Insights

Cambridge International Symposium on Economic Crime 2000, 01, 04, 05, 06, 07, 08, 09, 10, 10a, 11, 11a, 12, 12a, 12b
Private, national & common wealth in the post-socialism/capitalism era
Birthday laudatio to a comrade-in-arms
How not to react to US pressures on Bank Secrecy, Iran, Cuba, North Korea, etc.

21 Jan 13    Banks Face the Innovator's Dilemma, American Banker  JP Nicols
17.Jan 13   William White: «Die Währungskriege sind sehr gefährlich», NZZ, Christof Leisinger
11.Jan 13   BANKENPLATZ SCHWEIZ: Drei Affen, Journal 21, René Zeyer, Kommentar
11.Okt 12   Der Sündenbock der Finanzkrise, Tages-Anzeiger / Basler Zeitung, Lukas Hug
10.Okt.12   Kaspar Villiger: „Mit dem Messer am Hals“, NZZ
1.Okt 12   Kappt das Schleppseil zur Casino-Titanic!, NZZ  (zensuriert)
1 Oct 12   A Speed Limit for the Stock Market, NYT, ROGER LOWENSTEIN
29 Sep 12   As Money Pours Down, It’s No Wonder That Stocks Are Up, NYT, JEFF SOMMER
18 Sep 12   Michael Hudson: On How Finance Capital Leads to Debt Servitude, Athens News / Naked Capitalism, Dimitris Yannopoulos
12 Sep 12   Incorporating the Rentier Sectors into a Financial Model, World Economic Review, Dirk Bezemer et.al.
7 Sep 12   Another level-playing field, Cambridge Symposium, Anton Keller
17.Aug 12   «Weissgeldstrategie» - Das Unwort des Jahres, NZZ, Dan Kohler
13.Aug 12   Finanzielle Repression: «Sichere Anlagen» schützen nicht vor stiller Enteignung, NZZ, Michael Rasch
13 Aug 12   On Wall Street, the Rising Cost of Faster Trades, NYT, NATHANIEL POPPER
5 Aug 12   Markets Brace for Washington's 'Fiscal Cliff', WSJ, GREGORY ZUCKERMAN
3 Aug 12   Frankenstein Takes Over the Market, NYT, Joe Nocera
3 Aug 12   Trading Program Ran Amok, With No ‘Off’ Switch, NYT, Jessica Silver-Greenberg et al.
10 Aug 12   Down With Shareholder Value, NYT, JOE NOCERA
3 Aug 12   Frankenstein Takes Over the Market, NYT, Joe Nocera
3 Aug 12   Trading Program Ran Amok, With No ‘Off’ Switch, NYT, Jessica Silver-Greenberg et al.
2 Aug 12   The Intelligent Investor: When Will Retail Investors Call It Quits?, WSJ, Jason Zweig
2 Aug 12   Uncle Sam audits its stash of gold at the New York Fed, Los Angeles Times, Andrew Tangel
1.Aug 12   Mediokrität aus Staatsräson, oder: das Bewährte pflanze sich fort!, ASDI/SIPA, Anton Keller
30.Jul 12  Michael Hudson: Nicht der Euro wird gerettet, sondern eine Ideologie, FAZ-Gespräch mit Sahra Wagenknecht
29.Jul 12   Libor-Skandal: In Verruf geratene Ex-Banker mit Steueranreizen nach Genf gelockt, NZZ, Sebastian Bräuer
28.Juli 12    Verheerende Lieferung von Bankmitarbeitern ans IRS-Messer, Sessions-Notiz, ASDI/SIPA
26.Jul 12    Genesis eines Niedergangs, NZZ, Robert U. Vogler
8 juil 12   Banquiers et secrétaires, désignés suspects par leurs propres patrons, Dimanche Le Matin, François Pilet
7 juil 12   Des banquiers témoignent: «HSBC nous a trahis», Le Temps, Mathilde Farine
4.Jul  12  US-Regierung wollte Schweiz als Steueroase ersetzen, Tages-Anzeiger, ami/AFP
3 Jul 12   Where the Money Lives, Vanity Fair, Nicholas Shaxson
2.Juli 12   Gezinkte Karten, manipuliertes Roulette, Tages-Anzeiger, Philipp Löpfe, Kommentare
30 Jun 12   How Delaware Thrives as a Corporate Tax Haven, NYT, LESLIE WAYNE
26 May 12   Let’s Be Less Productive, NYT, By TIM JACKSON
26 May 12   JPMorgan blues: The Hunch, the Pounce and the Kill, NYT, AZAM AHMED
25.Mai 12   Souveränitätsaushebelung: ESM, das Dritte Ermächtigungsgesetz, Smart Investor, Schweizerzeit, Erwin Grandinger
25.Mai 12   US-Angriff auf Finanzplatz Schweiz, Schweizerzeit , Ulrich Schlüer
25.Mai 12   Gefahren des Papiergeld-Systems, NZZ, Michael Ferber, Kommentare
20 May 12   Heist of the century: Wall Street's role in the financial crisis, Guardian, Charles Ferguson
10.Mai 12    Food for thought for an American journey, Anton Keller (deutsch)
14.Apr 12   Notiz zur Parlamentarierreise nach Washington (16.Mai), Anton Keller (English)
4.Jan 12   Zinsen, Wertewirtschaft, Rahim Taghizadegan
22 Dec 11   Suppose: I'm a kingpin with $100mio to wash, Iconoclast
31 Aug 11   Growing the Economy for Dummies, Washington Times, Richard W. Rahn
24 Aug 11   A Deconstruction of “Iceland's On-going Revolution”, Reykjavík Grapevine, Anna Andersen
22 Aug 11   Federal Asset Seizures Rise, Netting Innocent With Guilty, WSJ, JOHN R. EMSHWILLER et al.
22 Aug 11   Wall Street Aristocracy Got $1.2 Trillion in Secret Loans, Washington Post, Bradley Keoun et al.
21 Aug 11   Council chief executives enjoy pay rises as services are cut, The Telegraph, Heidi Blake et al.
19.Aug 11   Das Einmaleins der Währungspolitik, Tages-Anzeiger, Markus Diem Meier
15.Aug 11   Nouriel Roubini: «Der Kapitalismus zerstört sich selbst», Tages-Anzeiger, Philipp Löpfe
11.Aug 11   FuturICT-Flagships Dirk Helbling: "Es braucht ein neues Finanzsystem", Die Zeit, Kommentare
3.Aug 11   Regionalgeld:Im Blütenrausch, Die Zeit, Juliane Schiemenz, Kommentar
2.Aug 11   Das doppelte Trilemma des Euroraums, Tages-Anzeiger , Markus Diem Meier, Kommentare
1 Aug 11   Iceland's On-going Revolution, dailykos.com, Deena Stryker (see corrections!)
8 Jul 11   Iceland Declares Independence from International Banks, netrightdaily.com, Bill Wilson
31.Mär 11  US-Staat Utah führt Gold wieder als Zahlungsmittel ein, CASH, Peter Hody
10.Mär 11  Das Ende des Geldes? The Intelligence, Diana Ljubic
9 Nov 10   Bond buyers aren't fools: the Fed can't simultaneously raise inflation and lower interest rates, WSJ, Alan Reynolds
3 Nov 10   Leverage ratio 69 to 1: Fed balance sheet could look very ugly, very fast, WSJ, editorial, comments
20 oct 10   Dollar currency & pension funds: history's biggest Ponzi schemes, BILAN, Myret Zaki
18 Oct 10   Banks Shared Clients’ Profits, but Not Losses, NYT, LOUISE STORY
12.Okt 10   Willkommen in Utopia, Format, Martina Madner et al.
10 Sep 10   Providing legitimacy in the opaque QI world, Cambridge economic crime symposium, Anton Keller
23.Aug 10   Zu gross, um nicht unterzugehen, Wegelin-Kommentar #272, Konrad Hummler
23 Aug 10   Too big not to fail, Wegelin comment #272, Konrad Hummler
23 aou 10   Trop gros pour ne pas faire faillite, Wegelin commentaire #272, Konrad Hummler
23 ago 10   Tropo grandi per non fallire, Wegelin bollettino #272, Konrad Hummler
13 Aug 10   Big, bad numbers, Daily Reckoning, Bill Bonner
11 Aug 10   U.S. Is Bankrupt and We Don't Even Know It, bloomberg.com, Laurence Kotlikoff
7.Aug 10   Staat, Wertewirtschaft, Rahim Taghizadegan
8 Jul 10   Another round of Prohibition, anyone?, Washington Post, George F. Will
8 Jul 10   HSBC Mass Leak of Client Data Rattles Swiss Banking, WSJ, David Gauthier-Villars et al.
30 Jun 10   In U.S. Bailout of A.I.G., Forgiveness for Big Banks, NYT, LOUISE STORY et al., AIG bailout docs
16 juin 10   Accord UBS: salutaire pour la banque, funeste pour la suisse, BILAN, Myret Zaki
19 May 10   Clients Worried About Goldman’s Dueling Goals, NYT, Gretchen Morgenson et al., comments
19 May 10   Goldman’s Responses on Relations With Clients, NYT. Goldman insider documents
24 Apr 10   Rating Agency Data Aided Wall Street in Deals, NYT, Gretchen Morgenson et al.
7 Feb 10   Testy Conflict With Goldman Helped Push A.I.G. to Edge, NYT, Gretchen Morgenson et al.
5.Feb 10   Unternehmer. Wertewirtschaft, Rahim Taghizadegan
1 Jan 10   Global super-rich no longer look so benign, FT, Chrystia Freeland
26 Dec 09   Robert Morgenthau, whipping master of Credit Suisse, steps down, WSJ, James Freeman, comments
24 Dec 09   Banks Bundled Bad Debt, Bet Against It and Won, NYT, Gretchen Morgenson et al.
13.Dez 09    Wirtschaftskrise, Wertewirtschaft, Gregor Hochreiter
25 nov 09   «Malgré l’érosion du secret bancaire, la Suisse reste numéro un», Le Temps, Yves Genier
14 Nov 09   J'accuse - Investigating Iceland’s financiers, Elf: the named and shamed, FT, Stanley Pignal et al.
6 nov 09   L’honnêteté paie dans le monde des affaires, Le Temps, Catherine Dubouloz
28 Oct 09   The common good imperative: Giving democracy a dose of clarity, WP, Michael Gerson
23 Oct 09   The public interest focus: The Grand Mufti's mission, WP, Michael Gerson
17 Sep 09   Archbishop chastens City for failure to repent, FT, Megan Murphy
11 sep 09   Le système de prévoyance doit être assaini, Le Temps, Herbert Brändli, Originaltext
24.Aug 09   Abschied von Amerika, Wegelin-Kommentar #265, Konrad Hummler
24 Aug 09   Farewell America, Wegelin comment #265, Konrad Hummler
24 aou 09   L’adieu à l’Amérique, Wegelin commentaire #265, Konrad Hummler
24 ago 09   Goodbye America, Wegelin bollettino #265, Konrad Hummler
26.Jun 09   Ökonomie, Wertewirtschaft, Rahim Taghizadegan
11.Mai 09   Banken, Wertewirtschaft, Gregor Hochreiter
29.Mär 09  Demokratie, Wertewirtschaft, Rahim Taghizadegan
23.Feb 09   Mikrokredite oder Mikrokapital?, Wertewirtschaft, Rahim Taghizadegan
20 Dec 08   One Name, Charles Ponzi, Stands Alone in The Grand Scheme of It All, WP, David Montgomery
19 Dec 08   The Madoff Economy, NYT, Paul Krugman
18 Dec 08   On Wall Street, Bonuses, Not Profits, Were Real, NYT, Louise Story
16 Dec 08   Put Madoff In Charge of Social Security, WSJ, Holman W. Jenkins, Jr.
16 Dec 08   Pyramid Schemes Are as American as Apple Pie, WSJ, John Steele Gordon
13 Dec 08   Madoff Affaire: Now Accused of Fraud, Wall St. Wizard Had His Skeptics, NYT, Alex Berenson et al.
18.Nov 08   Bundesrat als eilfertiger Wegmacher von Pensionskassen-Abzockern, TA, Rudolf Strahm, Kommentare
10.Nov 08   Wiener Schule der Ökonomie, Wertewirtschaft, Rahim Taghizadegan
19.Sep 08   Änderung der BR-Verordnung über die berufliche Vorsorge (BVV 2; BSV-Mitteilungen 108)
19 sep 08   Modification de l'ordonnance du CF sur la prévoyance professionnelle (OPP 2; OFAS Bulletin 108)
10.Sep 08   Bildung, Wertewirtschaft, Rahim Taghizadegan
18 juin 08   Est-ce prudent d'attirer des hedge funds à Genève?, Bilan
19 Aug 08   Wall Street Crunch Due to Sharp US Money Supply Contraction?, Telegraph, A. Evans-Pritchard
14.Aug 08    Absurder Kampf dem Kapitalverkehr, Weltwoche, Hans Geiger & Oliver Wünsch
12 Aug 08   Sovereign Funds Become Big Speculators, WP, David Cho
7.Aug 08   Kapitalismusanalyse: Das Schlaraffenland ist gründlich abgebrannt, WOZ, Gian Trepp
17.Jul 08   Geld und Inflation, Wertewirtschaft. Gregor Hochreiter
July 08   The Money Supply, FEDNY
4.Jun 08   Gerechter Lohn und Arbeitslosigkeit, Wertewirtschaft, Gregor Hochreiter
13.Mai 08   Kapital und Wohlstand, Wertewirtschaft, Rahim Taghizadegan
11.Mär 08  Handwerk - die Seele des Unternehmertums?, Wertewirtschaft, Rahim Taghizadegan
5.Mär 08  Kritik zu Freiwirtschaft, Zinskritik & Schwundgeld nach Silvio Gesell, Wertewirtschaft, Rahim Taghizadegan
29.Feb 08   Die Hintergründe der aktuellen Bankenkrise, Wertewirtschaft, Gregor Hochreiter
24.Jan 08   Finanzkapitalismus in der Krise: Wu und Hu schlagen Ben, WOZ, Gian Trepp
24.Jan 08   Der Schweizer Finanzplatz als Konkordanzplatz, WOZ, Gian Trepp
17.Dez 07   Geld: Seine Herkunft, seine Rolle und die heutige Geldkrise, Wertewirtschaft, Rahim Taghizadegan et al.
10.Okt 07   Die Instabilitätshypothese von Hyman P. Minsky, Wertewirtschaft, Gregor Hochreiter
15 Sep 07   A Suspicious Disappearance, NYT, Editorial
27 Aug 07   Pension Managers Rethink Their Love of Hedge Funds, WSJ, Craig Karmin
26 Aug 07   Pension funds demand money back, Sunday Telegraph, Helen Power
7.Jul 12   Freiheit bedeutet Verantwortung, Wertewirtschaft, Rahim Taghizadegan, et al.
4 April 07   N.J. Pension Fund Endangered by Diverted Billions, NYT, MARY WILLIAMS WALSH
26 Jan 07   EU Court: No State obligations in Insolvency Cases, Daily Telegraph
19 Aug 06   KING OF THE ZOMBIES, mailonsunday
8 Aug 06   Public Pension Plans Face Billions in Shortages, NYT, Mary Williams Walsh
27 April 06  Watchdog warns on risky pensions, BBC News
Jun 2006   Private, national & common wealth in the post-socialism/capitalism era, Iconoclast
4 April 06   The Future of Pensions, Downing St 'split' over pensions, BBC News
31 March 06  Shocks Seen in New Math for Pensions, NYT, Mary Williams Walsh
12 March 06  Do the Math For Lost Pensions, Washington Post, Albert B. Crenshaw
1 mars 06   Réformons enfin le système!, LE TEMPS, Ernst Brugger
1 mars 06   Les fonds de pension étrangers peuvent inspirer la Suisse, LT, Jean-Fabrice della Volpe
26 Feb 06   What is the yield curve telling us?, telegraph.co.uk, Roger Bootle
22. Feb 06   Swiss banks groan under weight of assets, nzz.ch, Swissinfo
21 fév 06  Acelor: les fonds spéculatifs entrent en scène, lefigaro.fr, Anne-Laure Julien
19 Feb 06   How States Are Aiming to Keep Dollars Out of Sudan, NYT, Carla Fried
fév 06    La face cachée du pétrole, Plomb, Eric Laurent
28. Jan 06    Terminmarkt boomt - Kreditderivate boomen, Handelsblatt, Andrea Cünnen
28. Jan 06    Der Markt - Eine Anlageklasse für sich, HB
19 Jan 06   Market turmoil deals further blow to pension funds, The Guardian, Ashley Seager et al.
18 Jan 06   Gilts bubble savages pensions, www.ft.com, Philip Coggan et al.
18 Jan 06   Uphill struggle for pension funds to close deficits, www.ft.com, Philip Coggan et al.
18 Jan06   S.E.C. to Require More Disclosure on Executive Pay, NYT, Stephen Labaton
17 Jan 06   The SEC's Test, Washington Post, John Pierpont
17 Jan 06   Hermes takes BT into commodities, www.ft.com,  Kate Burgess
9 Jan 06   More Companies Ending Promises for Retirement, NYT, Mary Williams Walsh
7 Jan 06   Five Officials in San Diego Are Indicted Over Pensions, NYT, John M. Broder
26 Dec 06   Huge Rise Looms for Health Care in City's Budget, NYT, Mary Williams Walsh et al.
20 Dec 06   Rentokil mothballs pension scheme, BBC News
12 Dec 05   Measures to Tackle Chinese Pension Fund Deficit, caijing 148, Ren Bo
30 Nov 05   State pension age 'to rise to 68', BBC News,
 27 Nov 05  Pension Officers Putting Billions Into Hedge Funds, NYT, Riva D. Atlas et al.
24 Nov 05   Pension reform: What other countries do, BBC News, Steve Schifferes
23 Nov 05   How the pensions crisis evolved, Do we need to work longer?, BBC News, Julian Knight
22 Feb 04   Secret Pentagon report: Climate change will destroy us, rioting and nuclear war, Observer, Mark Townsend et al.
Oct 03   An Abrupt Climate Change Scenario and Its Implications for U.S. National Security, DoD, Peter Schwartz et al.
1 Jun 03   To seize or not to seize, Washington Times, editorial
29 May 99   Bank Secrecy, Mises Institute, Richard W. Rahn
9 mars 98   La Titanic hélvétique - home made, ASDI, Anton Keller



30th Cambridge International Symposium on Economic Crime
September 2-9, 2012 - Economic Crime: Surviving the Fall - The Myths and Realities
Session XIII: Establishing a level playing field - proportionality and the balance of convenienc
Another level-playing field
by Anton Keller, Secretary, Swiss Investors Protection Association - swissbit@solami.com
url: www.solami.com/field.htm - related e-books: .../capitalism.html ¦ .../porkbellies.htm ¦ .../bankingblues.htm ¦ .../kingpin.htm

September 7, 2012    -    Establishing a level-playing field - vast subject. The more so if we were not to talk about what's probably mainly on your mind and on your daily radar, namely ordinary criminals versus ordinary crime fighters. And if instead we were to open up our vista and concentrate on the macro-economic and macro-social scale. In other words if we were to discuss the still growing imbalance between those causing economic and social havoc - recklessly and usually scotch-free at that, as the recent New York Times editorial "No Crime, No Punishment" (8/25/12) has shown. And on the other hand the surviving visionaries, ivory tower researchers, political guerillas and similar Cassandras and preachers in the desert.

As your recidivist sherpa, I hope to avoid the trap Horace described so well with, "I labour to be brief - become obscure." But the mess all around is obscured and confusing regardless of my speaking ten or 60 minutes. From all sides financial tsunamis have hit us. And they have not stopped shaking us in our core convictions and expectations. So what level-playing field can there be and should we mainly worry about in the face of the LIBOR, the debt and other global scandals?

The Guardian summed it up with "This global financial fraud and its gatekeepers"  (www.solami.com/bankingblues.htm#gatekeepers). And two days earlier, on July 12, the New York Times revealed that the current US Treasury Secretary "Geithner Tried to Curb Rate Rigging in 2008"  (.../bankingblues.htm#rigging). On July 2, the Swiss daily Tages-Anzeiger pointed not only to stacked cards and a manipulated roulette which globally pervert time-tested institutions and practices. Like others before, it also called for fundamental changes in the training of bankers and for the re-orientation, even a replacement of a whole generation of self-serving market manipulators, marauders and other greed-driven parasites (Gezinkte Karten, manipuliertes Roulette: .../bankingblues.htm#Roulette). Somewhat, but only somewhat, I beg to differ. For I'd like to honor and support the precious few - like the partners of Switzerland's oldest private bank - who have refused to sell out their clients and employees to foreign taxmen. Who have acted in the best traditions of those who - some three generations ago - stood fast on principles in the face of confiscatory practices and even physical dangers for the scapegoats of that time. Who offered them real refuge and even life-saving protection, instead of exploiting them and licking the Nazi boots with inventions like the J passport stamp and other infamous and haunting servilities. And those who, today, still stand out and deservedly carry the mantle and obligations of a noble profession of dedicated fiduciaries and allies of law-abiding clients who see themselves exposed to an - again - ever more confiscatory and over-bearing state here and there.

Let's face it, we've all heard of - and been mystified by - accountancy and statistical tricks and repeated changes in the way we actually measure the real economy's real status and evolution. We've all seen our wizards bending over backwards in order to help our governments to mask their utter failings ever since the currencies, in 1971, were un-moored from disciplining real values. Thus, allegedly for economy reasons, the US Federal Reserve has also blinded us by ceasing publication of M3 figures since March 2006. Moreover, unemployment and inflation rates have been grossly misrepresented (Kevin Phillips, Numbers Racket: Why the economy is worse than we know,Harper's Magazine, 1 May 08). Under the pretext of saving the real economy, a dysfunctional financial system has been kept alive and, preposterously, with uncovered "fiat" money, has even grown into a monster threatening the real economy.

As a result, casino chips and other "Monopoly Monkey Moneys" are flooding and denaturing our markets and sucking life blood and life-sustaining fat reserves from our bodies and the economy (Louise Story, On Wall Street, Bonuses, Not Profits, Were Real, NYT, 18 Dec 08). With hard-working productive citizens being fleeced and seeing their buying power eroded by seemingly untouchable social parasites. And with strictly non-productive and purely self-serving high-speed computers running out of control. Just recently, in the case of Knight Capital, in a mere 45 minutes, 440 million dollars of an alleged market-maker's working capital evaporated and was soaked up by a more sophisticated market robot (Jessica Silver-Greenberg et al., Trading Program Ran Amok, With No ‘Off’ Switch, NYT, 3 Aug 12). On August 3, another New York Times commentator pointedly titled his story with "Frankenstein Takes Over the Market"  (.../bankingblues.htm#Frankenstein).

As criticised also in said NYT editorial "No Crime, No Punishment" and in its accompanying piece "Where the Mob Keeps Its Money"  (.../bankingblues.htm#mob), our legal system seems to be stacked in favor of institutions, while it systematically disfavors citizens. This has become glaringly evident with the recent Goldman Sachs, the Libor and other cases. It's what I call an epicier or grocery store law. By that I dont want to denigrate grocers. I merely want to point out the systemic imbalance and disproportionality of our current system. To illustrate, take the expiry date of perishable food and the employee who gets caught - and punished - for changing the expiry-dates by a few days. And compare that to the socially and penally non-sanctioned wide-spread damage, even havoc on the macro-scale caused by higher-ups who manipulate basic interest rates and issue inflationary QEs (quantitative easings) - in effect pumping up less the real economy than the casino, as the Bank of England's recent report showed unmistakably (Larry Elliott, Britain's richest 5% gained most from quantitative easing, Guardian, 23 Aug 12: .../bankingblues.htm).

So where is the level-playing field on that superior level? Where are the cops stopping the myopic and reckless profit- and bonus-maximizers here and there. And where are the judges and politicians to call the IRS to task for introducing - behind the constitutional lawmakers' back - the "backup withholding tax" which used to be called protection money? Indeed, at 28% - not on dividends and interest, mind you, but on capital - the IRS guarantees the anonymity of the drug lords and kingpins here and there (.../kingpin.htm#SS). You don't have to take my word for it; just read what the congressional watchdog, the General Accounting Office, has stated in its report: "One of the principal incentives for foreign financial institutions to become QIs is their ability to retain the anonymity of their client list." (Qualified Intermediary Program Provides Some Assurance That Taxes on Foreign Investors Are Withheld and Reported, but Can Be Improved, GAO-08-99 of Dec 07, p.11).

As discussed in previous years at our Cambridge Symposium (2008, 2010, 2011: .../porkbellies.htm#bolts), it is understood that over the past 11 years, in collusion with the UBS and Credit Suisse, the IRS set up a world-wide network of some 7000 QI banks. This system of qualified intermediary banks or QIs is seen as the world's biggest money laundering system. In the persistent absence of official figures, estimates vary widely, but the IRS never either confirmed or contested the accusation that it illegally rakes in what not-so-blue-eyed observers have estimated conservatively to be $500 bn/y. Apparently, these slush funds are being collected totally out of any democratic control and accountabiliy, serving to feed a myriad of agencies and secret operations. And its complementary structure, the FATCA system is expected to be no better - even though it was smuggled into the HIRE Act in 2010 in order to give a figleaf-wide appearance of congressional approval. Now you may rightly wonder why the IRS seems able to hide these Orwellian creatures behind a thick smoke screen. Revealingly, so far not even the GAO has been able to check out these democracy-eroding super-greased monsters, and even quizzitive lawmakers have been unable to stop this maverick train in its track (.../irsquery.htm ¦ Thomas Donlan, Pyrrhic Victory: IRS turns foreign banks into tax agents, Barrons, editorial, 4 Dec 00). The yet uncognised upside of all this is that the QI system provides for almost all accusations by US authorities against Swiss banks and employees to be unfounded. But so far only one Geneva private bank finally mustered the courage to assert and make this clear publicly (.../bankingblues.htm#Pictet).

But then again, you shouldn't be surprised either when you take into account how easily previously principled and steadfast Swiss banks, Swiss lawmakers and even the Swiss Government have lost their way in recent years when faced with unelected, yet arrogant, determined and out-of-control foreign bureaucrats. I am, of course, referring notably to some top IRS officials, but also to OECD, EU, FATF and now even mere private Egmont Group "blackmailers". In all of that I can't see anything coming close to a level-playing field either. Yet, all of you know that international stability and, in particular, balanced relations between sovereign countries are crucially dependent on respect for treaties, the rule of law and mutual respect. All nations share some common values - all the while they have to cope with their own cultural and other backgrounds which often provide for divergent national interests. However, due to their formal sovereignty, these interests can and must be defended competently and effectively by those entrusted with the mantle of power.

In the case of my own country, Switzerland, I am saddened, even revolted by the fact that we see more and more national entities dismally failing to stand up against marauding bureaucrats from other countries. This entails disastrous consequences for individual privacy, the rule of law and sovereign rights. And this is the more so when a private interest group can blackmail a government - as has happened when the privately organised money laundering specialists sought to impose their allegedly binding automatic data transmission world standard on the Swiss Government (.../egmont.htm). Like the members of the IRS, FATF, OECD and EU brotherhood, these entities are noteworthy particularly for their lack of effective surveillance by democratically legitimised institutions. Indeed, they have been shown to operate outside of the law, issuing ultimatums and setting up black lists of allegedly non-cooperating countries. In the infamous case of the IRS bullies' unrelenting pursuit of UBS and other Swiss banks, we have even seen them able and willing to blackmail the government of a sovereign country into unbalanced agreements and law changes. Did they have a mandate from their own government for creating such havoc? No, they didn't as far as I could determine!

In military doctrine, you have the often sucessful excape tactic called "Flucht nach vorn", i.e. flight straight ahead. It is used mostly in desparate situations. For it is always - and in the political arena no less - a risky proposition which can be applied only within limits. Time, of course, is fast running out on the fast-buck players facing the inevitable consequences of financial tsunamis hitting the productive, the real economy everwhere. This is due to both the still unrestrained production and putting into circulation of casino chips and "Monopoly Monkey Money". Indeed, since the un-mooring of the world's currencies in 1971, the world's gross domestic product rose from some $3 trillion to currently some $70 trillion, while the currencies in circulation rose globally from some $0.2 trillion to currently some $5 trillion to an unfathomable $600 trillion. Already on March 19 2009, E.L. Andrews reported in the New York Times on the available options of hyperinflation, war and/or monetary reform under the alarming title: "Fed creates $1 Trillion out of thin air"  (.../brink.htm#thinair). So, it's really your choice which figure to use. It is not a science, it depends on your sources. And on whether you include in the devastating and no longer separable mix of fiat, giral and other confidence-based but essentially uncovered moneys, debt certificates, derivatives and other instruments the hopelessly corrupted financial market still manages to fool its players with.

So instead of preserving the world's remaining islands of sanity and stability as possible refuges from the financial tsunamis, as recovery and regeneration platforms for the future, the myopic and self-serving flat earth IRS and other casino players continue to be allowed to exploit and destroy these islands while the music is still playing. They use the old trick of "preaching water and drinking wine". Deftly, they have occupied the moral high ground of fighting real and made-believe criminals. Yes, the IRS grandstanders who seek to hunt down without mercy alleged US tax dodgers may have a case not unlike that of the Prohibition enforcers, and of those who, infamously, tried to deny US citizens the right to possess physical gold. Yes, they may "legally" pursue unpaid tax claims abroad for some $500 mio/y - if the principle of territoriality is ignored, that is. But as in the case of the Prohibition, we should not ignore the social and other costs involved. We should put into the balance the damage associated with these campaigns to other US interests and the havoc and costs inflicted on the world banking community. And if we take into consideration that all this state-supported Pharisaism essentially serves to cover up the some 1000 times more important IRS money laundering machine, we are in fact facing yet another category of apparent untouchables who cause immeasurable economic, social and political damage. Having arrogated themselves the mantle of globally operating "policemen", they recklessly but effectively risk to bring about their own sorry no-future sort of level-playing field. The question is: why should we let them jeopardise any further our all future?

Acknowledgement
This paper was written in response to Barry Rider's invitation. It reflects the Symposium organisers' growing doubts as to "whether economic crime, as it is understood today, really is a major threat to the integrity and stability of the financial system; or whether in fact there are far greater threats and consequently whether we have perhaps responded disproportionately to such issues as money laundering, corruption and insider abuse." And it draws on critics and inputs kindly offered by: Eric Delissy, Jürg Egli, Bodo Elbert, Hans Geiger, Jean Hulliger, Peter B. Kalff, Johann Keller. Jean-René Mermoud, Patrick Martin, Patrick Masters, Eric Reyhl, René Scheidegger, Andreas Schweizer, Gian Trepp, David Zollinger a.o. The author is alone responsible for eventual errors.


30th Cambridge International Symposium on Economic Crime
September 2-9, 2012 - Economic Crime: Surviving the Fall, The Myths and Realities - Session I
  Does Economic Crime really matter in the world of today?
Prof. Hans Geiger, Zurich

Monday, 3rd September 2012   -   First, I would like to thank Barry Rider for again inviting me to this year’s symposium. I always enjoy these stimulating days at Jesus College and the contact with so many good friends.

In his invitational letter Barry asked a very Barry-like and thought-provoking question, which he implicitly answered himself indirectly.

“This initial session seeks to address whether economic crime, as it is understood today, really is a major threat to the integrity and stability of the financial system; or whether in fact there are far greater threats and consequently whether we have perhaps responded disproportionately to such issues as money laundering, corruption and insider abuse.“
My answers are, very briefly: NO, YES.
NO, economic crime is not a major threat to the stability of the financial system.
YES, there are far greater threats to financial stability than money laundering, corruption and insider abuse.
In my answers I will concentrate on the issue of the stability of the financial system and leave aside the other aspect of Barry Rider’s question: integrity. I suspect that my two short answers would be unsuitable for the question of integrity. This would mean that the financial system has become or will become very inefficient. In a financial system without integrity there is no trust between the participants. And if there is no trust, the system will become highly inefficient, because trust has to be replaced by formalities, rules, laws, controls, collateral, supervisors, policemen, punishment etc.

Let me elaborate on my second short answer:
YES, there are far greater threats to financial stability than money laundering, corruption and insider abuse.
Here is a list of these other threats:

-    Surprisingly, the biggest threat came and still comes from the regulators of the banks, i.e. from those authorities which are mandated to promote financial stability. The first objective of the Basel Committee is “to promote safety and soundness in the financial system“.
-    Another big threat comes from the central banks that print money like crazy. They flood the financial system with what they call “liquidity”, which is a synonym for “central bank debt”. The central banks are encouraged or forced to do so by their governments.
-    The third big threat, you will not be surprised, are the governments, which on their part, accumulate large amounts of debt which they will be unable to service at market conditions in the future.
There is one common denominator behind the three institutions Banks, Central Banks and Governments that a colleague calls the “trio infernale”. I prefer the French expression “ménage à trois” (love triangle). This common denominator that is responsible for the instability of the financial system is indebtedness or leverage.
-    The regulators introduced capital adequacy rules – the key words are Basel II and Basel III – which allowed the banks to overleverage their balance sheets. They allowed the banks to apply their own internal methods of measuring risk, and they accepted the most dangerous and misleading measure of risk in the capital adequacy rules: Value at Risk (VaR). VaR is a measure for the maximum loss which will occur with a probability of 99 %. The crisis – the phase of instability – is a rare and extreme situation, i.e. it is always outside the 99 % probability range. So for the purpose of our argument, we should redefine the VaR as the “minimum loss in the case of crisis or instability”. The regulators and supervisors made a big mistake when they accepted the proposal of the big international banks to apply this risk metric for the purpose of prudential regulation. The regulators are still under the influence of the big international banks and financial institutions, which are organized in the IIF, Institute of International Finance.
-    The governments are the 3rd threat to financial stability. Over the last 40 years, the governments of the western world have accumulated large debt burdens on their balance sheets and even bigger ones off-balance sheet, i.e. for the welfare and social security commitments. When the financial crisis and the following economic crisis hit the world the public finances got completely out of control. Today, the financial commitments of most western countries exceed their financial capacity. This is not only true for Greece or Spain, but for Great Britain, the US and Germany as well.
-    The third party in the “ménage à a trois” is the central bank. Since the financial crisis central banks have blown up their balance sheets enormously, printing money which they invested in banks, which in turn they invested it in government bonds. The banks use the government bonds as collateral to borrow more money from the central bank, and so it goes on.
How will this end? Barry Rider did not ask that question. I will nevertheless answer it: In the end, the debt will be reduced by high inflation and devaluation. Over many centuries, this has been the most successful option for governments. And if they cannot achieve the necessary high inflation, they will simply default on their debt.

