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Brian Easton’s DL talk now online

Written By: - Date published: 1:27 pm, February 25th, 2009 - 33 comments
Categories: drinking liberally, economy - Tags:

easton-croppedFor those of you who missed Brian Easton’s recent talk on the recession at Drinking Liberally Wgtn (or just couldn’t hear over the rain) the papers are now up online.

It’s fascinating reading, if a little frightening. Part I on the world economy is here, and Part II on the New Zealand economy is here. Both are essential reading if want to understand how we got into this mess, and what it means for us here in New Zealand.

[Hat tip: Just Left]

UPDATE: Oh yeah, and before I forget, DL Wgtn is happening again tomorrow (Thursday) evening with guest speaker Grant Robertson. Topic is “No time for slash and burn: the future of public services in NZ”. 5.30pm, Southern Cross. And it’s inside this time so you won’t have to worry about the rain.

33 comments on “Brian Easton’s DL talk now online ”

  1. jbc 1

    Interesting reading.

    Surprised there was nothing in there about the huge consumer imbalance that has resulted from the very easy credit markets of the past decade or so. The so-called ‘bubble’ economy. The collapse was inevitable given the sustained consumer/producer imbalances.

    Now the credit pendulum has swung too far back the other way – but surely we don’t want to fix this by returning to the days of spending significantly more than we earn. Some serious lifestyle adjustment is needed for the hire-purchase / car-loan economies of the west.

  2. Ianmac 2

    As a person of low Economic skill, I was as usual impressed by Brian Easton’s explanation. What does it mean for me and mine? I don’t know nor can I guess whether it is wise to spend up large and keep the internal economy alive, or whether to contract my spending, or whether what I do will have no (collective) effect at all.
    Is our Govt’s cautious approach a good strategy?
    What happens if that $90 billion debt is not serviced?

    Oh. My brain hurts!

    • You mean the $90 billion in counterfeit money created out of thin air by private banksters charging us interest in real world wealth?

      I say to the Guillotine with the banksters and let’s take our money back where it belongs; with us and our legally elected representatives whom we will keep a serious eye on to do the right thing.

      It worked for the Dutch, the French and the Americans for a while and it’s time we cull the greedy lot back to bearable levels once again.LOL.

  3. Is it me … or does the name of the person who wrote the post no longer appear?

    I can still work out SP’s posts tho 🙂

    I do like the reply function tho.

    [lprent: Fixed. Default was incorrect. Had another malware intrusion this morning from a hole in wordpress 2.7.0. It was fixed in 2.7.1 so there was a rapid upgrade with the new version sitting on my dev system. Didn’t go quite as easily as I’d have liked….]

  4. Rex Widerstrom 4

    While normally I accord anyone with the title “economist” about as much credence as I do a witchdoctor, Brian Easton is the exception. And he’s just so good at explaining economics in a way that minimises the use of actual numbers (which aren’t my strong suit… just ask my bank).

    This talk should be required reading before anyone clicks through to a discussion about “the financial crisis”… and for a few journos before they write anything else about it.

    One thought kept recurring to me as I read about “toxic assets” amassed on banks’ balance sheets…

    We entrust things to people every day and we hold them to a high standard of accountability even if their intention was not criminal. If an airline pilot crashes his plane,or a schoolbus driver his bus and is found to have been in error there are consequences. They are expected to atone for the grief and suffering caused by their error – and, mostly, they accept that they must do so. They’re even gratified, in a way, to have some chance to step up and accept, and apologise for, their errors and the harm they’ve caused.

    Yet some bankers have, through sheer greed and recklessness, crashed our economy. Perhaps no one was killed (though a few more might starve or freeze to death I guess) but there is still a lot of suffering caused to a lot of people.

    But where are the consequences? If it’s good enough to expect there to be consequences for third strike offenders, why are governments the world over sending the message to bankers that it’s okay to over-reach and fail. Not just okay, but that we (the taxpayers) will insulate you from even the personal costs of failure (provided you accept a “reasonable” salary of US$500,000).

