world market - Germany and Japan, the Northeast Asian NICs (Newly Industrializing Countries), the southeast Asian Tigers, and, finally, the Chinese Leviathan. These later-developing economies produced the same goods that were already being produced by the earlier developers, only cheaper. The result was too much supply compared to demand in one industry after another, and this forced down prices and, in that way, profits.
They, therefore, had no choice but to slow down the growth of plants and equipment and employment. At the same time, in order to restore profitability, they held down employees' compensation, while governments reduced the growth of social expenditures. But the consequence of all these cutbacks in spending has been a long-term problem of aggregate demand. The persistent weakness of aggregate demand has been the immediate source of the economy's long-term weakness.' (17)
Brenner understands the financial manipulations which finally led to the collapse as 'asset-price Keynesianism'. As we have seen, the traditional Keynesian argument is that in order to keep the economy going and hopefully generate full employment, the ability of consumers to buy the products of industry has to be stimulated. This in Keynes's view required government spending which in turn produced government debt, which was viable so long as the stimulus to the economy enabled the government to receive enough money to be able to service its debt. Hence the various manipulations of the banking system in the 1960s that Griffiths objected to in his Competition in Banking. What Brenner called 'asset-price Keynesianism' on the other hand is what he also calls, rather inelegantly, 'bubblenomics'. Spending power is stimulated by inflating the value of various assets, which may be different kinds of investment product or, most obviously and easily, housing and real estate (the number of assets that are widely owned and could be expected to increase in value are very limited). We may remember Griffiths saying that over the thirty years preceding the financial collapse the pattern of boom and bust had been overcome. In fact there had been in the late 1990s a quite classic boom and bust in the field of information technology followed by the housing bubble of the early 2000s. But there seems to have been a widespread notion that the bubbles could be managed in such a way as to prevent major crises. Hence Gordon Brown also declared famously that boom and bust had been overcome. The theory of it was laid out in a talk given in February 2004 by Ben Bernanke (at the time a member of the Federal reserve Board of Governors - he was appointed chairman in 2006) under the title 'The Great Moderation', which he characterised as 'a substantial decline in macroeconomic volatility'.
This is how Brenner characterises the preceding twenty years which Bernanke called 'the great moderation':
'To respond to the fall in the rate of profit in the real economy, some governments, led by the U.S. [actually, as we have seen, the UK, in 1986 - PB], encouraged a turn to finance by deregulating the financial sector. But because the real economy continued to languish, the main result of deregulation was to intensify competition in the financial sector, which made profit-making more difficult and encouraged ever greater speculation and taking of risks. Leading executives in investment banks and hedge funds were able to make fabulous fortunes, because their salaries depended on short-run profits. They were able to secure temporarily high returns by expanding their firms' assets/lending and increasing risk. But this way of doing business, sooner or later, came at the expense of the executives own corporations' long-term financial health, leading, most spectacularly, to the fall of Wall Street's leading investment banks. Every so-called financial expansion since the 1970s very quickly ended in a disastrous financial crisis and required a massive bailout by the state. This was true of the third-world lending boom of the 1970s and early 1980s; the savings and loan run-up, the leveraged buyout mania, and the commercial real estate bubble of the 1980s; the stock market bubble of the second half of the 1990s; and, of course, the housing and credit market bubbles of the 2000s. The financial sector appeared dynamic only because governments were prepared to go to any lengths to support it.'
The sub-prime mortgage scandal was the result of deliberate policy to boost the economy by encouraging people to spend. The confidence to spend at a time when incomes were stagnant or declining, which is to say the willingness to incur debt in order to spend, was largely provided by confidence in continually rising house prices:
'The growth of consumption and residential investment, heavily dependent upon the housing price run-up, as well as the increase of government spending, mainly reliant on soaring military expenditures, were accounting for what little economic growth was taking place. Otherwise there was little that was powering the economy. In fact between 2000 and 2003, GDP growth averaged just 1.6 per cent; had it not been for housing, specifically the increase in mortgage equity withdrawals and expenditures on home construction and furnishings in that interval, it would have been a miniscule 1.1 per cent. Much as in 1998, the stimulative impact of the asset price bubble seemed to be reaching its limits. In the second half of 2003, large scale tax rebates plus further Iraq war spending gave the economy a major fillip, but these were obviously one-off affairs ...'
But as house prices increased so houses became less affordable, threatening to bring the bubble to an unpleasant end. In these circumstances it was desirable to open the housing market to new customers:
'It was no coincidence that by February 2004, Alan Greeenspan was making the pointed suggestion that "Americans might benefit if lenders provided greater mortgage alternatives to the traditional fixed rate mortgages." Just so that no one would miss the point, he went on to sing the praises of adjustable interest rates, which just happened to govern 80-90 per cent of subprime mortgage loans but less than 20 per cent of prime mortgage loans. Mortgage lenders hardly needed this encouragement. They had already begun to introduce a flood of shaky new "affordability products": "state income" loans, which did not require borrowers to document their incomes; interest only loans ... [there follows a long list of easy term loan offers - PB]. The all-too inevitable result was that, according to the Federal Reserve's own survey of bank lenders, there began from 2003-2004 a steep plunge in the standards for lending, which continued unchecked until the housing boom fizzled in 2006. Yet the Fed made no attempt to intervene, as this was clearly very much what Alan Greenspan and company wanted, and needed, to sustain the economic expansion' (18)
So the idea that the twenty or thirty years leading to the crisis of 2007/8 saw the operation of a pure market system regulated by the law of supply and demand is very fanciful. The distortions in the market mechanism may not have have been introduced by government initiatives aiming to sustain full employment, but distortions were being introduced just the same. Large sums of money were being pumped into the economy - without, apparently, generating either full employment or inflation - and large amounts of debt were being racked up apparently with a view to the classical Keynesian end of keeping us all shopping.