29th Cambridge International Symposium on Economic Crime
Session XVI: Proportionality in legal and regulatory responses – 10th Sep. 2011
(oral presentation)
.
Adam Smith's failing "invisible hand"
Do we really need, do we really want more of the same,
i.e. more regulation, more bureaucratic compliance, more Potemkin Villages?
Might not measures to enhance our sense for proportional individual responsibility
serve us all better?
Anton Keller, Secretary, Swiss Investors Protection Association  -  (url: www.solami.com/proportionality.htm)
inputs by: E.Delissy, H.Geiger, B.Kappeler, B.Lietaer, P.Martin, P.Masters, J.Mermoud, R.Rahn, E.Reyhl, A.Schweizer, G.Trepp, ao
.../porkbellies.htm ¦ .../capitalism.html ¦ .../outofthebox.htm ¦ .../WIR.htm ¦ .../ponzi.htm ¦ .../QI.htm ¦ ../USvsUBS.htm¦ .../diamantball.htm
.../caisses.htm ¦ .../ripoff.htm ¦ .../goldies.htm ¦ .../swissbanks.htm ¦ .../costbenefit.htm ¦ .../oecdmandate.htm ¦ .../crime.htm ¦ .../glasnost.htm
.../vision/htm¦ ...DSK.htm  -  tks 4 notification of errors, comments & suggestions: +4122-7400362 ¦ swissbit@solami.com - copyright
.
This is what you see all over the world. The rules are not for the elite. The elite are always living above the law.
Eva Joly in: "J'accuse - Investigating Iceland’s financiers", Financial Times (11/14/09)
.
  This morning, we heard that of all places, Sharia councils effectively mean to provide for individual confidentiality and privacy. In startling contrast to that, three days ago I heard here a member of the powerful Board of Governors of the US Federal Reserve System saying repeatedly, unabashedly and with a straight face: "We, as an institution, are against privacy, we are against bank secrecy."  I invite you to reflect on the enormity of this latter assertion. And to ponder what the two statements, taken together, really mean for America and the rest of the world, for where we are heading.

  Tomorrow, the world will remember 9/11. Ten years of anti-terrorism - and no end in sight! How many key freedoms, rights & responsibilities have survived, how many are under siege? You probably also remember the fall of the Berlin Wall. If my memory is correct, it did fall in our direction of more freedom. But that's not the impression you get these days. I see the energizing Glasnost postulate of the transparent administration turned upside down. Instead of freer and strengthened citizens, I see ever more denuded and weakened working poor. I notice a finance system under artificial animation and in a state of impending collapse. It is a system which lost its mooring, purpose and orientation. It mutated into a self-serving cancerous casino preying on life-sustaining yet rapidly depleted fat of the real, the still producing economy. It ruined privacy and other essential freedoms, created monkey-money riches for the reckless, and undermined the social fabric, hassling mainly ordinary citizens.

   Discriminatory regulatory mayhem is created in particular by egocentric and out-of-control bureaucrats at the IRS, the EU, the OECD and elsewhere. Just think of the IRS' illegal Qualified Intermediary and its even worse monster, the surreptitiously enacted Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (FATCA). And observe how the OECD - the once shining anti-pode to the ill-fated COMECON - was hijacked to become a bureaucratic anti-market, anti-liberty and anti-sovereignty machine. Whatever proportionality and balance there once was, and without questioning the market itself, it is as if Adam Smith's "invisible hand" was to favor myopic reckless self-promotion, self-serving and greed. That's the ugly big picture as I have come to understand it. Fortunately, the other side of this coin offers a more positive outlook - if you care, that is, to keep people on the job, particularly when the chips are down.

   But first, let me get to nuts and bolts. Let me turn to the evolving law enforcement practices of hunting tax cheats and asset seizures which many of you seem to cherish as a silver bullet.  I can understand why this is so. But for a moment I'd like you to change your hat. I'd like you to look at matters from the perspective of the ordinary citizen who - out of the blue - finds himself slammed with an asset freeze. I'm not talking of the mafia and similar criminals who - preposterously, as I've reported to you in previous years (2008, 2010) - can use the IRS' QI system for washing their ill-gotten billions below the radar of ordinary constraints. I'm concerned about you and me who - in a sea of growing storms and thus quite legitimately - seek to protect the fruits of our labors in a safe haven offering stability, reliability and privacy. Lex americana universalis has hurt US citizens and its export position. Not only Swiss banks have become infected with an all-pervasive anti-business compliance mentality. Many have been armtwisted into abandoning their proud and successful tradition of defending their clients against the ills of time. Being stampeded into becoming agents of foreign taxmen, even violating fiduciary duties and betraying some clients will cause intolerable harm, not least for Americans. We'll see whether, on this track, they still have much of a future worth talking about.

   The Wall Street Journal recently summarised the situation in the US under the heading "Federal Asset Seizures Rise, Netting Innocent With Guilty" (8/22/11). It reported on last year's 3700 criminal and 11,000 non-criminal forfeiture cases, with a total take topping $2.5 billion. Some consider this "a tool of 'critical' importance in taking away the ill-gotten gains of international criminal organizations". Others point out that the $500 millionthe federal government paid out in 2010 under its "equitable-sharing" program to cash-strapped law enforcement bodies actually gives "authorities an 'improper profit incentive' to seize assets". The Journal highlighted the some 400 federal statutes which allow asset seizure. True, in the Madoff case, "federal officials are in the process of recovering over $6.5 billion" in addition to the $650 million already distributed to victims - which amounts to some 10, respectively 1% of the total fraud. But here again, the system often favors the big guys, invites abuses and is rife with conflicts of interest. Not to mention the difficult-to-justify violations of the constitutional garantee that “No person shall be… deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law.”

   Almost ten years ago to this day, Richard Rahn was among the few Americans who managed to attend this symposium despite 9/11. His and others' Philippika against various governmental intrusions solemnly warned against all sorts of privacy breaches. He spoke out in favor of solid police work but against shortcuts which are often disproportionate if not useless, costly and indeed harmful. And he specifically questioned suspicious activity reports, asset seizures and other modern forms of McCarthyisms.  Despite of the traumatic 9/11 experience, he and some 15 other former US lawmakers and administration officials set up a task force whose "Report on Financial Privacy, Law Enforcement and Terrorism" of May 2002 still makes worthwhile enlightening reading.

   Switzerland's Constitution reminds us that "only those who use their freedom remain free".  By withstanding the foreign pressures to underwrite the 900% of  GDP debt follies of some of Iceland's private bankers, the citizens of Iceland have successfully and exemplarily shown both the importance and the validity of that fundamental principle. Significantly, Bernard Lietaer, the former Belgian central banker and Euro co-founder, has come around to favor national currencies. He even says that the persistantly strong resistance of the Swiss economy to the globally observed economic contractions "is not at all because of Switzerland's bank secrecy, Swiss chocolate or Swiss quality". But that it is mainly due to an obscure 77-year old self-help system, i.e. the anti-cyclical and anti-depression cooperative WIR bank. To the tune of some CHF 2bn/y mind you, this time-tested system helps a quarter of Switzerland's small and medium enterprises to stay in business even in hard times. This complementary currency, the WIR franc, keeps people indeed on the job when the chips are down. Some observers think such a local-content currency might be helpful and possible even in -countries, such as Greece, France and Germany (in the US, Utah has already reintroduced de-fiscalised gold).

   In conclusion, Adam Smith's "invisible hand" is seen to offer only a one-dimensional rendering of the market mechanisms - as if the market were made up of ponzi-playing apprentice-sorcerers seeking quickies, e.g. ephemeral individual pleasures and gains (like those from high frequency casinos). In fact, there is no substitute for the real thing if one aims at mutually beneficial, real-world results, like making a child. And while in the latter case nature provides for a real penis, society's leaders cannot rely on mostly micro-economic laws to provide for the necessary common good Leitplanken (guidelines). Inspired by the Austrian school, I brought with me a work-in-progress paper (www.solami.com/porkbellies.htm) which looks at the multi-dimensional genesis of the still-evolving monetary crisis, and seeks to identify practical pathways for overcoming its adverse effects. Your contribution would be welcome.


29th Cambridge International Symposium on Economic Crime
Session XVI: Proportionality in legal and regulatory responses – 10th Sep. 2011
[work-in-progress: draft 16 - 30.8.11].
This is what you see all over the world. The rules are not for the elite. The elite are always living above the law.
Eva Joly in: "J'accuse - Investigating Iceland’s financiers", Financial Times (11/14/09)
..
Adam Smith revisited: Looking back/forward towards financial sanity
Anton Keller, Secretary, Swiss Investors Protection Association(url: www.solami.com/porkbellies.htm)
inputs by: E.Delissy, H.Geiger, B.Kappeler, B.Lietaer, P.Martin, P.Masters, J.Mermoud, R.Rahn, E.Reyhl, A.Schweizer, G.Trepp, ao
.../capitalism.html ¦ .../outofthebox.htm ¦ .../WIR.htm ¦ .../ponzi.htm ¦ ...visionaries.htm¦ .../QI.htm ¦ ../USvsUBS.htm ¦ .../diamantball.htm
.../caisses.htm ¦ .../ripoff.htm ¦ .../goldies.htm ¦ .../swissbanks.htm ¦ .../costbenefit.htm ¦ .../oecdmandate.htm ¦ .../crime.htm ¦ .../glasnost.htm
.../vision/htm¦ ...DSK.htm  -  tks 4 notification of errors, comments & suggestions: +4122-7400362 ¦ swissbit@solami.com- copyright
     Switzerland's Constitution reminds us that "only those who use their freedom remain free".  By withstanding the foreign pressures to underwrite the 900% of GDP debt follies of some of Iceland's private bankers, the citizens of Iceland have successfully and exemplarily shown both the importance and the validity of that fundamental principle. Significantly, Bernard Lietaer, the former Belgian central banker and Euro co-founder, has come around to favor national currencies. He even says that the persistantly strong resistance of the Swiss economy to the globally observed economic contractions "is not at all because of Switzerland's bank secrecy, Swiss chocolate or Swiss quality". But that it is mainly due to an obscure 77-year old self-help system, i.e. the anti-cyclical and anti-depression cooperative WIR bank. To the tune of some CHF 2bn/y mind you, this time-tested system helps a quarter of Switzerland's small and medium enterprises to stay in business even in hard times. This complementary currency, the WIR franc, keeps people indeed on the job when the chips are down. Some observers think such a local-content currency might be helpful and possible even in €-countries, such as Greece, France and Germany (in the US, Utah has already reintroduced de-fiscalised gold). By the same token, Adam Smith's "invisible hand" is seen to offer only a one-dimensional rendering of the market mechanisms - as if the market were made up of ponzi-playing apprentice-sorcerers seeking quickies, e.g. ephemeral individual pleasures and gains (like those of high frequency casinos). In fact, there is no substitute for the real thing if one aims at mutually beneficial, real-world results, like making a child. And while in the latter case nature provides for a real penis, society's leaders cannot rely on mostly micro-economic laws to provide for the necessary common good Leitplanken (guidelines). Inspired by the Austrian school, this paper looks at the multi-dimensional genesis of the evolving monetary crisis, and seeks to identify practical pathways for overcoming its adverse effects.
  "Garbage in, garbage out" is re-stating the obvious in computer-speak. A rotten apple contaminates all apples in a basket. Financial institutions & their products are subject to similar decay mechanisms. True, rotten food can be radiated or frozen, but there is no way to recover it for consumption. Yes, freezing rotten meat facilitates its cutting.  But unless you've lost your sense of smell, better not unfreeze or even unpackage it. And if you care about your clients' and your own future standing, better not bring it to market, not even to the latter's back-office, the casino. And if you are a gourmet who also keeps in your freezer a perfect-quality riz-de-veau, any prolonged electricity cut will quickly turn even your triple-A delicatessen into embarassingly all-penetrating dead body-alikes.
  Nonsensical, not seen to be related to current events, or simply not-invented-here? Ok: replace garbage, rotten food and delicatessen with junk bonds, subprime mortgages and neatly-bundled structured products, and electricity with confidence, and you should get the picture and the smell - as well as an inkling of how to get out of this mess.

In a nutshell then, that is seen to be the surface story of what happened creepingly in the wake of the 1969/71 unmooring of the dollar as the world's lead currency. When fixed currency ratios and gold coverage began to be replaced with sophisms and hot air. When industrialists and international traders of real goods saw a need to effectively protect themselves against currency swings as a serious threat to their business. When they thus welcomed and joined hands with risk-takers in order to complement their ancient and time-tested practice of hedging against natural and political volatilities  When bets on pork bellies and other contracts thus began to give rise to and feed an investment world which became more and more divorced from the real thing, i.e. from both the real economy and its underlying principles and values. When bets thus took on a currency life of their own, evolved into a parallel market, and became an uncontrolled source of "high-yield" funny money. When tinkering with solid but unprepared real economy entities was hyped as shareholder-driven financial engineering, aka leveraged buyouts, aka sucking indispensable, for life-sustaining, fat from healthy firms. And when, willy-nilly, pension fund managers were authorized, even pushed to abandon time-tested investment principles in favor of high-yield yet substance-diluting and bubble-creating investments.

    Thus new and allegedly doable Ponzi operations, account churnings, naked short sellings and other formerly illegal schemings became fashionable. Not least because they paled the remunerations of traditional banking and other fiduciary functions. They included the IRS' QI (later its even worse FATCA), and the non-governmental U.S. FED's issuing key-stroke Monopoly Monkey Money (MMM) hidden behind its M3-discontinuance since March 06. And they evolved as key parts of a reckless, everything-goes political culture favored by the powers that be. Checks and balances were made a mockery of, and supervisors here & there were discouraged, were left unable to perform their fiduciary functions or were sandbagged with cronies, dilettantes and worse. As if by design, client-unfriendly services, products, toxic investment vehicles & blindingly high-yield junk bonds flicked over the supervisory agencies' radar screens essentialy unchallenged. Thus hundreds of billions of dollars were lost annually for both the taxpayers and the public treasury. The citizens' confidence in both the state and the market was badly undermined. And some structured products, like the tax-dodge derivatives, gave a bad name even to tax avoidance, i.e. to the market economy's very key pillar. All of which contributed to the self-feeding market-turned-casino frenzy of unsustainable bonus & manager payments on the back of more or less greedy, gullible and unwittingly abused investors and other stakeholders.

    Speaking of casinos, they are seen to have social and economic channeling functions not unlike those attributed to some heavy-hitting sports - including blood games in Roman times - and wars (outstandingly illustrated in: "REPORT FROM IRON MOUNTAIN - On the Possibility and Desirability of Peace", attributed to John W. Galbraith et al.). Like horse races, lotto and even Russian roulette bets, they constitute safety valves for human traits, aberrations and underlaying forces, providing a kick, motivation, or drive for escaping stagnant doldrums in favor of new horizons and more or less risky but potentially rewarding enterprises or adventures. Having been a core part of the evolutionary process, society has both benefited and suffered from these dualistic mechanisms. Thereby, the embodiment of time-tested principles, values and insights, i.e. religious, economic, political and other society-organizing institutions, have been seeking to stimulate, tolerate or discourage their application, and thus to either channel or suppress the associated forces with rules, laws and regulations. The history of the taking of interest, its prohibition, and its - conditional - readmission by Calvin and others is an instructive case in point ("Fair Interest [5%]: Seven Criteria of Calvin the Reformer", Christoph Stückelberger; "Calvin would oppose today's capitalism, fiscal idolatry & material focus", Henry G. Brinton; "Calvin and Geneva"; "The Idea of Usury, from Tribal Brotherhood to Universal Otherhood", Benjamin N. Nelson,; "Prohibition of Interest in Christianity & Judaism"). Another one is the history concerning the prohibition of alcohol which had to be lifted due to its social and political side-effects. As will be the likely fate of the still on-going prohibition of other drugs with their similarly unsustainable social, economic and political ramifications.

    To be sure, the above aberrations of the financial market, this paradigma change, did not occur without strong resistance by those moored in self-limiting discipline and time-tested principles. By those who have always been sceptical of what Edgar Salin called the "model carpenters", i.e. the made-believe financial geniuses and apprentice-sorcerers. And, of course, the latters' ego-, greed- and/or herd-driven masters who saw themselves fit - or compelled - to ignore their own and their clients' common sense reflexes. Or to let them be overridden with blinding algorithms and other mascarading gimmicks. They thus pursued the folly that in finance, of all places, there is such a thing as a perpetuum mobile. That the sky is the limit. And that the inevitable collaps of the resultant Monopoly Monkey Money balloon, will not really matter for the real economy.

    Lest I veer off too far from my assigned topic, let me turn to the law enforcement practice of asset seizure which many of you seem to cherish as a silver bullet, but which is also seen to cause growing and disproportionate havoc in our free society. The Wall Street Journal recently summarised the situation in the US under the heading "Federal Asset Seizures Rise, Netting Innocent With Guilty" (8/22/11). It reported on last year's 3700 criminal and 11'000 non-criminal forfeiture cases. It highlighted the some 400 federal statutes which allow asset seizure. And while it pointed out that in the Madoff case, "federal officials are in the process of recovering over $6.5 billion" in addition to the $650 million already distributed to victims - which amounts to some 10, respectively 1 % of the total fraud -, the other side of the coin brings to light abuses, glaring conflicts of interest, and difficult-to-justify violations of the constitutional garantee that “No person shall be… deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law.” Almost ten years ago to this day, Richard Rahn was among the few Americans who managed to attend this symposium despite 9/11. His and others' Philippika against various governmental intrusions solemnly warned against all sorts of liberty constraints and excessive, for disproportionate if not useless, costly and indeed harmful controls, such as suspicious activity reports, asset seizures and other modern forms of McCarthyisms. Dispite of the traumatic 9/11 experience, he and some 15 other former US lawmakers and administration officials set up a task force whose "Report on Financial Privacy, Law Enforcement and Terrorism" of May 2002 still makes worthwhile, for enlightening reading.

    Heeding the siren calls from accross the Atlantic, notably the UBS and its allies at the Swiss Bankers Association have been seen in the vanguard of these ill-considered, ill-advised and unsavory developments. Tellingly, the traditionally conservative Swiss Government and Parliament have thus been stampeded into suspending some of Switzerland's sovereign defenses and, in the early eighties already, have introduced financial norms and rules which are seen as contributing, if not triggering events on the road to global financial disaster. But the mechanisms that, in the real economy, too brought us Kaiseraugst, Zwentendorf, Creys-Malville, Kalkar and other White Elephants are still - and essentially unabated - at work, as can be seen in the undignified and hugely self-damaging Swiss bowing to US, EU and, preposterously, even purely bureaucratic OECD pressures. In honor of Jacques Rueff and the other numerous visionary economists, politicians and professionals who sounded the tocsin in time but in vain, the following is a brief outline of Swiss lawmaker and other related events. And which, as such, may also inspire corrective measures on both the national and the international level.

.




28th Cambridge International Symposium on Economic Crime
The New Deal – ensuring integrity, stability and survival
Session XIII:  Policing Integrity – the Offshore dimension, 10th Sep. 2010

by Anton Keller, Secretary, Swiss Investors Protection Association - swissbit@solami.com - url: www.solami.com/vision.htm
related e-books:.../capitalism.html ¦  ...visionaries.htm ¦ .../polanskirecord.htm ¦ .../haftbefehl.htm ¦ .../extradition/.htm
.../glasnost.htm ¦ ...crime.htm ¦ .../porkbellies.htm ¦ .../utopia.htm ¦ .../USvsUBS.htm ¦ .../Strasbourg.htm ¦ .../ripoff.htm

Providing legitimacy in the opaque QI world

You do not have to take my word for it. But when I look out of my ivory tower, figuratively speaking, I see the world upside down, the gravitational forces and other fundamental laws reversed, and water running uphill. That, of course, may be because I'm living on the continent, up in the alps, and in fact even above the clouds. Which may not only expose me to too much sunshine, but also to the dizziness effects of high altitudes. So, you may now prefer to take an early coffee break. -- And for the rest of us, you've now been forewarned to take my words with a grain of salt.

Speaking of this year's symposium theme, I'm more inclined to focus on survival, and to leave the task of ensuring integrity and stability to those who busy themselves - as Ernst Friedrich Schumacher would say - with optimising the arrangement of the deck chairs on the Titanic.

Which is not to say a return to integrity won't be part of the survival solution. But it is to stress that bad behaviour by parents is not going to assure good education of children. And governments have given very bad examples when they abandoned the family father discipline and principles. Ie in that they unmoored their currencies from gold. In that they undercut the citizens' sense of responsibility by re-instating Prohibition, ie by burdening and even criminalizing ever more domains of civil society. And in that they encouraged betrayal, theft and fencing by buying and exploiting stolen bank client data.

Let me call a spade a spade. To begin with, the United States is broke. And that's not even news anymore. At least not since the Congressional Budget Office released in June 2010 its Long-Term Budget Outlook. Not since the International Monetary Fund doubled up in July with its two reports, titled Financial Stability Set Back as Sovereign Risks Materialize and its Report 10/248 on the United States (Section 6). And not since an inquisitive Boston University professor added one and one and Bloomberg published his, ie Laurence Kotlikoff's sobering analysis under the title "U.S. Is Bankrupt and We Don't Even Know It" (Bloomberg, August 11, 2010). Looking at the US government's unfunded entitlements, the IMF revealed that “closing the fiscal gap requires a permanent annual fiscal adjustment equal to about 14 percent of U.S. GDP.” Based on this and the CBO data, Kotlikoff calculated a present value "fiscal gap of $202 trillion, which is more than 15 times the official debt. ... The annual  costs ... will total about $4 trillion". To fund that gap, the IMF study shows that the US would have to double its taxes. Wryly, Kotlikoff observes: "This is what happens when you run a massive Ponzi scheme for six decades straight, taking ever larger resources from the young and giving them to the old while promising the young their eventual turn at passing the generational buck. ... Uncle Sam’s Ponzi scheme will stop. But it will stop too late. And it will stop in a very nasty manner."

Lest the creditors of the US take note too clearly, lose their cool and stampede the rest of the world into disaster, some people have sounded the tocsin (see index of related texts). The world's out-of-control sovereign debt Ponzi schemes should indeed be rained in before the once-triple-A greenback will have soured to a triple-M paper, ie to Monopoly monkey money. But I venture to predict that the disciplinary part won't, and the triple M part will happen. With even more damaging financial tsunamis hitting our societies. For human nature being what it is, and power politics functioning the way they are, the established mechanisms of decision-making in Washington, Beijing, Moscow and Berlin - not to speak of the host country - are all locked in to stay the course. Ie on the road to the abyss of war and/or global social and political turmoil, not excluding a breakup of the United States, the EU and China along their rising fault lines.

The Tea Party adepts, New Age soothsayers, and modern Prohibitionists are right in one respect: there won't be any painless remedy to avoid the collapse of the global monetary system without some disciplining strict re-mooring of the currencies in universally recognisable and recognized real values. To be sure, for achieving that daunting task, gold avails itself only qualitatively any more. Let's then take a look at the crystal ball, and see how a deus ex machina solution could look like.

In 1998, the IMF's managing director Michel Camdessus famously estimated the world's underground economy to account for between 2 and 5 percent of the world's gross domestic product . This would now translate to about $1 and 2.5 trillion per year.

In the dualistic real world, good can exisit only in opposition to bad. Therefore, it makes sense not to assume the underground economy to go away - or do-gooder institutions to make things much better, if not indeed often much worse. Moral questions notwithstanding, bringing the world's illicit trillions back into the "white economy" in a democratically controlled way appears worth considering. For it might make a real dent on the debt problem and facilitate a return to real-value-based currencies which deserve and will regain the market's confidence.

Is such a system in sight?
Yes, with the exception of its democratic control, it has even been in place since January 2001. By now, it's operated behind the back of constitutional lawmakers in more than 50 countries, with some 7000 banks signed up.

Who designed it with which partners?
Some gurus at the US Treasury and the IRS way back in the nineties. Their initial partner was the UBS with whom they worked out the model agreement.  That was in return for special arrangements for UBS clients in the US (incidentally, these arrangements and their unilateral abrogation by current US office holders are at the core of the UBS' ongoing troubles in the US).

How does the system work, how effective is it, and who controls the thus white-washed funds?
Behind a smokescreen of a 30% withholding tax for foreign-based income, a hidden 28% special "backup withholding tax" on capital (not only income, mind you) is available for clients who are willing to pay dearly for keeping the government off their back, with mutually trustworthy private foreign banks collecting these funds as IRS agents acting under US law. Estimated current global rake-in for this special anonymity tax is north of $500 bn, with official figures kept under lock, and no congressional control in place over the use of these funds.

How could this system be adapted for more mutually beneficial ends?
As a follow-up to the IMF's current studies on the underground economy, the IMF might be charged with transferring this so-called Qualified Intermediary, or QI system into the hands of their member and other interested countries. Of course, some have already called this system the world's biggest money-laundering machine. But think again. In the Polanski extradition battle, California's Court of Appeal exhorted all parties to uphold the principle which places "the integrity of the criminal justice system above the desire to punish any one individual". If higher interests are to prevail, it makes sense to plea bargain with criminals, to negotiate with the Talibans, with Hamas and with the PKK, and to de-criminalize drugs. It made sense for Gaddafi to release some 400 Lybian Jihad fighters from prison. And it would have made sense for Columbia's drug baron to be paroled against payment of Columbia's national debts. Just as America's WW II alliance with the Mafia helped liberating Italy, saved lives and shortened the war.

But mind you, all of that will come to naught unless the G20 [+ Switzerland] countries will enforce a policy of printing only real new money backed up by real values.

Also sprach Zarathustra.



"Le secret est aussi nécessaire à la valeur de l'argent que l'intérêt."Jean-René Mermoud

Glasnost revisited

26th Cambridge International Symposium on Economic Crime, Banking on Trouble
panel "Privacy, Confidentiality and Privilege – things of the past?" 6 Sep 2008
by  Anton Keller, Secretary, Swiss Investors Protection Association, url: www.solami.com/glasnost.htm
 ../gold.htm ¦ ../barbarians.htm ¦ ../capitalism.htm ¦ .../buccaneers.htm ¦ ../crime.htm ¦ ../costbenefit.htm ¦ ../oecdmandate.htm
.../diamantball.htm ¦ .../1929.htm ¦ .../hedge.htm ¦ .../bubbles.htm ¦ .../swissbanks.htm ¦ .../warfare.htm ¦ .../lexhelvetica.htm
tks 4 notifying errors, ommissions & suggestions: +4122-7400362 ¦ swissbit@solami.com

First, when the Nazis came for the communists, I didn't speak out, for I wasn't a communist.
Then they locked up the socialists, and I didn't speak out, for I wasn't a socialist.
Then they came for the Jews, and I remained silent, for I wasn't a Jew.
Then they took on the Catholics, and I didn’t speak out, for I was a Protestant.
And when they came for me, there was no one left to speak out for me either.
by Pastor Martin Niemöller (1892–1984)

"If ye love wealth better than liberty, the tranquillity of servitude more than the animating contest of freedom,
go home from us in peace. We ask not your counsels or arms.  Crouch down and lick the hands which feed you.
May your chains sit lightly upon you, and may posterity forget that ye were our countrymen."
Samuel Adams (American Revolutionary Leader), "American Independence," 1 August 1776


Foreseeably, my predecessors on this panel have almost pre-empted what can and needs to be said on the future of privacy, confidentiality and privilege in financial matters. As last speaker, Barry may thus have given me the sad task of hammering a final nail into the coffin of time-tested but no longer politically correct banking practices. Or he may have wanted to pull my leg and thus definitely get rid of this unrepentant perennial troublemaker as I seem to have angered many symposium sponsors with apparently outdated "dangerous" ideas. True, over the past seven years, I have persistently run against the grain and have thus somewhat been the odd man out in this charming setting. Happy to say then, I hope I will disappoint everybody in either case.

    "Banking on Trouble" - alas, not "Banking in Trouble" - is this year's main symposium theme. Of course, all of you probably agree that "Banking in Trouble" would indeed be quite fitting to what's currently going on in the world of financial wizzardry, where apprentice sorcerers, greed gurus and other adepts of financial perpetuum mobiles run roughshod. But with all due respect to each one of you: who has ever seriously questioned his or her contributing role in the runup to this alarming state of affairs? Trouble is now engulfing all of us from many corners. But if not you, as pillars of the lawmaking and the law-enforcing community, who then is not also "Banking on Trouble", is not also in some way a direct beneficiary from, even depending and feeding on, and thus contributing to society's and the economy's current woes? In Goethe's turned-around words, you could say: I am the force which always wants to do good but often causes the opposite!
    I recognize only a few on this rostrum and in the audience who share the analysis, that on many fronts we have reached - if not already surpassed - the apogee of the Rider curve which, like the Laffer curve in taxation, indicates limits, diminishing returns and even counter-productive effects of penalising laws and practices. To give you a current example, I may draw your attention to the ardent petition efforts to legalise drugs by our long-time symposium alumnus and former Chief Constable, Tom Lloyd. Other brilliant testimonies on older examples have been given notably by Brooklyn Law School professor Henry Mark Holzer who wrote up the hilarious story on "How [back in the thirties] Americans Lost Their Right To Own Gold And Became Criminals in the Process".
    But - as Richard Rahn, Hans Geiger and other comrades-in-arms have pointed out before - instead of drawing lessons and inspiration from the Prohibition and similar costly social, economic and political failures, we think up new Prohibitions, Gulags and anti-liberty, anti-privacy and anti-sovereignty Orwellian schemes. Carnivore's & Echelon's global surveillance of telecommunications reportedly is being complemented by an even more all-penetrating and all-embracing electronic recording system right here in England. And the New York Times reported recently that the Pentagon is preparing for future, irregular wars, involving also "information operations and computer net-ops and then begin to expand into threat finance, economic development, criminalization and international law enforcement.”
    In contrast to the advertised goal of promoting democracy - i.e. the form of self-government which, if you think of it, is illusionary without truly free, informed & responsible citizens -, we see bureaucratic lawmaking gaining the upper hand everywhere. We see an ever-growing array of artificially blown up external & internal threats to serve as excuses for ever more political manipulations, with State powers ammassed at the expense of the rights & responsibilities of citizens. And we see the institutions originally created to protect and serve the citizens to turn the latter into obedient zombies and servants of the self-serving and all-powerful State. For those who forgot or missed it: Glasnost was the political program for giving the citizen a transparent State, and not the other way around. But that, of course, was before the Berlin Wall fell. And though it fell in our direction if I remember correctly, I wonder why it is that some of our key Western institutions, such as the OECD and the no-future EU, look like the last remnants of discredited Kremlin policies. Or have I missed something here?
Actually, after all my past philippics against OECD, FATF, UN and other anti-citizen bodies, Barry wanted me to report to you on a super-macchiavellian scheme which provides for the collection of a Mafia-type protection fee of 31% for funds which were placed abroad anonymously for eventual reinvestment in the US market. Even US persons can use this channel - at 31% not of interest but of principal, mind you! This scheme carries the name of Qualified Intermediary or QI Agreement. Designed and operated by the US tax authority IRS, it is in fact the world's biggest money-laundering machine, turning a big chunk - some estimate exceed $500 bn/y - of the globally and annually accruing some $2 trillion of black funds into IRS-protected "cleaned money". Bruce Zagaris, others and I have tried to kill this monster in the bud, i.e. even before it came into force on January 1, 2001. Not surprisingly, we encountered the most ferocious opposition from some of the scheme's biggest co-beneficiaries, i.e. the involved some 7000 accredited - and fee-collecting - fiduciaries and QI banks from all over the globe.
    Apparently, the IRS smelled the rat and refused to comply with my information requests. So I cannot now report to you more precise official figures. Not surprising either, as we've become accustomed to sanitized US inflation & unemployment figures. And as we let ourselves be blinded, since 2006, on the crucial US M3 money supply. But you may now understand why I can't take seriously any of the hogwash about alleged petty money laundering. And why I call into question the justifications given for any related liberty, privacy and privilege constraint. For they are not only threatening time-tested, efficient and reliable money transfer systems, but are hamstringing legitimate businesses and international trade and commerce. Things are not made any better by the fact that these constraints are peddled and even pushed down the throat of sovereign authorities by a nude Emperor, i.e. the purely self-serving bureaucratic organization FATF which is devoid of any legal basis.
    My nutshell answer to the panel question is thus: The world financial system is unmoored. Regulatory make-ups won't wash. Confidence is key. Some gold link may help. Most importantly, the sovereign, the re-responsibilized free citizen must again be recognized. Lex americana universalis must be thrown out - in line with what the Magna Carta king pledged in 1215: "We will not appoint justices, ... sheriffs, or bailiffs, except of such as know the law of the kingdom and are of a mind to keep it well."Applied to today's Switzerland, lex helvetica is called for - i.e. Swiss officials must again know & heed Swiss interests, rights & laws. Beyond that, your actions & inactions will determine whether the above-outlined charade & hugely damaging global hypocricy is to be continued. Whether you can look into your mirror & in your childrens' eyes and admit that you, too are part of the problem - as a precondition that you can become part of the solution. To that effect, be reminded of the American Revolutionary Samuel Adams' riot act. And be invited to ponder Martin Niemöller's "poem" as your own guidepost.



Privacy: Threat or Boost to Integrity?
From Hijacked Anti-Terrorism Laws to Promoting Individual Responsibility

by Anton Keller, Secretary, Swiss Investors Protection Association, +4122-7400362, swissbit@solami.com
Cambridge International Symposium on Economic Crime, Workshop 28, 8 September 2006
 url: www.solami.com/crime.htm ¦ .../costbenefit.htm ¦ .../oecdmandate.htm ¦ .../gold.htm ¦ .../tagwach.htm

    Geneva, 4 Sep 2006 - In September of every year since 1983, a group of by now over 900 distinguished scholars, officials and lawmakers from all over the world has converged in an exclusive conclave at the venerable Jesus College of the University of Cambridge. The success of the Cambridge International Symposium on Economic Crime in the global law enforcement field is such that its creator, Professor Barry Rider, must occasionally wonder where his brainchild is heading. Whether the thus promoted global fight against economic crime has not already peaked and - like the Prohibition in the twenties - has started to become counter-productive, even unsustainably and dangerously so. Also cause for concern: whether the real threats of terrorism and the laws enacted to fight it are not being hijacked here and there in order to short-cut fundamental liberties, garantees & the Rule of Law. Be it by such outgrowth of purely bureaucratic lawmaking as the OECD's Financial Action Task Force FATF, or the EU's Arrest Warrent, by such over-reaching laws as the USA Patriot Act, or by the UK/US Extradition Treaty. They all offer ready-made - and exploited - opportunities for bureaucratic abuses. As shown by the British businessmen extradited to the US on other than terrorism charges, that is at the expense of indispensable liberties & rights of individual citizens.

    To wit, there may be something like a Rider Curve which warns those in the business of keeping society on a sustainable moral track of the limits and possibly adverse effects of their impositions, just as the Laffer Curve has a message for those seeking to maximise fiscal revenues. This raises fundamental questions which deserve our all attention. Examples: Whether the constitutional lawmakers of a Rule of Law society, without undermining its own foundation and future, can allow bureaucratic lawmaking anywhere to catch roots either at home, at the UN, the EU, or the OECD under whatever pretext. Whether the thus fostered and more and more generalized compliance mode is not dangerously undercutting the individual citizen’s sense and ability to act as a responsible, risk-taking and wealth-creating force. Whether society’s remaining productive non-governmental forces may thus not unwittingly be overwhelmed by well-intended, over-equipped and market-blind "public servants". And whether our societies' way forward can really be found with citizens who are not allowed to grow up, who are faced with growing constraints and state tutelage, and who thus are deprived of the opportunity to deploy their full potential for the common good by developing and practicing their highest sense of individual and social responsibility. In memory of our founding President, Jean-Jacques Griessen, I have gone back to some of his writings and wonder whether they are really out of date.