    I argue that we wouldn’t need “3 strikes” if consequences were made plainer sooner to more people. The same applies to money traders. Since we’ve failed to discipline them adequately for “minor” infractions where one or two companies or banks might have collapsed in the past (or even for the whole S&L fiasco) I really can’t understand why the opportunity is not being seized now – not even by nominally left wing leaders like Rudd or Obama – to impose consequences as a warning against future excesses.

    • Ianmac 4.1

      Yes Rex. Somehow the “Bank” is anonymous where the bus driver is that bloke with the dark glasses. (Just checking the reply button.)

    • Interesting questions Rex,

      You might find some answers here and here

      And a man by the name of F. William Engdahl, a specialist in Economics wrote a series of very readable articles about why we are in this predicament and why bankers do not have to worry about the consequences of their actions.

      And by the way, it wasn’t a couple of greedy individual bankers or “bad apples” as it were. It is a scam on a humongous scale. Each and every top Wall street and City banker is part and parcel of that system and that includes John Key

    • jbc 4.3

      Rex: “Yet some bankers have, through sheer greed and recklessness, crashed our economy.”

      Yes they have. And it’s not over yet (Eastern Europe…)

      My point above (which seems to have fallen on deaf ears) is that while the bankers had their feet planted on the credit “accelerator” the masses enjoyed the ride and lapped up that credit like there was no tomorrow.

      If the bankers had been conservative (drove the economy like granddad on his way to lawn bowls) then a large part of the economic miracle of the past decade would never have eventuated.

      The problem now is that even if the money is there; nobody wants to borrow it. If there’s a credit crisis then why haven’t those annoying telemarketers pushing cheap and easy loans put down their headsets for good?

      • Pascal's bookie 4.3.1

        “If the bankers had been conservative (drove the economy like granddad on his way to lawn bowls) then a large part of the economic miracle of the past decade would never have eventuated.”

        Given that the miracle turned out to be old fashioned prestidigitation, I’m not sure what your point is.

        (captcha is on fire: whether margins)

        • jbc 4.3.1.1

          prestidigitation. Indeed. [I confess I had to look that up]

          Perhaps I needed to be more explicit. To look at this as simply a banking/credit/borrowing problem seems to miss the greater predicament: that a lot of the borrowing (including what Easton mentions) is just “papering over” some fundamental imbalances.

          I’m not suggesting that any of Easton’s reasoning is wrong, but that it only describes a part of the problem we are facing.

          What I find more disconcerting than the banking crisis is that a fair proportion of the growth (in incomes and employment) may have been fueled by “financial steroids” peddled by these bankers.

          Even if the banks were all fixed and started behaving themselves, and if NZ found some new overseas lenders, then we would still have a big problem.

        • Travellerev 4.3.1.2

          Pb,

          and don’t forget that old double-shuffling, honey-fugling, hornswoggling and skullduggery”.LOL.

  5. He guys,

    You may have been off line a bit longer than you anticipated but the reply function is awesome. Nice for some sub-threads without feeling like you hijacked the whole thread. LOL

    Very curious how it will be used here.

    Cheers,

    Trav

    • lprent 5.1

      Yeah. There was outbreak of a malware intrusion this morning through a nice hole in 2.7. Upgraded using the development version. But had a few problems with double UTF8 coding.

      I’m still bringing things online…

      • Daveski 5.1.1

        God help me … I agree with Eve 🙂

        I find Drupal upgrades scary but straightforward. I gave up on manual upgrades of WordPress and now slum at wordpress.org.

        Good job on the upgrades – the functionality gets better each time.

        • lprent 5.1.1.1

          Don’t thank me. Thank the open source people. The only thing that I’ve got customized in here is the css on top of the k2 theme.

          The auto-upgrades on wordpress are getting pretty good.

  6. Ianmac 6

    Cannot access “ACT MP caught Out”. Is it me or everyone?

  7. Ooh oops I landed in purgatory I think.

  8. vto 8

    I been thinking on this for some long time now. The last few years I have been annoying people around me with one of my theories which was that the world was heading for another great depression – reasons: 1, the house of cards called the world of debt obligations which was so massive and complex, and 2, it is a natural cycle which can be seen throughout history. My pick was that it would occur sometime 2010 – 2015. Started a bit earlier (or did it?). Other part of the theory was that govts, due to politics, would try to arrest it but eventually fail – result, a double-bottomed bottoming.

