by James Cumes
James Cumes is a former Australian ambassador to the European Union and Australian representative at the United Nations. He is the author of among other works The Human Mirror: The Narcissistic Imperative in Human Behaviour.
Apr 10, 2008
The Black Death of financial collapse
By James Cumes
The financial and economic crisis now upon us is by far the most menacing of the past century - even more so than the Great Depression of the 1930s. It is not just a "subprime" crisis; it is systemic - affecting the entire financial system. It is also global, affecting various countries in various ways but affecting them all. In achieving a certain "globalization", we have been uniquely successful in globalizing collapse, chaos and misery. It is a globalization which, in our short-sighted negligence, we never envisaged.
In this crisis, even a country such as Australia is no more than a subordinate, neo-colonial, financial and economic dependency. In essence, we have reverted to what we were before and during the Great Depression of the 1930s, when Whitehall, Westminster and the Bank of England played the tune to which we jigged. Then, from 1945 to 1969, for the first time, we played our own tune of full employment and stable economic growth. Wild radicals such as minister Eddie Ward in the governments of John Curtin (1941-45) and Ben Chifley (1945-49) warned us to be wary of Wall Street.
The cynics might now say that Eddie, who died in 1963, was right. After 1969, we forgot his warning. Indeed, the Americans themselves forgot to guard against the chicaneries of Wall Street, where eternal vigilance should always be the watchword. They forgot what the mania of Wall Street can do to the reality of Main Street; and we shared their amnesia.
From 1969 and especially from 1971, when the United States cut the dollar link with gold, Australia surrendered any worthwhile independence in its economic and financial thinking. We swallowed American financial and economic formulae, whether we were academics or policymakers, industrial entrepreneurs, banks or providers of "financial services."
We did not entirely switch off tunes played by Britain, the more so as its prime minister Margaret Thatcher formed her slapstick band with US president Ronald Reagan to drum up support for "free" markets, "free" trade, privatization, globalization and the free flow of almost everything, including speculative capital in unqualified pursuit of private profit. Corporation and consumer greed marched in step towards global disaster.
Rational economics based on real investment, productivity and production died in favor of speculative and often Ponzi
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