Sunday, January 13, 2008

Can't play Canute at the shorelines of capital

Dr James Cumes appears on Online Opinion today with a piece that comments on the speculative capitalism of the United States (see )

This is the reply I’ve posted to that article:

Dr Cumes accurately describes the problems of the “casino economies”, manifested in the continuing sub-prime crisis. (For my own analysis see )

Whether it is possible to transform these economies back to “real investment” is a bigger question than whether or not such a move is desirable.

Real investment is investment in productive capacity, in productive processes that create added value which is realized through the sale of goods and services. Realized added value increases, however, the amount of capital, which in turn must reproduce or increase its own value in order to remain useful for its owners.

Up until the last quarter of a century or so, major economic fluctuations took the form of overproduction of material commodities.

Inevitably, finance capital sought faster and higher returns, and returns unencumbered by the requirement for part of the investment to be tied up in capital items such as plant and machinery.

So finance capital itself became a commodity once risk-takers established that its purchase and resale (often stripped of capital items and so-called labour costs) could result in massive quick profits. The financial market place now largely consists of tables simultaneously occupied by bodies of organized finance that can be buyers one moment, and bought the next.

Our current crises now take the form of the overproduction of finance capital, of capital as virtual capital not based on the real value of goods and services.

This arrangement is now so dominant that it has created a whole set of cultural, political, economic and military characteristics that we refer to as globalization.

Can we stop this? We can perhaps retard it, repudiating for example, the changes to Australian banking law introduced by Howard in December 2006 that exempted foreign investors from a 30% capital gains tax. This led to a massive increase in private equity buyouts.

But Cumes is correct. “Short-term expedients will not do.” Neither will playing King Canute at the shoreline of the profit economy.

Capitalism always finds ways of outwitting the regulators and is itself the problem.

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