Wednesday, April 14, 2010

UK economy - Richard Werner's diagnosis & treatment

Gordon Brown today is admitting that he listened too much for too many years to pleadings by the banks to give them light-touch treatment. So is he, or any political party or leader now willing to take Richard Werner's timely advice on the banking industry, issued earlier this week, as below?

Interview with Professor Richard A. Werner, D.Phil. (Oxon), Chair in International Banking and Director, Centre for Banking, Finance and Sustainable Development, School of Management, University of Southampton:

What do the parties have to do to get the economy back on track? Do we go the Labour or Conservative route? 
Werner:The three main parties are quarreling about re-arranging the deck chairs on the Titanic. What they are arguing about is who should get which share of the given income pie - who should bear the brunt of tax rises and public sector spending cuts, and what should be the precise timing of such measures.

But this discussion merely detracts from the main issue, namely how to generate sustainable and healthy growth from which all benefit. To achieve this, money creation must only be allowed when it is linked to productive activities that are part of GDP. Money creation and allocation are largely undertaken by the private sector, namely the commercial banks, through their extension of what are called 'bank loans'. What led us into the crisis is the persistent abuse of this public privilege to create and allocate the money supply by these private profit-oriented operators for the benefit of unproductive speculators. The parties will have to get to grips with this issue, ideally by banning all bank credit extended for financial transactions and speculation, or, by taking this public privilege away from the banks and render the creation and allocation of the money supply a public monopoly again. Unfortunately, none of the three party leaders or their Treasury appointees seems sufficiently aware of or interested in this problem, thus we cannot expect the type of policies that will deliver stable, sustainable and equitable growth from them.

What will this mean to the average person on the street? 
Werner: It will mean higher taxes and higher costs for fewer and worse public services. Unfortunately, this applies to all three parties. The average person in the street is smart enough to realise this, which is why voter apathy has risen in the past decade to record levels. An upset for the Big Two might help, though.

What will this mean to business? 
Werner: This depends on what business one is in. The financial sector will do well. Industry will continue to shrink. The main parties have hampered their ability to deal with the important issues facing Britain by their over-reliance on financial contributions to the financial sector. The financial crisis has once again made clear whose pockets the politicians are in - despite attempts to divert attention by pointing to minor corruption of politicians in their misuse of expenses. The financial sector will use its lobbying power to avoid the necessary reforms to prevent financial crises, limit damage to tax payers and receive refunds of public money (the key necessary policy being a ban on bank credit for transactions that are not part of GDP, i.e. the speculative ones).

What will the parties’ approach be to the finance sector? Is this something that can be managed on a UK level or do we need agreement on a global scale?
Werner: In order to give the impression that one is on the brink of 'tough measures' on banks and the financial sector, much will be made of the alleged need to first achieve a global agreement on how to proceed. The fact is, the problem of dependence on a predatory financial sector is mainly British. Coordination with other afflicted countries, such as Greece, Iceland, Spain and Ireland, is neither necessary nor sufficient to address the problems here in Britain.

Werner has written a best-selling book The Princes of the Yen giving economic and banking history especially relating to the last 100 years in Germany and Japan. Highly recommended and readable - you don't have to be an economist to have your mind opened by this book. See also: University of Southampton, UK 

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