IS THIS WHAT HAYEK WANTED?
I'd like to finish with some words about the actual course of Griffths's revolution in relation to the ideas that inspired it. The name most obviously associated with the ideas proclaimed in the IEA pamphlets is of course that of Friedrich Hayek. I should perhaps say that both in Morality and the Market Place and The Business Corporation as a Moral Community. Griffiths distances himself from Hayek, but this is mainly on the grounds that his own rather watered-down Christianity provides a better moral support for market economics than Hayek's agnostic libertarianism or individualism. He has not, so far as I can see, distanced himself from Hayek's purely economic argument.
Hayek died in 1992 at the age of ninety three. I don't know how he would have regarded the policies that were pursued in his name but I suspect that he might not have liked them. For a start I'm not sure that he really took account of what might be meant by 'globalisation'. For sure he favoured its nineteenth century equivalent, 'Imperialism', which functioned to the benefit of all classes in the Imperialist power, but the globalisation which is dumping cheaper goods from distant parts of the world onto the home market is not the same thing as the Imperialism that dumped cheaper goods from the home market onto distant parts of the world. It is more difficult on this basis to argue that the market works to the benefit of the whole society - the whole world society perhaps, but not the national economy. We may also wonder if he would have approved of the artificial expansion of demand by what Brenner has characterised as 'asset-price Keynesianism' - pumping money into the economy not simply by printing it but by inflating the value of various investment products and of housing. This indeed is the exact opposite to the policy Hayek advocated in the 1930s, of encouraging saving rather than spending. And we might wonder if he would have approved of the huge expenditure on war that has characterised the US economy, especially following the events of September 2001, and which has often been called 'military Keynesianism' since it too has the effect of stimulating sectors of the economy that would not otherwise be supported by the market (competition for government contracts by 'private' companies is hardly the same thing as a free market).
Something of what he might have thought can perhaps be found on the website of the 'Luwig von Mises Institute'. Luwig von Mises was Hayek's teacher in Vienna in the 1920s and the Ludwig von Mises Institute regards itself as the guardian of what it calls the 'Austrian school' of economics in its purest form. One of its frequent contributors is Justin Raimondo who also more or less runs the website antiwar.com, formed in the context of the Balkan wars in the 1990s. The Institute has consistently opposed all US military adventures abroad and also published closely argued critiques of the wider history of American imperialism going back to the conquest of California. The critique is largely moral but in the specific context of the Ludwig von Mises Institute it is also economic - war diverts money away from the free market and enhances government power. Hayek's Road to Serfdom, published in 1944, was specifically directed against the view that the planning elements of the war economy could usefully be prolonged into peacetime. I have not seen Griffiths anywhere commenting on recent American and British military adventures but he has argued that the major impetus for the inflation of the 1970s was the difficulty the US had in financing the Vietnam war.
This has become an issue in US politics because there is a tendency within the Republican Party - and indeed within the 'Tea Party' - that follows a line very close to that of the Ludwig von Mises Institute - a determined opposition to all government interference in the economy including not just such things as health and education but also military expenditure. The best known representatives of this tendency are Senator Ron Paul and his son, Rand Paul, named for the ultra-individualist and anti-socialist novelist Ayn Rand. Ron Paul made a bid for the Republican candidacy in the last US election and was by far the most popular candidate among Republican youth. It is strange and almost rather touching to find articles by Justin Raimondo, Ron Paul, Pat Buchanan and a leading exponent of 'Reaganomics', Paul Craig Roberts, regularly appearing on left wing news sites.
All this naturally brings them into conflict with the other major intellectual influence in the US Republican movement - the famous 'Neo-Conservatives'. It may be no accident that many of the leading older generation Neo-Conservatives come from a Marxist background. Marxism would argue that the process of forming and maintaining a global economy necessarily entails war - in the first place to open up parts of the world that may be inclined to resist inclusion in the global market (the British war on China and the US threats against Japan in the nineteenth century could be taken as examples of that, as could the Vietnam war and other wars to prevent the spread of Communism); and, secondly, to ensure dominance within the global system - the First World War being the classical example of that. Both the 'Austrians' and the Neo-Conservatives would claim to be committed to free market principles but in the case of the Austrians the commitment is genuine and they are ineffective in politics; in the case of the Neo-Conservatives it is an ideological fog and they are effective in politics. But a war economy fuelled by massive debt owed to China is certainly not what Hayek envisaged. The much more morally conscious Christian Brian Griffiths, however, doesn't seem to mind.
