Research Topics

Publications on Bubble economy

There are 4 publications for Bubble economy.
  • The Road to Debt Deflation, Debt Peonage, and Neofeudalism


    Working Paper No. 708 | February 2012

    What is called “capitalism” is best understood as a series of stages. Industrial capitalism has given way to finance capitalism, which has passed through  pension fund capitalism since the 1950s and a US-centered monetary imperialism since 1971, when the fiat dollar (created mainly to finance US global military spending) became the world’s monetary base. Fiat dollar credit made possible the bubble economy after 1980, and its substage of casino capitalism. These economically radioactive decay stages resolved into debt deflation after 2008, and are now settling into a leaden debt peonage and the austerity of neo-serfdom.

    The end product of today’s Western capitalism is a neo-rentier economy—precisely what industrial capitalism and classical economists set out to replace during the Progressive Era from the late 19th to early 20th century. A financial class has usurped the role that landlords used to play—a class living off special privilege. Most economic rent is now paid out as interest. This rake-off interrupts the circular flow between production and consumption, causing economic shrinkage—a dynamic that is the opposite of industrial capitalism’s original impulse. The “miracle of compound interest,” reinforced now by fiat credit creation, is cannibalizing industrial capital as well as the returns to labor.

    The political thrust of industrial capitalism was toward democratic parliamentary reform to break the stranglehold of landlords on national tax systems. But today’s finance capital is inherently oligarchic. It seeks to capture the government—first and foremost the treasury, central bank, and courts—to enrich (indeed, to bail out) and untax the banking and financial sector and its major clients: real estate and monopolies. This is why financial “technocrats” (proxies and factotums for high finance) were imposed in Greece, and why Germany opposed a public referendum on the European Central Bank’s austerity program.

  • The Transition from Industrial Capitalism to a Financialized Bubble Economy


    Working Paper No. 627 | October 2010

    For the past decade, the US economy has been driven not by industrial investment but by a real estate bubble. Although the United States may seem to be the leading example of industrial capitalism, its economy is no longer based mainly on investing in capital goods to employ labor to produce output to sell at a profit. The largest sector remains real estate, whose cash flow (EBITDA, or earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation, and amortization) accounts for over a quarter of national income. Financially, mortgages account for 70 percent of the US economy’s interest payments, reflecting the fact that real estate is the financial system’s major customer.

    As the economy’s largest asset category, real estate generates most of the economy’s capital gains. The gains are the aim of real investors, as the real estate sector normally operates without declaring any profit. Investors agree to pay their net rental income to their mortgage banker, hoping to sell the property at a capital gain (mainly a land-price gain).

    The tax system encourages this debt pyramiding. Interest and depreciation absorb most of the cash flow, leaving no income tax due for most of the post-1945 period. States and localities have shifted their tax base off property onto labor via income and sales taxes. Most important, capital gains are taxed at a much lower rate than are current earnings. Investors do not have to pay any capital gains tax at all as long as they invest their gains in the purchase of new property.

    This tax favoritism toward real estate—and behind it, toward bankers as mortgage lenders—has spurred a shift in US investment away from industry and toward speculation, mainly in real estate but also in the stock and bond markets. A postindustrial economy is thus largely a financialized economy that carries its debt burden by borrowing against capital gains to pay the interest and taxes falling due.

  • Securitization, Deregulation, Economic Stability, and Financial Crisis, Part II


    Working Paper No. 573.2 | August 2009
    Deregulation, the Financial Crisis, and Policy Implications

    This study analyzes the trends in the financial sector over the past 30 years, and argues that unsupervised financial innovations and lenient government regulation are at the root of the current financial crisis and recession. Combined with a long period of economic expansion during which default rates were stable and low, deregulation and unsupervised financial innovations generated incentives to make risky financial decisions. Those decisions were taken because it was the only way for financial institutions to maintain market share and profitability. Thus, rather than putting the blame on individuals, this paper places it on an economic setup that requires the growing use of Ponzi processes during enduring economic expansion, and on a regulatory system that is unwilling to recognize (on the contrary, it contributes to) the intrinsic instability of market mechanisms. Subprime lending, greed, and speculation are merely aspects of the larger mechanisms at work.

    It is argued that we need to change the way we approach the regulation of financial institutions and look at what has been done in other sectors of the economy, where regulation and supervision are proactive and carefully implemented in order to guarantee the safety of society. The criterion for regulation and supervision should be neither Wall Street’s nor Main Street’s interests but rather the interests of the socioeconomic system. The latter requires financial stability if it’s to raise, durably, the standard of living of both Wall Street and Main Street. Systemic stability, not profits or homeownership, should be the paramount criterion for financial regulation, since systemic stability is required to maintain the profitability—and ultimately, the existence—of any capitalist economic entity. The role of the government is to continually counter the Ponzi tendencies of market mechanisms, even if they are (temporarily) improving standards of living, and to encourage economic agents to develop safe and reliable financial practices.

    See also, Working Paper No. 573.1, “Securitization, Deregulation, Economic Stability, and Financial Crisis, Part I: The Evolution of Securitization.”

  • Securitization, Deregulation, Economic Stability, and Financial Crisis, Part I


    Working Paper No. 573.1 | August 2009
    The Evolution of Securitization

    This study analyzes the trends in the financial sector over the past 30 years, and argues that unsupervised financial innovations and lenient government regulation are at the root of the current financial crisis and recession. Combined with a long period of economic expansion during which default rates were stable and low, deregulation and unsupervised financial innovations generated incentives to make risky financial decisions. Those decisions were taken because it was the only way for financial institutions to maintain market share and profitability. Thus, rather than putting the blame on individuals, this paper places it on an economic setup that requires the growing use of Ponzi processes during enduring economic expansion, and on a regulatory system that is unwilling to recognize (on the contrary, it contributes to) the intrinsic instability of market mechanisms. Subprime lending, greed, and speculation are merely aspects of the larger mechanisms at work.

    It is argued that we need to change the way we approach the regulation of financial institutions and look at what has been done in other sectors of the economy, where regulation and supervision are proactive and carefully implemented in order to guarantee the safety of society. The criterion for regulation and supervision should be neither Wall Street’s nor Main Street’s interests but rather the interests of the socioeconomic system. The latter requires financial stability if it’s to raise, durably, the standard of living of both Wall Street and Main Street. Systemic stability, not profits or homeownership, should be the paramount criterion for financial regulation, since systemic stability is required to maintain the profitability—and ultimately, the existence—of any capitalist economic entity. The role of the government is to continually counter the Ponzi tendencies of market mechanisms, even if they are (temporarily) improving standards of living, and to encourage economic agents to develop safe and reliable financial practices.

    See also, Working Paper No. 573.2, “Securitization, Deregulation, Economic Stability, and Financial Crisis, Part II: Deregulation, the Financial Crisis, and Policy Implications.”

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