Publications on Economic rent
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.Download:Associated Program:Author(s):
Working Paper No. 634 | November 2010
The post-1945 mode of global integration has outlived its early promise. It has become exploitative rather than supportive of capital investment, public infrastructure, and living standards.
In the sphere of trade, countries need to rebuild their self-sufficiency in food grains and other basic needs. In the financial sphere, the ability of banks to create credit (loans) at almost no cost, with only a few strokes on their computer keyboards, has led North America and Europe to become debt ridden—a contagion that now threatens to move into Brazil and other BRIC countries as banks seek to finance buyouts and lend against these countries' natural resources, real estate, basic infrastructure, and industry. Speculators, arbitrageurs, and financial institutions using "free money" see these economies as easy pickings. But by obliging countries to defend themselves financially, they and their predatory credit creation are helping to bring the era of free capital movements to an end.
Does Brazil really need inflows of foreign credit for domestic spending when it can create this at home? Foreign lending ends up in its central bank, which invests its reserves in US Treasury and euro bonds that yield low returns, and whose international value is likely to decline against the BRIC currencies. Accepting credit and buyout "capital inflows" from the North thus provides a "free lunch" for key-currency issuers of dollars and euros, but it does not significantly help local economies.Download:Associated Program:Author(s):