    Anyway, plenty people said similar blah blah..

    My currently developing theory is that these toxic assets etc can best be dealt with by sudden and painful lancing. This again will be driven by politics. The risk to nation states across the world is high and rising – picture say an east european country, say a …ania, …via or …istan where the armed forces have always been somewhat removed from political control. They sense the time is coming for the removal of so-and-so politico. And they will have the ability to do so. Who will prevent them? Only the west imo. But will the west? And how? (politically and physically)(perhaps a time to be thankful for Russian brutality).

    Among other unrest.

    Western political systems will recognise that if they are not super strong then they too will get dragged down etc. Hence one part of the appetite for a massive lancing of the boil that is toxic assets and other such creatures. Public will appreciate and understand the strength, despite massive splattering from the toxic boil, and get behind some new structures etc.

    … It is a developing theory and those a few random strands that I haven’t yet completely weaved …

    Bringing those strands to Mr Easton’s points one such area that stuck out for such a lancing could be “it also includes equities owned overseas, corporate and personal debt, trade credit and host of other sorts of liabilities.” Clearly the consequences would be massive. And worldwide. But perhaps a ‘wiping of the slate’ is the only way …

    to be continued…

    captcha: organize industry (there is definitely a wee gnome somewhere making these up)

    • vto,

      That is an interesting opening for debate.

      I would like to point your attention towards point 2 you bring up; the fact that there is apparently a natural cycle. Sort of like what goes up must come down and there is nothing you can do about it. A mysterious financial force of nature. Something none of the smarty pants who regulate our financial world know how to deal with. And above all something we just have to endure and live through.

      That doesn’t sit well with me. This is for various reasons

      1/ Money is man made. It is issued somewhere, somehow and for some reason sometimes more money is issued that there is in existence and based on mathematical issues that have no bearing on real world wealth and all of a sudden for some reason that money disappears.

      2/ When that money disappears it is always the poor and the middle class who get poorer and the upper class and the rich get richer. (A generalisation but you get my drift)

      3/ When the world drifts into a recession and god forbid into a depression it always seems to coincide with wars and destruction based on strange ideologies which leave entire continents destroyed in their wake and millions upon millions of people dead.

      4/ The only people who never seem to be affected by this somehow unmanageable financial cycle are the people managing our financial world. They just get richer and richer.

      You see if these financial giants where like us they would be, like us, fallible and there would be, like in our lives, sometimes unpleasant consequences if they made stupid decisions.

      You grow to fast in your business and get over extended you might go bankrupt, you cheat on your partner he/she kicks you out the door, you cheat on your tax return and they find out you get done, the list is endless.

      When you’re a banker and I mean not your average commercial banker who lends some money to a business and hopes to see that money back with some interest but one of your really big behind the scenes Money Masters that never seems to happen.

      One case in point is for example something that happened with Merrill Lynch and the LTCM hedgefund, the first fund too “big to fail“. (Accidentally the collapse of this hedgefund was the reason that John Key had to fire hundreds of his colleagues earning him the name of the “Smiling Assassin”)

      the LTCM hedgefund was heavily involved in manipulating the Asian Currencies and the Russian Rouble causing both the Asian and the Russian Crisis and when it collapsed as a result it was bailed out by amongst others Merrill Lynch under supervision of the Federal Reserve.

      One theory as to why this happened was stupidity and greed but another is that the LTCM hedgefund was used to break the independence of the Asian currencies (Which where bailed out by the IMF with serious conditions attached to it and which by many in those countries is experienced as a form of colonisation) and the Russian Rouble (Russia also had to accept IMF aid and equally heavy conditions). This opened up those currencies to massive speculation and made Wall street very happy thank you.

      By the way you are aware that John Key’s speciality was the Asian financial market and Over-The-Counter derivatives or OTC’s don’t you and that at the time of the events with the LTCM he was both the head of foreign Exchange and the European head for Bonds and Derivatives and that after he successfully aided and abetted Merrill Lynch in their endeavours with the LTCM he was invited as one of only four advisors to the Federal Reserve of New York for the Foreign Exchange committee.

