Monday, 2 September 2013

CAPITALISM and rich people's bad habits

Another excellent article by Ha-Joon Chang:

Recovery based on a "rebalancing" of the economy would have required policies that hurt the financial sector. The financial system would have to be re-engineered to channel more money into long-term investments that raise productivity. Exchange rates would have to be maintained at a competitive level on a permanent basis, rather than at an over-valued level that the financial sector favours. There would have to be greater public investment in the training of scientists and engineers, and greater incentives for them to work in and with the industrial sector, thus shrinking the recruitment pool for the financial industry.
Given all this, it is not a big surprise that those who benefit from the status quo have persisted with QE. What is surprising is that they have actually strengthened the status quo, despite the mess they have caused. They have successfully pushed for cuts in government spending, shrinking the welfare state to the extent that even Margaret Thatcher could not manage. They have used the fear of unemployment in an environment of shrinking social safety nets to force workers to accept more unstable part-time jobs, less-secure contracts (zero-hour contracts being the most extreme example), and poorer working conditions. 
But is this maintenance, or even fortification, of the ancient regime likely to continue? It may, but it may not. Greece, Spain, and other eurozone periphery countries could explode any day, given their high unemployment and deepening strains of austerity. In the US, which is considered the home of quiescent workers, the call for living wages is becoming louder, as seen in the current strikes by fast-food restaurant workers. The British are (overly) patient people, but they may change their mind when the full extent of budget cuts unfolds in the coming months.

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