A calamity in the making, part 2

Hyman Minski, an economist, created the “financial instability hypothesis”. Financial systems – and the free market economies that rest on them – are by nature unstable, tending towards what he called “Ponzi finance”.

In good times companies take on too much debt, and that gets them into trouble when profits fall. They then sell assets to pay the interest on debt, causing asset prices to fall, triggering more forced sales. This ends in market panic.

Today, corporate credit is at an all-time high, and the stock market is booming. It’s true that some safeguards put it place after 2008 made the banks safer, but Trump has walked back many of the consumer protections, and anti-trust has faded away. Since 2008 the basic philosophy behind the financial system hasn’t changed: greed is good and the driver of wealth, companies are there solely to benefit shareholders, executives can plunder the profits, workers are expendable, taxes are there to be avoided at all costs, and to hell with contributing to society. Meanwhile the financial sector wags the dog and is no longer a simple service industry but a monolith, killing regulation and installing industry officials in top regulatory positions. In short, the system that brought us 2008 hasn’t changed, or not changed enough to prevent recurrent crashes. Epicurus would be appalled.

Prepare for the next crash. It is coming soon, spurred on by sub- prime car loans and by the free market fundamentalists who have the ear of the President. (Inspired by and partly reproduced from, a wonderful and recommended article by Steven Pearlstein in the Washington Post, September 9, 2018)

What has this to do with Epicureanism? Think peace of mind, happiness, opportunity, and stable, cooperating and reasonably equal societies.

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