    Some months ago, I also came across a most informative, eye-opening and in many ways saddening study "How Americans Lost Their Right To Own Gold And Became Criminals in the Process". This while doing research on the evolution - from ancient time til now - of the citizen/state relationship as reflected in their ability to effectively challenge each other (ie. citizen vs state) for acquiring, holding onto & utilizing such private property as gold, land, information, etc. (www.solami.com/goldies.htm)

    Seen from this peculiar perspective, the history of man takes on a look, dimension and content which in many ways are different from what we ordinarily discuss. It may be summarized as a history of ego-, gut- or intelligence-driven resources redistribution by conquest, looting or imposed sharing, i.e. of endlessly changing fortunes - for both the citizens and the community they live in. And it seems to offer rare insights into the mechanics of mankind and its component parts, from the individual human as an integral part of the devine creation, to their combinations in the current form of national states which are organized and governed in line with the current dominent understanding of devine design, be it - as in pharaonic times - by devine birth, or by way of the current, more or less "vox populi, vox dei". To wit:
-    The Pharaoh who introduced monotheism may not have done so for "religious", but primarily for political & economic reasons. For that may have been the most effective, if not the only way to overcome the resistance of his economy-controlling priests - i.e. the thus powerful earthly representatives of a plethora of gods. Contrary to the Pharaoh's own intuition and foresight, his priests didn't want to hear of Joseph's [in fact Horemheb's?] prophesy about the imminent 7 years of agricultural abundance which were to be followed by 7 lean years. For that would have entailed sacrifices from them by way of a raise to 20% from their traditional 10% of the harvest contributions the thus "nationalized" religious estates were to deliver to Pharaoh's national graneries.  By no longer recognizing their gods, he thus drew the carpet from under his egocentric priests and freed his hands to successfully execute his visionary plans (www.solami.com/a1.htm).
-    The French kings - and their more recent republican successors - may have regranted their citizens the right to anonymous gold possession only when their war-depleated treasuries could be filled again by amnesties for past & current gold hoardings.
-    Some - particularly Western - U.S. states, as well as Turkey, Tajikistan and other countries are known to have adopted the Swiss Civil Code of 1907, where the first ten articles reflect fundamental principles and achievements of civilized society, perhaps drawing inspiration from the Avesta, the Ten Commandments and other ancient writings. Also, the universally postulated presumption of innocence until proven guilty, provides a helpful guideline when considering the above question of citizen/state relation - not least in fiscal matters. Yet, when looking around, I find myself to travel on the wrong train, and perhaps even to live in the wrong time period with my view that taxmen here and there, preposterously, have managed over the last decades to stealthily shove the burden of proof from their office onto the taxpayers' shoulders. For a Swiss employee, e.g., it isn't sufficient anymore to turn in his tax declaration in time and, with his signature, to engage his penal responsibility for false declarations; the law now obliges him to attach a salary certificate (.../lohnausweis.htm) as proof of what he declares, thus not only diminishing his signature but also - in law & effect - submitting him to state tutelage. This is seen to be in direct contradiction to article 8 of the Swiss Civil Code, which explicitly provides that it is incumbent on each party to prove the facts from which it deducts its claims. And it is all but clear why, of all entities, the relatively much more powerful state should be exempted from this fundamental rule, particularly in fiscal matters.
-    On a related subject, I am not sure what, if any influence a more benevolant reception of the ancient - e.g. interest-prohibition - and more modern monetary ideas of Silvio Gesell and others might have had on the course of events leading up to and beyond the demise of the Weimar Republic. But neither can I rule out a link between both academia's and the national monetary authorities' manifest failure to-date to explore and develop those ideas and such watershed events as the Prohibition, the 1929 Crash (.../1929.htm), Roosevelt's 1933 bank holiday & gold criminalization, Hitler's comprehensive looting of Jewish properties culminating in the Holocaust, Nixon's 1971 closing of the gold window, Bush's disaster-prone "policies" on Iraq, Iran, Palestine & elsewhere, and the forthcoming man-made & other tsunamis and the ensuing political upheavals.

    As in most other cases, the inavoidable metastatic effects of the ill-considered Prohibition measures forced the powers that be to abandon the religiously-inspired but blue-eyed and intolerably counter-productive anti-alcohol track. However, in light of the concurrent Depression's vast numbers of unemployed, the authorities could ill afford to enlarge the already destabilizingly long unemployment queues with police professionals which, during the Prohibition, had been kept busy chasing the Al Capones and lesser bootleggers. As happened in earlier times with customs, fiscal and other officials made redundant by redrawn political borders and other changes brought about by wars, evolutions and technological leaps, the powers that be wanted to keep the state's loyal servants on board. And when no productive or other common good employment was found for them, the path of least resistance has often been the invention & prosecution of new crimes, e.g. gold possession, alcohol commerce, drug traffic & consumption, tax evasion & avoidance, insider dealings, money laundering, corruption, etc. All of which seemed to strengthen the state - or a particular state with global ambitions pursued with flat earth visions. No matter what real or artificial danger may be invoked, this has not enhanced the citizen's respect for the state anywhere. Or, for that matter, his/her capacity and willingness to recognize the related policies, goose chases and enforcement measures as justified, legitimate and more than a self-harming pursuit of modern Pipers of Hamelin.

    For an individual, for a society to succeed, freedom of action, privacy and responsibility are as indispensable as unimpeded visual contact with the horizon is necessary for a sunrise to be observed. Indeed, just as the properties of water, air & light prevent a fish from ever seeing a sunrise, both the hereditary (e.g. Dow syndrome) or legal constraints imposed on a person are formative for, and can severely limit and condition his/her perceptions. With correspondingly diminished or inoperative sensors, a citizen may thus essentially never grow beyond a zombie-like existence, i.e. never rise to the level of his/her built-in potential. Not with regard to entrepreneurial capacities. Not with regard to his/her capabilities to responsibly assume risks. And not with regard to his/her contributions to the economy and society as a whole. For sovereign states with a future, genuine privacy of their citizens must thus be not an option but an imperative (remember Glasnost, which provided for the transparency of the state in favor of reanimated citizens, but which, by the banner-turned-pall-bearers of the "free" states was corrupted into transparency of the citizens in favor of an ever stronger opaque state?). Indeed, individual integrity is threatened but, as a rule, must not be allowed to be undermined by state tutelage of citizens, as is increasingly the case. Despite of some of the risks involved to either the individuals or society, criminalization of market practices often entails disproportianally costly social & political numbness, risk-aversity and compliance mentality. It is in everybody's interest when each citizen's sense of responsibility is boosted by all means available to the state. That includes effective guarantees for his/her privacy in particular vis-à-vis the state. And that calls naturally for reactivation of the basic right to anonymous private property by way of bankers which - like their doctors and priests - are a citizen's allies and not the agents of the state.



FATF: OECD mission-creep & Piper of Hamelin bureaucratic lawmaking

(url: www.solami.com/oecdmandate.htm) - According to the Swiss Bankers Association press release of 29 April 2005, "Switzerland's plans to implement the FATF's revised recommendations go too far and they need to be reworked by financial professionals with practical experience." For The Economist though, mere corner cutting wont wash in light of the FATF's all-around failures & costs. It concluded: "...to curb terrorism by stopping the flows of money that sustain it, must be judged a failure. Complex and unwieldy regulations have been imposed, but are not working, indeed arguably were always misguided. They should be scrapped and resources concentrated more productively elsewhere." (see also: "Turf Wars Hinder U.S. Attack on Terror Cash, Agency Says", New York Times, 29.11.05). And if the even more fundamental question of why & on what basis is asked, the same answer becomes even more urgent. Following is the FATF's background & an outline of how best to stop this buraucratic wildcat train which is causing a universally harmful compliance pandemic.

    Dedicated to the market economy & to "the preservation of idividual liberty",  the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development OECD, is "to reduce or abolish obstacles to the exchange of goods and services and current payments and maintain and extend the liberalisation of capital movements" (art.2, Convention). As pointed out earlier (.../hijack.htm), the OECD has evolved from a pro-market institution to an anti-competition, anti-sovereignty & anti-privacy instrument in the hands of unelected bureaucrats. Under US influence, though, its Council of Ministers, in 1971, explicitly prohibited it to engage in any work directed at social & economic engineering (i.e. in "work on the use of fiscal policy for demand management purposes", Res.C(71)41, §2). Yet ever since 1977, the secretive OECD Fiscal Committee & its Working Party #8 on Tax Avoidance and Evasion (WP8) have found themselves able & willing to pursue their self-fabricated mandate for "combating tax avoidance" (Res.C(77)149(Final)). Moreover, the WP8's French name is: "Group de travail sur l’évasion et la fraude fiscale". This is no accident. All related OECD publications in fact contain misrepresentations, i.e. "tax avoidance and evasion" is always translated into "évasion et fraude fiscale", thus persistently & self-servingly sowing confusion & pretexts for liberty-eroding initiatives & witchhunts.
    These, then, have been the hidden forces & methods behind the long-standing efforts at OECD, the UN and at the EU in Brussels to "harmonize" the tax regimes in the industrialized world.  This is being done by fighting such cleverly made-believe dangers as "harmful tax competition", by both fabricating & seeking to enforce new global taxes and anti-money laundering standards, and by deliberately confusing illicit activities with the very linchpin of entrepreneurial activities & the market system, i.e. tax avoidance.
    All of which calls into question the fiscal arm of the OECD - including the Financial Action Task Force FATF which was hastily set up in 1989 in the wake of the OECD's defeat on its project for an Orwellian INTERFIPOL (Convention on Mutual Administrative Assistance in Tax Matters). For in the case of the FATF in particular, we are not only faced with an uncontrolled, costly & ill-founded OECD outgrowth with its more than questionable aims, means & effects, as even The Economist found out belatedly (22-88 Oct. 2005). But it consists mostly of self-appointed, myopic & mutually back-scratching international taxmen causing significant damage to the world's productive forces & financial community, not least in the form of a compliance pandemic (see the self-fabricated "remit", i.e. mandate substitute?!, of the "beautifully dressed" but in fact naked Emperor). For the loosers of the INTERFIPOL battle, without a legal basis, initially had formulated 40 primarily self-serving recommendations on anti-money laundering measures reaching far beyond the original domain of drug crimes. And when they met no resistence, they extended their "remit" to mere civil "offenses that generate a significant amount of proceeds", shedding even the pretence of drug or other serious crimes (ATF IA.188/2005). This train of particularly harmful and objectionable aberrations of international bureaucratic lawmaking can and needs to be stopped in its track - lest it further inspire other international bodies in search for work & taxpayer money, and who have yet to be made appreciative of the true costs of the administrative hassles they cause!

Ergo: replace FATF & other bureaucratic lawmakings with self-regulatory measures!
1.  by encouraging US lawmakers to suspend the $70m/y US contribution to the OECD budget until the OECD will have stopped, retracted & corrected all work, links & support which are not in line with the OCED's original intent & purpose and its Convention (notably its Fiscal Committee's mandate, its false translations of "tax avoidance", and its WG8's fixture on tax avoidance, harmonization & competition), and until the FATF will either have acquired treaty status with effects limited to members, or be shut down;
2.  by arming US & other, notably EU & Swiss lawmakers with arguments & briefs for related work;
3.  by networking and publication of corresponding contributions in suitable journals;
4.  by promoting and participating in suitable professional meetings, i.e. the Oxford and the Cambridge International Symposium on Economic Crime; and
5.  by denying FATF official recognition and build-up (e.g. by replacing ambassador with observer).



Cambridge International Symposium on Economic Crime (www.crimesymposium.org), Workshop 21, 10 Sep 2004

War on Economic Crime:
Qualitative Cost-Benefit Considerations
by  Anton Keller, Secretary, Swiss Investors Protection Association, +4122-7400362 - swissbit@solami.com
url: www.solami.com/costbenefit.htm ¦ .../crime.htm ¦ .../walderbsi.htm ¦ .../europe.htm ¦ .../goldpossession.htm

The Iconoclast's Ten Economic Commandments

1.   The Citizen is the Sovereign, the source of all power and the ultimate arbiter of legitimacy.  No State power shall exist which has not been properly delegated, nor shall it be exercised unless this is in the citizen's and the people's service.
2.   Individual freedom and privacy, including the right to undisclosed private property, are indispensable for the citizen's sense of responsibility to fully mature, for the citizen's rights and obligations to be exercised responsibly and in harmony with the common good.
3.   Trial and error are key to both the individual's and society's evolution.  The right to error is a fundamental human right, but it is inseparably linked to its Siamese Twin, i.e. the obligation to admit error as a precondition for repairing its effects and for avoiding its recurrence.
4.   The right to tax is a sovereign right.  It has no other purpose than to provide for the common good.  And it implies no lesser obligation than to protect the taxpayer also against foreign snoops and taxmen.
5.   Tax optimalization and tax avoidance are hallmarks of the market economy.  They are a free society's linchpin and each entrepreneur's mobility call; not only are they not crimes, they are part of each citizen's birth-rights, even his obligations which, of course, include the permanent radaring for "greener pastures", for opportunities to invest the fruits of one's labors and other resources with less administrative hassles and better returns.
6.   No taxpayer money shall go to international organizations whose brief it is to combat tax avoidance, or who infringe on the sovereign right to compete for foreign investments.
7.   No tax or other burden shall be imposed on foreign investors or their investments which is not also exacted from local residents or on their investments, all based on a simple, understandable and effective a code as is feasible.
8.   No foreign investment should be liable to sequestration or confiscation unless the underlying information was obtained in strict respect of applicable treaties, dual criminality standards and specialty rules (and, for areas beyond the jurisdiction of the United States at least: notwithstanding contrary U.S. Supreme Court decisions and Federal Rules under whatever pretence).
9.   No law should prevail over better insights, no law should be applied beyond its intended purpose, and no law should be left in force beyond the duration of its public usefulness, particularly not if it discourages foreign investments.  For it is also in each nation's interest to create such conditions which are conducive to attract and keep foreign investments with minimum administrative and fiscal burdens which are competitive.
10.    The Emperor wears no cloth, regardless of universal contrary affirmations by default, and the Piper of Hamelin is neither a guide to a dignified and successful future nor an effective substitute for principled leadership to protect and bring to fruition the nationally available resources and productive forces, notwithstanding gunboat diplomacy, lex americana universalis (www.solami.com/lexamericana.htm) and the associated fiscal and other bounty-huntings and the paralysing compliance mechanisms.

30 August 2004 - Just about a year ago, China was reported to have replaced the United States as the country attracting most foreign investment.  I don't want to go into the math of the matter, as others are more qualified to come up with and to discuss the corresponding figures.  And because figures are hardly ever complete and conclusive.  Still, for those who haven't chosen to put their head into the sand, numbers are at least indicative of trends.  And for those, like me, who are trying to make sense of what's really happening here and there, and how things may evolve because or in spite of the on-going war on terrorism and economic crime, let me point out and link some apparent dots which I find worth pondering about if you are concerned with foreign investment flows.
Traditionally, the US economy has been a mutually profitable haven for foreign investors.  And in turn, it acted as a locomotive for the world economy, with predictable corresponding tripple-down effects on all five continents.  This has been helped primarily by the US dollar as the generally accepted dominant reserve currency, by comparatively favorable US tax rates, and by a generally favorable low-hassle US investment climate.

All this is seen to have begun to seriously unravel when, on 15th August 1971, Nixon closed the gold window, whereby history's most effective and universally accepted constraining measure on government spending, e.g. the gold standard, was unilaterally, myopically and recklessly abandoned without any real substitute.  A somewhat delayed but no less direct and still very much resonating effect of that ill-considered US action has been the coming into being of the oil market as a substitute black gold standard, with a politically driven overlapping spiral of price-hikes unleashed in 1973.  As rightly pointed out by another Iconoclast (www.solami.com/iconoc.htm; Burt Blumert, of the Center for Libertarian Studies, www.lewrockwell.com/blumert/blumert35.html), a lesser known date of equally fundamental significance and global reach is 5th April 1933 "when gold was demonetized, and Americans lost the right to hold 'real' money."  This weakened the citizen's position vis-à-vis the state.  And, most importantly, it also deprived him of the ancient human right to undisclosed private property.

Already many years before 9/11, the United States government relied to finance its traditional balance-of-payments deficits by foreign investors - whether they were aware of it or not.  The available instruments included: essentially unconstraint printing of US dollars, setting of key interest rate, and essentially controlling IMF and World Bank policies and facilities.

After the Second World War, the political clout thus gained came in handy for extending the reach of US laws abroad.  It all started with the seemingly innocent and rational extension of the US Tax Code to US citizens abroad.  Clever-by-half fiscalists had invented the so-called exemption method for purpurtedly avoiding double-taxation - but only from their vantage point.  Making a mockery of the citizens' rights and legitimate interests, they turned the no-double taxation principle upside down with the specious argument that there is no double taxation if you have to put down your pants before both your resident and your home country's tax authorities, and then let them share the maximum tax imposable in either country on your income and wealth.

Behind the back of inattentive constitutional lawmakers everywhere, the fiscalists of the world thus mutually back-scratched each other and, in effect, have ever since been causing double taxation and corresponding administrative burdens on you, the enterprising citizen abroad. Gradually, lex americana universalis was pushed down the throat of both formally sovereign countries and the unsuspecting world business community at large.  Like in the case of the double taxation innovation, Switzerland proved to be a willing ally for making this happen.  Just look at the genesis and the world-wide spread of the anti-insider laws, the anti-money laundering laws (.../armscom.htm), and the Qualified Intermediary regulations (.../QI.htm) which, alarmingly, turned even Swiss bankers into unpaid agents of the US Internal Revenue Service.

To be sure, the US Supreme Court made essential contributions on this unfortunate, unhelpful and even unsavoury pathway.  The infamous Aerospatiale decision of June 15, 1987 (#85.1695: .../walderbsi.htm#AEROSPATIALE), comes to mind with which, in effect, it handed down a blanc check for the U.S. Administration and the U.S. Judiciary for disregarding treaty obligations and channels for obtaining evidence abroad.  The Court then approved recourse to the national means of coercion - such as the subpoena power and contempt of court citations - if they promise quicker results at less costs, i.e. whenever "Convention procedures would be unduly time-consuming and expensive, and less likely to produce needed evidence than direct use of the Federal Rules."  In fairness to its minority of 4 judges, it deserves to be mentioned that Judge Harry Blackmun observed notably: "The Court's view of this country's international obligations is particularly unfortunate." All this had occured despite the fervent pleas of the British, French, German and Swiss governments, as manifested in their noteworthy amicus curiae briefs.

Uncle Sam thus found an additional and - as long as it lasts - impressive new source for covering America's ever-growing balance-of-payments deficit, namely outright confiscation of foreign assets in the US.  Indeed, behind all-purpose suspicions and allegations of terrorism, money-laundering and corruption - and too often with the effect of sequestration or confiscation of totally legal investments made in the U.S. economy even from unobjectionable sources -, Uncle Sam has turned from protector to prosecutor and even straight-faced robber of foreign property.  Naturally all behind some fig-leaf, some resemblance of legitimacy and legality.  Thus, already with RICO, and now even less restrained with the USA PATRIOT ACT, he lowered or even shifted the burden of proof to the foreign investor in particular.  On the back of free citizens, civil liberties and sovereign rights, and either directly or by way of multilateral "fiscal" redress and anti-terrorism instruments, authorities, banks and other fiduciaries abroad thus found themselves pressured into giving up sovereign safeguards, and to disclose privileged information.

This, of course, presupposed blue-eyed foreign investors.  And that, of course, was a blue-eyed assumption worthy of the members of the Flat Earth Society at best.  For not only foreign investors, but also streetwise American citizens investing by way of off-shore banks, have started to take note - and to "vote with their feet".  Evidently, the rapidly growing U.S. balance-of-payments deficit is not on the radar of the US Attorney General.  And it never will, as long as the reported routine harrassment and occasional beating up of foreign visitors to the US by over-zealous security forces is in fact condoned - if not encouraged.  As Bruce Zagaris and others have reported, the U.S. has already experienced a "dramatic decline" concerning "foreign travel and foreign study in the U.S."  And he goes on observing:
    "In particular, visitors from the Middle East have stopped coming, but so have foreigners generally.  The decline is to a large extent the result of U.S. immigration policies and the wholesale detention and sometimes deportation of Middle Eastern students. While this decline is reflected in short-term statistics of visitors and foreign students, the long-term economic and political impact will be seen in the decades to come when the foreign students are managing companies and government agencies in their countries.  They will no longer be familiar with U.S. technology, ideas, and persons.  As a result, they will tend to look to other places to find technology, services and ideas.  The trend to avoid visiting and studying in the U.S. will exacerbate the U.S. economy and especially the deficit." (private communication)

Moreover, it is as if the Berlin Wall had fallen in the other direction. The originally pro-liberty, pro-enterprise and pro-sovereignty Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development OECD was hijacked by non-elected adepts of discredited anti-liberty, anti-enterprise and anti-sovereignty policies. And though the OECD has been rediscovered as a useful tool in some Washington quarters, Wall Street not least is more than ever dependent on foreigners willing to invest in the US economy.  And as the evolving numbers suggest, that crucial objective is badly served by both Mr.Ashcroft's crusades and some OECD outgrowth.  In fact, the next US President may find it urgent to obtain better counsel.  And he may actually find it by setting up an appropriately composed Presidential Council for Foreign Investors (.../ICONOCLAST.htm).

Similarly, during decades, socialists were gladly sent to "Brussels."  That has left its marks on what now lives on and even seems to thrive as a generally flattening European Union bureaucracy. And in whichever field bureaucratic lawmaking is at work, the United Nations has rarely missed an opportunity to join the fray, "democratically" cherry-pick, and add its weight.

To be sure, upon joining the OECD, the United States commendably saw to it that this free market counterweight to the socialist countries’ COMECON was explicitly prohibited from any work directed at social and economic engineering.  Which is the forgotten real meaning of what, in OECD parlance, its Council has defined in Resolution C(71)41, §2, as "work on the use of fiscal policy for demand management purposes." But inattention by constitutional lawmakers here and there, facilitated by the crumbling of socialist ideas and structures, soon produced such fiscal aberrations as the OECD Fiscal Committee’s formal call of 1977 for measures attacking the linchpin of the free enterprise system, i.e. "combating tax avoidance".

In turn, this provided for the foundations of such secretly developed Orwellian monsters as the INTERFIPOL, i.e. the 1986 OECD/Council of Europe "Convention on Mutual Administrative Assistance in Tax Matters" (.../Orwell.htm).  Prompted by the latter’s initial failure, the taxmen of the industrialized world sprung another OECD-based international fiscal police on the world's business community, i.e. the Financial Action Task Force FATF (.../FATF.htm ¦ .../billiard.htm).  Embolded with its success, the OECD, in 1997, came up with its truly harmful "Harmful Tax Competition Initiative" and its infamous name and shame list of "non-compliant countries".  And to the delight of paper producers and adepts of Orwellian tools, but on the back of constitutional lawmakers everywhere, it continues to churn out ever more burdensome and costly recommendations, guidelines, and other bureaucratically created instruments of coercion.

Regularly, over the past three decades, we have found ourselves in the frontline of the battles against these mostly self-serving bureaucracies. The International Chamber of Commerce, its national branches and related professional organizations used to be effective natural allies in this on-going struggle. And while the citizens have indeed entrusted some among themselves with the noble task of providing for the acquisition, safe-keeping and administration of the fruits of their labors, most lawmakers, bankers, lawyers and other fiduciaries thus called upon to stand the ground on proven and eternally valid principles increasingly seem to fail in this, their major task.

True, not many have been prepared for, or become used to the unipolar bureaucratically-oriented world we now experience.  In this new environment, the political magnetic field - as we may call it - has disappeared.  Those who are equipped with only a political magnetic compass, have lost their orientation - in as much as they are not used to read their own inertial compass, to rely on their inner voice.  And until bipolarity will have been re-established, these leaders, essentially, will find themselves reduced to gesticulations substituting for genuine vision, leadership and guidance.

What's more, in the past, many have often been successful less because than despite of themselves.  And, not unlike some Kuwaitis acting as if they had a birth-right to free-loading, many a former defender of privacy, private property and bank secrecy increasingly is finding himself compelled to give up his traditional and most legitimate role as an ally of the citizen against overbearing bureaucracies here and there.  And whether they admit it or not, they have instead become agents of the state, even of foreign states. The IRS' Qualified Intermediary agreements are a case in point. Just ask your Swiss banker why he sold out and became a QI (.../stammsbv.htm). Why he didn't fight tooth and nail against this further US onslaught.  And how much his current overall compliance budget compares to what he refused then - and still now refuses - to spend on effectively fighting these incursions and bureaucratic cancers.

The ensuing regulations thus generated new jobs, professions and industries all right. But the larger question is whether this compliance sector is not causing an unnecessary, creeping and often unbearable burden on the remaining truly productive forces, thus causing havoc in many places of the industrialized society.  For those considering history not just as "bunk", these developments are reminiscent of the socially, economically and politically unsustainable effects of the US Prohibition. At that time already, compliance activities were the only real growth show in town.  And if you add to that the Musterknabe mentality prevailing in some countries, you are looking at a recipe for a macro-economic tailspin with social, political and economic effects potentially surpassing those of the Depression.

On this already by itself alarming background, 9/11 made matters even worse. But instead of thinking and acting on the level - and necessarily outside the box -, many a former practitioner and defender of civil liberties has thrown in the towel.  Which, of course, is all but helping the remaining and the newly arriving generators of legitimate earnings here, in the emerging economies in Asia and elsewhere.  Left on their own against buraucratic lawmakers and essentially self-serving administrations which are increasingly insensitive to their needs, they cannot successfully, effectively and safely invest their surplus earnings abroad – or at home by way of fiscally and/or administratively advantageous offshore channels. All of which has already significantly affected the global foreign investment flows.

Not surprisingly, China has thus already replaced the United States as the country attracting most foreign investment. And with the help of some allied countries equally willing to buck the generally harmful compliance frenzy, Russia in particular is likely to benefit from the foreign investor’s enhanced sensitivities on privacy-encroaching practices, whether they are peddled under the heading of anti-terrorism, anti-money laundering or anti-corruption.

All of which is not to say that there is no need to fight terrorism, money-laundering and corruption.  But that serious police work cannot be substituted with no-holds-barred pursuit of the money flow, with turning bankers into state agents, and with reverse-Glasnost, i.e. a transparent citizen facing an opaque and thus uncontrollable state.  That to address social and political ills with police means is likely not to cure but to enhance and perpetuate the former.  And that the market itself, more often than not, offers socially, politically and economically attractive alternative solutions to those relying on curtailed civil liberties and on further burdening productive forces with essentially futile constraints and self-defeating compliance measures.  Concrete ideas for those seeking to effectively meet the new challenges under the moto: "When in a hole, stop digging!" can be found notably in works by: Daniel Mitchell (“How the IRS Interest-Reporting Regulation Will Undermine the Fight Against Dirty Money,”:  www.freedomandprosperity.org/Papers/irsreg-dm/irsreg-dm.shtml), Gilbert Morris ("Preliminary Issues in Title III Compliance Under the US Patriot Act": .../morris10.htm), Richard Rahn ("Task Force Report on Financial Privacy, Law Enforcement and Terrorsim": .../RR.pdf), Bruce Zagaris ("Exchange of Tax Information Policies at the Millennium - Balancing Enforcement with Due Process and International Human Rights": .../Zagaris.htm) and others.

*           *          *

The author, while being alone responsible for any errors and omissions, acknowledges the inputs notably from: Patrick Martin (Geneva), Daniel Mitchell (Heritage Foundation, Washington, dan.mitchell@heritage.org), Gilbert Morris (Landfall Centre, Nassau, morris@landfallcentre.com), Richard Rahn (Discovery Institute, Washington, Novmgtco@aol.com), Philip Wainwright (Geneva), Bruce Zagaris (Washington, bzagaris@bcr-dc.com)



WEALTH PRIVACY – Project Billiard
Summary (for an in-depth analysis, see: "As if the Berlinwall had fallen the other way" at: www.solami.com/Berlinwall.htm)
see also: www.solami.com/OECD.htm | .../Orwell.htm | .../glasnost.htm | .../oecdmandate.htm | .../oecdcirc.htm
.../Berlinwall.htm | .../brad.htm | .../comments3.htm | .../brink.htm | .../impulse.htm | .../haftbefehl.htm
Geneva, 1 May 2001 (rev.4; for hyperlinked version, see:  http://www.solami.com/billiard.htm)

Situation     The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development OECD has evolved from a pro-market institution to an anti-competition, anti-sovereignty and anti-privacy instrument in the hands of unelected bureaucrats.  Particularly the secretive OECD Fiscal Committee and its Working Party #8 on Tax Avoidance and Evasion (WP8) are the hidden forces behind the long-standing efforts at OECD and the EU in Brussels to "harmonize" - i.e. plain-levelling at the highest imposable rate - the tax regimes in the industrialized world.  This is being done by fighting such cleverly made-believe dangers as "harmful tax competition", by promoting anti-money laundering standards, and by deliberately confusing illicit activities with the very linchpin of entrepreneurial activities, i.e. tax avoidance.  For the EU machinery, it serves as both reference and pressure source for Brussels’s own "fiscal harmonization" schemes.  Absent the OECD fig-leafs, and fiscal plain-levelling efforts and other open or hidden attacks against bank client secrecy can be expected to automatically loose steam or to be successfully derailed by any one EU member (Austria, Britain, Liechtenstein and Luxembourg being Switzerland’s ally in this).

With a view to tax e-commerce, similar bureaucratic lawmaking mechanisms have already been brought into place, with similar methods expected to lead to further innocent-sounding, yet liberty-eroding, enterprise-stifling and commerce-undercutting "recommendations", "guidelines" and "OECD standards".  This is routinely intended to have less-informed incoming political leaders sign up on the dotted lines of past - even if discredited - policies, to take notably constitutional lawmakers by surprise and to steamroll the less vigilant of either of them into compliance with the latest fashionable designs of international bureaucratic lawmaking, purported globalization blessings and tutelage structures.

Thus have come about such anti-market, anti-sovereignty and anti-privacy Orwellian monsters as the G-7/OECD's Financial Action Task Force (FATF) and the related "Reports on the Observance of Standards and Codes" (ROSCs).  These are yet to be recognized for what they really are by many who are concerned with tax reform, fiscal sovereignty and wealth privacy.  For the interested bureaucrats still get what they want, simply by avoiding the keyword OECD which, by now, is on the radar of most libertarians.  Indeed, under the sub-heading of "Action Against the Abuses of the Global Financial System" the G-7 Finance Ministers and Central Bank Governors have found it appropriate to issue the following G-7 Statement of support for the FATF on the occasion of their recent Washington meeting.  It is less than certain that all of the signatories are fully aware that interested OECD/FATF bureaucrats had stealthily complemented the 18 pro-growth paragraphs with a ringing endorsement of what the FATF stands for and which, at least partially, exhonorates and reanimates the generally discredited objectives of the OECD/Council of Europe Convention on Mutual Administrative Assistance in Tax Matters.  Without once mentioning the OECD, the G-7 Statement of April 28 2001 concludes in fact:

"19.  We reaffirm our support for all the objectives of the multilateral effort to fight against abuse of the global financial system.  We express our support for the ongoing work of FATF, and we welcome the significant progress made by most of the 15 jurisdictions listed by FATF as non-cooperative countries and territories (NCCTs) in June 2000 towards addressing the deficiencies in their anti-money laundering systems.  We encourage those jurisdictions to implement needed reforms.  We note our continued commitment to maintain a dialogue with these countries, to provide training and technical assistance, to delist those making adequate progress, and to implement coordinated measures as may be recommended by FATF against those NCCTs where dialogue has failed to generate sufficient progress.  In addition, we welcome the FATF decision to undertake a review of its 40 recommendations to strengthen the international money laundering standard.  We also welcome the IMF and World Bank Boards' recent decisions to recognize the FATF 40 Recommendations as the appropriate international standard for combating money laundering and encourage the Fund and the Bank, working in collaboration with FATF, to incorporate the relevant FATF 40 Recommendations into a ROSC module as soon as possible." No less confusingly, WP8’s official French name is: "Group de travail sur l’évasion et  la fraude fiscales". In its publications the OECD regularly translates "tax avoidance" with "évasion fiscale".  The OECD thus persistently misrepresents and undermines a key pillar of the free market.  The OECD, thereby, reveals itself as another surviving unreformed bastion of Kremlin-type ideologies and structures.

This is a far cry from protecting and beneficially exercising the fiscal sovereignty as an integral, even key part of each nation’s sovereignty.  Tax reform, fiscal revenues and economic growth thus suffer.  Self-servingly, many OECD and EU models, guidelines and recommendations are designed to enhance the clout of unelected - and effectively uncontrolled - bureaucrats, including the transnational snooping powers of the members of the international brotherhood of gabelous. With its entrenched tentacles and allies the world over, this secretive OECD working group has already succeeded to bring into force the orwellian INTERFIPOL (OECD/Council of Europe Convention on Mutual Administrative Assistance in Tax Matters) and to equip itself with an enforcement arm, the FATF. Not surprisingly, the FATF has already shed all pretense of being limited to drug-related crimesUnless checked in time, it is likely to unfold awesome transnational police powers.  This will be both on its own and through local laws, apologetes and handymen (in Bern, the local handywoman was successfully sent up the international ladder, but in Geneva, hélas, a less damaging playground has yet to be found for the local handyman). In short, if the line is not now drawn with vision, courage & determination, what future is there for the banker’s ability to live up to his traditional roles and responsibilities vis-à-vis his clients and society, i.e. to reliably and effectively act as confidant, refuge and fiduciary for the world’s increasingly harassed citizens and the fruits of their labor?

REMEDY     In order to effectively take both the power and the sting out of this OECD working group - and indeed to re-orient its activities in favor of wealth privacy, tax competition and bank client secrecy - the U.S. influence in and over WP8 can be brought to bear accordingly.  E.g. by way of a credible threat to cut off U.S. funding of OECD - unless and until the OECD Fiscal Committee is prohibited from "combating tax avoidance" (Res.C(77)149(Final)) and its working group’s terms of reference are correspondingly changed to bring it back in line with the OECD’s statute (which, nota bene, specifies the promotion of entrepreneurial liberties and activities, naturally including tax avoidance).  With a U.S. President and congressional leaders who understand the importance of tax competition, fiscal sovereignty and financial privacy, the threat to cut off funds becomes an effective instrument.  Already, a political critical mass is being formed in the U.S. Congress over the OECD's cancerous bureaucratic lawmaking (building on the group which, two years ago, forced an administrative about-face on the "Know Your Customer" rules).

VEHICLES and MEANS       The results achieved so far have become most visible in a number of critical editorial comments and some 15 letters to the U.S. Treasury, written by leading Members of the U.S. Congress.  This reflects our 15 years of involvement in OECD matters, with the last two years focused on a hands-on cooperation and networking with suitable persons and institutions notably in Washington, whose efforts have been supported by corresponding media contributions here and there.  Helpful, i.e. effectively trend-reversing, even visionary terms (financial privacy, health & wealth privacy, wealth basics, right to undisclosed private property, etc.) contine to be identified, fine-tuned and introduced in the public debate.  Close cooperation with the media, professional groups & suitable non-governmental organizations are seen to be crucial for the ultimate success of our campaign (a.o. through direct inputs, participation in debates, financial contributions, and sponsorships).  Properly handled and supported, the key objective of correspondingly changed mandates at the OECD are expected to be either attained or brought clearly into sight by the end of 2001.



WHY AND HOW U.S. LAWMAKERS MAY HELP TO RE-ESTABLISH REAL WEALTH PRIVACY

by  Anton Keller, Secretary,
Swiss Investors Protection Association
t+f:  004122-7400362    m: 004179-6047707   e: swissbit@solami.com

      BACKGROUND    Unlike Swiss and other European parliamentarians, U.S lawmakers have repeatedly proven to be willing and capable to shut down the U.S. Government: if that is what it takes to get the Government - or, by analogy, any international institution co-funded by the United States - in line with what the representatives of its sovereign-citizens want.  In a presidential election year, the willingness of the political class to test the validity of and the continued public support for any given policy is particularly noticeable.