      A position held three years previous by Robert Rubin, (AIG Trading)

      Another major player in this hedgefund was, by the way, a man called George Soros, the same man who just paid $ 30.000 to help finance a debate about New Zealands drug laws prepare Kiwi’s for financial intervention by big money now that the Election law has been repealed. (I bet him and John Key are old mates seeing as they both know a lot about speculation in Asian currencies.)

      Seeing as there were no consequences for the banks involved in the LTCM hedgefund stupidity is not what comes to the fore in my mind.

      According to this article it was the first time that Alan Greenspan and the Federal Reserve of New York bailed out a group of banks and a hedgefund sending a message to the banksters that no matter how hard they gambled they’d always be bailed out.

      Interesting eh?

  9. Pascal's bookie 9

    By ‘lancing’ you mean what?

    By ‘wiping of the slate’ are you suggesting a biblical jubilee style debt forgiveness type of thing?

    Edit: Meant to say. interesting comment. ta.

    I’d be worried first and foremost about Mexico on the failed state watch list. 3 news actually ran a bit tonight on what is probably the most underreported story of the last couple of years. Essentially the drug cartels are running the border states. They probably outgun the govt, and certainly out-finance them. It is a war, on a par with Iraq. If Mexico collapses, you will have millions of refugees heading for the US over land border, with news coverage 24/7.

    • vto 9.1

      In some form or other yes. But not ‘forgiveness’. It is partially underway already with the idea of govts buying up the toxic assets (pretty much for simple disposal in a safe fashion), so perhaps simply a ramping up of that approach. In a big way. Perhaps probably coordinated between govts.

  10. rave 10

    Easton is just producing the usual liberal hashup of the crisis. Its about financiers out of control and the need to regulate them with some form of revived Keynesian state management of the economy. Well that’s already happening except the bankers are managing the state managing the economy. The state is subsidising the losses of the capitalists with the future income generated by workers. Its advancing our pensions to pay their profits. So state management is no answer. Nationalisation under workers control (not Gordon Browns) is the answer.

    The reason Easton doesnt come up with a workable answer is that he doeasnt ask the important question. He doesnt address the question as to why such a huge amount of finance was invested in assets which proved to be worthless. Capitalists normally invest in real assets to produce value (employing workers to create the value). How come all of a sudden they invest in assets which have a vastly overinflated value compared to their cost of production?

    The only feasible explanation is that the productive system seized up and the surplus capital had to find new outlets to make a profit. This capital was invested in buying and selling existing assets thus driving up their value out of all proportion to their actual value. The bubbles that resulted were bound to burst. Should we pay for this speculative crisis? No! Let the bastards that made their profits out of driving up the prices of housing and who are ducking for cover and putting the cost of their crisis on to the backs of workers pay for it.

    The uprisings in Greece, and Gaudeloupe, and the big strikes in France and Italy are only the beginning of the refusal of workers to pay for the çapitalists crisis. We will not allow them to sack us, criminalise us, shoot us, and otherwise shit on us because it is their rotten system that is falling down.

    Auckland Protest against the 90 day Act where the bosses are lining us up a cheap labour reservoir for their Jobs Summit plans to save their skins by flogging ours…

    Aotea Square Saturday 12 noon.

    Years ago Rosa Luxemburg said we face a choice between socialism and barbarism. Recently Istvan Meszaros said: barbarism if we are lucky.

    Here’s a Marxist talk by Meszaros on the current crisis if anyone is interested:
    http://welcometotheneworldisorder.wordpress.com/2009/02/25/istvan-meszaros-the-new-crisis-of-capitalism-30mins/

  11. rave 11

    Here’s an interesting quote from a COUNTERPUNCH article:
    http://www.counterpunch.org/
    “How the economy was lost” by Paul Craig Roberts Feb 24th.

    “The bald fact is that the combination of ignorance, negligence, and ideology that permitted the crisis to happen still prevails and is blocking any remedy. Either the people in power in Washington and the financial community are total dimwits or they are manipulating an opportunity to redistribute wealth from taxpayers, equity owners and pension funds to the financial sector.”

    Which is it? Dimwits or manipulators?

