Archive for the ‘Why Capitalism Fails’ Tag

The Existential Answer to the Problems of Capitalism is, There Are No Answers.   2 comments


. . . other than using yesterday’s lessons as a place to begin.

Grand Canyon2007-08-11-41EII blogTwo years ago, while on a two-week road trip from Houston to Vegas, I begin to digest some of what I had been reading on the economy and the financial markets, which was beginning to give me reason to be concerned for our financial future. Not being a student of either, I felt a need to become more informed and directly involved in the management of our assets, which meant I had a lot to learn. To do so, I needed someone (advisory) that would not only be more client-oriented, but also be a teacher – someone who could be my mentor. I found that person in Bob McNeily. Since that time we have seen the Dow go from over 14,000 to below 7,000 — a severe drop by any definition, while managing a 28% demise of our personal financial portfolio (I’m pleased to note that this loss has been completely erased.), and the government becoming the bank of last resort.

The economy did finally fall into recession by the end of 2007. Since then real GDP has fallen by almost 4% and the unemployment rate has gone up by almost 5%. Now we are told the recession is over, but the scares on the economy remain and many questions still unanswered.

How did the experts get it so wrong?

Can they learn from their mistakes?

Will politics thwart any meaningful reform?

Are banks, even now, re-creating the conditions that lead to a near-financial collapse?

The answers to these and many others will depend on whose history you will be reading tomorrow. However, some answers can come by fast-forwarding to the past and reading what a little known economist, who studied and wrote on capitalism and why it fails, had to say. Hyman Minsky, a student of both the great depression and capitalism, predicted decades ago, the recent global financial meltdown, so accurate were his predictions that current pundits are referring to the meltdown as the “Minsky meltdown.”

“Instability,” Minsky wrote, “is an inherent and inescapable flaw of capitalism.” You can read more about Minsky’s vision in the September 13, 2009 Boston Globe article by Stephen Mihm, “Why capitalism fails – The man who saw the meltdown coming had another troubling insight: it will happen again.” Mihm writes, “Minsky did not share his profession’s quaint belief that everything could be reduced to a tidy model, or a pat theory. His was a kind of existential economics: capitalism, like life itself, is difficult, even tragic. ‘There is no simple answer to the problems of our capitalism,’ wrote Minsky. ‘There is no solution that can be transformed into a catchy phrase and carried on banners.’”

Another excellent article, “How Did Economists Get It So Wrong, “ by Paul Krugman, September 6, 2009 in “The New York Times Magazine.”


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