      Hiring and firing is a characteristic of the American society and economy.  In an egocentric flat-world superpower perspective, abrogating a tax treaty (with Netherlands-Antilles) by administrative fiat is thus normal.  As is the U.S. Supreme Court-approved neglect of internationally binding obligations (1985 Aerospatiale case).  The lex americana universalis effects followed naturally.  The other side of this same coin is that not only is every alliance and policy of the U.S. Government always subject to review, but that the right set of solid, timely and properly channelled arguments can thus make a significant dent and even lead to a prompt policy reversal.

          There is no reason why all this should not also apply even to the long-festering "economic warfare" which - since at least the early eighties - has been directed mainly against what is in fact a financial superpower, i.e. Switzerland.  Of course, this war has been conducted mostly under cover by some essentially out-of-control segments of the U.S. adminstration by way of its influence at the Paris-based 29-nation Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development OECD.

        Notwithstanding the dark forces which, for some time now, seem to have hijacked in part U.S. foreign policy on Swiss-U.S. economic relations, some current trends among the U.S. voters and their representatives are seen to avail themselves for bringing about fundamental changes in favor of the traditional Swiss bank client secrecy.  Chief among these trends is a resurging awareness of the constitutionally protected personal privacy as being increasingly neglected and even violated by the Government.  This trend is seen to cut across the U.S. political spectrum, thus to be potentially supportable by both presidential candidates.  And eventually to dictate the post-2000 administrative agenda, regardless of who will succeed the current U.S. President.

      AIM    To change the mandate of the OECD Fiscal Committee and its outgrowths, notably its Working Party #8 on Tax Avoidance and Evasion (WP8), the Financial Action Task Force on Money Laundering (FATF) and its FORUM, in order
-    to properly reflect the OECD's own Convention which is to serve "the preservation of individual liberty" as well as the prevention of arbitrary interference with the citizen's "privacy, family, home or correspondence", and to strengthen the market economy also by recognizing tax avoidance as being one of its key pillars, and
-    to promptly cease and desist in any activity whatsoever which might not be fully in line with the OECD's before-mentioned original and still conventionally binding key objectives.

      VEHICLES    A critical mass of U.S. lawmakers (both Republicans and Democrats) must be made aware of the incompatibility of some of the OECD's current mandates, programs and practices with either OECD's original objectives or the U.S. national interest (for details see: "OECD - its genesis, original purposes and secretive conversion into an Orwellian tool" at: http://solami.com/billiard2.htm).  Foreseeably, they will have no qualms to utilize their constitutional power of the purse for cutting off the U.S. co-funding of the OECD budget - until the situation will have been reversed in the sense of the above-defined aim.  At which time all successor fiscal and other aberrations - at the IRS, SEC, at the EU in Brussels and, not least, in Bern - can more realistically be adapted, if not thrown into the dust bin of history.

        In all this, our natural allies are those who, on their own, have already succeeded to force a halt to and a thorough re-appraisal of some of the Government's current anti-liberty, anti-privacy and anti-market practices - notably in the matter of the "Know Your Customer" (KYC) regulations.  These American friends are as outraged as we are at the comprehensive electronic spying conducted under the ECHELON system and at what's in the pipeline (see European Parliament hearings report at http://www.iptvreports.mcmail.com/stoa_cover.htm).  In this situation, inadequate measures on our part might even help the Government in its ill-advised unrelenting anti-privacy drive, the latest being the "International Counter-Money Laundering Act of 2000", introduced to Congress on 9 March.  As demonstrated in the case of the OECD's Orwellian INTERFIPOL, i.e. "Convention on Mutual Administrative Assistance in Tax Matters", things are all but hopeless.  And we have gained some experience which now may again be put to good use - unless, of course, our American friends try to do battle on the assumption that they have also a monopoly for good ideas.

Geneva, 6 April 2000


*                    *                    *.

Private, national & common wealth in the post-socialism/capitalism era
Bewildered by what's been happening, both nationally and globally, in the wake of the fall of the Berlin Wall?
I.e. where the unwittingly weakened nation-state - formerly a bulwark against plain-levelling & globalization -
no longer tempers the social, economic & other pitfalls foreseen by Marx, Gramsci, Minsky, McCulley, etc.
Where - as the Laffer & Rider Curves illustrate in the tax & the social fields - excessive poor/rich gradients
upset the social fabric, wash away fertility factors with uncontrolled erosive powers & contribute to famine.
Where indeed, as Patrick Martin pointed out, monopolistic capitalism and the associated reckless greed
are no longer kept in check by Adam Smith' invisible hand, i.e. by the balance of contradictory interests.
And where the capacity for self-correction is increasingly inhibited by loss of freedom, mooring & orientation
which led to market frenzies & false alpha birds feeding on hype & bubbles, reminiscent of the Roaring 20s.
IMF & FATF estimate black funds (drugs, tax evasion etc) to be 2-5% of world's GDP (2006: $960-2400bn).
An IMF Report indicates these funds to be increasingly chased under anti-terrorism & ever flimsier pretexts.
Courtesy by the IV Reich's Secret Service, the world has indeed been made hostage of ill-considered rules
which impede more legitimate business than crime. For big time money laundering, the US Treasury set the
standard in 2001 with its 31% confiscatory backup withholding tax on unidentified investors in US securities,
turning foreign bankers from trustees of clients into IRS agents (qualified intermediaries) subject to US laws.
Private equity & hedge funds thus found a government-sponsored access to black funds, while the latters'
entry into subprime markets was also eased by the Internet. Results: predatory lending & systemic risks.
Society's organization needs re-thinking with Plato, G.Duttweiler, M,Yunus, J.M.Arizmendiarrieta etc.
For man's evolution may only be stressed by technological leaps but not accelerated beyond natural limits.
Return on investment rates above productivity gains/organic growth are not sustainable, predatory & usuric.
If driven by managers, lawyers & funds on the back of other stakeholders, M&As are thus Ponzi schemes
where shareholder value adepts can maraud with stacked Monopoly cards, helped by micro-economic laws.
Like compulsory social insurance systems whose doom is delayed or obscured only by inflation, war, etc.
And where the cunniest operators are state-supported by myopic magistrates hood-winked into fiscal deals.
Gary J. Aguirre's US Senate testimony details fraud & market mechanics which were at work before 1929,
e.g. Ponzi structures, unregulated pools of money, siphoning from unsuspecting mutual fund investors, and
abuse-prone market dominance: hedge funds' $1.5 trillion drive half of the $28 trillion NYSE's daily trading.
Tongue-in-cheek, Warren Buffet famously opined: "derivatives are financial weapons of mass destruction";
yet, under increasing performance & compliance pressures, some bankers still see a future in fee hunting.
Society wised up against churning of accounts by undelicate trustees, but not yet against macro-parasitism
which feasts on ignorance, sucks & devours a firm's life-preserving substance, & weakens society's pillars.
Which turns economic rat races into societal tailspins with early burn-outs & senior citizens being wasted,
& instills values causing youth to be educated out of sync, resulting in drug, violence & €1000 generations.
With profit-driven quarterly thinking & cost-cuttings also eroding due infrastructure maintenance & renewal,
& democracy's promises ridiculed by Fatf, EU & UN bureaucratic lawmaking as if Berlin Wall fell eastwards.
So why not thinking things over & Revisiting Das Kapital while some dance on the Titanic”?   Iconoclast
.
Birthday laudatio to a comrade-in-arms
  Auch für Dich gilt was Goethe in seinem Faust zum Ausdruck brachte: "Du gleichst dem Geist den Du begreifst!"
    Wie mehrfach gezeigt, hast Du frühzeitig den Geist begriffen - und meist einsam, und nicht selten contre vent et marée,
auch nachhaltig erfolgreich umgesetzt Für Dich, für Deine Familie, und für uns alle kann ich mir sodann
nichts besseres wünschen, als dass andere umso mehr diese Erkenntnisse und Erfahrungen teilen,
als sie sich auf hoher und höchster Ebene als verantwortlich erkennen, sei dies nun in der Zivilgesellschaft,
in der Wirtschaft oder im Staat.  Das anspruchsvolle System der Demokratie bedingt sowohl den
selbst-verantwortlichen, solidaren und souveränen Bürger, als auch den auf diesen Bürger ausgerichteten Rechtsstaat.
Der so verstandene, vorab den Freiraum des Bürgers zu schützende Rechtsstaat verkommt zum Rechtsmittelstaat,
wenn seine Regelungsdichte die kritische Masse übersteigt, und wenn das ohnehin regelmässig auf den "Krämer"
ausgerichtete Recht auf der Makrostufe als Freibrief für ungezügeltes Wirtschaften verstanden und missbraucht wird.
Denn je höher die wirtschaftliche & politische Aktionsebene, desto grösser sind die Rechtslücken & Interessenkonflikte.
    Rechtslücken sind aber besonders dort keinesfalls zulasten des Gemeinwohls zu nutzen.
Auch die unvermeidbar auftretenden Interessenkonlikte sind besonders dort nicht zu verdrängen, sondern mit Vernunft,
Tiefgang und Weitsicht stets vorrangig zugunsten des Gemeinwohls zu lösen. Daraufhin sind Ausbildung und
Rechtsnormen auszurichten. Und es gilt auch dort im obigen Sinne zu handeln, wo weder Wegweiser noch Pfade bestehen.
Denn besonders dort ist auf diese inneren Leitplanken zu achten, ist auf den inneren Kompass abzustellen.
So wie dies schon der spanische Dichter Antonio Machado mit den Worten vorgezeichnet hat:
"Traveller, there is no road, the road is made by the traveller!"    -   Iconoclast, 22 Sep 2010
 

Victoria Grant speech
.

Erwägungen
-  Jugendliche unter 18 Jahren haben keinen Zutritt zu den hiesigen Kasinos; weshalb sollen Treuhänder unserer Sozialversicherungswerke für das ihnen anvertraute, für das unsrige Eingemachte nicht nur nicht mit einem Kasino-Hausverbot belegt werden, sondern sogar noch mit bundesrätlichem Segen einen Kasiono-Generalpass in die Hand gedrückt bekommen? Und weshalb soll unsere Nationalbank weiterhin keiner wirksamen perlamentarischen Kontrolle unterstehen - vor allem dort, wo es um unser Eingemachtes geht -, wo doch die Erfüllung des verfassungsmässigen Auftrags des Schutzes und der Mehrung des Allgemeinwohls offenkundig der politischen und nicht der technokratischen Führung bedarf, welche im Regelfall vorrangig der Gestikulation ausländischer Kollegen angeglichen wird?
-  Es ist abenteuerlich an ein baldiges oder sanftes Ende des umsichgreifenden globalen Finanz-Flächenbrandes zu glauben. Blau-äugige Treuhänder, Banquiers &  Politiker haben während Jahren prinzipienlosen, korrupten & rücksichtslosen Finanzjongleuren, Zauberlehrlingen & Modellschreinern in die Hand gespielt und nun die während Generationen mühsam aufgebaute reale soziale Marktwirtschaft an die Wand gefahren. Ohne Rückbesinnung auf unsere Ursprungswerte, ohne Rückkehr zu bewährtem, diszipliniertem, und besonders auf die eigene reale Wirtschaft ausgerichtetem Tun & Lassen, ist absehbar, dass die erfolgten und auch zukünftigen Milliarden- und Billionen-Einsätze die unabdingbare Vertrauensbasis für ein nachhaltig erfolgreiches Wirtschaften und Handeln nicht werden herbeiführen können.
-  Es wird also mehr brauchen als Zweckoptimisten. Und wenn es um die blosse Fortführung der fehlgeschlagenen Politiken geht, sind artikulierte Zauderer, Zweifler und - mehr denn sonst ohnehin - Querdenker sehr wohl gefragt. Vor allem wird es einer noch zuwenig gepflegten Fehlerkultur bedürfen, welche – wie im Falle der Basler, Genfer und Waadtländer Kantonsspitäler bereits begonnen (www.solami.com/errors.htm) – das schnellstmögliche Erkennen und Eingeständnis eines Fehlers wahrscheinlicher machen wird, auf dass dessen Vermeidung, Schadensbegrenzung und weitestmögliche Korrektur nicht unnötig verzögert werde. Und es wird ein neuer sozialer Pakt erarbeitet werden müssen. Dabei soll die Erkenntnis befolgt werden, dass auch unsere bestehende Rechtsstruktur grundsätzlich mikro-ökonomisch ausgerichtet ist. Sie kann damit nur Leitfaden sein kann. In ihrer stets beschränkten, weil relativen Verbindlichkeit darf sie niemals überbewertet werden. Und für das eigene sozial-verantwortliche Tun & Lassen vermag sie auch kein Feigenblatt abzugeben. Anders ausgedrückt: besonders wem makro-ökonomische und/oder makro–politische Funktionen anvertraut sind, dem obliegt in besonderem Masse die Selbstverantwortung und –disziplin, auf dass die mit unserer Rechtsstruktur verbundenen Rechtslücken nicht zu lasten der Allgemeinheit als billige Lücken für unverdiente Gewinne ausgeschlachtet, sondern im Sinne von Eugen Huber‘s ZGB-Artikel 1 eigenständig gefüllt werden, und zwar nach bestem Wissen & Gewissen, und unter Beachtung des Allgemeinwohls. Womit wesentlich auch der kurzsichtigen und verheerenden Abzockermentalität gesellschaftlich wirksam entgegengetreten würde. (15.9.08/5.6.09)

*                    *                    *

[reminders: 1929: mean annual income of US worker to Rockefeller's annual gain:  1 to 7000
2007: mean annual income of US worker to US bonus champion's annual bonus:   1 to 30000
min/max wages in China under Mao: 1:30, see: www.solami.com/salaries.htm]




Mises.org    May 29, 1999

Bank Secrecy
Richard W. Rahn

What cause unites Christian conservatives, free-trade Democrats, small-business people, the American Civil Liberties Union and tax reformers? Financial freedom and privacy.

The cause is being advanced in a series of legislative battles against big-government activists from both parties over the issues of encryption restrictions, asset forfeiture and, of most immediate concern, requirements that banks serve as agents of the state by monitoring the activities of their customers. The cornerstone of this last activity is the Bank Secrecy Act of 1970.

The BSA is, in fact, an antisecrecy act, because it requires bankers to spy on their customers by monitoring accounts for "suspicious activities." Bankers who fail to comply with this requirement are subject to prosecution and fines. Since Congress enacted the BSA, the scope of the law and of the bureaucracy to enforce it has steadily grown, a textbook illustration of how failed government policies beget more failed policies and ever more government.

The latest attempt to enlarge the reach of the BSA occurred in December, when the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. and the Treasury proposed "Know Your Customer" regulations that would have required banks to create customer profiles and report all activities that fell outside the "normal" transactions according to that profile. Originally, the BSA required only that banks monitor transactions above $10,000--which was lowered to $5,000 when the higher number proved to be ineffective in preventing money laundering and other financial crimes--and to report activities that the bankers themselves deemed suspicious. The proposed new regulations would have required all transactions to be monitored, no matter how small.

News of the Know Your Customer proposal circulated on the Internet and in print; e-mail comments, which the FDIC had solicited, came pouring in. The result: Some 254,000 people came out against the regulations, while only 72 people favored them. The planned regulations were quickly withdrawn, but the administration plans to issue new ones.

For years the BSA has had strong support in Congress. But now it seems that's changing. Reps. Ron Paul (R., Texas) and Tom Campbell (R., Calif.) have introduced legislation that would repeal the BSA and give people the right to check and challenge government records. The legislation is rapidly gaining cosponsors on both sides of the aisle.

Just as important, a growing number of law-enforcement organizations have recognized that the BSA has not been effective. Between 1987 and 1996, banks filed more than 77 million Currency Transaction Reports with the Treasury. This deluge of paperwork resulted in a mere 580 convictions. As Rep. Paul noted, "More than 99.999% of those [who] had their privacy invaded were law-abiding citizens going about their own personal financial business." The total private- and public-sector costs have been tens of millions of dollars per conviction, many times what Independent Counsel Kenneth Starr has spent per conviction in his allegedly extravagant investigation.

Moreover, the new digital technologies now coming into widespread use mean that no matter how assiduously the BSA and related provisions are enforced, money laundering and other financial crimes will be even more difficult to detect. Law-enforcement officials are nervously surveying a host of devices that will make their jobs more difficult, particularly easy-to-use, practically unbreakable encryption systems. These technologies are coming together in ways that will allow people to move money and financial assets instantaneously to almost any point on the globe without the knowledge of any government....

As the digital revolution takes hold, laws that were written for another era will become increasingly difficult to enforce. Americans can choose either to jettison these laws and take advantage of new technologies and the opportunities they create, or keep the laws and pay the price in economic inefficiency, technological backwardness and government intrusiveness. The immediate fate of the BSA will be a good indication of the direction we eventually take.

Richard Rahn is chairman of Novecon Financial, a senior fellow at the Discovery Institute and author of The End of Money and the Struggle for Financial Privacy (Discovery Institute Press, 1999), a book highly recommended by Mises.org. [The longer version of this piece appears in The Wall Street Journal, June 1, 1999]


editorial
Washington Times    June 1, 2003

To seize or not to seize

There are a few ongoing controversies about the Patriot Act, the batch of laws passed to combat terrorism in the aftermath of the September 11 attacks. Most serious is the charge that anti-terror laws are being misapplied to advance agendas that have nothing to do with preventing another attack on America. If so, this is a serious problem.

Specifically, civil-liberties groups are warning that the Justice Department is abusing powers derived from the Patriot Act. The agency argues that it very clearly is utilizing Patriot Act provisions for crime-fighting beyond anti-terror activities, but that it is perfectly within the bounds of the law to do so. Of particular import is Section 319, which gives prosecutors the ability to seize foreign assets in U.S.-based accounts of foreign banks if there is probable cause that the funds were obtained illegally. On Friday, Justice Department spokesman Bryan Sierra explained to us that, "When tools are available, yes, we'll use them. There is no wording in the law that limits this provision to terrorism. And given the complex connection between terrorism and money-laundering and other criminal activity, such as drug trafficking, we think it is appropriate to use the law to track down proceeds of illegal activity generally."

Critics say such broad powers go too far, and that federal prosecutors have a tendency to overreach. Economist Richard Rahn told us, "The government has a record of abuse with asset forfeiture already. It's a dangerous trend that undermines due process. Until actually convicted, no one should suffer the loss of their property." There are political ramifications as well. The State Department is worried that its diplomatic initiatives are undermined if prosecutors receive more power to move against foreign businesses operating in this country.

Our concern is the seeming misunderstanding of the public's support for the Patriot Act, which was sold as a reaction to terrorism. In its wisdom, Congress gave the government more powers to confront the new threat to the nation, including the ability to seize terrorist assets. We endorsed the new law, and would support broader tactics so long as they have sunset clauses and are used for the intended purposes. We could even understand the loose use of Section 319 in cases in which there is a hunch that a terrorist connection could exist. But permanently instituting new police powers or extending them beyond the scope of the terrorist threat, risks undercutting the public's support for the laws. If prosecutors don't show restraint, Congress may decide to restrain them by changing the statutes. And that would be a setback for the war on terror.



Hardball or Softball? Diamantball!
How not to react to US pressures on Bank Secrecy, Iran, Cuba, North Korea, etc.
by ICONOCLAST- 27.9.06 - url: www.solami.com/diamantball.htm ¦ .../Selbstbestimmung.htm ¦ .../Kundenschutz.htm
.../Anekdoten.htm ¦ .../hornung.htm ¦ .../Strasbourg.htm ¦ .../glasnost.htm ¦ .../vision.htm ¦ .../edouardbrunner.htm ¦ .../iran.htm ¦ .../ciaprisons.htm

Following 9/11, the US threatened to bomb Pakistan "back to the stone age" (President Pervez Musharraf, BBC, 22 Sep 06: www.solami.com/stoneage.htm). Except for the blue-eyed admirers of the naked emperor, that's no surprise for anybody blessed with related sensors, a memory and a sense of genuine sovereignty. To be sure, a clear-sighted Swiss ambassador alerted his superiors early on of the creeping US "economic warfare" against Switzerland (Interpellation 03.3487). And Jean-Pascal Delamuraz dared, in early 1997, to publicly label some of Stuart Eizenstat's utterings as "blackmail". Notwithstanding such increasingly rare examples of sovereign competence and individual courage, ever since 1981, hardball-playing SEC, IRS and other US officials have seen fit to draw Swiss bankers over the table, to make them dance to their tunes, and to oblige them to circumvent or even violate Swiss bank secrecy - courtesy of a particularly friendly former Swiss attorney general. Essentially based on the same advice - and in spite of the mutually binding contrary Swiss-American conventions regarding legal assistance in penal matters - a Swiss firm involved in the Swiss-led good offices operations between the US & Iran for the release of the US hostages in Teheran, Marc Rich & Co AG, in 1982, was leaned on to pay $50000/day for as long as it did not produce documents sought in relation with, a.o., the US Trading-with-the-enemy-Act. Repeatedly, even the NZZ sounded the tocsin on US practices and Swiss responses, already in 1987 under the title: Schweizer Antworten auf amerikanische Ideen (.../walderbsi.htm#Hohn).

Thus accustomed to servile and even premature Swiss legal assistance, US officials didn't take kindly to Swiss resistance, as expressed in e.g. its noted amicus curiae briefs of 1984 and 1986. And when, encouraged by a critical mass in Parliament, Switzerland's first lady Federal Councillor finally drew the line, she paid her courage with her own downfall. Notwithstanding punctual successes on the fiscal and the nuclear front, insider, money laundering and other lex americana copies have brought the universally acclaimed Swiss banking culture to the level of US visions and opportunism. Thus, from allies of their clients, Swiss banks have "volontarily" accepted to become QIs by the good grace of the US IRS (qualified intermediaries: .../QI.htm). And though Nationalrat Luzi Stamm had raised the yellow card with his letter of 13 December 2000 to the Swiss Bankers Association, he has yet to draw the courtesy of a substantial answer (SBA: .../swissbanks.htm#STAMM).

Not surprisingly then, when another emmissary of the US Government, the Under-Secretary of the US Treasury Stuart Levey, recently delivered the latest US desirata - i.e. to cut off all Swiss bank dealings with Iranian banks, starting with Saderat ("Washington invite les banques suisses à couper les liens avec l'Iran", Yves Genier, Le Temps, 21 sep 06: .../swissbanks.htm#Saderat; Stuart Levey: «Pour sanctionner l'Iran, notre meilleur allié est le secteur privé», Le Temps, 2 juin 2007: .../iran.htm#sanctionner) - his listeners in Berne "didn't notice any pressure". Probably not unlike the greenhorns in the US State Department who, in 1941, didn't notice Japan's declaration of war couched in the diplomatic language of another generation. At any rate, the "routine exchange of views" reportedly caused no alarm. And the way things have been going, the visitor may not even have been told that Switzerland's current good offices on the US/Iran nuclear conflict can only be as successful as both parties refrain from undermining our position as a neutral and credible facilitator. Indeed, a permanently neutral country must not favor either side in a given international conflict - not militarily, not politically and not commercially (see also: Report by the Federal Council on Swiss Foreign Relation, annex on neutrality, 1993 [*; Motion 08.3402]). Sanctions, even if decided by the UN Security Council, must not be allowed to impede a neutral country's normal trade and other relations; however, and beyond the "courant normal", it must not allow either its infrastructure to be used for sanctions-busting. Even more compellingly, essentially the same and further principles apply if a state is to effectively lend its services as a mediator, as an honest broker, including good offices for seeking to resolve an international conflict, small or big. Accordingly, Switzerland's international credibility is all but favored if even the mere suggestion of Swiss banks joining a banking boycott against a conflict party is no longer rejected out of hand - and may in fact already be officially favored.

Of course, the experiences & conditions thus brought into focus, so far somewhat have found their balance with more enchanting instances of genuine cooperation between two sovereign people sharing common values. Yet, officials, bankers & entrepreneurs interested in successfully dealing with our American friends must not allow themselves to be blinded by their sympathy for their American relatives and friends, but keep the social Rider Curve in mind and reflect seriously upon the following insights:
1.    Until proven otherwise, Americans have grown up in, are thoroughly used to and, as a rule, have their sensors not trained to an environment different from one of - often reckless, if not ignorant - hardball-playing competition. The Israeli example continues to show: fully appreciated, respected and honored is only someone who - even under an unfavorable rapport des forces - responds to such Americanisms with hardball, better even with diamantball.  Thus, someone who is seen to curry favors with niceties and softball, deservedly - in the American mindset - is routinely treated with contempt, disrespect and abuse.
2.    Fertile chaos being a dominant feature of US society and politics, there is no such thing as a unified policy on almost anything. Hence, hire & fire, social mobbing, friendly fire, collateral damage and ill-considered & ill-advised "policies" are not the exceptions but the characteristics of daily events in all segments and power levels of US society, be it in the domains of the economy, religion, politics, armed forces, etc. Checks & balances, effective supervision, respect for Treaties and the Rule of Law - as demonstrated by the US Supreme Court with its unfortunate Aerospatiale ruling - reflect less reality than constitutional aspirations of the Founding Fathers who thus labored to temper such dominant human motivators as greed, self-rightousness and opportunism. Even at the top of the power hierarchy, this deeply enrooted Wild West, bounty hunting & Flat Earth mindset today still translates into "shoot first, ask questions later", "you're either for or against us", "in case of doubt, bomb them", "war on terror", "get me that scalp called Swiss bank secrecy", "shut down non-compliant Swiss banks", etc. To be sure, in most cases this is not merely heavy-handed clumsiness & benign hilly-billy ignorance, but society-permeating viciousness, as evidenced by Robert Ringer's best-seller "Winning through intimidation". All of which adds up to a mockery and abuse of democratic agendas and institutions - as if we were faced with the 4th Reich. And it results in real power vacuums at high and highest offices which can, have been and, if the past is any guide, will continue to be exploited by baby-faced, yet reckless office holders - in as much as they are being helped, accomodated or not sent back to go fly a kite and consult first with their colleagues in other departments.
3.    Good, mutually respectful and beneficial Swiss-American relations are not only desirable, but possible. As demonstrated by the Joint Resolution of the US Congress of 1985, they are readily recognizable also by our American friends as being crucial not only to Swiss but to US interests. However, they deserve and need to be moored in a better understanding of both our existing treaty rights & obligations, genuine US roots, values & interests, and on-going operations here & there. Also, there are corresponding lessons to be learned from essentially self-inflicted damages, including the "diplomatic treasons" (art.267 CP) apparently committed by various lex americana promoters, such as Swiss attorney generals - both former and current.

In summary, instead of blissfully heeding whatever American official visitors transmit as the latest US desirata, principled, visionary and well-considered initiatives of our own are called for, if the Swiss financial market, Swiss products & services, and Swiss sovereignty is to have a future. All of which indicates a political willingness and calls for adequate support measures for exploring and eventually realizing such mutually beneficial projects as:
1.    Swiss Good Offices - not excluding parallel diplomacy efforts (.../edouardbrunner.htm) - for resolving the current nuclear disputes between the US (Israel) and Iran (.../iran.htm ¦ .../nptmotion.htm ¦ .../wargames.htm ¦ .../3103memo.htm ¦ .../3103.htm ¦ .../255.htm) .
2.    Installation, notably in Swiss bank tresors, of monitoring equipment as a key Swiss contribution to the US/Russian Global Initiative to Combat Nuclear Terrorism - in return, sine qua non, for conditions where lex helvetica, and not lex americana, is again genuinely the law of the land.
3.    Development and application of methods and vehicles to effectively combat "soft law" bureaucratic lawmaking at the UN, EU, OECD (FATF), etc (.../oecdmandate.htm ¦ .../merz.htm ¦ .../crime.htm ¦ .../GAFI.htm ¦ .../finma.htm).




Wochenzeitung WOZ    24.Januar 2008

Finanzkapitalismus in der Krise
Wu und Hu schlagen Ben
Von Gian Trepp

Der unkontrollierte, massenweise Einsatz von Finanzderivaten hat die globalisierten Finanzmärkte destabilisiert. Davon wissen smarte Staatskapitalisten aus China, Russland, dem Nahen Osten und Singapur zu profitieren.
US-Hypothekenkrise, Subprime-Crisis, Kreditkrise, Bankenkrise: Mit solchen Begriffen versuchte der hiesige Mainstream-Wirtschaftsjournalismus im Sommer 2007 die undurchsichtige Lage auf den US-amerikanischen Finanzmärk­ten auf den Punkt zu bringen. Berichtet wurde damals mit der Stossrichtung, das Ganze sei zwar ein ziemlich unangenehmes, aber isoliertes Phänomen, und der Markt werde es schon wieder richten. Im August sprach Bankenkommissionspräsident Eugen Haltiner in einem Zeitungsinterview noch von einer «gesunden Marktreaktion». Diese selbstzufriedene Gesundbeterei des ehemaligen UBS-Managers Haltiner machte damals vor allem seinem alten Chef Marcel Ospel Freude, die UBS war bereits beim ersten Donnergrollen auf den US-amerikanischen Finanzmärkten im Februar 2007 bös abgestürzt.

Seither ist ein halbes Jahr vergangen. Auf den globalisierten Finanzmärkten und dem Finanzplatz Schweiz ist nichts mehr, wie es damals war. Überall liegen die grossen Investmentbanken am Boden, überall sind die Börsen ge­crasht, und die grosse Spekulationsparty der Hedge Fonds, Private-Equity-Firmen und Versicherungsgesellschaften scheint zu Ende zu sein.

Das Problem sind nicht die Milliardenverluste an der Börse, das Problem ist das System. Weitergehen wie bisher kann es in der Weltfinanz nicht, doch die StrategInnen in Washington, an der Wall Street und in der City of London wissen nicht, wo es in Zukunft langgehen soll.

Strategiedefizit und Konfusion des anglo-amerikanischen Finanzkapitalismus werden nirgends besser sichtbar, als wenn US-Finanzminister Hank Paulson und US-Zentralbankpräsident Ben Bernanke zu Gesprächen nach Peking pilgern, wo sie sich von Wu Xiaoling und Hu Xiaolian bereits mehrmals haben zurechtweisen lassen müssen. Wu ist Vizepräsidentin und Auslandchefin der Peoples Bank of China (Zentralbank), Hu ihre Devisenchefin. Im Einklang mit dem Politbüro weigerten sich Wu und Hu bislang strikte, den Yuan­ Renminbi aufzuwerten, wie von der Bush-Regierung immer eindringlicher verlangt.

Innere und äussere Krisenfaktoren
Die gegenwärtige Krise des anglo-amerikanischen Finanzkapitalismus hat zwei Hauptursachen, eine ökonomische und eine politische. Ökonomisch betrachtet sind die Auswirkungen des massenweisen Einsatzes von Finanzderivaten auf den globalisierten Märkten ausser Kontrolle geraten. Politisch gesehen schrumpft die Regulationsmacht der USA auf den globalisierten Finanzmärkten im Gefolge eines erstarkenden Staatskapitalismus, was den Kontrollverlust noch verschärft.

Was den Staatskapitalismus als politischen Destabilisierungsfaktor der Finanzmärkte betrifft, so müssen hier vor allem China und Russland erwähnt werden. Nach ihrem Sieg im Kalten Krieg vor bald zwanzig Jahren haben die USA das Finanzsystem des von ihnen dominierten Westblocks globalisiert. Der Plan war, den gescheiterten Sowjetkommunismus wie auch das bereits seit Ende der siebziger Jahre wirtschaftsreformbereite kommunistische China als Vasallen in die neue Weltordnung einer imperialen Pax Americana einzugliedern.

Doch es kam anders. Aus den Ruinen des Marxismus-Leninismus in China und Russland stiegen die Staatskapitalisten auf, welche die US-amerikanische Hegemonie über Weltpolitik, Weltwirtschaft und Weltfinanz nicht akzeptieren wollen. Darüber hinaus existiert eine bunte Schar mehr oder weniger staatskapitalistischer weiterer Nationalstaaten wie Indien, Brasilien, Venezuela oder Singapur, sowie eine aufstrebende schariakonforme Islamfinanz von Marokko bis Indonesien. Die kapitalkräftigen Staatskapitalisten, die in den vergangenen Wochen gecrashte Investmentbanken gleich reihenweise mit frischem Geld versorgt haben (vgl. Tabelle «Staatsfonds»), verfolgen nicht bloss finanzielle, sondern auch politische Ziele.

Das können die Staatskapitalisten, weil die jeweiligen Regierungen in diesem Wirtschaftssystem die Geld-, Kredit-, und Währungspolitik im Namen des Gesamtinteresses der nationalen Volkswirtschaft kontrollieren. Dies im Unterschied zum Finanzkapitalismus, in dem Geld, Kredit und Währung nicht vom Staat, sondern von den politisch unabhängigen Zentralbanken gesteuert werden. Getreu der neoliberalen Doktrin, die fordert, der Staat müsse von diesem Bereich ferngehalten werden, weil er seine Ausgaben sonst über kurz oder lang durch die eigene Banknotenpresse finanziere, was zu Geldentwertung und letztlich zu Totalverlust bei RentnerInnen, SparerInnen und Inves­torInnen führe. Neben diesem Unterschied haben Staatskapitalismus und Finanzkapitalismus auch zwei Gemeinsamkeiten: Beide anerkennen das Privateigentum und die Marktwirtschaft.

Der geplante Einstieg eines Staatsfonds aus Singapur bei der UBS ist ein konkretes Beispiel eines staatskapitalistischen Mix aus Profit und Politik. Statt die Währungsreserven in nutzlosen Stabilisierungsaktionen zu verpulvern, wie es die Schweizer Nationalbank im Verbund mit den Notenbanken der USA, Britannien und der EU tut, kauft sich die Zentralbank des Stadtstaates Singapur mit ihren Währungsreserven bei der grössten Bank des Konkurrenzstandortes Schweiz ein.

Derivate destabilisieren
Bisher haben die globalisierten Finanzmärkte, ja die Globalisierung insgesamt, funktioniert, weil alle massgebenden MarktteilnehmerInnnen die vom anglo-amerikanischen Finanzkapitalismus neoliberaler Prägung definierten globalen Marktordnungen akzeptierten. Jetzt hat der Wind gekehrt. Die Finanzglobalisierung ist ins Stocken geraten. Die goldenen Jahre der SpekulantInnnen neigen sich ihrem Ende zu. Die Prognose sei gewagt: Die US-dominierten globalisierten Finanzmärkte werden schrumpfen und gleichzeitig neue Regionalmärkte entstehen.

So wie der Aufstieg des Staatskapitalismus die US-dominierten globalisierten Finanzmärkte von aussen schwächte, hat der massenweise Derivateinsatz die Märkte von innen destabilisiert. Derivate sind Wetten auf die Zukunft, Termingeschäfte mit unsicherem Ausgang in juristischer Form eines Finanzinstrumentes. Weil kein gewöhnlicher Sterblicher die Zukunft vorhersagen kann, sind Derivate irrational, Glückssache, das ist ihr tieferes Geheimnis. Dieses Geheimnis versteht jeder, auch wenn Derivate im Detail und in der Praxis höllisch kompliziert sind und ohne besondere Kenntnis in Mathematik nicht durchschaut werden können.