(1) See e.g. Danny Fortson: 'The day Big Bang blasted the old boys into oblivion', Sunday Independent, Sunday, 29 October 2006 - 'Out went parochialism and long lunches at the club; in came American banks, electronic trading and the cut-throat competitive ethos that has put London at the heart of international finance.' Available at http://www.independent.co.uk/news/business/analysis-and-features/the-day-big-bang-blasted-the-old-boys-into-oblivion-422005.html. Also, for a post financial crisis view: Heather Stewart and Simon Goodley: 'Big Bang's shockwaves left us with today's big bust', The Observer, Sunday 9 October 2011, available at http://www.guardian.co.uk/business/2011/oct/09/big-bang-1986-city-deregulation-boom-bust Back
(2) My account of Halford Mackinder is largely taken from Angela Clifford's introduction to Albrecht Haushofer: Moabite Sonnets, Belfast, Athol Books, 2001 Back
(3) F.A.Hayek: 1980s Unemployment and the Unions. The Distortion of Relative Prices by Monopoly in the Labour Market, Hobart Paper 87, London, Institute of Economic Affairs, 1984 (1st ed 1980), p. 31. Back
(4 ) Robert Skidelsky: John Maynard Keynes - The Economist as Saviour, 1920-1937, London, Macmillan Papermac, 1994, p. 456. Back
(5) B.Griffiths: Mexican Monetary Policy and Economic Development, New York and London, Praeger publishers, 1972. Back
(6) Brian Griffiths: Competition in Banking, Hobart Paper 51, London, Institute of Economic Affairs, 1970. Back
(7) Brian Griffiths: Inflation: The price of prosperity, New York, Holmes and Meier, 1976. Back
(8) For example an interview given in 2006, accessible at http://www.catholic.org/featured/headline.php?ID=3811 : 'But globalization is not a new phenomenon. You saw a lot of globalization in the 19th century and probably the "belle époque" of globalization was 25 years before World War I.' Back
(9) Matt Taibbi: 'The Great American Bubble Machine', Rolling Stone, 9th July 2009, reprinted 5th April 2010. Available at http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/news/the-great-american-bubble-machine-20100405 Back
(10) Joe Weisenthal: 'Matt Taibbi's Goldman Sachs Story Is A Joke', Business Insider 13th July, 2009, available at http://www.businessinsider.com/matt-taibbis-goldman-sachs-story-is-a-joke-2009-7 Back
(11) Megan McArdle: 'Matt Taibbi Gets His Sarah Palin On' The Atlantic Monthly, 10th July, 2009. Available at http://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2009/07/matt-taibbi-gets-his-sarah-palin-on/21084/ Back
(12) See eg: Beat Balzli: 'Greek Debt Crisis: How Goldman Sachs Helped Greece to Mask its True Debt', Der Spiegel, 8th February, 2010, Available at http://www.spiegel.de/international/europe/greek-debt-crisis-how-goldman-sachs-helped-greece-to-mask-its-true-debt-a-676634.html Back
(13) The Cardiff talk closely resembles an earlier talk given by Griffiths - 'Reflections on the Financial Crisis - The Niblett Lecture 2011,' Sarum College, http://www.sarum.ac.uk/a-christian-reflection-on-the-financial-crisis-transcript-from-2011-niblett-lecture. Here, although still emphasising the need for a reform of morals he seemed more positive on the subject of the new regulations then under consideration both in the UK and in Europe: 'Taken together these are far-reaching proposals which change the landscape of the financial services industry, provide greater confidence for depositors, increased transparency for creditors and shareholders regarding the business of financial institutions and increased focus on transparency and accountability in remuneration.' Nothing very fundamental. Nonetheless, the list of regulations he mentioned included the Financial Transactions Tax, singled out for attack in Cardiff on the grounds that it would take money out of the City of London (British money!) and give it to Brussels. One is tempted to speculate that the difference in tone on regulation is due to a feeling that by 2013 the heat, quite severe in the wake of 2007/8, was off. Back
(14) Brian Griffiths: 'The Business Corporation as a Moral Community' in Brian Griffiths, Robert Sirico, Norman Barry, Frank Field: Capitalism, Morality and Markets, Institute of Economic Affairs/Profile Books, 2001. The full text is available as a pdf from the Institute of Economic Affairs website. Back
(15) In the Cardiff talk but also in the earlier 'Reflections on the Financial Crisis' Back
(16 ) Robert Brenner: What is good for Goldman Sachs is Good for America - The Origins of the Present Crisis, Cenbter for Social Theory and Comparative History, UCLA, 2009. Available on the internet - Google Brenner Goldman Sachs. Back
(17) 'Overproduction not Financial Collapse is the Heart of the Crisis: the US, East Asia, and the World' Robert Brenner interviewed by Jeong Seong-jin in the China Left Review, Issue no 2, 2009, available at http://chinaleftreview.org/index.php?id=64 Back
(18) 'What is good for Goldman Sachs is Good for America' pp.41-3 Back