Financial Collapse

I have some sympathy with the Occupy Wall Street people. It does seem that the financial elites are breaking the very system from which their own wealth is derived. In our futurist meetup we talked about “Lights in the Tunnel” and the idea that a consumer-driven economy will falter if you remove too many consumers through automation. Other factors also lead to the consolidation of wealth.

Here are some of my random thoughts on the topic.

  1. The repeal of Glass-Steagall by Gramm-Leach-Bliley seems to have had the effect of forcing the US Government to guarantee risky investments. The free-market sympathizer in me insists that FDIC should have been repealed right along with Glass-Steagall. Let banks do what they want, but don’t make the tax payers responsible for them. Removing risk clearly breaks markets. (God know why the Irish agreed to effectively do the same thing during their own recent housing bubble as outlined by Michael Lewis’ new book “Boomerang.” ) Then again, why not just bring back Glass-Steagall and keep the FDIC. It is sort of nice to have a stable banking system for depositors.
  2. All these protests including the entire Arab spring might just stem from high food prices. Note to dictators, just keep the masses well-fed and you can screw them any other way you see fit. Just build a strategic pork reserve like China. Of course controlling masses isn’t the only reason to care that people can eat. Maybe we should look into re-introducing some reasonable controls on commodity speculation that were removed by the CFTC in 2005. (I should become a policy wonk!)
  3. While we are at it, let’s introduce a Tobin tax to slow down those high-frequency-traders that are so objectionable.

Sedlacek has an excellent point about growth capitalism