On the one hand, many people are concerned that those responsible for the financial problems are the ones being bailed out, while on the other hand, a global financial meltdown will affect the livelihoods of almost everyone in an increasingly inter-connected world. The problem could have been avoided, if ideologues supporting the current economics models were not so vocal, influential and inconsiderate of others’ viewpoints and concerns.
A collapse of the US sub-prime mortgage market and the reversal of the housing boom in other industrialized economies have had a ripple effect around the world. Furthermore, other weaknesses in the global financial system have surfaced. Some financial products and instruments have become so complex and twisted, that as things start to unravel, trust in the whole system started to fail.
The extent of the problems has been so severe that some of the world’s largest financial institutions have collapsed. Others have been bought out by their competition at low prices and in other cases, the governments of the wealthiest nations in the world have resorted to extensive bail-out and rescue packages for the remaining large banks and financial institutions.
Some of the bail-outs have also been accompanied with charges of hypocrisy due to the appearance of socializing the costs while privatizing the profits. In the meanwhile, smaller businesses and poorer people rarely have such options for bail out and rescue when they find themselves in crisis.
To some extent risky borrowers bear some responsibility, but overall they have lost out; lenders are being bailed out, while those taking out risky loans either have lost their homes, or face a real threat of losing their home in the near future.
There is the argument that when the larger banks show signs of crisis, it is not just the wealthy that will suffer, but also potentially everyone. With an increasingly inter-connected world, things like a credit crunch can ripple through the entire economy.
Many have blamed the greed of Wall Street for causing the problem in the first place because it is in the US that the most influential banks, institutions and ideologues that pushed for the policies that caused the problems are found.
America is still immensely attractive to skilled immigrants and is still capable of producing a Microsoft or a Google. Even its debt can be overcome. It has enormous resilience economically at a local and entrepreneurial level.
For the developing world, the rise in food prices as well as the knock-on effects from the financial instability and uncertainty in industrialized nations is having a compounding effect. High fuel costs, soaring commodity prices together with fears of global recession are worrying many developing country analysts.
Many believed Asia was sufficiently decoupled from the Western financial systems. Asia has not had a subprime mortgage crisis as many nations in the West have, for example. Many Asian nations have witnessed rapid growth and wealth creation in recent years. This lead to enormous investment in Western countries.
In recent years, there has been more interest in Africa from Asian countries such as China. As the financial crisis is hitting the Western nations the hardest, Africa may yet enjoy increased trade for a while.
While the media’s attention is on the global financial crisis (which predominantly affects the wealthy and middle classes), the effects of the global food crisis (which predominantly affects the poorer and working classes) seems to have fallen off the radar. The two are in fact inter-related issues; both have their causes rooted in the fundamental problems associated with a neoliberal, one-size-fits-all, economic agenda imposed on virtually the entire world.
Borrowing at a time of recession seems risky, but the idea is that this should be complimented with paying back during times of growth. Likewise, reducing interest rates sounds like there would be less incentive for people to save money, when banks need to build up their capital reserves. However, as the real economy starts to feel the pinch, reduced interest rate is an attempt to encourage people to take part in the economy.
Well-designed regulations may protect us in the short run and encourage real innovation in the long. Much of our financial market’s creativity was directed to circumventing regulations and taxes. Accounting was so creative that no one, not even the banks, knew their financial position. Meanwhile, the financial system resisted many of the innovations that would have increased the efficiency of our economy. By reducing the scope for these socially unproductive innovations, we can divert creative activity in more productive directions.
The most powerful international institutions tend to have the worst democratic credentials: the power distribution among countries is more unequal, and the transparency, and hence democratic control, is worse.
Although history often shows that those with agendas of power tend to win out, history also shows us that power shifts. A financial crisis of this proportion may signify the beginnings of such a shift. During periods of boom, people do not want to hear of criticisms of the forms of economics they benefit from, especially when it brings immense wealth and power, regardless of whether it is good for everyone or not.