Working Paper No. 165 | May 1996

Economic Insecurity and the Institutional Prerequisites for Successful Capitalism

In this working paper, Distinguished Scholar Hyman P. Minsky and Visiting Scholar Charles Whalen search for reasons to account for the split in post-World War II economic performance—that is, the difference in performance between the 1946–66 period and the 1966–96 period. The authors discuss a number of economic problems that have arisen during the past quarter of a century, including slower growth, stagnant earnings, rising financial instability, and increasing inequality. Minksy and Whalen concede that factors such as globalization and technological change have undoubtedly played a role in the split performance. An additional important and often overlooked element is the evolution of the US financial structure. The authors explain that a key component influencing the evolution of the financial sector during recent decades has been the rise of "money manager" capitalism. Important features of money manager capitalism are increased financial fragility (lower margins of safety in indebtedness and a greater reliance on debt relative to internal finance) and the introduction into the financial structure of a new layer of intermediation. In particular, managers of pensions, trusts, and mutual funds currently control the largest share of the liabilities of corporations. These managers are judged by only one criterion: how well they maximize the value of funds. As a result, business leaders have become increasingly sensitive to the stock market valuation of their firm.

Associated Program:
Hyman P. Minsky Charles J. Whalen

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