Im Prinzip sind Derivatgeschäfte im Wirtschaftsleben schon lange bekannt. So konnte ein Fischer am See Genezareth bereits zu biblischen Zeiten seinen Fang zum Fixpreis verkaufen, noch bevor das Boot aus dem Hafen ausgelaufen war. Gingen mehr Fische ins Netz, gewann der Käufer, und der Fischer verlor. Gingen weniger Fische ins Netz, verlor der Fixpreiskäufer, und der Fischer gewann. Spekulationsgeschäfte dieser Art machten auch BäuerInnen, wenn sie Geld brauchten und dem Müller das Getreide schon im Frühling verkauften. Doch blieben Transaktionen dieser Art noch bis vor wenigen Jahrzehnten marginal und waren in der Regel auch direkt mit einem Geschäft in der Realwirtschaft verbunden.

Die Entwicklung der Derivate zum eigenständigen, vom Grundgeschäft losgelösten Massengeschäft begann mit den Devisenderivaten nach der Einführung des Systems der freien Wechselkurse 1971. Dann kamen die Rohstoffderivate, Aktienderivate, Zinsderivate, Kreditderivate, dann die Derivate dieser Derivate, bis das Derivat schliesslich in den neunziger Jahren neben der Aktie und der Obligation zur tragenden Säule des Finanzkapitalismus herangewachsen war.

Die PropagandistInnen des Derivatebusiness sagen, das sei gut, weil die Derivate den Risikotransfer zwischen risikoberereiten und risikoscheuen MarktteilnehmerInnen ermöglichten, was das Wirtschaftsystem insgesamt stabilisiere. KritikerInnen hingegen weisen darauf hin, dass dieser Risikotransfer zum Selbstläufer geworden sei, der die Finanzwirtschaft in gefährlicher Weise von der Realwirtschaft entkopple und diese damit destabilisiere. Das Derivatgeschäft lebe nicht mehr von den Bedürfnissen der Realwirtschaft, sondern werde vielmehr von der Geldgier der Finanzdienstleister getrieben, die hier viel verdienen könnten.

Finanzplatz Schweiz bedroht
Jetzt haben die Ereignisse auf den Finanzmärkten den DerivatkritikerInnen recht gegeben. Mit Derivaten lässt sich der Rückzahlungszeitpunkt von Schulden hinausschieben. Dieser bis anhin gut geschmierte Transmissionsmechanismus ist nun ins Stocken geraten - die Blase ist geplatzt.

Die Börse crasht, eine Rezession droht, der globale Finanzkapitalismus wird von einer strukturellen Krise geschüttelt, und die Staatskapitalisten stehen vor der Tür. Gleichzeitig fehlt dem hiesigen Finanzplatz die strategische Führung. Die Grossbanken und Grossversicherungen liegen am Boden, was auch die Bankiervereinigung schwächt. Während Bundesrat, Bankenkommission und Nationalbank bislang noch wenig Substanzielles zum Niedergang der Milchkuh zu sagen hatten, die im vergangenen Jahr etwa fünfzehn Prozent des Bruttoinlandproduktes brachte. Wer rettet den Finanzplatz?
 




Wochenzeitung WOZ    7.August 2008

Kapitalismusanalyse
Das Schlaraffenland ist gründlich abgebrannt
Von Gian Trepp

Ein Häuschen auch für die Ärmsten und fette Gewinne für die FinanzmanagerInnen - so sollte das eigentlich funktionieren. Wie konnten Probleme mit US-amerikanischen Subprime-Hypotheken, einem kleinen Segment der Finanzmärkte, eine globale Systemkrise auslösen?
«Die Krise hat alles überstiegen, was man sich vorstellen konnte», sagte Marcel Rohner, Konzernleiter der UBS, im vergangenen Frühling. Gleichermassen ratlos gibt sich auch Nationalbank-­Vizepräsident Philipp Hildebrand, der im Juli die Finanzkrise so kommentiert hat: «Es gab wohl niemanden, der sich diesen Ablauf, diese Rasanz, mit der sich die Initialzündung rund um den Globus verbreitet hat, vorstellen konnte.»

Wenn Hildebrand «niemanden» sagt, dann redet er allerdings nur vom neoliberalen Mainstream in der Ökonomie. Ausserhalb dieser Denkschule, der sich auch die Nationalbank verschrieben hat, gab es überall auf der Welt Beob­achterInnen und KommentatorInnen, die nicht überrascht waren.

Krise, welche Krise?
Ende Juli, nachdem die Grossbank Credit Suisse (CS) für das zweite Quartal 2008 einen höheren Gewinn als erwartet gemeldet hatte, titelte der Zürcher «Tages-Anzeiger»: «Credit Suisse sagt der Finanzkrise Adieu». Zum Quartalsergebnis der Bank Bär hiess es im gleichen Blatt: «Julius Bär bietet der Finanzkrise die Stirn». Die Märkte sahen es anders. Bereits am nächsten Tag sanken die Kurse der CS-Aktien und zahlreicher anderer Finanzpapiere. Auch in New York, London und Frankfurt ging die Rallye der Finanzaktien, ein kurzes Aufleben der Titel bei grundsätzlich fallenden Kursen, am 25. Juli zu Ende. Die stützenden Staatseingriffe der US-Regierung auf den Finanzmärkten hatten jenes Zwischenhoch für Finanztitel ausgelöst, das rasch verpufft war.

Marktturbulenz oder Systemkrise, so lautet hier die Frage. Ist bloss wieder einmal eine Finanzblase geplatzt, wie im New-Economy-Crash 2000/2001 und in den diversen Kursstürzen der achtziger und neunziger Jahre? Oder stecken die globalisierten Finanzmärkte in einer Systemkrise, ist die Funktionsweise von Märkten, Institutionen und Instrumenten des Weltfinanzwesens korrumpiert?

Das US-amerikanische Finanzsys­tem, der Kern der globalisierten Finanzmärkte, wäre zusammengebrochen, wä­ren da nicht die stützenden Staatskredite gewesen, die im August 2007 notfallmässig gewährt wurden. Und ­diese Rettungsübung nimmt kein Ende. Ein Jahr danach, Anfang August 2008, sind die Kreditprogramme des Federal Reserve System, der US-Zentralbank, zur Stützung des Bankensystems ausgeweitet und bis 2009 verlängert worden.

Überholtes neoliberales Dogma
Staat raus aus der Wirtschaft, die Märkte regeln sich am besten selber - dieses Dogma gilt für die US-Finanzmärkte nicht mehr. Auch der härteste Neoliberale ruft nach dem Staat, wenn es keine Gewinne mehr zu privatisieren gibt, sondern Verluste sozialisiert werden müssen. Heute reguliert die US-Regierung unter George Bush das Finanzsystem im Geiste einer Doktrin, die als Sozialismus für die Reichen bezeichnet werden kann. Die verbilligten Zentralbankkredite an inländische Ban­ken sind eine Staatsgarantie für das Ver­mögen der Reichen. Bezahlen müssen der inländische Mittelstand und die inländischen Armen sowie mittelfristig auch ausländische InvestorInnen in den US-Dollar.

Trauerspiel in drei Akten
Wie kam es, dass vor einem Jahr die Krise eines verhältnismässig kleinen Segments der US-Finanzmärkte schlagartig die gesamten US-Börsen und die globalisierten Finanzmärkte kontaminierte? Warum hat sich die Krise weiter verschlimmert? Die Produktewursterei des Finanzkapitalismus präsentiert sich wie ein Trauerspiel, als Dreiakter mit Prolog und vorläufigem Finale furioso.

Vorspiel: Von Prime zu Subprime
Hypothekarkredite auf Wohnimmo­bilien gehören zu den wichtigsten Kreditformen und gelten für Kreditgeber­Innen als solides Geschäft, weil sie pfandgesichert sind. Bis zum Ausbruch der Krise hatten die USA einen zweigeteilten Hypothekarmarkt.

Zum einen gab es das regulierte Segment mit Belehnungsgrenzen und Bonitätsanforderungen an die KreditnehmerInnen, die von den beiden grossen halbstaatlichen Hypothekarinstituten Fannie Mae und Freddie Mac definiert wurden. (Die kuriosen Namen, Verballhornungen komplizierter Kürzel, haben sich eingebürgert. Die beiden Unternehmen waren in der Wirtschaftsdepression der dreissiger Jahre im Zug der staatsinterventionistischen «New ­Deal»-Politik von US-Präsident Franklin D. Roosevelt gegründet worden.)

Der andere Teil des Hypothekarmarktes beinhaltete das nicht regulierte Segment: den sogenannten Subprime-Sektor ohne Belehnungsgrenzen und Bonitätsanforderungen, der dafür höhere Gebühren und schlechtere Konditionen für KreditnehmerInnen mit sich brachte.

In den Achtzigern war das Subprime-Geschäft noch klein, aber seit Beginn der neunziger Jahre wuchs es rasant. Die im Bonussystem bezahlten HypothekenverkäuferInnen von Subprime-Banken wie Countrywide oder IndyMac gewährten KreditnehmerInnen immer freigiebiger Hypotheken. Als Sicherheit setzten die KreditverkäuferInnen nicht nur auf die Zahlungsfähigkeit der SchuldnerInnnen, sondern auf den künftigen Preisanstieg des Pfandes, also des Grundstückpreises. Die Produktion von Subprime-Hypotheken wurde zur grossen Geldmaschine.

Parallel zur Ausdehnung der Kreditvergabe gingen die Subprime-Institute dazu über, die einzelnen Hypotheken in Wertpapieren zu verbriefen. Damit folgten sie einem Trend, der auch in anderen Sektoren des Bankenwesens einsetzte. Verbriefung heisst: Die Hypotheken wurden nicht mehr als Aktivposten in den Bilanzen aufgeführt, sondern als Wertpapiere weitergehandelt. Dazu gründeten die Subprime-Institute Anlagegesellschaften, denen sie eine grosse Zahl der von ihnen gewährten einzelnen Hypotheken verkauften.Das nötige Geld beschafften sich diese schwach kapitalisierten Gesellschaften aus Schuldverschreibungen und Obligationenanleihen. Solche Subprime-Papiere waren lange gut verkäuflich. Sie galten als sicheres Anlageprodukt, weil die Zinszahlungen ihrer HypothekarschuldnerInnen für einen konstanten Einkommensstrom sorgten und weil sie eine positive Bewertung der Rating-Agenturen vorweisen konnten.

1. Akt: Von Subprime zum Derivat
Subprime-Papiere sind Anlageprodukte, deren Ertrag aus den anfallenden Zinszahlungen der HypothekarschuldnerInnen besteht. Finanzderivate sind Wetten auf die künftige Preisentwicklung von Basiswerten aller Art. Bei einer Kombination entstehen sogenannte strukturierte Hypothekarprodukte mit - vermeintlich - präzis definiertem Risikoprofil. Der Clou solcher Produkte ist, dass die InvestorInnen bei der Geldanlage aus einer breiten Palette vom Hoch- bis zum Tiefrisikoprodukt wählen können, anstatt nur auf ein Produkt zu fixem Zins angewiesen zu sein, das mit Hypotheken gesichert ist. Solche strukturierten Immobilienprodukte sind eine Mischform von Investition und Spekulation. Erstinvestoren waren in aller Regel nicht Private, sondern Hedgefonds und Investmentbanken, also Zwischenhändler, welche dann mit diesen Papieren einen Sekundärhandel für mittlere und kleine InvestorInnen aufzogen.

Nachdem der New-Economy-Crash von 2000/2001 die Aktienbörsen zum Absturz gebracht hatte, explodierte das Geschäftsvolumen mit strukturierten Subprime-Hypothekarprodukten. Wer in der Welt der Hedgefonds und Investmentbanken Rang und Namen hatte, stieg ein. 2005 begann die Ausfallquote bei den Zinszahlungen der Hypotheken zwar anzusteigen. Aber das kümmerte die Branche wenig. Ebenso wenig beunruhigte der gleichzeitig einsetzende Preisrückgang für Wohnimmobilien. Die FinanzingenieurInnen schraubten in ihren Marktmodellen einfach die Ausfallquote höher und pumpten neue strukturierte Produkte ins System.

Zu einer grösseren Reaktion kam es erst Anfang 2007. Nachdem die Rating-Agenturen die Bonitäten bestehender Produkte zurückgestuft hatten, bauten einzelne vorsichtigere AkteurInnen ihre Positionen in den stukturierten Subprime-Produkten ab. Die Kurse sanken, und es wurden immer weniger neue Produkte angeboten.

2. Akt: Zu viele Papiere
Im August 2007 erlitt der Finanzkapitalismus einen Herzinfarkt. Das Platzen der Subprime-Blase spielte sich wie folgt ab: Einige Hedgefonds aus dem Umfeld der Investmentbank ­Bear Stearns setzten die Rücknahme von Kapitalanteilen aus mit der Begründung, der Wert dieser Anteile könne nicht mehr eingeschätzt werden, weil der Bestand an strukturierten Subprime-Produkten nicht mehr zu bestimmen sei.

Diese Meldung war aus zwei Gründen eine Katastrophe. Zum einen blockierte sie die Kapitalrückzahlung an verkaufswillige Fonds-InvestorInnen. Zum anderen bedeutete das Bekenntnis der FinanzingenieurInnen den Super-GAU für den Handel mit solchen Produkten: Wenn die Hedgefonds einer Investmentbank wie Bear Stearns ihre Produkte nicht mehr bewerten können, dann haben auch andere Eigentümer­Innen solcher Produkte ein Problem.

Innert weniger Tage sank die reale Nachfrage für Subprime-Produkte auf null. Schlagartig zeigte sich den AkteurInnen, dass ihr Business von der Marktwirtschaft zur Modellwirtschaft mutiert war. Strukturierte Subprime-Produkte waren ein von der Realwirtschaft völlig entkoppeltes, rein virtuelles Computerprodukt geworden. Ihr Preis ist keine Funktion des real erwirtschafteten Mietertrages mehr, sondern eine Funktion eines mathematisch modellierten Marktes. Weil Nachfrage null in diesem Modell nicht vorgesehen war, mussten die Preisbildungsmodelle der FinanzingenieurInnen versagen.

3. Akt: Zu wenig Geld
Der Schock am Subprime-Markt trocknete die Liquidität auf dem Interbankenmarkt über Nacht aus. Solange nicht klar war, wie Subprime-Produkte bewertet werden mussten und wer wie hoch bei den kollabierten Hedgefonds engagiert war, wollten die Banken ein­ander kein Geld mehr leihen. Weil die Banken ohne das Interbankengeschäft nicht stabil arbeiten können und weil die globalisierten Finanzmärkte ohne die Banken nicht funktionieren, mussten die Zentralbanken eingreifen. Zur Verhinderung einer Liquiditätskrise im Bankensystem öffneten die Zentralbanken der USA, Britanniens und Kanadas, die Europäische Zentralbank (EZB) und die Schweizerische Nationalbank einen Kreditschalter. Dort erhielten die Banken zinsgünstige Kredite gegen ­eine Hinterlegung von unverkäuflichen strukturierten Produkten.

Nach dieser Geldinjektion der Zentralbanken signalisierten die Bankbosse im September 2007 vorschnell Entwarnung. Marcel Ospel und seine Kollegen gingen davon aus, dass die Subprime-Krise rasch überwunden werden könne. Doch die Illusion hielt sich nicht lange. Im Herbst 2007 war klar, dass strukturierte Finanzinstrumente im dreistelligen Milliardenbereich unverkäuflich geworden waren. Immer mehr Banken waren gezwungen, den Geldschalter der Zentralbanken zu beanspruchen. Gleichzeitig war die Vergabe von neuen Subprime-Hypotheken völlig zum Erliegen gekommen, und die Preise für Wohnimmobilien sanken rasant.

Nachdem die Zentralbanken ihre Stützaktion zum Jahresabschluss 2007 nochmals intensivieren mussten, reagierte auch die Aktienbörse, wo die Kurse, ausgenommen bei den Finanztiteln, noch relativ wenig gesunken waren. Seit Beginn 2008 zeigt der Trend für die Aktien in allen Bereichen deutlich nach unten.

Bis zum Februar dieses Jahres kam es dank des billigen Geldes der Zentralbanken zu einer gewissen Konsolidierung im Bankensystem. Einigen stark angeschlagenen Instituten gelang es, neues Kapital von staatlichen Vermögensfonds und von mittelöstlichen Milliardären zu beschaffen. Dazu gehörten etwa die UBS, aber auch die US-amerikanischen Institute Citigroup oder Merrill Lynch.

Im März 2008 verschärfte sich die Krise aufs Neue. Die bedeutende US-Investmentbank Bear Stearns geriet nach neuen zweistelligen Milliarden-Abschreibern von strukturierten Finanzprodukten in eine existenzbedrohende Liquiditätskrise. Sie musste mit einer Garantieerklärung des US-Finanzminis­teriums vor dem Bankrott bewahrt und zwangsweise mit der Investmentbank JPMorgan Chase fusioniert werden.

Finale Furioso: Fannie und Freddie
Am 13. Juli kehrte die Krise dann dorthin zurück, wo knapp ein Jahr zuvor alles begonnen hatte, zum US-Hypothekarmarkt für Wohnimmobilien: Nach dem Subprime-Segment kam auch das Prime-Segment des Hypothekenmarktes in eine schwere Krise. US-Finanzminister Henry Paulson erliess eine Notverfügung, wonach die erwähnten Hypothekarinstitute Fannie Mae und Freddie Mac auf Staatskredite in theoretisch unbegrenzter Höhe zurückgreifen dürften. Fannie und Freddie kaufen und garantieren Hypotheken, deren SchuldnerInnen eine Bonitätsprüfung bestanden haben. Überdies kennen sie ähnliche Belehnungsgrenzen für Immobilien, wie sie auch in der Schweiz gelten. Die beiden Institute haben eine enorme Bedeutung, weil sie ein Drittel aller US-Hypothekarkredite vergeben und darüber hinaus für die Hälfte aller US-Hypotheken eine Garantieerklärung abgelegt haben.

Grund für die Krise bei Fannie und Freddie sind nicht die erstklassigen Hypotheken, sondern dieselben strukturierten Hypothekarprodukte, die den Kollaps des Subprime-Geschäftes hervorgerufen haben. Gemäss der Analyse des Londoner Wirtschaftsmagazins «Economist» hielten die beiden Institute einen Riesenbestand an ­Subprime-Produkten, von denen sie laut ihrem de­finierten Geschäftsfeld, das sich auf erstklassige SchuldnerInnen beschränkte, eigenlich hätten die Finger lassen müssen. Die nötigen Abschreiber auf ihren Subprime-Produkten konnten Fannie und Freddie nicht verkraften, weil sie dank ihrer impliziten Staatsgarantie mit sehr wenig Eigenkapital ausgestattet sind.

Alles, was seit Sommer 2007 auf den Finanzmärkten geschah, ist nicht Ursache, sondern Wirkung. Die Ursache der Finanzkrise hat zwei miteinander verbundene Aspekte, einen technischen und einen politischen. Finanztechnisch ist die Systemkrise eine Folge des massenhaften, unregulierten Einsatzes von Finanzderivaten als Bausteine strukturierter Finanzprodukte. Politisch ist die Finanzkrise eine Folge des Niedergangs der Supermacht USA, die die globalisierten Finanzmärkte machtpolitisch garantiert.

Finanztechnisch gesehen griff die Krise im Sommer 2007 vom Geschäft mit strukturierten Hypothekarproduk­ten blitzschnell auf das systemnotwendige Interbankengeschäft über, weil der private Geldschöpfungsprozess, die dem massenhaften Einsatz von Derivaten eigen ist, zum Erliegen gekommen war.

Das Prinzip dieses privaten Geldschöpfungsprozesses besteht darin, dass zwei Spekulanten eine Wette abschliessen und beide - also auch der zukünftige Verlierer - ihre schriftlich festgehaltene Wettposition während der Laufzeit der Wette gegen Geld weiterverkaufen können. Solange dieser Sekundärmarkt funktioniert, kann der Verlierer seinen Verlust beim Ablauf der Wettfrist jeweils durch eine neue, gegen Geld verkäufliche Wettposition decken. Wenn er geldgierig ist, kommt er mit immer riskanteren Wetten zu immer mehr Geld. Dieser private Geldschöpfungsprozess ist das Herz des angloamerikanischen Finanzkapitalismus neoliberaler Prägung.

Nach dem Absturz der Hedgefonds von Bear Stearns verpuffte das gegen­seitige Vertrauen der drei bis vier Dutzend Grossinstitute, die das Geschäft mit struk­­turierten Hypothekarproduk­ten kontrollieren. Ohne Vorwarnung liehen sich diese Institute gegenseitig kein Geld mehr aus und akzeptierten keine dieser neu aufgelegten strukturierten Produkte mehr. Jeder misstraute jedem. Denn jeder wusste, dass die Eigenfinanzierung mittels der den Derivaten eigenen Geldschöpfungskraft ausgetrocknet war. Und ausgetrocknet würde sie auch bleiben, solange keine neuen strukturierten Hypothekarprodukte mehr aufgelegt werden konnten und keiner wusste, bei wem die wertlosen Papiere lagen.

Den Vertrauensverlust verstärkt hat zudem ein politischer Faktor, nämlich die schrumpfende Macht der USA. Deren Banken dominieren den Handel mit Derivaten und strukturierten Produkten, und sie profitieren am meisten von diesem Markt. US-Institute machen etwa achtzig Prozent der drei bis vier Dutzend systemtragenden Gross­institute aus. Die Banken in China, Indien, Russland, Südamerika und auch in Kontinentaleuropa dürften von einer Schwächung des US-Bankensystems profitieren.

Manche Grossinstitute haben die Krise bislang besser überstanden als andere. Dennoch lässt sich feststellen, dass die Handvoll Schlüsselspieler des Finanzkapitalismus ihre alte Grösse nur dann wieder erreichen, wenn der derivatgetriebene Mechanismus der privaten Geldschöpfung wieder anspringt. Wenn sie also wieder strukturierte Hypothekar- und andere Produkte in Massenauflage herausgeben, verkaufen und handeln können. Doch das scheint auf absehbare Zeit eher unwahrscheinlich. Der grosse Reibach bei den Banken ist erst einmal vorbei.

Der Schweizer Finanzplatz als Konkordanzplatz

Mit ihrem grossen Finanzplatz ist die Schweiz von der Krise stark betroffen. Angeschlagen sind besonders UBS und Credit Suisse sowie die Versicherungsgesellschaften Swiss Re und Zurich Financial. Diese vier kontrollieren zirka achtzig Prozent aller Aktiven im Schweizer Banken- und Versicherungsgeschäft.

Die staatliche Aufsicht über diese vier Institute erfolgte bislang nach dem Grundsatz der Selbstregulation. Es galt die Devise, dass der Standort die vier Finanzgiganten in ihrem Risikomanagement nach Belieben schalten und walten liess. Bis vor einem Jahr frassen der Bundesrat und die Eidgenössische Bankenkommission dem UBS-Chef Marcel Ospel aus der Hand. Die Überwachung von UBS und Credit Suisse durch die Bankenkommission war eine reine Alibiveranstaltung. Insbesondere die volkswirtschaftlichen Risiken der strukturierten Finanzprodukte wurden von der Schweizer Banküberwachung völlig verkannt.

Mit Selbstregulation und Servilität muss jetzt Schluss sein, das hat auch der Präsident der Bankenkommission, Eugen Haltiner, erkannt. Die von ihm geforderte obere Verschuldungsgrenze für die Grossbanken ist der richtige Weg, um den Appetit auf grosse Gewinne und damit grosse Risiken zu beschränken. Eine am Eigenkapital festgemachte, in absoluten Zahlen definierte Schuldengrenze limitiert insbesondere auch das Volumen der strukturierten Produkte und hilft mit, deren destabilisierende Effekte auf die Schweizer Realwirtschaft einzugrenzen.

Einmal in Kraft gesetzt, bedeutet eine solche Schuldengrenze - Neudeutsch auch «leverage ratio» genannt - das Ende des heutigen Geschäftsmodells von UBS und Credit Suisse: der Kombination von Schweizer Vermögensverwaltungsbank und Investmentbank von US-amerikanischem Typ. In den USA ist dieses einst einträgliche Modell bereits eingestürzt. Im Gefolge der Krise sind UBS und CS an der Wall Street gewissermassen zwangsweise ausgebürgert worden. Dies geschah, obwohl sie sich seit Anfang dieses Jahrzehnts voll amerikanisiert hatten und an der Wall Street faktisch auch als inländische Institute agieren konnten. Neuerdings hat sich dies unter dem Banner des staatlichen Finanzinterventionismus der USA geändert. Die Eingriffe von Finanzministerium und Zentralbank (Fed) sind nationalstaatliche wirtschaftspolitische Massnahmen, die dem US-Bankensystem zugute kommen sollen. Und dazu gehören UBS und Credit Suisse jetzt nicht mehr.

Die Nationalbank beteiligt sich als Juniorpartnerin des Fed am neuen US-Finanzinterventionismus. Damit öffnet sie den beiden Schweizer Grossbanken den nötigen Zugang zum Geldschalter der Zentralbanken. Dabei gilt es zu bedenken, dass die Stabilität der Grossbanken und der globalisierten Finanzmärkte nicht deckungsgleich ist mit der Stabiliät des Schweizer Finanzsystems. Sollte die Nationalbank die Stabilität der globalisierten Finanzmärkte höher gewichten als die Interessen des Wirtschaftsstandortes Schweiz, dann könnte es für den Schweizer Werkplatz und die Arbeitsplätze in der Exportindustrie dereinst ein böses Erwachen geben.




Financial Times    September 17, 2009

Archbishop chastens City for failure to repent
By Megan Murphy, Investment Banking Correspondent

Lombard
Bankers, we know, are guilty of many things. Paying themselves too much. Making people homeless and jobless. Causing the world to go into a tailspin. That was bad enough. But compounding their sins, the archbishop of Canterbury now says, they did not repent.

Blog: Arena
Have banks changed enough to avoid another financial crisis? Join the debate

Bankers gearing up for a bumper bonus season just a year after the near-collapse of the global financial system have been warned they face retribution – not just from politicians and regulators but possibly from God.

Rowan Williams, the archbishop of Canterbury and head of the Anglican Church, has condemned the City’s failure to “repent” for its failings and says the government should act to cap annual cash bonuses.

“There hasn’t been a feeling of closure about what happened last year,” Mr Williams told BBC 2’s Newsnight programme on Tuesday. “There hasn’t been what I would, as a Christian, call repentance. We haven’t heard people saying, ‘Well, actually, no, we got it wrong and the whole fundamental principle on which we worked was unreal, empty’.”

It is not the first time that Mr Williams has waded in to the debate on the future of modern finance – in a magazine article last year he criticised short-sellers for structuring “paper transactions with no concrete outcome beyond profit”.

Some may regard his latest intervention as an opportunistic attempt to place the Church on the right side of public opinion in the controversy over bankers’ pay.

But, to others, Mr Williams is merely drawing attention to the fact that the same people who stand accused of bringing the banking sector to its knees are now poised to collect billions of pounds in bonuses.

The real-economy effects of last year’s crisis are still mounting: Wednesday’s labour market figures showed that nearly 2.5m people are out of work in the UK, the highest since 1995. In the Square Mile, however, the champagne glasses are clinking again as companies and governments turn to bankers to raise vast amounts of fresh capital to shore up their finances.

Surging activity in areas such as debt capital markets and commodities trading has prompted a fierce battle for experienced bankers, with institutions such as Royal Bank of Scotland and Barclays Capital dangling lucrative incentives.

Signs that the long dormant mergers and acquisitions market is picking up in the wake of Kraft’s £10.2bn bid for Cadbury, the chocolate maker, will fuel the war for talent.

While the Financial Services Authority has said that it will clamp down on some of the City’s most excessive practices – such as guaranteeing bonuses for more than one year – it has been widely criticised for failing to take a more aggressive?approach.

Mr Williams warned that bankers’ continued lack of contrition could cause irreparable damage to the country’s social fabric.

“What we are looking at is the possibility of a society getting more and more dysfunctional if the levels of inequality that we have seen in the last couple of decades are not challenged,” the archbishop told the BBC.

Bankers insist that they have been chastened by the crisis, and have learnt lessons from the collapse of Wall Street powerhouses such as Lehman Brothers and Bear Stearns.

They also concede that they have little chance of escaping from next week’s Group of 20 summit in Pittsburgh without tighter restrictions on their remuneration.

The Financial Stability Board, an international body of regulators and central bankers, has already recommended that banks face limits on the amount they can pay out in bonuses until they meet more stringent capital requirements.

“The sector has already repented quite a lot,” said a spokesman for the British Bankers’ Association. “We have said sorry, and we have sought to mend our ways.”

Last February, Sir Fred Goodwin, the former chief executive of Royal Bank of Scotland, who drew intense public anger during the financial crisis, told MPs on the Treasury committee that he “could not be more sorry” for driving the bank to brink of collapse.

But if Mr Williams is right, it may take another round of collective self-flagellation among bankers to satisfy the divine as well as the general public.
Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2009. You may share using our article tools. Please don't cut articles from FT.com and redistribute by email or post to the web.




Washington Post    October 23, 2009

The Grand Mufti's mission
By Michael Gerson

Sheik Ali Gomaa, the Grand Mufti of Egypt, possesses a wonderfully exotic title, a scholarly manner and the unique burden of issuing about 5,000 fatwas a week -- the judicial rulings that help guide the lives of the Muslim faithful. On a recent visit to the United States, he explained to me the process of "resolving issues of modern life." And modern life offers Gomaa and his team of subordinate muftis plenty of fodder for resolution, from the permissibility of organ transplants, to sports gambling, to smoking during Ramadan, to female judges, to the use of weapons of mass destruction, to mobile phone transmitters on the tops of minarets.

This is perhaps the most difficult aspect of Islam for many non-Muslim Americans, who must look back to Puritan Massachusetts for a time when hermeneutics -- the art of interpreting a holy text -- was such a consequential public matter. In the West, theological debates have long been confined to seminaries, causing nothing more serious than denominational splits. In Egypt, Gomaa is a theological celebrity. His office, the Dar al-Iftaa, is part of the Ministry of Justice. And though his rulings are nonbinding unless adopted into Egyptian law, they are widely influential.
b
Reform in the Arab world is not likely -- at least soon -- to reflect the Western privatization of theological beliefs. All of life is subject to sharia law, and most Arab governments gain at least a part of their legitimacy by reflecting it. At its worst -- but rarely -- this involves the classical Islamic punishments of stoning and amputation. At its best, sharia law plays an equivalent role to the rule of law, binding both rulers and ruled by the same objective standard of justice.

So it obviously matters greatly how sharia law is interpreted, and who does the interpreting. But Islam, for better or for worse, has no pope or traditional clergy. Instead, it has several schools of interpretation -- all of which view the Koran and the traditions of the prophet Muhammad as normative but reconcile local customs with Islam in different ways.

Some, on the Saudi Arabian model, view the 7th century as the purest Islamic ideal, which is difficult to reconcile with modernity, pluralism, democracy, women's rights and success in the modern world.

Sheik Gomaa represents a different approach. He can hardly be called a liberal. "The Egyptian people," he told me, "have chosen Islam to be their general framework for governance. That being the case, the Egyptian people will never accept homosexual marriage, or the use of illegal drugs, or the commission of homicide or joint suicide." Morality and its sources are absolute. "The Koran and the tradition are what we depend on," he insists. "They were true 1,400 years ago, they are true today, they will be true tomorrow."

But traditionalist Islam, in his view, is pragmatic in the way it applies these principles to "current reality." It is the job of Islamic scholars "to bridge the gap between the sources and life today." Some past interpretations "may have been corrupt -- we may find a better way. What we look to in tradition is methodology, not the exact results of 500 years ago." Gomaa focuses on "the intent of sharia to foster dignity and other core values," as well as "a commitment to the public interest."

"The end result is to improve the world, not destroy it," he said. As a result, Gomaa has made a number of rulings recognizing women's rights, restricting corporal punishment and forbidding terrorism.

"Let me give you an example of the approach from freedom," he told me. "The Prophet, in history, peace be upon him, wore clothes like what they wear in Sudan. The fact that the Prophet did that doesn't mean we all must dress that way. There are those who want to hold on to the past, not hold on to religion." Beneath Gomaa's interpretive approach is a strong assertion of the role of the traditional scholarly class within Islam. The issuing of fatwas by unqualified radicals has often led to religious chaos. Gomaa is a scholar of the first rank and believes that scholars, rooted in a long tradition of learning, should take the leading role in Islamic jurisprudence. His goal is not to liberalize Islam but to rescue orthodoxy from extremism.

This does not amount to a fully orbed theory of human liberty. But Gomaa stands for an important and encouraging principle: Radicalism is the shallowest view of Islam.

mgerson@globalengage.org




Washington Post    October 28, 2009

Giving democracy a dose of clarity
By Michael Gerson

Harvard professor Michael Sandel (Harvard Via Bloomberg News)

There have been various attempts over the decades to bury moral philosophy -- to dismiss convictions about right and wrong as cultural prejudices, or secretions of the brain, or matters so personal they shouldn't even affect our private lives.

But moral questions always return, as puzzles and as tragedies. Would we push a hefty man onto a railroad track to save the lives of five others? Should Petty Officer 1st Class Marcus Luttrell, in June of 2005, have executed a group of Afghan goatherds who, having stumbled on his position, might inform the enemy about his unit? (Luttrell let them go, the Taliban attacked, and three of his comrades died.)

These examples and others -- price-gouging after Hurricane Katrina, affirmative action, gay marriage -- are all grist for the teaching of Michael Sandel, perhaps the most prominent college professor in America. His popular class at Harvard -- Moral Reasoning 22: Justice -- attracts about a sixth of all undergraduates. For those lacking $49,000 a year in tuition and board, he has written "Justice: What's the Right Thing to Do?" which has been further translated into a PBS series and a Web site, JusticeHarvard.org.

Sandel practices the best kind of academic populism, managing to simplify John Stuart Mill and John Rawls without being simplistic. His discussion of Immanuel Kant's case against casual sex was almost enough to make me dig out my college copy of "Critique of Pure Reason." Almost.

But Sandel is best at what he calls bringing "moral clarity to the alternatives we confront as democratic citizens." In this cause, he outlines three attempts to define the meaning of justice, each with large public consequences.

Definition one is the maximization of social welfare -- the greatest happiness for the greatest number. But utilitarianism, in Sandel's view, has glaring weaknesses. It allows no principled defense of individual rights. What if the sum of social happiness is increased by throwing a minority to the lions? And utilitarianism ultimately can make no distinction between fulfilling higher forms of happiness and degraded ones. Why should we prefer the pleasures of art museums to the pleasures of dog fighting?

A second definition of justice consists of respecting individual freedom. This approach can take the form of market-oriented libertarianism -- the belief that justice is identical to the free choices of consenting adults. Or it can have a more egalitarian expression, in which society is organized for the benefit of its least-advantaged members. But both of these views assume that government's only job is to set fair rules and procedures; it is entirely up to free individuals to choose the best way to live.

Many Americans would find this view not only unobjectionable but also unassailable. Sandel assails it. "I do not think," he says, "that freedom of choice -- even freedom of choice under fair conditions -- is an adequate basis for a just society."

This equation of justice with freedom, he says, is unrealistic about the way human beings actually live. Our views of right and wrong, duty and betrayal, are not merely the result of individual free choice. All of us are born into institutions -- a family that involves our unconditional love, a community that elicits feelings of solidarity, a country that may demand a costly loyalty. Sandel argues that a liberal individualism cannot explain these deep attachments. We are "bound by some moral ties we haven't chosen."

