Sunday, February 12, 2012

Quote of the Week from p.162-163 of Hyman Minsky’s superb book, John Maynard Keynes:

“The economy is now a controlled rather than a laissez-faire economy; however, the thrust of the controls is not in the direction envisaged by Keynes. Investment has not been socialized. Instead, measures designed to induce private investment, quite independently of the social utility of investment, have permeated the tax and subsidy system.”

“The success of a high-private-investment strategy depends upon the continued growth of relative needs to validate private investment. It also requires that policy be directed to maintain and increase the quasi-rents earned by capital—i.e., rentier and entrepreneurial income. But such high and increasing quasi-rents are particularly conducive to speculation, especially as these profits are presumably guaranteed by policy. The result is experimentation with liability structures that not only hypothecate increasing proportions of cash receipts but that also depend upon continuous refinancing of asset positions. A high-investment, high-profit strategy for full employment—even with the underpinning of an active fiscal policy and an aware Federal Reserve System—leads to an increasingly unstable financial system, and an increasingly unstable economic performance.”

Minsky has been on my mind frequently over the past few months as much of today’s economic work in Post-Keynesianism and Modern Monetary Theory stem from his unique insights about instability in a capitalist society. In Facebook's $500 Million Tax Refund and The BIG Political Lie, I was trying to shed light on the manner by which politicians control the tax system to redistribute income upwards. Minsky brilliantly expands on this concept above, noting how policy that guarantees profits (quasi-rents) from speculation leads to instability. The rise in non-traditional mortgages, extremely low levels of down payments and government support in the recent housing crisis represents a prime example of the consequences highlighted above. As long as policy continues in this manner, economic performance is likely to be volatile and current income inequality will persist or expand even further.

No comments:

Post a Comment