    How better to manipulate while appearing a dimwit. Sound familiar?

  12. higherstandard 12

    Very good article Rave………. I suspect the answer is ‘dimwit’ as the author says in relation to the US economy.

    “our best hope is that the rest of the world is even less competent and even in deeper trouble”

    • Hs,

      Paul Graig Roberts is is an economist and a nationally syndicated columnist for Creators Syndicate. He served as an Assistant Secretary of the Treasury in the Reagan Administration earning fame as the “Father of Reaganomics”. He is a former editor and columnist for the Wall Street Journal, Business Week, and Scripps Howard News Service. He is a graduate of the Georgia Institute of Technology and he holds a Ph.D. from the University of Virginia. He was a post-graduate at the University of California, Berkeley, and Oxford University where he was a member of Merton College.

      In 1992 he received the Warren Brookes Award for Excellence in Journalism. In 1993 the Forbes Media Guide ranked him as one of the top seven journalists in the United States according to Wikipedia.

      He is also a lifelong Republican and one of our foremost spokespersons in our quest for a new and independent investigation into the events of 911.

      He is very much of the opinion that stupidity and ignorance are not what is driving the economic collapse. Why don’t you google his name and educate yourself a little now that you have read one of his pieces.

  13. RedLogix 13

    Roberts makes considerable mention of the negative consequences of ‘offshoring’ jobs from the USA.

    I have read endless tributes to Wal-Mart from “libertarian economists,’ who sing Wal-Mart’s praises for bringing low price goods, 70 per cent of which are made in China, to the American consumer. What these “economists’ do not factor into their analysis is the diminution of American family incomes and government tax base from the loss of the goods producing jobs to China. Ladders of upward mobility are being dismantled by offshoring, while California issues IOUs to pay its bills. The shift of production offshore reduces US GDP. When the goods and services are brought back to America to be sold, they increase the trade deficit. As the trade deficit is financed by foreigners acquiring ownership of US assets, this means that profits, dividends, capital gains, interest, rents, and tolls leave American pockets for foreign ones.

    Not of course to be outdone, any bungle the Yanks can do, we can do better:

    http://www.stuff.co.nz/4860134a13.html

    Only the Greens opposed the FTA with China.

    • rave 13.1

      Except that Americans now own a large part of the world economy. There is no “offshore” anymore.
      And everyone else pays for US indebtedness because it prints the world money and has the biggest guns. Globalisation has meant that the US is now a global economy and the US domestic economy is an anachronism. The US is the only economy in the world whose “protectionism” means a protection racket for the globe, not its own borders. Obama is going to kill the subsidies to US agribusiness and beef up the military “protection” of its oil interests in Asia. The US IS the world economy. It has China and Russia in its sights.
      NZ on the other hand with a bankster running it is just part of that US global economic empire. Its always been an entry in the ledger of some imperialist bank. Now its only a matter of which US bank survives to run us. What is your pick? My pick is BOA. Ask John.

  14. vto 14

    busy day, but one other thing to add to the mix…

    The so-called bubble economy was not in fact such a bubble. All the procudtion actually produced. Mankind produced numerous house, mansions, boats and yachts and ships, ferraris and suv’s and corollas. Everyone was gainfully employed and things were ctually physically made. It was a reality. A physical reality that still exists today.

    I think it should be borne in mind that if anything the bubble is on the downside. Now. ffs, houses are selling so far below the cost of replacement that if anything is surreal it is this current ‘value’ placed on houses. Over the longer term value must equal cost. At the moment it is more out of wack than it was on the upside.

  15. BLiP 15

    Rave said:

    ” . . . Except that Americans now own a large part of the world economy. There is no “offshore’ anymore. . . . ”

    I would say China pretty much owns the USA. China need only call in its loans and the yanks would have to go to war or start digging up Wall Street for a veggie patch.

    • rave 15.1

      China has a large chunk of US treasury bonds. But if it suddenly tried to sell the bonds back what would be the result? A massive fall in the US dollar which would devalue the bonds considerably, and a similar revaluation of the RMB and consequent loss of exports to US much greater than is already happening.
      Why would China cut its own throat?

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    ...
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