Sandel, in the good company of Aristotle, contends that knowing "the right thing to do" in any of these institutions requires a determination of its purpose. And the purpose of government is not only to defend individual rights but also to honor and reward civic virtues -- patriotism, self-sacrifice and concern for our neighbor. This third definition of justice, by nature, is a moral enterprise.

Because Sandel is a progressive, he calls this approach "communitarian." The stars of his political firmament are Robert Kennedy, for his call to vigorous citizenship, and Barack Obama, for his recognition that social justice is often based on moral ideals. But Sandel's belief in family and community, his respect for religious motives and his defense of patriotism might also be called conservative, at least in an older sense of the term.

Sandel sets out to confront the most difficult moral issues in politics. He ends up clarifying a basic political divide -- not between left and right, but between those who recognize nothing greater than individual rights and choices, and those who affirm a "politics of the common good," rooted in moral beliefs that can't be ignored.

mgerson@globalengage.org
The Grand Mufti's mission
A Cold Shoulder To Liberty




Le Temps    6 novembre 2009

L’honnêteté paie dans le monde des affaires
Par Catherine Dubouloz

Engager des managers aux valeurs morales élevées est bénéfique pour l’entreprise. C’est ce que montrent des études présentées par deux chercheuses et professeures, Rajna Gibson et Carmen Tanner, lors d’une conférence au Salon des ressources humaines à Genève
L’honnêteté a-t-elle encore un sens dans le monde des affaires? Qu’apportent à l’entreprise, et aux collaborateurs qui travaillent sous leur direction, les managers qui considèrent l’honnêteté comme une valeur fondamentale? Ces questions ont guidé des études* menées par Rajna Gibson, professeure de finance à l’Université de Genève où elle dirige l’Institut de recherche en finance, et Carmen Tanner, professeure boursière en psychologie sociale à l’Université de Zurich. Toutes deux ont présenté les résultats de leurs recherches la semaine dernière à Genève, au cours d’une conférence organisée par Uni-Emploi lors du salon des ressources humaines (lire ci-dessous). Le sujet a passionné le public composé de professionnels des RH, venus nombreux assister à l’exposé.

Ces travaux contredisent la théorie économique classique selon laquelle les individus prennent leurs décisions avant tout dans le but de maximiser leur propre intérêt. A l’issue de trois expériences dont les résultats se recoupent et qui ont mis au défi l’honnêteté des participants, elles montrent que les valeurs éthiques et morales guident les décisions d’une proportion non négligeable de dirigeants: entre 40 et 60% d’entre eux selon les échantillons ont fait le choix de la droiture et de la véracité, même s’ils gagnaient moins d’argent au bout du compte.

Manipuler les comptes
Si les professeures se sont concentrées sur l’honnêteté, c’est parce que, explique Rajna Gibson, dans plusieurs crises et scandales récents, «on observe toujours une rupture des critères d’honnêteté». Ce fut le cas lors de la faillite de WorldCom, le géant des télécommunications américain, qui a révélé de gigantesques fraudes et manipulations comptables. Ce fut le cas aussi dans l’affaire Enron, qui s’est soldée également par la faillite de la société.

Comment les chercheuses sont-elles parvenues à ces résultats? Plusieurs études expérimentales ont été menées sur des dirigeants fictifs: 261 étudiants en psychologie et en économie de l’Université de Zurich. Ces étudiants ont dû se glisser dans la peau d’un dirigeant d’entreprise chargé de présenter les résultats trimestriels de sa société. Le patron a le choix d’augmenter artificiellement, par des manipulations comptables restant dans les limites de la loi, le bénéfice par action annoncé. Dans le but de coller aux attentes du marché, alors que cela ne reflète pas la situation financière réelle de l’entreprise. La rémunération variable du dirigeant dépend directement du bénéfice par action annoncé: plus ce dernier est élevé (et donc manipulé), plus la part variable du salaire s’envole. Selon les situations, elle pouvait quintupler, passant de 60?000 à 300?000 francs.

«La théorie économique prédit que chaque participant aurait dû manipuler les bénéfices dans un tel contexte, et pourtant, explique Rajna Gibson, l’option honnête a donc été choisie dans 40 à 60% des situations. En conséquence de quoi, les participants ont effectivement renoncé à une rémunération plus élevée», explique la professeure.

Résultat complémentaire: les chercheurs ont mis en lumière un lien clair entre les «valeurs sacrées» des participants et les comportements moraux. Ce type de valeurs, qui couvrent par exemple la justice, le respect, la responsabilité, ou la vérité, sont associées à une forte obligation morale. Elles sont considérées comme absolues et inviolables, elles ne peuvent être ni sacrifiées, ni échangées contre d’autres, y compris l’argent. Ainsi, les participants qui ont obtenu les scores les plus élevés sur l’échelle des valeurs sacrées sont généralement plus enclins à choisir l’option véridique, et cela même lorsque les chercheurs ajoutent une pression sociale et même si le salaire en pâtit.

Appât du gain
A l’inverse, les individus plus opportunistes ont été davantage appâtés par le gain et ont davantage choisi de manipuler les bénéfices.

Cela démontre, estime Rajna Gibson, «que certains individus présentent une adhésion forte, non égoïste et non stratégique à l’honnêteté et que cette valeur sacrée peut fortement influencer les décisions des dirigeants d’entreprise.»

Ces résultats expérimentaux sont-ils transposables dans la réalité? Autrement dit, les entreprises ont-elles avantage à engager des managers honnêtes et possédant de fortes convictions morales? Oui, répond très clairement Carmen Tanner. D’une part, comme l’ont montré les scandales, des faillites d’importantes sociétés à l’affaire Madoff, les comportements non éthiques peuvent coûter très cher. D’autre part, différentes études le montrent, «les personnes munies de valeurs éthiques élevées non seulement résistent mieux aux pressions extérieures et aux incitations financières, mais elles agissent de manière plus stable et prévisible, et contribuent également au développement de la crédibilité et de la confiance envers l’entreprise, souligne Carmen Tanner. Ces dirigeants attirent également davantage les investisseurs, car l’honnêteté est hautement associée à la confiance et elle les rassure. Enfin, les dirigeants qui possèdent de hautes valeurs éthiques génèrent des effets positifs sur les employés.»

«Les premiers résultats de recherches menées en Suisse dans plusieurs organisations montrent que les collaborateurs ayant de tels dirigeants ont plus de satisfaction au travail. Ils présentent également plus d’engagement et de loyauté envers leur employeur, poursuit la chercheuse. Par ailleurs, ils sont moins souvent absents et ont moins de problèmes de santé. Nous avons été surpris par la netteté de ces résultats.»

En conclusion, il n’est, selon Carmen Tanner, pas seulement important, mais également «très souhaitable» pour l’entreprise de tenir compte de l’intelligence morale des candidats lors du recrutement. Différents tests et instruments existent qui permettent de mesurer les qualités morales et le degré de développement de la conscience des candidats. Mais, constate la professeure, ils sont encore peu utilisés, notamment parce que l’analyse des résultats demande un très haut degré d’expertise. «Pourtant, conclut Rajna Gibson, la crise et les scandales ont prouvé que la dimension morale devrait être testée lors du recrutement, peut-être en mettant les candidats en situation, comme dans nos expériences, de la même manière que l’on mesure les compétences intrinsèques ou de leadership.»

* The power of truth: experimental evidence on the economic implications of truth as a sacred value, Rajna Gibson, Carmen Tanner et Alexander F. Wagner, septembre 2009.




Financial Times    November 14 2009

J'accuse - Investigating Iceland’s financiers
By Stanley Pignal and Andrew Ward (emphasis added)

Joly with Roland Dumas, following a search of the former minister’s home, 1998

From a top-floor conference room in Reykjavik’s Grand Hotel, the first snow of winter can be seen edging its way down the muddy-brown mountains and jagged black lava fields that encircle the low-rise Icelandic capital. In the distance, steam from a geothermal power plant merges into the low cloud, hinting at the powerful subterranean forces that shaped this rocky Atlantic outpost. In the foreground, through the quiet streets, pedestrians in thick coats walk hunched against the sleet-splattered wind.

The scene is much the same as it was before the financial crisis that transformed Iceland from one of the world’s richest countries per capita into an economic disaster zone. But inside the plush hotel suite, the trappings of pre-crisis wealth – the curvy designer furniture, the modern art, the flat-screen televisions – look like relics of a bygone era. This was once the kind of place where Iceland’s oligarchs received foreign investors to discuss the next deal. Today, the sharp suits are absent. The conference room is reserved for a diminutive, blonde woman quietly sipping coffee in an attempt to recover from the tortuous journey from her home in Paris.

Eva Joly, a 65-year-old Norwegian-born French lawyer, has none of the swagger that attended the deals made in Iceland’s heyday. Yet it is precisely because of high finance that Joly is in Reykjavik. As one of only a handful of investigators with any record of bringing corporate criminals to justice, she has been asked by the Icelandic authorities to help establish what role white-collar crime might have played in the island’s boom and bust.

It is a high-profile return to the front lines for Joly, once Europe’s most prolific corruption hunter whose investigation into Elf, the French national oil giant, brought her international renown in the 1990s. Now, nearly a decade on, she is at the epicentre of one of the most dramatic cases spawned by the global credit crunch. If there was any wrongdoing by financiers that propelled Iceland into virtual bankruptcy – and Joly is certain there was – she will help to unearth it. And nothing from past experience suggests she will keep quiet if she finds evidence of unlawful behaviour beyond Iceland’s shores – as she is certain she will.

The Elf affair, a corruption saga she spent eight years investigating, changed the judicial landscape in France and elsewhere. Areas of international business and political corruption that had once looked above the law were brought before the courts. It was an unexpected triumph for the power of the judiciary, and the Reykjavik affair will establish whether the feat can be repeated. Joly will not lead the charge here – her role is to advise an Icelandic prosecutor who will take the case forward – but, if successful, this could be the largest investigation into white-collar crime ever undertaken. If it fails, it will inevitably raise the question of whether anyone is capable of prosecuting sophisticated financial crimes, and whether offshore networks they often depend upon can resist concerted judicial scrutiny.

Joly knows the stakes are high. “This is so much larger than Elf,” she says later with relish, “but we don’t know just how much larger. Not yet.”

*            *            *

Just as the Elf case revealed a rot at the heart of the French political system, Joly believes her latest project will illuminate the darkest recesses of global finance. In the years before the crash, Iceland transformed itself into an international financial centre. The inquiry is focused on whether ­market manipulation was involved in pumping up Icelandic banks’ balance sheets until they reached 10 times the size of the country’s gross domestic product, while the clique who ran them doled out cheap credit to some of their biggest shareholders and to favoured ­foreign clients. Although the main suspects are believed to be Icelandic, Joly makes clear that ultimate responsibility lies as much with the culture of greed imported from Wall Street and the City of London.

Former French minister Bernard Tapie, convicted of tax fraud, with his daughter Sophie

That opinion seeps through as she waits in the Grand Hotel conference room, chatting with a pair of local documentary makers who are here to interview her about the crisis. The conversation wanders from Iceland into a tour d’horizon of the world’s problems as Joly delivers her verdict on everything from financial sector bonuses (immoral) to climate change (a grave danger) and the situation in Gaza (tragic).

“This is what you see all over the world,” she says, egged on by the documentary makers’ account of how ordinary Icelanders are paying for the crimes of the plutocracy. “The rules are not for the elite. The elite are always living above the law.”

Still off camera, she rails against bonuses paid by Wall Street institutions at the height of the credit boom that, she says, rivalled the entire global budget for international development aid. “That is craziness,” she protests. “We must be very vigilant. Many people in the market have one idea: to get back to business as usual. We must not forget that this system is very ill.” Moments earlier, her eyes had moistened as she recounted stories of sacrifice and courage from an international humanitarian award she had judged. “There are real heroes in the world,” she said, as if to underline her very different view of bankers.

Eventually, the formal interview begins. More than 40 cases of suspected criminal wrongdoing are under scrutiny but no charges have yet been brought nor any individuals formally named as suspects. Why is it taking so long, the interviewer wants to know. “The public feels like nothing is happening. But I can tell you that, while it may not be visible, a lot is happening and we are making progress,” Joly responds. “It is very ­important not to prosecute until you have the bigger picture.”

*            *            *

Joly had already been investigating financial fraud for two years when the Paris stock market regulator asked her to look into an unusual investment made by Elf, France’s largest company at the time. It was the summer of 1994. Joly’s role as a juge d’instruction, or examining magistrate, was to probe complex cases before passing them on to prosecutors. Here, the energy group’s Gabonese subsidiary had pumped FFr787m (now about €120m) into a failing fashion textiles business. There was no commercial rationale for the move. Early suspicions were that Elf’s recently departed chief executive had somehow benefited from this largesse.

The discovery that the textiles group had been paying a stipend to the chief executive’s estranged wife to placate her during a messy divorce was an early breakthrough and led to several convictions. In retrospect, it turned out to be only the opening salvo in an investigation that spanned eight years and shook France.

Accused Elf executive Alfred Sirven flanked by his lawyers, 2004

Joly was one of a new class of Parisian magistrates who disregarded the convention that financial misdemeanours in France’s state-funded industries should be overlooked for the greater good of the country. She did not hesitate to haul in this or that grandee to demand explanations of an unclear set of accounts. And despite limited resources, cases came to her offices thick and fast. The public questioned why these scandals had taken so long to emerge. How could Bernard Tapie, a colourful sporting goods tycoon and former minister, get away with listing a luxury yacht as the working asset of one of his companies (for which he was subsequently ­convicted, on tax fraud charges)? ­Elsewhere, how could auditors sign off manifestly false accounts?

In the Elf case, a picture started to emerge of a company that was as happy corrupting politicians at home as abroad. “Every document we got our hands on led us to further impropriety,” Joly says today. Many of the company’s most senior executives were placed in preventative detention, some of them for weeks at a time. Together with colleagues, Joly worked her way up the chain. When Alfred Sirven, one of Elf’s most senior executives, was captured in the Philippines in 2001 after four years on the run, reports emerged that he had swallowed his mobile phone’s sim card as soon as he saw the net closing in on him, rather than let it fall into Joly’s hands. When, before his trial, he said he “had enough information to blow up the republic” should he start squealing, few doubted him.

The Elf affair eventually drew in the highest circles of French diplomacy, too. Roland Dumas, president of the Constitutional Council and a former foreign minister, stepped down after it emerged his mistress had been paid by Elf to lobby on its behalf. The scandal also crossed borders: Helmut Kohl, the ­German chancellor, was touched by it when it later emerged that Elf had reportedly contributed to his party’s coffers as part of a deal involving its takeover of an east German refinery. Kohl vehemently denied any knowledge of this, describing it as “part of a smear campaign against me”.

*            *            *

When Joly first heard, back in February, that Iceland was taking on the issue of white-collar criminality, she was pondering a move back to Paris from her native ­Norway. She had exiled herself in Oslo after the Elf affair was wrapped up in 2002. She said at the time that she feared some sort of unspecified “revenge” for what she had done. She may have meant she feared being discredited; many over-reaching magistrates in France have subsequently been humbled by their own actions. Joly’s own popularity had waned as the public questioned some of her methods. The once-adoring press turned hostile, asking whether examining magistrates’ powers should be curtailed (as has since happened).

Or she may have meant something more sinister: in Oslo, she no longer needed the bodyguards who had been by her side for six years. She no longer received threatening letters warning her not to delve into this or that.

Joly had spent most of her adult life in Paris. It was as Gro Farseth that she had arrived in France in 1964 to work as an au pair, a 20-year-old from a country far less developed than it is today, hailing from a middle-class family with few intellectual ambitions for her. A romance ensued with her new employers’ eldest son, Pascal Joly. Eva – her middle name, and one more ­amenable to the French language – supported him as he finished medical school, taking on secretarial work. She had once hoped to go to medical school herself, but the payback period for such a career was beyond her. She went to law school in the evenings instead.

She started off her career far from the financial sector, as a legal adviser to the mentally ill in a psychiatric hospital outside Paris. Only at 38 did she join the magistrature, an institution she did not much like at first. In 1989, after nine years as a provincial judge, she was hired by the finance ministry to work in the department that considered requests for state bail-outs from failing companies. Despite her modest financial experience, she rose to become its deputy head, a first for someone who had not graduated from the École Nationale d’Administration, the haughty institution that trains most of France’s elite. She left the finance ministry in 1992 to become an examining magistrate, specialising in financial investigations.

By 2002, with the Elf case winding down, her family ties to Paris had eroded. Her children had moved out – Julien, now 34, is an architect, Caroline, 39, a lawyer – and Pascal Joly, from whom she was estranged, had committed suicide in 2001 after a long battle with depression. That year, the Norwegian government offered Joly a tailor-made role as an anti-corruption advocate, and agreed to finance “The Network”, a loose grouping of about 25 investigators and prosecutors ­dotted around the world who shared her zeal for fighting white-collar crime. It was a good offer at the right time: after almost 40 years abroad, she headed home.

*            *            *

Joly insists she was not looking for a new assignment when an ­Icelandic broadcaster invited her to appear on its primetime news show in March. She was reluctant to travel to Reykjavik because she was in the midst of her election campaign for the European parliament (she was comfortably elected on a Green ticket in June). But she felt a vague sense of kinship with Icelanders stemming from her Nordic roots, and the producer floated the possibility of meeting the singer Björk, whom Joly admires.

It turned out that Björk would be in New York, but Joly made the trip anyway. Within hours of the interview appearing, a Facebook group had amassed hundreds of members pushing for her to join the investigation into the financial crisis. The following day, she found the justice minister and finance minister waiting for her when she went to give a speech to an audience of university students. They asked for her help and she accepted.

The groundswell of support for Joly’s appointment reflected an acute lack of faith among Icelanders in the ability of their own leaders to do the job. “The Icelandic authorities had no experience in investigating this sort of case – how could they?” she asks. Beyond the issue of competence were the inevitable conflicts of interest in such a tight-knit community. The son of the country’s attorney-general, for example, was chief executive of the company that controlled Kaupthing Bank – one of the three big lenders that crumbled in October 2008.

It was decided to appoint an independent special prosecutor to overcome the conflict of interest, but finding someone without ties to the banking industry – or someone willing to take it on – proved difficult. An initial request for candidates yielded no one. Eventually, the authorities turned to Olafur Hauksson, a police commissioner from a small fishing town whose biggest previous cases were two attempted murders and a sexual assault.

Joly was brought in to advise Hauksson and his small team of investigators based in a drab concrete office building on one of Reykjavik’s shabbier streets – a contrast to the modern, glass-fronted headquarters of Kaupthing a block away. “The infrastructure was not at the level of the public expectations,” she says. It wasn’t unlike her first days as a financial ­investigator in Paris in 1992, when she had to borrow her daughter’s computer so she didn’t have to use the standard-issue Olivetti typewriter allocated to judges, and had to share a ­photocopier with 62 other investigators.

*            *            *

Joly’s presence in Iceland was felt immediately. Within weeks, she issued a public threat to quit unless the government committed more resources to the probe. She got what she wanted: the special prosecutor’s budget was increased and more investigators were hired.

For Hauksson, the arrival of a hotshot foreign lawyer to look over his shoulder was an awkward experience. “She is a very strong character,” he says. “We are agreed on some parts and not agreed on others but that is the natural way.” Joly admits the relationship was “not easy” at first but insists they are now working well together.

To the public, her presence provides reassurance that the probe is under adult supervision even though she readily admits her hands-on involvement is limited. “My work here is not to go into the details of the cases,” she says. “My work is to make people believe that they can do this, to help them see the traps and make the strategy.” Six French specialists with whom she has worked on previous cases are assisting her.

While Iceland is culturally Nordic, it broke decisively from its welfare-orientated Scandinavian cousins over the past two decades to become a laboratory for unfettered Anglo-Saxon capitalism. With her Norwegian and French background, Joly seems to relish the chance to expose the flaws in a system alien to both her native and adopted countries. “Iceland was well on its way to becoming a tax haven before the crisis,” she says disapprovingly. Here is her chance – along with continental European help – to bring it back from the edge of that moral abyss.

Launch of the Declaration of Paris, a global anti-corruption manifesto, 2003

Joly has visited Reykjavik roughly once a month since her appointment, usually staying two days at a time. She bills €2,000 for every day she is there – but does not bill travel days or preparation work – in line with top legal practitioners. A central element of her role is public relations. A recent poll suggests two-thirds of Icelanders trust her, compared with half for ­Hauksson and only a third for the attorney-general. Her name also lends credibility beyond Reykjavik: her attacks on the British and Dutch government’s tough stance on Iceland’s failed banks received widespread media coverage last August. But her active involvement is less than many people imagine.

Perhaps her most valuable contribution is the leverage she has over the investigation’s political masters. Her presence reduces the risk of the probe being suppressed. But she is wary of her involvement automatically being taken as a seal of approval: “I promised when I agreed to become an adviser that I would only stay as long as I believed in the investigation.”

Perhaps her biggest achievement so far is to ensure that any prosecutions are on the agenda at all. Parallel to the criminal investigation, a sort of “truth and reconciliation” commission guided by parliament is also looking at the events of the past year, and is due to report its findings early next year. Joly has warned that political hearings are no substitute for prosecutions. “Icelanders were very discouraged when I arrived,” she says. “Lots of newspaper articles were saying that what happened was just bad luck, that a new page had to be turned and that was that. But before reconciliation, before forgiveness, you must first establish responsibilities, you must find out the truth.” Partly because of Joly, only 27 per cent of ­Icelanders say they trust the parliament’s investigation committee.

She warns that, while momentum is building, the investigation is still only just beginning. She sees the first cases being prosecuted by the end of next year, but thinks the whole inquiry is likely to last five years. It has to, she thinks, if it is to be done properly. “This is huge. It will involve other European banks,” she says. “It will show that what happened in ­Iceland is not just an Icelandic problem.”

Joly hopes she won’t be needed in Iceland for the whole of the investigation. The journeys to and fro are exhausting, and while the ­prosecutions take off, she simultaneously has to learn the ropes of legislative politics at the European parliament in Brussels, where she chairs the committee on development. In her eyes, it is another pulpit from which she can attack unbridled capitalism.

Ideally, her interventions will become less and less useful as the local prosecutors gain experience. Despite her relish at once more tackling financial corruption at the highest level, she knows she can only be a bit-player in Reykjavik’s sorry saga. “I am here to help. The ­people of ­Iceland have invested me with a great hope, great expectations,” she says. “But it is their country. Only Icelanders can lead this inquiry.”

Stanley Pignal is the FT’s Brussels correspondent; Andrew Ward is the FT’s Nordic bureau chief

*            *            *


Elf: the named and shamed

The executives
- Loïk Le Floch-Prigent, CEO from 1989 to 1993. Sentence: 5 years prison, €375,000 fine.
- Alfred Sirven, Elf head of general affairs, tracked down in the Philippines after four years on the run. Sentence: 5 years, €1m fine. Died before appeal was heard.
- André Tarallo, head of Elf Africa, “personal friend” of former Gabonese president Omar Bongo and Congo president Denis Sassou-Nguesso. Sentence: 4 years, €2m fine.
- Alain Guillon, head of refining activities. Sentence: 3 years, €3m fine.
- Jacqueline Baroz, Guillon’s ex-wife, received a 10-month suspended sentence and €150,000 fine.

The middle-men
- André Guelfi, former sports car driver and fishing magnate, married to the niece of Georges Pompidou, former French president. Had reportedly helped Elf in its dealings with Russia. Sentence: 3 years (2 suspended), €1.5m fine.
- Maurice Bidermann, fashion textiles entrepreneur. A friend of Le Floch-Prigent, his company paid for the Elf CEO’s costly divorce in exchange for large investments. Sentence: 3 years (2 suspended), €1m fine.
- Dieter Holzer, German lobbyist, prominent member of Helmut Kohl’s CDU party. Helped facilitate the sale of the Leuna refinery to Elf in 1992. Sirven claims Holzer was paid DM100m in commissions on the understanding it would be used to bribe CDU members. Sentence: 15 months, €1.5m fine.
- Nadhmi Auchi and his right-hand man Nasir Abid: 15 months suspended sentence, €2m fine.
- Pierre Lethier, former spy: 15months sentence, €1.5m fine.
- Jeffrey Steiner, businessman: 1 year suspended sentence, €500,000 fine.
- Stéphane Valentini, insurance broker: 3 years sentence, €1m fine.
- Hubert Leblanc-Bellevaux, consultant: 2 years prison (1 suspended), €300,000 fine.
- Claude Richard, lawyer: 3 years sentence (2 suspended), €300,000 fine
- Daniel de Busturia, Spanish lobbyist: 9 months sentence, €100,000 fine.
- Emmanuel Flichy: 1 year suspended sentence.

The related parties
- Fatima Belaïd, ex-wife of Le Floch-Prigent: Elf paid for her divorce settlement, including cash payments and property valued at more than FFr30m. Sentence: 3 years (2 suspended) €1m fine.
- Yves Verwaerde, former member of European parliament: 18 months (10 suspended), €200,000 fine.
- Laurent Raillard, old friend of François Mitterrand: 1 year suspended, €100,000 fine.
- Daniel Leandri, former adviser to Charles Pasqua, interior minister: 10 months, €200,000 fine.

Those who were affected
- Dominique Strauss-Kahn resigned as finance minister in 1999 after questions were raised over his links to Elf – among others – dating back to 1993-1995, when he was not in government. He denied wrongdoing, and was absolved in 2001.
- Roland Dumas, former foreign minister, resigned as president of the Constitutional Council in 1999 after being questioned by magistrates. An initial conviction was overturned on appeal.
- Christine Deviers-Joncour, his mistress, who had been paid by Elf to help convince Dumas to make decisions favourable to Elf. Sentenced to 3 years prison (18 months suspended), FFr1.5m fine.
Note The final appeal in the Elf case was heard in the Paris Cour de Cassation, 31 January 2007.




Washington Post July 8, 2010

Another round of Prohibition, anyone?
By George F. Will

The evening of Jan. 16, 1920, hours before Prohibition descended on America, while the young assistant secretary of the Navy, Franklin Roosevelt, drank champagne in Washington with other members of Harvard's Class of 1904, evangelist Billy Sunday preached to 10,000 celebrants in Norfolk, Va., : "The reign of tears is over. The slums will soon be only a memory. . . ." Not exactly.

Daniel Okrent's darkly hilarious "Last Call: The Rise and Fall of Prohibition" recounts how Americans abolished a widely exercised private right -- and condemned the nation's fifth-largest industry -- in order to make the nation more heavenly. Then all hell broke loose. Now that ambitious government is again hell-bent on improving Americans -- from how they use salt to what light bulbs they use -- Okrent's book is a timely tutorial on the law of unintended consequences.

The ship that carried John Winthrop to Massachusetts in 1630 also carried, Okrent reports, 10,000 gallons of wine and three times more beer than water. John Adams's morning eye-opener was a tankard of hard cider; James Madison drank a pint of whiskey daily; by 1830, adult per capita consumption was the equivalent of 90 bottles of 80-proof liquor annually.

Although whiskey often was a safer drink than water, Americans, particularly men, drank too much. Women's Prohibition sentiments fueled the movement for women's rights -- rights to hold property independent of drunken husbands; to divorce those husbands; to vote for politicians who would close saloons. So the United States Brewers' Association officially opposed women's suffrage.

Women campaigning for sobriety did not intend to give rise to the income tax, plea bargaining, a nationwide crime syndicate, Las Vegas, NASCAR (country boys outrunning government agents), a redefined role for the federal government and a privacy right -- the "right to be let alone" -- that eventually was extended to abortion rights. But they did.

By 1900, per capita consumption of alcohol was similar to today's, but mere temperance was insufficient for the likes of Carry Nation. She was "six feet tall, with the biceps of a stevedore, the face of a prison warden, and the persistence of a toothache," and she wanted Prohibition. It was produced by the sophisticated tenacity of the Anti-Saloon League, which at its peak was spending the equivalent of 50 million of today's dollars annually. Okrent calls it "the mightiest pressure group in the nation's history." It even prevented redistricting after the 1920 Census, the first census to reveal that America's urban -- and most wet -- population was a majority.

Before the 18th Amendment could make drink illegal, the 16th Amendment had to make the income tax legal. It was needed because by 1910 alcohol taxes were 30 percent of federal revenue.

Workmen's compensation laws gave employers an interest in abstemious workers. Writes Okrent, Asa Candler, founder of the Coca-Cola Co., saw "opportunity on the other side of the dry rainbow." World War I anti-German fever fueled the desire to punish brewers with names such as Busch, Pabst, Blatz and Schlitz. And President Woodrow Wilson's progressivism became a wartime justification for what Okrent calls "the federal government's sudden leap into countless aspects of American life," including drink.

And so Prohibition came. Sort of. Briefly.

After the first few years, alcohol consumption dropped only 30 percent. Soon smugglers were outrunning the Coast Guard ships in advanced speedboats, and courts inundated by violations of Prohibition began to resort to plea bargains to speed "enforcement" of laws so unenforceable that Detroit became known as the City on a Still.

Prohibition agents cherished $1,800 jobs because of the bribes that came with them. Fiorello La Guardia taunted the government that it would need another "150,000 agents to watch the first 150,000." Exemptions from Prohibition for church wine and medicinal alcohol became ludicrously large -- and lucrative -- loopholes.

After 13 years, Prohibition, by then reduced to an alliance between evangelical Christians and criminals, was washed away by "social nullification" -- a tide of alcohol -- and by the exertions of wealthy people, such as Pierre S. du Pont, who hoped that the return of liquor taxes would be accompanied by lower income taxes. (They were.)

Ex-bootleggers found new business opportunities in the southern Nevada desert. And in the Second World War, draft boards exempted brewery workers as essential to the war effort.

The many lessons of Okrent's story include: In the fight between law and appetite, bet on appetite. And: Americans then were, and let us hope still are, magnificently ungovernable by elected nuisances.

georgewill@washpost.com 




Bloomberg Opinion
bloomberg.com  Aug 11, 2010 2:00 AM GMT

U.S. Is Bankrupt and We Don't Even Know It
By Laurence Kotlikoff

Let’s get real. The U.S. is bankrupt. Neither spending more nor taxing less will help the country pay its bills.

What it can and must do is radically simplify its tax, health-care, retirement and financial systems, each of which is a complete mess. But this is the good news. It means they can each be  redesigned to achieve their legitimate purposes at much lower cost and, in the process, revitalize the economy.

Last month, the International Monetary Fund released its annual review of U.S. economic policy. Its summary contained these bland words about U.S. fiscal policy: “Directors welcomed  the authorities’ commitment to fiscal stabilization, but noted that a larger than budgeted adjustment would be required to stabilize debt-to-GDP.”

But delve deeper, and you will find that the IMF has effectively pronounced the U.S. bankrupt. Section 6 of the July 2010 Selected Issues Paper says: “The U.S. fiscal gap associated with  today’s federal fiscal policy is huge for plausible discount rates.” It adds that “closing the fiscal gap requires a permanent annual fiscal adjustment equal to about 14 percent of U.S.  GDP.”

The fiscal gap is the value today (the present value) of the difference between projected spending (including servicing official debt) and projected revenue in all future years.

Double Our Taxes
To put 14 percent of gross domestic product in perspective, current federal revenue totals 14.9 percent of GDP. So the IMF is saying that closing the U.S. fiscal gap, from the revenue  side, requires, roughly speaking, an immediate and permanent doubling of our personal-income, corporate and federal taxes as well as the payroll levy set down in the Federal Insurance  Contribution Act.

Such a tax hike would leave the U.S. running a surplus equal to 5 percent of GDP this year, rather than a 9 percent deficit. So the IMF is really saying the U.S. needs to run a huge  surplus now and for many years to come to pay for the spending that is scheduled. It’s also saying the longer the country waits to make tough fiscal adjustments, the more painful they  will be.

Is the IMF bonkers? No. It has done its homework. So has the Congressional Budget Office whose Long-Term Budget Outlook, released in June, shows an even larger problem.

‘Unofficial’ Liabilities
Based on the CBO’s data, I calculate a fiscal gap of $202 trillion, which is more than 15 times the official debt. This gargantuan discrepancy between our “official” debt and our actual net  indebtedness isn’t surprising. It reflects what economists call the labeling problem. Congress has been very careful over the years to label most of its liabilities “unofficial” to keep them  off the books and far in the future.

For example, our Social Security FICA contributions are called taxes and our future Social Security benefits are called transfer payments. The government could equally well have labeled  our contributions “loans” and called our future benefits “repayment of these loans less an old age tax,” with the old age tax making up for any difference between the benefits promised  and principal plus interest on the contributions.

The fiscal gap isn’t affected by fiscal labeling. It’s the only theoretically correct measure of our long-run fiscal condition because it considers all spending, no matter how labeled, and  incorporates long-term and short-term policy.

$4 Trillion Bill
How can the fiscal gap be so enormous? Simple. We have 78 million baby boomers who, when fully retired, will collect benefits from Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid that, on average, exceed per-capita GDP. The annual  costs of these entitlements will total about $4 trillion in today’s dollars. Yes, our economy will be bigger in 20 years, but not big enough to handle this size load year after year.

This is what happens when you run a massive Ponzi scheme for six decades straight, taking ever larger resources from the young and giving them to the old while promising the young  their eventual turn at passing the generational buck.

Herb Stein, chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers under U.S. President Richard Nixon, coined an oft-repeated phrase: “Something that can’t go on, will stop.” True enough.  Uncle Sam’s Ponzi scheme will stop. But it will stop too late.

And it will stop in a very nasty manner. The first possibility is massive benefit cuts visited on the baby boomers in retirement. The second is astronomical tax increases that leave the  young with little incentive to work and save. And the third is the government simply printing vast quantities of money to cover its bills.

Worse Than Greece
Most likely we will see a combination of all three responses with dramatic increases in poverty, tax, interest rates and consumer prices. This is an awful, downhill road to follow, but it’s  the one we are on. And bond traders will kick us miles down our road once they wake up and realize the U.S. is in worse fiscal shape than Greece.

Some doctrinaire Keynesian economists would say any stimulus over the next few years won’t affect our ability to deal with deficits in the long run.

This is wrong as a simple matter of arithmetic. The fiscal gap is the government’s credit-card bill and each year’s 14 percent of GDP is the interest on that bill. If it doesn’t pay this year’s  interest, it will be added to the balance.

Demand-siders say forgoing this year’s 14 percent fiscal tightening, and spending even more, will pay for itself, in present value, by expanding the economy and tax revenue.

My reaction? Get real, or go hang out with equally deluded supply-siders. Our country is broke and can no longer afford no-pain, all-gain “solutions.”

(Laurence J. Kotlikoff is a professor of economics at Boston University and author of “Jimmy Stewart Is Dead: Ending the World’s Ongoing Financial Plague with Limited Purpose  Banking.” The opinions expressed are his own.)To contact the writer of this column: Laurence Kotlikoff at kotlikoff@bu.edu




Daily Reckoning    13 August 2010

Big, bad numbers
By Bill Bonner    Ouzilly, France

The stock market took a tumble yesterday. The Dow fell 265 points after investors had a chance to ruminate about the Fed’s latest action.

It wasn’t what the Fed did or said that discouraged investors. It was what it didn’t say and what it didn’t do. It didn’t say, for example, that it was going to “crank up the printing presses” and deliver trillions of new dollars to the economy.

We didn’t think it would. But it also didn’t say that the economy was doing well. Au contraire, it gave investors reason to believe that it was worried about the ‘recovery.’ (We continue to put the word in quotation marks so dear readers will know there’s something fishy about it...)

Eventually, the Fed probably will get the printing presses going. But not just because it is desperate to re-start the economy.

We are getting used to big numbers. US trade deficits are more than $500 billion per year. US federal budget deficits are more than a $1 trillion. And the US official debt is now more than $13 trillion.

Then, you add in all the off-budget items and the numbers get bigger and bigger. If the government promises to buy drugs for someone five years from now, for example, that’s a financial commitment that it has to own up to. If it were a private company, the expenses would be put on its balance sheet as a liability... a bill that will have to be paid in the future. Typically, a company would put aside money to pay the bill, so it would be ‘funded’ – covered by savings or a special-purpose fund.

The US government, however, hasn’t saved any money since the Carter Administration. But it’s added one heckuva lot of financial commitments since then. Democrats, Republicans – it didn’t matter who was in office, the zombies got more money and the financial picture worsened.

The last number we saw for the whole enchilada of UNFUNDED federal financial obligations was $115 trillion or thereabouts. So we were shocked when Lawrence Kotlikoff, a well-known professor of economics at Boston University, updated the figure to... are you sitting down, Dear Reader?... $202 trillion.

How much is $202 trillion? Well, if you laid out $100 bills, end to end, day after day... you’d be an idiot. Because you’d die long before you got to even a trillion worth.

The $202 trillion is the current ‘fiscal gap’ of the federal government. It is the present value of future unfunded obligations. To fund that gap, Kotlikoff refers to an IMF study showing we’d have to double taxes... raising an amount equal to 14% of GDP every year from now on. Every year that the gap is not closed, the additional amount is added to the “principal,” making that much more to be paid in the future.

“How can the fiscal gap be so enormous?” asks Kotlikoff. “Simple. We have 78 million baby boomers who, when fully retired, will collect benefits from Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid that, on average, exceed per-capita GDP. The annual costs of these entitlements will total about $4 trillion in today’s dollars. Yes, our economy will be bigger in 20 years, but not big enough to handle this size load year after year.

“This is what happens when you run a massive Ponzi scheme for six decades straight, taking ever larger resources from the young and giving them to the old while promising the young their eventual turn at passing the generational buck.”

What to do about it?
There are no win-win solutions. “Recovery”... “stimulus”... “grow our way out”... and all the other painless remedies are just claptrap. Nor is the US government going to double all taxes. Congress doesn’t have the stomach for it. And it wouldn’t help anyway. The economy would collapse even further – leaving possibly less revenue for the feds.

No, there is only one real solution. The feds will have to renege on their promises. But how? Will they step up to a microphone and just admit that they have been fools and knaves... and that they are cutting federal spending in half? Will they look the voters in the eye and tell the truth: “I can’t give you anything that I haven’t taken from you in the first place”?

Whatever your party affiliation, we wouldn’t advise you to hold your breath waiting for politicians to be straight with voters.

No, dear reader, they will use the only tools they have – lies, bombast and subterfuge. One way or another, sooner or later, they will call upon the Fed and the Treasury to bail them out. How? By using Quantitative Easing – money printing, in other words. The Treasury will borrow the money from the Fed. The bills will be paid. And the dollar will become almost worthless... or perhaps completely worthless.

At least, that’s what it looks like this morning...
*** More news: Investors are really running scared now…
The FTSE was well and truly battered yesterday. So were the US and European markets – stocks across the board lost close to 3%.
In fact, most things fell. Oil fell nearly 3%. Copper fell to a two-week low.

Notable exceptions: gold, which was up a little, for the 9 th day out of the past 11. The Japanese yen, at a 15-year high versus the dollar. And the US dollar which was up quite a bit – especially against the whipping boy of the currency markets, the pound. “Investors around the world scrambled for safe havens as fears of a global economic slowdown grew,” proclaims the Wall Street Journal.

This from our Daily Reckoning colleagues in Melbourne, Australia: “The US Dollar index had a massive rally last night and looks like it has put in the intermediate low I was calling for between 78-81. It also closed above the 200 day moving average. The equity market also fell over as expected and looks to have made an intermediate top. The squeeze is on in the US Dollar.”

“Dollar higher and stocks lower is roughly the trade you’d expect as investors crowd into-short term bonds and get out of stocks. But why are investors just now deciding that earnings prospects for stocks are not good? It could have a lot to do with Federal Reserve’s bearish announcement and its intention to start buying Treasuries again to “support growth”.”

So for the moment at least, investors around the world are “risk off” – they want safety. Who can blame them?

Growth in the US, the UK and Europe is under threat. The messages coming out of the mouths of our central bankers are downright frightening – they sound like they’re clutching at straws.

This is a time to be battening down the hatches and wealth preservation. By all means – if you can stomach the risk of equities – then invest in carefully chosen stocks with their own stories. But don’t bank on the broader stock indices being higher than they are now inside the next week, month or even year.




The Intelligence    10. März 2011

Das Ende des Geldes?
Von  Diana Ljubic [red. Hervorhebung]

Am 8.3.2011, dem Weltfrauentag und Faschingsdienstag zugleich, gab es in Wien ein anderes, seit Monaten erwartetes Ereignis. Erwartet von zumindest den rund 200.000 Lesern des Interviews mit Franz Hörmann in derStandard.at am 13. Oktober 2010 mit dem provokanten Titel „Banken erfinden Geld aus Luft“. Der drittmeist gelesene Standard-Artikel 2010 mit über 2700 Posts. Diese Thesen waren so provozierend, dass selbst der Gouverneur der Österreichischen Nationalbank Univ.-Prof. Dr. Ewald Nowotny sich bemüßigt fühlte, eine Stellungnahme abzugeben.

Die Fortsetzung des damals kontrovers diskutierten Interviewinhaltes erlebten vorgestern rund 100 Anwesende, als Prof. Dr. Franz Hörmann von der Wirtschaftsuniversität in Wien und Dr. Otmar Pregetter, Ökonom, Unternehmensberater und Lehrbeauftragter an mehreren Hochschulen ihr Buch mit dem klingenden Titel „Das Ende des Geldes: Wegweiser in eine ökosoziale Gesellschaft“ präsentierten.

In der eigentlich sehr geräumigen Buchhandlung drängten sich allerdings im 1. Stock die Interessierten um die wenigen Sessel im vorderen Teil der Cafeteria Richtung Podium. Pregetter begann mit markigen Ausführungen die Buchvorstellung. Schon nach den ersten Sätzen wurde der ultimative Paradigmenwechsel klar, der im Buch enthalten ist. Er meinte, dass es „in unserem bestehenden Wirtschaftssystem keine Win-Win-Situation geben kann“. Es gibt lediglich eine „Win-Lose-Situation“. Deutlicher wurde das durch Hörmanns Ausführungen, wonach das Geldsystem ein simples Schuldgeldsystem sei. Wenn neues Geld erzeugt wird, dann wird im gleichen Ausmaß eine Schuld erzeugt, die wieder verzinst werden muss. Unser Geldsystem basiert also auf Schuld.

„Dieses Buch soll ein Weckruf sein!“, steht im Vorwort und dieser Grundsatz bestätigte sich im Laufe der aufrüttelnden Ausführungen der Autoren. Das Buch soll jene Wissenslücke füllen, die aufgrund fehlender oder falscher medialer Berichterstattung und des Schweigens und der Fehlinformation der Realpolitik entstand. Die Autoren geben in ihrem Buch ausführliche Auskunft über die weltweit betriebene Geldentstehung und prognostizieren, dass die Geldwirtschaft wie wir sie kennen, in naher Zukunft am Ende angelangt sein wird.

AnzeigeBereits in einem Live-Interview am 30.12.10 mit dem Deutschlandradio Kultur, führte Hörmann aus, dass die Geldschöpfung aus Luft per se nicht schlecht ist, sondern es lediglich auf einer anderen Basis als auf Schuld stehen muss. Er sagte, dass „Geld eigentlich nur aus Luft geschöpft werden [kann], aber es sollte auf Leistungsbasis entstehen und nicht als Schuld. Das heißt, es sollte als Belohnung für erbrachte Leistungen in die Gesellschaft gegeben werden und dort umlaufen und nicht als Schuld mit einer Rückzahlungsverpflichtung plus Verzinsung“.

Unter dem Titel: „Es gibt Alternativen. Trauen wir uns, sie zu denken.“, wurde schon früher ausführlich die Kritik am Zinseszinssystem und am Neoliberalismus am 20.1.2011 in der Podiumsdiskussion in Wien im Rahmen der Österreich-Premiere des Films „ZEITGEIST - Moving Forward" u.a. mit Hörmann debattiert.

Der Diskurs über die Ursache der Finanzkrise ist für Hörmann keiner, denn „das Kernproblem ist kein Finanzproblem“, sondern das „herrschende Zinseszinsmodell und das exponentielle Wachstum“.

Unser Geldsystem sieht er auch hauptursächlich für die ökologischen Missstände. Und selbst die Klimadiskussion hält er für leeres Lamento, da die meisten globalen Probleme in unserer „Eigentumsgesellschaft, in der das Eigentum belohnt wird“, begründet sind.

Auch einsichtig zeigte sich vorgestern Hörmann, indem er äußerte, dass er „niemanden anprangern möchte, der im System unter Konventionen steht“. Und er möchte „fern von moralischen Vorwürfen Lösungen aufzeigen“. Im Buch „Das Ende des Geldes“ wird ein Weg zum Paradigmenwechsel aufgezeigt. Ein Kapitel widmen die Autoren Lösungsvorschlägen.

In den Ausführungen von Hörmann spürte man seine Leidenschaft und Überzeugung, die auch die Anwesenden in einen mitreißenden Bann zog. Im Publikum sah man zustimmendes Nicken und hörte bestätigendes Murmeln und Flüstern mit den Nachbarn. Auf eine Publikumsfrage, wie die USA ihre Schulden in Höhe von 14 Bio $ zurückzahlen könnten, folgt Hörmanns klare Antwort: „Nie!“ Und er führte weiter aus, dass „der Staat in Wirklichkeit nicht einmal mehr die Zinsen auf die Staatsschuld bezahlen kann“.

Hörmann und Pregetter sind sich einig, dass unser Schuldgeldsystem in sehr naher Zukunft als Betrugsmodell obsolet sein wird. Und Hörmann rät, dass jeder sein „im Besitz befindliches Bargeld zum Brotkaufen, Essen gehen und Kleidung kaufen verwenden sollte“, aber bei Leibe „nicht für Unternehmenstransaktionen“. Denn dies scheint für Hörmann eine perfekte Anleitung zum persönlichen Untergang zu sein.

Ebenso vertreten beide Autoren die Meinung, dass es zur Änderung unseres Gesellschaftssystems eine Änderung der Geisteshaltung bedarf. Weg von Gier, Betrug und Konkurrenz hin zu einer Gesellschaft, die kooperiert und sich vernetzt. Eine Gesellschaft, in der Leistung und nicht Eigentum einen Wert hat. Pregetter fasst dies zusammen, indem er eine Wortkreation tätigt: Wir müssen „von einer Wissensgesellschaft zu einer GEwissensgesellschaft“ gelangen. Ein Wandel in unserer Geisteshaltung und Wertzuschreibung würde den derzeit geforderten „Dienst an der Gesellschaft“ ermöglichen und eine wertvolle „Weiterentwicklung des Individuums“ fördern, so Hörmann.

An der anschließenden Podiumsdiskussion nahmen neben den beiden Autoren der renommierte Philosoph Univ.-Prof. Dr. Konrad Paul Liessmann, der österreichische Kabarettist Günther Paal, auch bekannt als „Gunkl“ und Experte in der ORF-Fernsehsatireshow „Dorfers Donnerstalk“, sowie der ehem. ORF-Wirtschaftsjournalist Dr. Walter Sonnleitner in der Doppelfunktion als Moderater und Diskutant teil.

Bemerkenswert, dass Sonnleitner gleich in seinen einleitenden Worten anmerkte: „Ich bin mir ebenso sicher - das Geldsystem wird floppen, es ist nur eine Frage der Zeit.“  Im Zuge der regen Debatte wurde auch die heutige Rolle der Wirtschaftswissenschaften diskutiert. Hörmann meinte dazu, dass die Wirtschaftswissenschaft keine Wissenschaft sei, da die Ökonomie nicht mit normativen Kriterien erklärbar ist. Dem stimmte Liessmann zu und ergänzte, dass es sich in der heutigen Wirtschaftswissenschaft eher „um Glaubenssätze und religiöse Ansichten“ handelt. Weniger jedoch beruht sie auf argumentiertem Wissen. „Als ich noch auf der Uni Student war, wurde mir schnell klar, dass die Wirtschaftswissenschaftler selber keine Ahnung haben und nur so tun, als ob sie eine hätten!“, erinnerte sich Sonnleitner.

Zur Frage Konkurrenzgesellschaft oder Kooperationsgesellschaft wurde von Liessmann ein Paradox unserer jetzigen Gesellschaft geschildert, die einem „fortwährenden Selbstbetrug“ unterliegt. Womit er die unserer Gesellschaft innewohnende Erwartung meinte, sich zu vernetzen. Das Vernetzen sei jedoch in einer Konkurrenzgesellschaft nicht möglich: „Entweder man vernetzt oder verdrängt sich.“

In der Diskussion sorgte der Kabarettist Günther Paal für frische Lacher im Publikum. Auf die Frage, ob Wirtschaftswissenschaftler Kabarettisten seien, verneinte er mit der Begründung: „Dafür ist die Realität zu fantastisch. Das dürfte sich ein Kabarettist nicht erlauben.“ „Jener Anwärter eines Wirtschaftsnobelpreises, der einen Artikel verfasst mit dem erkenntnisreichen Inhalt, dass wir ein ernstes Problem haben, indem wir mit Geld mehr Geld verdienen als mit Arbeit“, sollte einen Preis erhalten, schlägt Paal in fabulierender Ernsthaftigkeit vor. Und dass er überhaupt nicht verstehen könne, warum Gold überhaupt einen Wert hat. Es hat ja „keinen Gebrauchswert“ und „keinen praktischen Wert“, es sei nur „schwer und weich“.

Pointiert schilderte Hörmann unter anderem, wie zum Beispiel das System der Kreditkartenunternehmen arbeitet. Dieses Alltagsbeispiel stellte er mir nachträglich für diesen Artikel nochmals zur Verfügung:

„Wenn man eine Kreditkartenrechnung unterschreibt (z.B. im Restaurant über 50 Euro), dann erzählt man uns den "Schmäh", dass der Wirt in 2-3 Tagen sein Geld erhält, wir aber die Sammelrechnung erst in einigen Wochen bezahlen müssen. Daher "leiht uns jemand Geld" in dieser Zeit. Tatsache ist aber, dass alleine schon die unterschriebene Rechnung ein Wertpapier darstellt, das man sofort um den Betrag, der draufsteht (in diesem Fall also 50 Euro) bei jeder Bank verkaufen kann. Wir haben hier durch unsere Unterschrift unser eigenes Geld erzeugt - das nennt man "Kreditverbriefung" - und das ist, für den kleinen Mann verständlich, das Prinzip, nach dem auch unser Geld (= Staats-Schuldschein) funktioniert! Die Gebühren der Kreditkartenfirma zahlt man nur, damit wir nicht erfahren, dass wir unser eigenes Geld selbst herstellen können!“

Einen nüchternen Ausblick gab Sonnleitner. Er betrachtet es für wahrscheinlich, dass wir via Postverständigung ein Schreiben unserer Hausbank erhalten werden mit dem ungefähren Wortlaut: „Ihre Geldbestände auf Ihren Bankkonten werden bald nicht mehr verfügbar sein. Dafür erhalten Sie Staatsschuldverschreibungen. Ihre Goldbarren, die in den Banktresoren eingelagert sind, mussten wir zwecks Beitragsleistung zur Reduzierung der Staatsschulden einbehalten, und Ihre Hypothek müssen wir fällig stellen, da unser Bankhaus an ein Chinesisches Bankhaus verkauft wurde.“

Die folgenden auszugsweisen Zeilen des Buchklappentextes bieten zusammenfassend den wichtigsten sucus des Buches, welches das Potenzial hat wirklich ein Weckruf zu sein: „Die Zeit der Banken und des Geldes ist vorbei. Denn Banken erfinden Geld aus Luft, die freien Märkte sind Blasenmaschinen zum Missbrauch für die Eliten, unser gegenwärtiges Finanzsystem ist ein reines Betrugsmodell. Die Folge: Der ultimative Finanzcrash droht; damit verbunden, das Ende des Geldes.“

Pregetter schließt die Podiumsdiskussion mit dem bekannten Zitat von Mayer Amschel Rothschild: "Let me issue and control a nation's money and I care not who writes the laws."

Das Buch erscheint in den kommenden Tagen im Galila Verlag, hat 224 Seiten und ist für 21,90 Euro im Buchhandel oder direkt hier erhältlich.




Vanity Fair    August 2012 (publ. July 3, 2012)

Where the Money Lives
By Nicholas Shaxson

For all Mitt Romney’s touting of his business record, when it comes to his own money the Republican nominee is remarkably shy about disclosing numbers and investments. Nicholas Shaxson delves into the murky world of offshore finance, revealing loopholes that allow the very wealthy to skirt tax laws, and investigating just how much of Romney’s fortune (with $30 million in Bain Capital funds in the Cayman Islands alone?) looks pretty strange for a presidential candidate.
BURIED TREASURE Grand Cayman, where Bain Capital maintains at least 138 funds. Inset, Mitt Romney tries to spot his La Jolla home from the campaign plane. © Ruth Tomlinson/Robert Harding World Imagery/Corbis (beach); by Justin Sullivan/Getty images (inset).
Read Inside Box 438, the British Virgin Islands’ Tax-Friendliest Address

A person who worked for Mitt Romney at the consulting firm Bain and Co. in 1977 remembers him with mixed feelings. “Mitt was … a really wonderful boss,” the former employee says. “He was nice, he was fair, he was logical, he said what he wanted … he was really encouraging.” But Bain and Co., the person recalls, pushed employees to find out secret revenue and sales data on its clients’ competitors. Romney, the person says, suggested “falsifying” who they were to get such information, by pretending to be a graduate student working on a proj­ect at Harvard. (The person, in fact, was a Harvard student, at Bain for the summer, but not working on any such proj­ects.) “Mitt said to me something like ‘We won’t ask you to lie. I am not going to tell you to do this, but [it is] a really good way to get the information.’ … I would not have had anything in my analysis if I had not pretended.

“It was a strange atmosphere. It did leave a bad taste in your mouth,” the former employee recalls.

This unsettling account suggests the young Romney—at that point only two years out of Harvard Business School—was willing to push into gray areas when it came to business. More than three dec­ades later, as he tried to nail down the Republican nomination for president of the United States, Romney’s gray areas were again an issue when he repeatedly resisted calls to release more details of his net worth, his tax returns, and the large investments and assets held by him and his wife, Ann. Finally the other Republican candidates forced him to do so, but only highly selective disclosures were forthcoming.

Even so, these provided a lavish smorgasbord for Romney’s critics. Particularly jarring were the Romneys’ many offshore accounts. As Newt Gingrich put it during the primary season, “I don’t know of any American president who has had a Swiss bank account.” But Romney has, as well as other interests in such tax havens as Bermuda and the Cayman Islands.

To give but one example, there is a Bermuda-based entity called Sankaty High Yield Asset Investors Ltd., which has been described in securities filings as “a Bermuda corporation wholly owned by W. Mitt Romney.” It could be that Sankaty is an old vehicle with little importance, but Romney appears to have treated it rather carefully. He set it up in 1997, then transferred it to his wife’s newly created blind trust on January 1, 2003, the day before he was inaugurated as Massachusetts’s governor. The director and president of this entity is R. Bradford Malt, the trustee of the blind trust and Romney’s personal lawyer. Romney failed to list this entity on several financial disclosures, even though such a closely held entity would not qualify as an “excepted investment fund” that would not need to be on his disclosure forms. He finally included it on his 2010 tax return. Even after examining that return, we have no idea what is in this company, but it could be valuable, meaning that it is possible Romney’s wealth is even greater than previous estimates. While the Romneys’ spokespeople insist that the couple has paid all the taxes required by law, investments in tax havens such as Bermuda raise many questions, because they are in “jurisdictions where there is virtually no tax and virtually no compliance,” as one Miami-based offshore lawyer put it.

That’s not the only money Romney has in tax havens. Because of his retirement deal with Bain Capital, his finances are still deeply entangled with the private-equity firm that he founded and spun off from Bain and Co. in 1984. Though he left the firm in 1999, Romney has continued to receive large payments from it—in early June he revealed more than $2 million in new Bain income. The firm today has at least 138 funds organized in the Cayman Islands, and Romney himself has personal interests in at least 12, worth as much as $30 million, hidden behind controversial confidentiality disclaimers. Again, the Romney campaign insists he saves no tax by using them, but there is no way to check this.

Bain Capital is the heart of Romney’s fortune: it was the financial engine that created it. The mantra of his campaign is that he was a businessman who created tens of thousands of jobs, and Bain certainly did bring useful operational skills to many companies it bought. But his critics point to several cases where Bain bought companies, loaded them with debt, and paid itself extravagant fees, thereby bankrupting the companies and destroying tens of thousands of jobs.

Come August, Romney, with an estimated net worth as high as $250 million (he won’t reveal the exact amount), will be one of the richest people ever to be nominated for president. Given his reticence to discuss his wealth, it’s only natural to wonder how he got it, how he invests it, and if he pays all his taxes on it.

Ironically, it was Mitt’s father, George Romney, who released 12 years of tax returns, in November 1967, just ahead of his presidential campaign, thereby setting a precedent that nearly every presidential candidate since has either willingly or unwillingly been subject to. George, then the governor of Michigan, explained why he was releasing so many years’ worth, saying, “One year could be a fluke, perhaps done for show.”

But his son declined to release any returns through one unsuccessful race for the U.S. Senate, in 1994, one successful run for Massachusetts governor, in 2002, and an aborted bid for the Republican Party presidential nomination, in 2008. Just before the Iowa caucus last December, Mitt told MSNBC, “I don’t intend to release the tax returns. I don’t,” but finally, on January 24, 2012—after intense goading by fellow Republican candidates Newt Gingrich and Rick Perry—he released his 2010 tax return and an estimate for 2011.

These, plus the mandatory financial disclosures filed with the Office of Government Ethics and released last August, raise many questions. A full 55 pages in his 2010 return are devoted to reporting his transactions with foreign entities. “What Romney does not get,” says Jack Blum, a veteran Washington lawyer and offshore expert, “is that this stuff is weird.”

The media soon noticed Romney’s familiarity with foreign tax havens. A $3 million Swiss bank account appeared in the 2010 returns, then winked out of existence in 2011 after the trustee closed it, as if to remind us of George Romney’s warning that one or two tax returns can provide a misleading picture. Ed Kleinbard, a professor of tax law at the University of Southern California, says the Swiss account “has political but not tax-policy resonance,” since it—like many other Romney investments—constituted a bet against the U.S. dollar, an odd thing for a presidential candidate to do. The Obama campaign provided a helpful world map pointing to the tax havens Bermuda, Luxembourg, and the Cayman Islands, where Romney and his family have assets, each with the tagline “Value: not disclosed in tax returns.”

Romney’s personal tax rate is a particular point of interest. In 2010 and 2011, Mitt and Ann paid $6.2 million in federal tax on $42.5 million in income, for an average tax rate just shy of 15 percent, substantially less than what most middle-income Americans pay. Romney manages this low rate because he takes his payments from Bain Capital as investment income, which is taxed at a maximum 15 percent, instead of the 35 percent he would pay on “ordinary” income, such as salaries and wages. Many tax experts argue that the form of remuneration he receives, known as carried interest, is really just a fee charged by investment managers, so it should instead be taxed at the 35 percent rate. Lee Sheppard, a contributing editor at the trade publication Tax Notes, whose often controversial articles are read widely by tax professionals, is nonplussed that the Obama campaign has been so listless on the issue of carried interest. “Romney is the poster boy, the best argument, for taxing this profit share as ordinary income,” says Sheppard.

In the face of such arguments, Romney’s defense is that he never broke the rules: if there is a problem, it is in the laws, not in his behavior. “I pay all the taxes that are legally required, not a dollar more,” he said. Even so. “When you are running for president, you might want to err on the side of overpaying your taxes, and not chase every tax gimmick that comes down the pike,” says Sheppard. “It kind of looks tacky.”

The assertion that he broke no laws is widely accepted. But it is worth asking if it is actually true. The answer, in fact, isn’t straightforward. Romney, like the superhero who whirls and backflips unscathed through a web of laser beams while everyone else gets zapped, is certainly a remarkable financial acrobat. But careful analysis of his financial and business affairs also reveals a man who, like some other Wall Street titans, seems comfortable striding into some fuzzy gray zones.

The Caped Avoider!

One might perhaps accept an explanation by Romney’s campaign spokeswoman, Andrea Saul, that the candidate’s failure to include his Swiss account in earlier financial disclosures was merely a “trivial inadvertent issue.” But deeper questions do emerge.

All the assets on Mitt’s financial disclosures are in blind trusts or retirement accounts held by him and Ann. Blind trusts are designed to avoid conflicts of interest for those in public office by having politicians’ assets managed by independent trustees. The Romneys’ blind trust was created when Mitt was elected governor of Massachusetts. Curiously, the Romneys appointed Bradford Malt as their trustee. It’s certainly true that under Malt the trusts don’t appear to be as blind as they might be: for instance, in 2010 the Romneys invested $10 million in the start-up of the Solamere Founders Fund, co-founded by their eldest son, Tagg, and Spencer Zwick, Romney’s onetime top campaign fund-raiser; Solamere is now in the Ann Romney blind trust. Malt has said he invested in Solamere without consulting Mitt or Ann and explained he liked Solamere because of its diversified approach and because he knew the founders and had confidence in them.

Likewise, the Romneys were reported to have invested at least $1 million in Elliott Associates, L.P., a hedge fund specializing in “distressed assets.” Elliott buys up cheap debt, often at cents on the dollar, from lenders to deeply troubled nations such as Congo-Brazzaville, then attacks the debtor states with lawsuits to squeeze maximum repayment. Elliott is run by the secretive hedge-fund billionaire and G.O.P. super-donor Paul Singer, whom Fortune recently dubbed Mitt Romney’s “Hedge Fund Kingmaker.” (Singer has given $1 million to Romney’s super-pac Restore Our Future.)

It is hard to know the size of these investments. Romney’s financial disclosure form lists 25 of them in an open-ended category, “Over $1 million,” including So­lamere and Elliott, and they are not broken down further. Romney hides behind a disclaimer that the fund managers “declined to provide such information” about their underlying assets. Many of these funds are set up in tax havens such as the Cayman Islands, where a confidentiality law states that you can be jailed for up to four years just for asking about such information.

Andrea Saul said of these investments, “Everything … was reported correctly.” Joseph Sandler, a Democratic lawyer who has worked with candidates on disclosures for more than two dec­ades, is skeptical. “The law is the law,” Sandler says. “[Romney] says, ‘Well, you know, they won’t tell me.’ But when you run for office in the U.S. and are not prepared to comply with disclosure requirements, you should either divest yourself of the assets or don’t run.” The Washington Post summarized the opinions of experts across the political spectrum by saying Romney’s disclosures were “the most opaque they have encountered.”

Mysteries also arise when one looks at Romney’s individual retirement account at Bain Capital. When Romney was there, from 1984 to 1999, taxpayers were allowed to put just $2,000 per year into an I.R.A., and $30,000 annually into a different kind of plan he may have used. Given these annual contribution ceilings, how can his I.R.A. possibly contain up to $102 million, as his financial disclosures now suggest?

The Romneys won’t say, but Mark Maremont, writing in The Wall Street Journal, uncovered a likely explanation. When Bain Capital bought companies, it would create two classes of shares, named A and L. The A shares were risky common shares, to which they would assign a very low value. The L shares were preferred shares, paying a high dividend but with the payoff frozen, and most of the value was assigned to them. Bain employees would then put the exciting A shares in their I.R.A. accounts, where they grew tax-free. With all the risk of the deal, the A shares stood to gain a lot or collapse. But if the deal succeeded, the springing value could be stunning: Bain employees saw their A shares from one particularly fruitful deal grow 583-fold, 16 times faster than the underlying stock.

The Romneys won’t tell us how, or even if, they assigned super-low values to the A shares, but there are a couple of ways to do it. One is to use standard options models to price the shares—then feed inappropriate assumptions into those models. Romney could alternatively have used a model called liquidation valuation, which Kleinbard says would have been “completely inappropriate.” Without seeing the assumptions used on Romney’s tax returns from the years when those lowball A shares were squirted into his I.R.A., we cannot know how he did it. Whatever methods he used, however, the valuations were, according to Andrew Smith, of Houlihan Capital in Chicago, “pushing the envelope.” (Andrea Saul retorts, “Why should successful investments be criticized?”)

Mitt’s and Ann’s I.R.A.’s have also been receiving profit interest from (mostly Cayman Island–based) Bain Capital funds that were set up long after he had left the company, in 1999. For example, the 2010 return reveals a profits interest in a Cayman-based fund called Bain Capital Partners (AM) X LP, which was transferred to the Ann D. Romney trust in October 2010. An attachment to the return says the Ann D. Romney trust is “performing services” to the partnership, which is boilerplate language for these kinds of filings. Her blind trust could receive lightly taxed income from Bain Capital for years to come, well into the presidential term her husband hopes to win.

But administrative guidance says you can do this kind of thing only if the compensation is in recognition of past services you have provided. “This should not mean retired from the mother ship 10 years out and getting profits you had nothing to do with,” Sheppard says, adding that Romney can get away with it because of excessive “administrative indulgences” that have allowed a “perversion of the law in favor of a small class of overcompensated investment managers.”

Romney’s I.R.A. also appears to have invested in so-called blocker corporations in the Cayman Islands and elsewhere. U.S. pension funds, foundations, and even I.R.A.’s routinely use offshore blocker corporations to avoid something called the Unrelated Business Income Tax, which was designed to keep nonprofits from competing with ordinary companies in areas outside their core purpose: if you invest directly you get hit with the tax, but if you invest in a blocker, which then invests in the U.S. business, you escape it. Romney’s I.R.A. appears to have employed this lawful escape route, and his campaign has used language suggesting that it has. But that would mean the Romney camp’s claim that Mitt’s tax consequences of investing via the Cayman Islands is “the very same” as it would have been had he invested directly at home is simply not true. (Romney spokesperson Andrea Saul says Romney “gets the same benefit anyone would get from an I.R.A.,” but she did not respond to questions on whether his I.R.A. had used blockers or avoided taxes by investing via tax havens.)

A Deutsche Bank analysis of 68 Bain deals Romney was involved in calculated an internal rate of return—a standard private-equity benchmark—at a staggering 88 percent annually (though after fees and inflation, investor performance may have been little more than half that). It is substantially on this stellar rec­ord that Romney is now running for president. His work at Bain was unquestionably good for himself and for Bain, but was it also good for the businesses he acquired, for their workers, and for the economy, as he claims?

A report by Bain and Co. itself, looking at the period from 2002 to 2007, concluded that there is “little evidence that private equity owners, overall, added value” to the companies they took over: nearly all their returns are explained by broad economic growth, rising stock markets, and leverage. Josh Kosman, who researched the subject of private equity for his book The Buyout of America, singles out Bain Capital in particular. “They take pride in pushing the leverage envelope [i.e., use of borrowed money, which magnifies returns, while off-loading the risks onto others] more than their peers,” he says. “I have heard that from limited partners in Bain’s funds. I have heard that from bankers who lend money to finance their leveraged buyouts. Bain always prided itself on ‘We’ll push leverage more than the others.’ They brag about that, behind closed doors.”

Dade Behring is a cause célèbre for Romney’s and Bain’s critics, and it illustrates the leverage problem clearly. In 1994, Bain bought Dade International, a medical-diagnostics company, then added the medical-diagnostics division of DuPont in 1996 and a German medical-testing company called Behring in 1997. Former Dade president Bob Brightfelt says the operation started well: the Bain managers were “pretty smart guys,” he recalls, and they did well cutting out overlap, and exploiting synergies.

Then brutal cost cutting began. Bain cut R&D spending to an average of 8 percent of sales, a little more than half what its competitors were doing. Cindy Hewitt, Dade’s human-resources manager, remembers how the firm closed a Puerto Rico plant in 1998, a year after harvesting $7.1 million in local tax breaks aimed at job creation, and relocated some staff to Miami, then the company’s most profitable plant. Based on re­a­ssur­ances she had received from her superiors, she told those uprooting themselves from Puerto Rico that their jobs in Miami were safe for now—but then Bain closed the Miami plant. “Whether you want to call it misled, or lied, or manipulated, I do not believe they provided full information about what discussions were under way,” she says. “I would never want to be part of even unintentionally treating people so poorly.”

Bain engaged in startling penny-pinching with the laid-off employees. Their contracts stipulated that if they left early they would have to pay back the costs of relocating to Miami—but in spite of all that Dade had done to them, it refused to release the employees from this clause. “They said they would go after them for that money if they left before Bain was finished with them,” Hewitt recalls. Not only that, but the company declined to give workers their severance pay in lump sums to help them fund their return home.

In 1999, generous pensions were converted into less generous benefits, wages were cut, and more staff members were laid off. Some employees contacted Norman Stein, then the director of the pension-counseling clinic at the University of Alabama law school, with a view to challenging the conversions. Stein says the employees were “extraordinarily nervous,” so fearful, in fact, that they refused to let lawyers even make copies of pension documents. “I have been dealing with pensions issues for over 25 years and I never saw anything like this,” recalls Stein. The spooked employees did not go to court. Stein says that, while breaking pension contracts like this was not unheard of, the practice at that time was “questionable,” adding that Dade may have saved $10 to $40 million from converting its pensions.

The beauty—or savagery—of leverage is that it can magnify any and all cash-flow boosts, such as this one. Take $10 to $40 million squeezed from a pension pot, then use that to create new, rosier financial projections to borrow several times that amount, and then pay yourself a big special dividend from the borrowed funds, many times the size of the pension savings. That is just what Bain Capital did: the same month it converted the pensions, it created new financial projections as a basis to borrow an extra $421 million—from which Bain, its co-investor Goldman Sachs, and top Dade management extracted $365 million in dividends. According to Kosman, “Bain and Goldman—after putting down only $85 million … made out like bandits—a $280 million profit.” Dade’s debt rose to more than $870 million. Romney had left operational management of Bain that year, though his disclosures show that he owned 16.5 percent of the Bain partnership responsible for the Dade investment until at least 2001.

Quite soon, however, a fragile Dade faced adverse conditions in the currency markets, and it had to start in effect cannibalizing itself, cutting into the core of its business. It filed for bankruptcy in August 2002 and Bain Capital departed. When Dade emerged from bankruptcy, its new owners invested in long-term R&D, and it flourished again.

Nor was this an isolated incident: Kosman lists five other “formerly healthy” companies—Stage Stores, Ampad, GS Technologies, Details, and KB Toys—Bain helped drive into bankruptcy, while making big profits. (Despite numerous entreaties from Vanity Fair to Bain Capital to address on the record points in this article with which it might disagree, the firm refused to do so and instead provided this statement: “When politics overwhelm fact, some will distort or cherry-pick our record and launch unfounded allegations and insinuations. The truth and the full record show that Bain Capital operates with high standards of integrity and excellence in compliance with all laws. Any suggestion to the contrary is baseless.”)

Tax Haven U.S.A.

The term “financialization” describes two interlocking processes: a disproportionate growth in a country’s deregulated financial sector, relative to the rest of the economy, and the rising importance of financial activities with a focus on financial returns among industrial and other non-financial corporations, often at the expense of real innovation and productivity.

Some see the rising influence of finance and financial models in epochal terms. Author of Financialization and the U.S. Economy Özgür Orhangazi summarizes academic literature that sees financialization “as one of the indicators of the decline of the heg­e­mon­ic power”: imperial Venice, Genoa, Holland, and Britain all saw their power rise on the back of productive industrial capitalism, followed by domination by the financial sector, which eventually began to cannibalize the productive sector in pursuit of financial returns—a process that ended in weakness and collapse.

Little noticed in the academic discussions of financialization is the role of offshore tax havens, one of the big reasons the financial sector has become so powerful. In 1966, Michael Hudson, a young Chase Manhattan balance-of-payments economist, was in a company elevator when he was handed a memo by a former State Department operative. The memo came from the U.S. government, and Hudson was tasked with figuring out how much foreign money the U.S. might attract. “They were saying, ‘We want to replace Switzerland,’?” Hudson explains. “All this money will come here if we make this the criminal center of the world. We wanted foreign criminal money, which was patriotic, but not American criminal money.”

In the years since then, almost unknown to most Americans, the United States has turned itself into a giant tax haven for foreigners, just as the memo suggested. Federal and state tax laws have been deliberately shaped to give foreigners special tax exemptions unavailable to Americans, plus financial secrecy and exemptions from regulatory restraints. “We have criticized offshore tax havens for their secrecy and lack of transparency,” said Senator Carl Levin. “But look what is going on in our own backyard.”

In this grand scenario, tax havens such as the Caymans serve as feeders of foreign savings into Tax Haven U.S.A. from abroad, providing foreign investors with additional ways to skip around tax, disclosure, and regulatory requirements that they might trigger if they invested directly.

The money sucked into Tax Haven U.S.A., often via the “feeder” tax havens, is frequently tax-evading and other criminal foreign money, in the spirit of Hudson’s 1966 memo, and it is predominantly channeled not into productive investment but into real estate and financial business.

One cannot properly understand Wall Street’s size and power without appreciating the central role of offshore tax havens. There is absolutely no evidence that Bain has done anything illegal, but private equity is one channel for this secrecy-shrouded foreign money to enter the United States, and a filing for Mitt Romney’s first $37 million Bain Capital Fund, of 1984, provides a rare window into this. One foreign investor, of $2 million, was the newspaper tycoon, tax evader, and fraudster Robert Maxwell, who fell from his yacht, and drowned, off of the Canary Islands in 1991 in strange circumstances, after looting his company’s pension fund. The Bain filing also names Eduardo Poma, a member of one of the “14 families” oligarchy that has controlled most of El Salvador’s wealth for decades; oddly, Poma is listed as sharing a Miami address with two anonymous companies that invested $1.5 million between them. The filings also show a Geneva-based trustee overseeing a trust that invested $2.5 million, a Bahamas corporation that put in $3 million, and three corporations in the tax haven of Panama, historically a favored destination for Latin-American dirty money—“one of the filthiest money-laundering sinks in the world,” as a U.S. Customs official once put it.

Bain Capital has said it did everything required by the U.S. government to check that the investors were not associated with unsavory interests. U.S. law doesn’t require Bain to enforce the tax laws of its investors’ home countries, but the presence of Swiss trustees, Bahamas trusts, and Panama corporations would raise red flags with any tax authority.

Many Americans might react with a shrug to the idea of shady foreign money such as Robert Maxwell’s being invested here. But, says Rebecca Wilkins, of the Washington, D.C.–based nonprofit Citizens for Tax Justice, “It is shocking that a presidential candidate should think that is O.K.”

FROM THE ARCHIVE
The Bain of Romney’s existence (Michael Kranish and Scott Helman, February 2012)
Bush’s tax gauntlet (Joseph E. Stiglitz, December 2007)
Election 2012: the parties reverse roles (Todd S. Purdum, June 2012)
Public consequences of private equity (Michael Wolff, May 2007)



Tages-Anzeiger    4.Juli 2012

US-Regierung wollte Schweiz als Steueroase ersetzen

Das unübersichtliche Finanzgeflecht von Mitt Romney lenkt die Aufmerksamkeit auch auf Steuerparadiese. Brisant: Seit den Sechzigerjahren strebt Washington diesen Status nach Schweizer Vorbild an.
ami/AFP  -   Der designierte Präsidentschaftskandidat der US-Republikaner, Mitt Romney, erzielt einem Medienbericht zufolge einen grossen Teil seines Vermögens mit einem unübersichtlichen Netz von Investitionen im Ausland.

Allein auf den Cayman Islands sei Romney nach wie vor mit einem geschätzten Wert von rund 28 Millionen Franken an mindestens zwölf von 138 Fonds seiner 1984 gegründeten Investmentfirma Bain Capital beteiligt, berichtete das US-Magazin «Vanity Fair» gestern in einer ausführlichen Recherche.

Ausland-Transaktionen auf 55 Seiten
Auch in der Schweiz soll Romney rund 3 Millionen Dollar auf einem Konto liegen haben. Erstmals in einer Steuererklärung angegeben hat er es 2010 – dass dies nicht früher geschah, ist laut seiner Sprecherin ein Versehen. Auch auf den britischen Bermudas hat Romney grosse Vermögen.

Lange weigerte er sich, überhaupt Informationen zu seinem Reichtum zu veröffentlichen. Im Vorwahlkampf wurde der Druck aber immer grösser, schliesslich gab er nach. Seither weiss man: allein auf 55 Seiten seiner Steuererklärung geht es um seine Transaktionen im Ausland. Romney versichert stets, er nutze seine Investitionen in all diesen Steuerparadiesen nicht dazu, weniger Steuern in den USA zu zahlen. Doch da er vom Gesetz her keinen Nachweis für sein dortiges Vermögen erbringen muss, stellen dies viele infrage.

Augenmerk auf Steueroasen
Insgesamt soll Romney mithilfe seiner Investmentfirma Bain ein Vermögen von schätzungsweise 250 Millionen Dollar angehäuft haben. Genaue Zahlen gibt es nicht. Seinen Erfolg als Geschäftsmann führt er im Wahlkampf als Argument dafür an, dass er besser geeignet sei als Amtsinhaber Barack Obama, die Wirtschaft des Landes aus der Krise zu steuern.

Doch die Rolle von Bain ist umstritten. Kritiker werfen der Firma vor, systematisch funktionierende Unternehmen aufgekauft, ausgesaugt und dann verscherbelt zu haben. Mit der Debatte um Romneys Finanzgeflecht und die Rolle von Hedgefunds wie Bain wird die Aufmerksamkeit auch auf die Steueroasen innerhalb der USA gelenkt. Denn ohne sie wäre jene Finanzialisierung der Wirtschaft nicht möglich gewesen, von der Firmen wie Mitt Romneys Bain profitierten.

«Wir wollen die Schweiz ersetzen»
In diesem Zusammenhang erwähnt der Bericht von «Vanity Fair» am Rande ein pikantes Detail. Es macht klar, dass sich US-Regierungen seit bald 50 Jahren der Wichtigkeit von Steuerlücken durchaus bewusst sind und sie aktiv geschaffen haben – zumindest für Ausländer.

Im Jahr 1966 bekam demnach ein Bankmitarbeiter in einem Fahrstuhl von einem ehemaligen Regierungsbeamten ein Memo zugesteckt. Es stammte von der Regierung in Washington und war in seinem Wortlaut explizit: «Wir wollen die Schweiz ersetzen.» Er, der Ökonom, sollte nach Strategien suchen, wie die USA ausländische – ausdrücklich keine US-amerikanischen – Schwarzgelder anziehen könnten.

Seither haben sich die USA – nahezu unbemerkt von der eigenen Öffentlichkeit – zu einem gigantischen Steuerparadies entwickelt. Der US-Bundesstaat Delaware gilt als grösstes Steuerparadies überhaupt. Jenes Kapital, das so in die USA fliesst, will irgendwo angelegt sein. Davon profitieren Firmen wie Bain – und damit auch Präsidentschaftskandidat Mitt Romney, der aus seiner ehemaligen Firma noch immer Geld bezieht. Erst im Juni machte er einen Bezug von zwei Millionen öffentlich.




netrightdaily.com     July 8th 2011

Iceland Declares Independence from International Banks
By Bill Wilson

Iceland is free, and it will remain so, so long as her people wish to remain autonomous of the foreign domination of her would-be masters - in this case, international bankers.

On April 9, the fiercely independent people of island-nation defeated a referendum that would have bailed out the UK and the Netherlands who had covered the deposits of British and Dutch investors who had lost funds in Icesave bank in 2008.

At the time of the bank's failure, Iceland refused to cover the losses. But the UK and Netherlands nonetheless have demanded that Iceland repay them for the "loan" as a condition for admission into the European Union.

In response, the Icelandic people have told Europe to go pound sand. The final vote was 103,207 to  69,462, or 58.9 percent to 39.7 percent. "Taxpayers should not be responsible for paying the debts of a private institution," said Sigriur Andersen, a spokeswoman for the Advice group that opposed the bailout.

A similar referendum in 2009 on the issue, although with harsher terms, found 93.2 percent of the Icelandic electorate rejecting a proposal to guarantee the deposits of foreign investors who had funds in the Icelandic bank. The referendum was invoked when President Olafur Ragnur Grimmson vetoed legislation the Althingi, Iceland's parliament, had passed to pay back the British and Dutch.

Under the terms of the agreement, Iceland would have had to pay £2.35 billion to the UK, and ¤1.32 billion to the Netherlands by 2046 at a 3 percent interest rate. Its rejection for the second time by Iceland is a testament to its people, who feel they should bear no responsibility for the losses of foreigners endured in the financial crisis.

That opposition to bailouts led to Iceland's decision to allow the bank to fail in 2008. Not that the taxpayers there could have afforded to. As noted by Bloomberg News, at the time the crisis hit in 2008, "the banks had debts equal to 10 times Iceland's $12 billion GDP."

"These were private banks and we didn't pump money into them in order to keep them going; the state did not shoulder the responsibility of the failed private banks," Iceland President Olafur Grimsson told Bloomberg Television.

The voters' rejection came despite threats to isolate Iceland from funding in international financial institutions. Iceland's national debt has already been downgraded by credit rating agencies, and now those same agencies have promised to do so once again as punishment for defying the will of international bankers.

This is just the latest in the long drama since 2008 of global institutions refusing to take losses in the financial crisis. Threats of a global economic depression and claims of being "too big to fail" have equated to a loaded gun to the heads of representative governments in the U.S. and Europe. Iceland is of particular interest because it did not bail out its banks like Ireland did, or foreign ones like the U.S. did.

If that fervor catches on amongst taxpayers worldwide, as it has in Iceland and with the tea party movement in America, the banks would have something to fear; that is, the inability to draw from limitless amounts of funding from gullible government officials and central banks. It appears that the root cause is government guarantees, whether explicit or implicit, on risk-taking by the banks.

Ultimately, such guarantees are not necessary to maintain full employment or even prop up an economy with growth, they are simply designed to allow these international institutions to overleverage and increase their profit margins in good times - and to avoid catastrophic losses in bad times.

The lesson here is instructive across the pond, but it is a chilling one. If the U.S. - or any sovereign for that matter - attempts to restructure their debts, or to force private investors to take a haircut on their own foolish gambles, these international institutions have promised the equivalent of economic war in response. However, the alternative is for representative governments to sacrifice their independence to a cadre of faceless bankers who share no allegiance to any nation.

It is the conflict that has already defined the beginning of the 21st Century. The question is whether free peoples will choose to remain free, as Iceland has, or to submit.

Bill Wilson is the President of Americans for Limited Government. You can follow Bill on Twitter at @BillWilsonALG.


this article is full of errors: look below!
dailykos.com    August 1, 2011

Iceland's On-going Revolution
by Deena Stryker

An Italian radio program's story about Iceland's on-going revolution is a stunning example of how little our media tells us about the rest of the world. Americans may remember that at the start of the 2008 financial crisis, Iceland literally went bankrupt.  The reasons were mentioned only in passing, and since then, this little-known member of the European Union fell back into oblivion.

As one European country after another fails or risks failing, imperiling the Euro, with repercussions for the entire world, the last thing the powers that be want is for Iceland to become an example. Here's why:

Five years of a pure neo-liberal regime had made Iceland, (population 320 thousand, no army), one of the richest countries in the world. In 2003 all the country's banks were privatized, and in an effort to attract foreign investors, they offered on-line banking whose minimal costs allowed them to offer relatively high rates of return. The accounts, called IceSave, attracted many English and Dutch small investors.  But as investments grew, so did the banks' foreign debt.  In 2003 Iceland's debt was equal to 200 times its GNP, but in 2007, it was 900 percent.  The 2008 world financial crisis was the coup de grace. The three main Icelandic banks, Landbanki, Kapthing and Glitnir, went belly up and were nationalized, while the Kroner lost 85% of its value with respect to the Euro.  At the end of the year Iceland declared bankruptcy.

Contrary to what could be expected, the crisis resulted in Icelanders recovering their sovereign rights, through a process of direct participatory democracy that eventually led to a new Constitution.  But only after much pain.

Geir Haarde, the Prime Minister of a Social Democratic coalition government, negotiated a two million one hundred thousand dollar loan, to which the Nordic countries added another two and a half million. But the foreign financial community pressured Iceland to impose drastic measures.  The FMI and the European Union wanted to take over its debt, claiming this was the only way for the country to pay back Holland and Great Britain, who had promised to reimburse their citizens.

Protests and riots continued, eventually forcing the government to resign.   Elections were brought forward to April 2009, resulting in a left-wing coalition which condemned the neoliberal economic system, but immediately gave in to its demands that Iceland pay off a total of three and a half billion Euros.  This required each Icelandic citizen to pay 100 Euros a month (or about $130) for fifteen years, at 5.5% interest, to pay off a debt incurred by private parties vis a vis other private parties. It was the straw that broke the reindeer's back.

What happened next was extraordinary. The belief that citizens had to pay for the mistakes of a financial monopoly, that an entire nation must be taxed to pay off private debts was shattered, transforming the relationship between citizens and their political institutions and eventually driving Iceland's leaders to the side of their constituents. The Head of State, Olafur Ragnar Grimsson, refused to ratify the law that would have made Iceland's citizens responsible for its bankers' debts, and accepted calls for a referendum.

Of course the international community only increased the pressure on Iceland. Great Britain and Holland threatened dire reprisals that would isolate the country.  As Icelanders went to vote, foreign bankers threatened to block any aid from the IMF.  The British government threatened to freeze Icelander savings and checking accounts. As Grimsson said: "We were told that if we refused the international community's conditions, we would become the Cuba of the North.  But if we had accepted, we would have become the Haiti of the North." (How many times have I written that when Cubans see the dire state of their neighbor, Haiti, they count themselves lucky.)

In the March 2010 referendum, 93% voted against repayment of the debt.  The IMF immediately froze its loan.  But the revolution (though not televised in the United States), would not be intimidated. With the support of a furious citizenry, the government launched civil and penal investigations into those responsible for the financial crisis.  Interpol put out an international arrest warrant for the ex-president of Kaupthing, Sigurdur Einarsson, as the other bankers implicated in the crash fled the country.

But Icelanders didn't stop there: they decided to draft a new constitution that would free the country from the exaggerated power of international finance and virtual money.  (The one in use had been written when Iceland gained its independence from Denmark, in 1918, the only difference with the Danish constitution being that the word 'president' replaced the word 'king'.)

To write the new constitution, the people of Iceland elected twenty-five citizens from among 522 adults not belonging to any political party but recommended by at least thirty citizens. This document was not the work of a handful of politicians, but was written on the internet. The constituent's meetings are streamed on-line, and citizens can send their comments and suggestions, witnessing the document as it takes shape. The constitution that eventually emerges from this participatory democratic process will be submitted to parliament for approval after the next elections.

Some readers will remember that Iceland's ninth century agrarian collapse was featured in Jared Diamond's book by the same name. Today, that country is recovering from its financial collapse in ways just the opposite of those generally considered unavoidable, as confirmed yesterday by the new head of the IMF, Christine Lagarde to Fareed Zakaria. The people of Greece have been told that the privatization of their public sector is the only solution.  And those of Italy, Spain and Portugal are facing the same threat.

They should look to Iceland. Refusing to bow to foreign interests, that small country stated loud and clear that the people are sovereign. That's why it is not in the news anymore.


28 Kommentare
Tages-Anzeiger   2. August 2011

Das doppelte Trilemma des Euroraums
Markus Diem Meier

Es braucht massiv ausgebaute demokratische Mitbestimmung auf der Ebene der Euro-Institutionen: Protest vor der spanischen Nationalbank in Madrid, 28. Juli 2011.

Die Probleme der Eurozone lassen sich mit zwei Trilemmas  beschreiben – je drei Zielen, von denen sich aber nur zwei gleichzeitig erreichen lassen, während das dritte ausgeschlossen bleibt. Die Details dazu liefert ein lesenswerter Aufsatz des irischen Wirtschaftshistorikers Kevin O’Rourke mit dem Titel «A Tale of Two Trilemmas». Eine verkürzte Fassung mit eingängigen Grafiken findet sich bei Eurointelligence.

Das erste und im engeren Sinn ökonomische Trilemma umfasst die folgenden drei Ziele:  (für Freunde der ökonomischen Theorie – es leitet sich aus dem so genannten Mundell-Fleming-Modell ab)

-    Eine unabhängige und am Inland orientierte Geldpolitik – das heisst einer, die sich daran orientiert, die Inflation in Schach zu halten, bzw. konjunkturelle Arbeitslosigkeit zu verhindern.
-    Freier Kapitalverkehr
-    Fixierte Währungen

1 verträgt sich nicht mit 2 gemeinsam mit 3: Fixiert ein Land seine Währung an eine andere und bleibt der Kapitalverkehr frei, ist eine unabhängige Geldpolitik nicht möglich. Denn würde unser Land seine Zinsen erhöhen, um zum Beispiel die Inflation zu bekämpfen, würde hereinströmendes Kapital zu einer Aufwertung der Währung führen. Um die Währungsfixierung aufrechtzuerhalten, muss unser Land daher exakt die Geldpolitik nachvollziehen, die jenes andere Land verfolgt, an das unsere Währung gebunden ist.

2 verträgt sich nicht mit 1 gemeinsam mit 3: Die einzige Möglichkeit um gleichzeitig eine unabhängige Geldpolitik zu verfolgen und die Wechselkurse zu fixieren, wäre daher, den freien Kapitalverkehr zu unterbinden.

3 verträgt sich nicht mit 1 gemeinsam mit 2: Die dritte mögliche Kombination ist jetzt die logische Folge des Bisherigen: Freier Kapitalverkehr geht nur zusammen mit einer unabhängigen Geldpolitik, wenn die Wechselkurse den Marktkräften entsprechend frei schwanken dürfen, also nicht fixiert werden.

Hier der Zusammenhang mit der Währungsunion: Die Abschaffung der nationalen Währungen und ihr Ersatz durch den Euro ist die radikalste Form einer Fixierung. Gleichzeitig ist im gemeinsamen Wirtschaftsraum auch der Kapitalverkehr ohne Schranken. Die Folge: Eine Geldpolitik, die sich an den nationalen Bedürfnissen orientiert, ist unmöglich. Um mit auseinanderdriftenden ökonomischen Entwicklungen umgehen zu können, wäre ein fiskalischer Gegenpart zur Geldpolitik nötig: ein finanzieller Ausgleichsmechanismus, der ebenso länderübergreifend ist wie die Geldpolitik – also eine Entwicklung Richtung «Transferunion». Das wiederum erfordert aber eine stärkere politische und wirtschaftliche Integration der Länder der ganzen Eurozone. Und das führt direkt zum zweiten Trilemma.

Das zweite Trilemma ist politischer Natur und geht auf den Ökonomen Dani Rodrick zurück (mehr dazu in Kapitel 9 dieses Buches). Es umfasst die folgenden drei miteinander unvereinbaren Ziele:

Eine tiefgreifende und mehrere Länder erfassende ökonomische Integration – oder mit Rodricks Begriff: eine «Hyperglobalisierung»

Demokratie
Eine an den Interessen des Nationalstaates orientierte Politik
1 verträgt sich nicht mit 2 gemeinsam mit 3: Die «Hyperglobalisierung» bedeutet, dass die Regeln, Regulierungen und Gesetze eines Landes dem Wettbewerb um mobile Produktionsfaktoren wie Kapital und Beschäftigte nicht im Wege stehen dürfen und generell der Öffnung der Märkte verpflichtet sein müssen. Das schränkt notwendigerweise die Definitionsmacht demokratischer Prozesse innerhalb eines Nationalstaats ein, da Unternehmen, Beschäftigte und sogar Vermögen je nach demokratischem Entscheid sich den gesetzten Regeln einfach entziehen und das Land damit in Schwierigkeiten bringen können.

2 verträgt sich nicht mit 1 gemeinsam mit 3: Nationalstaatliche Interessen mit demokratischer Selbstbestimmung gehen daher immer schlechter mit einer fortschreitenden ökonomischen Globalisierung zusammen.

3 verträgt sich nicht mit 1 gemeinsam mit 2: Auch hier ergibt sich die Schlussfolgerung zwingend aus dem Bisherigen. Die stärkere wirtschaftliche Integration der Länder – die «Hyperglobalisierung» – geht nur mit Demokratie zusammen, wenn auch sie «globalisiert» wird: Das heisst, wenn auch auf internationaler Ebene – weltweit oder über mehrere Länder hinweg – demokratische Prozesse die Regeln bestimmen.

In der Währungsunion wurde das politische Trilemma bisher so gelöst, dass die Demokratie im wichtigsten Politikbereich ausgeschaltet ist: der Geldpolitik. Sie wird bestimmt durch die Europäische Zentralbank, geleitet von Technokraten, denen keine gewählte Regierung dreinreden kann. (Hier mehr zum ökonomischen Grund für diese Lösung). Doch eine Entwicklung in Richtung «Transferunion» mit einer damit verbundenen tieferen politischen und ökonomischen Integration der Euroländer ist ohne demokratische Legitimation nicht zu haben.

Was sagen uns die beiden Trilemma über eine mögliche Lösung:

Damit eine Entwicklung Richtung Transferunion und eine stärkere wirtschaftliche und politische Integration akzeptiert wird, wäre erstens eine massiv ausgebaute demokratische Mitbestimmung auf der Ebene der Euro-Institutionen nötig und zweitens, dass die Bürger der Euroländer dieser übergeordneten Ebene auch mehr Gewicht beimessen als ihrem Nationalstaat.

Die jüngsten Entscheide der Europolitiker sind klar Schritte in Richtung einer Transferunion und damit zu einer Lösung des ersten Trilemmas. Aber das zweite Trilemma bleibt ungelöst: Der Euroraum insgesamt bedeutet den Bürgern der Währungsunion weit weniger als ihr Nationalstaat. Das kennen wir von der alltäglichen politischen Auseinandersetzung in allen Euroländern her und Kevin O’Rourke hat das in seinem ausführlichen Aufsatz anhand von Erhebungen ebenfalls nachgewiesen. Mit der demokratischen Mitbestimmung auf der Ebene des gesamten Euroraums ist es ebenfalls nicht weit her.

Bleiben wir gespannt, wie hier eine Lösung zustande kommen kann – und ob das überhaupt in der gegenwärtigen Ausgestaltung der Währungsunion möglich ist.

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28 Kommentare zu „Das doppelte Trilemma des Euroraums“

Michael Schwarz sagt: 2. August 2011 um 16:30
Die Probleme und Ungleichgewichte entstanden durch der Hyperglobalisierung der globale Wirtschaft. Die Politiker und Notenbank versuchen die Probleme auf nationale Ebne zu lösen, ein gutes Beispiel ist die US Geldpolitik. Dies verschafft das Problem und Ungleichgewicht zusätzlich. Die Politiker und Notbanken der Industrieländer bis heute die Ursache nicht ganz verstanden haben, warum die Geldpolitik versagen, die Verschuldung weltweit zu nehmen. Die liegt daran, dass die Politiker und Notenbanken der Industrieländer nicht richtig zusammenarbeiten. Die nationalen Interessen sind wichtiger als eine gute laufende Wirtschaft in Industrieländern.
Deshalb ist es gerecht, dass der Franken massiv aufgewertet wird, dadurch wird die Bilanzüberschüsse in der Schweiz abgebaut, obwohl der Franken überbewertet und im Ungleichgewicht ist. Die Arbeitslose in Schweiz sollte auf dem Niveau der EU angleichen., dann können wir den EUR in Schweiz einführen.

Francis Gerz sagt:    2. August 2011 um 16:38
Hervorragender Artikel, der für einmal nicht diese billige, populistische und sehr beliebte “anti EU” -These widerspricht und klar zeigt, dass nicht der “EU-Weltuntergang” daher kommt, sondern, dass die Krise genützt wird um fundamentale und strukturelle Verbesserungen beizuführen.
Wer Erfahrung mit “change management” hat, weiss, dass jede Krise erst die Möglichkeit bietet, um (wichtige) Aenderungen zu vollbringen, die ansonsten gar nicht möglich sind.

Thomas Ernst sagt: 2. August 2011 um 20:06
@Gerz:
“um fundamentale und strukturelle Verbesserungen beizuführen” – Das heisst also, dass Sie den damit unumgänglichen weiteren Abbau von Demokratie und direkter Mitbestimmung der Bürger begrüssen, d.h. Sie finden es gut, dass die Eurokraten und Politabzocker in Brüssel noch mehr Macht bekommen und die gewöhnlichen Bürger noch mehr auspressen können.
Das heutige EU-Konstrukt genügt weder demokratischen noch rechtsstaatlichen Anforderungen. Der Ministerrat (das Parlament) erlässt Geheimgesetze ohne jede öffentliche Kontrolle, das sog. EU-Parlament ist primär eine Schwatzbude zur Versorgung verdienter Nationalpolitiker mit einer einträglichen Pfründe, und bezahlt wird das ganze von den Deutschen.
Auch wenn man Otto Normaleuropäer noch eine gewisse Zeit lang mit Drohungen, Angstmachen und einer gleichgeschalteten Presse glauben machen kann, dass Mutti Merkel und ihr Bon Ami Trichet die Sache schon richten werden – irgendwann muss irgendwer die Rechnung bezahlen. Dann ist Europa mal wieder reif für einen handfesten Krieg. Wahrlich ein grossartiges Projekt!
Nur Dummköpfe – und natürlich die Profiteure dieser Entwicklung – können sowas gutheissen.

Hans Herbst sagt:  3. August 2011 um 09:04
Herr Ernst, Sie haben vollkommen Recht. War die ursprüngliche EU der 6 Länder noch eine Wirtschaftunion, die das Ziel hatte, den westeuropäischen Wirtschaftsraum nach den politischen und kriegerischen Katastrophen wieder aufzubauen, so ist der nachfolgende Versuch der politischen Integration Europas von Anfang an ein technokratisches Konstrukt mit neo-imperialen Zügen, die jeder demokratischen Gesellschaftsgestaltung von Grund auf entgegenwirken. Und eben darin liegt das eigentliche Problem. Europa mit Ingenieur-Geist und Kaiserreichs-Mentalität zu installieren, in Nachfolge eines Römischen Reiches mit Hauptstadt Brüssel. Durch und durch anti-demokratisch, seine wirtschaftliche Stärke ziehend aus Regionen, deren Bevölkerung längst auf das Niveau von Arbeitssklaven verarmt ist. Das ist kein Horrorszenario der Zukunft, sondern wir befinden uns mittendrin. Da gibt es in der Konsequenz nur einen Ausweg: Abschaffung der Demokratie und Abschaffung von Wahlen. Denn kaum ein Wähler in EU-Land möchte sich aus Brüssel regieren lassen.
Allerdings hilft alles Klagen nicht. Die Schweiz ist zu klein, um diese Entwicklung zu verhindern. Und doch könnte sie dem entgegenwirken, indem sie endlich aus der falsch verstandenen passiven Neutralität herausträte. So wie Hans Küng das schon vor Jahrzehnten einmal beschrieben hat, die Schweiz als föderales und demokratisches Vorbild für ein neues ebenso föderales und demokratisches Europa. Das würde allerdings auch bedingen, den Blick endlich von den grossen ALTEN Nationen einmal abzuwenden und auf die anderen “Kleinen” in der EU zu richten: die Holländer, Dänen, Norweger, Schweden, Finnen, Tschechen, Slowenen und auch die Österreicher. Alles erfolgreiche Länder, die im Chor imperialen EU leider untergehen. Ein neues, Europa der kleinen Länder, ein Europa der ethnschen und politischen Regionen. Das würde endlich auch das Ende der alten Nationalstaaten bedeuten, denn diese zerfielen selbst in ihre regionalen Bauelemente.

Anh Toan sagt:  3. August 2011 um 10:17
@Hans Herbst; Bravo, genauso wie Europa ein Konstrukt von Technokraten ist, sind es auch die meisten Nationalstaaten. Welche Nationalstaaten auf der Welt entsprechen der eigentlichen Vorstellung von einer Sprache, einer Kultur wozu auch Religion und Konfession gehoeren? Wo gibt es keine kulturellen Minderheiten? Wo ist eine Kultur vollstaendig in einem einzigen Nationalstaat zusammengefasst? Wieviele Kulturen haben keinen Nationalstaat?
Langfristiges Ziel ist eine Weltgemeinschaft, basierend auf foederalen, demokratischen, rechtsstaatlichen, sozialen und saekularen Strukturen. Nur so koennen wir unsere globalen Probleme unter Respektierung lokaler Fakten angehen. Europa ist ein Schritt auf diesem Weg. Keep on walking, don’t look back!

Anh Toan sagt:  3. August 2011 um 09:54
@Thomas Ernst: Ich will nicht das Demokratiedefizit der EU abstreiten, jedoch relativieren:
1. Der Ministerrat der EU ist immerhin in dem Sinne demokratisch legitimiert, dass die Minister von demokratisch gewaehlten Regierungen ernannt werden. Die Parlamente sind in den meisten Demokratieen weitgehend Schwatzbuden, nachdem alle ihren verbalen Muell abladen konnten, stimmt das Regierungslager ja und die Opposition nein. Oder teilen Sie gar die SVP Ansicht, dass es auf der Welt nur eine einzige Demokratie gibt?
2. EU Rechtssetzung wird im Amtsblatt der europaeischen Union veroeffentlicht; Wo sehen Sie “Geheimgesetze”? Wie koennen geheime Gesetze ohne polizeiliche Gewalt durchgesetzt werden?
3. Wo sehen sie ein Problem mit der Rechsstaatlichkeit der EU?
4. Trichet und Merkel vertreten diametral entgegengesetze Meinungen in den aktuellen Diskussionen (Trichet kauft GR-Anleihen, das ist der Anfang von Eurobonds, andrerseits lehnt(e) Trichet eine Beteiligung privater Glauebiger ab). Wie kommen Sie auf “bon ami”?
Der Kommentar von Francis Gerz ist richtig gut: Es ist nicht dumm, sondern nur zu Kreativitaet fuehrender Optimismus, in Krisen die Moeglichkeit fuer Veraenderungen zu sehen.
Abschliessend: Glauben Sie, Herr Ernst im Ernst, dass ein Auseinanderbrechen der EU dem Frieden in Europa foerderlich ist? Scheidungen verlaufen nur ganz selten friedlich.

Thomas Ernst sagt: 3. August 2011 um 20:16
@Anh Toan:
Ich vertrete seit längerem die Ansicht, dass die verbreiteten Parteidiktaturen (aka repräsentative Demokratie) wie z.B. in DE, USA, FR etc. üblich, keine echten Demokratien sind. Die (Halb)direkte Demokratie nach Schweizer Muster kommt der Vorstellung, dass Otto Normalverbraucher tatsächlich Einfluss auf das hat, was sein Leben bestimmt, deutlich näher. Als wichtigstes Element ist allerdings die Subsidiarität und die hierarchische Verteilung der Macht über Gemeinden, Kantone/Regionen, Gliedstaaten und Bund ebenso wichtig. Jede zentralistische Machtballung führt IMMER zu Missbrauch durch die gerade am Ruder sitzenden. CIA und McCarthy lassen grüssen.
Ob irgendeine politische Partei diese Auffassung teilt ist für mich unerheblich und geht mir völlig am A… vorbei.
Der obrigkeitlich-zentralistische Ansatz der heutigen EU führt zu einer europäischen Diktatur selbsternannter “Eliten”, die die Zukunft der Bürger auf dem Altar ihrer eigenen Unfehlbarkeit opfern (siehe das EURO-Debakel, das wir gerade erleben). Ohne jede Kontrolle – und Kontrolle kann nur demokratisch funktionieren, wenn sie nachhaltig funktionieren soll – tun die verbohrten Politschmarotzer ungehindert das, was ihnen – und ihren Protegees (Bilderberg lässt grüssen) – persönlich und subjektiv am meisten nützt. Das Volk ist eine reine Manipulier- und Ausbeutungsmasse.
Wie neuere Untersuchungen zeigen ist eine solche Diktatur aber nicht langfristig stabil, und wenn sie dann zerbricht (die arabischen Revolutionen geben ein Beispiel) ist das Desaster noch grösser und die Chance für eine echte Demokratie auch nicht grösser.
Bei allen scheinbaren und öffentlich zelebrierten Unterschieden sind sich Merkel, Trichet & Co über eines völlig einig: (1) Sie wollen am Ruder bleiben, (b) Sie wollen nicht, dass das Volk dreinredet, (c) sie wissen es auf jeden Fall besser, als das tumbe Volk – egal was.
In Ihrer Argumentation schimmert die gefährliche Haltung durch, dass ein diktatorisches EUROropa immer noch besser ist, als das Chaos einer echten Demokratie. Überrascht mich angesichts Ihrer bisherigen Beiträge allerdings nur wenig.

Anh Toan sagt:  4. August 2011 um 11:39
@Thomas Ernst
Jedes politische System hat Vor- und Nachteile. in der Schweiz wird die schweizerische Form der Demokratie mystifiziert: Die negativen Aspekte der schweizerischen halbdirekten Demokratie wie
- Einfluss von Interessenverbaenden auf Gesetzgebung ueber Referendumsdrohung
- keine politische Verantwortlichkeit wegen grosser Koalition.
werden nicht gesehen.
90% der Volksinitiativen werden von Volk und Staenden abgelehnt, verursachen also nur grossen Aufwand. Von den 18 angenommenen Volksinitiativen haben 4 eine gewisse Relevanz (Proporzwahl des NR 1918, Unterstellung von Staatsvertraegen unter das Referendem 1921, und Rueckkehr zur direkten Demokratie 1949, Uno-Beitritt 2002), zwei haben allenfalls temporaere Relevanz (Atommoratorium 1990 und Gentechmoratorium 2005), Der Rest sind Lappalien, von Schaecht- und Absinthverbot, Hochmoorschutz bis Minarettverbot und Unverjaehrbarkeit pornographischer Straftaten. Oder nicht ohne Verletzung internationalen Rechtes wie Menschenrechte umsetzbare Bestimmungen wie Ausschaffung krimineller Auslaender, allenfalls zahnlose Papiertiger wie Preisueberwacher, Alpeninitiative, oder bereits wieder abgeschafft oder ausgehoelt wie nochmals Absinthverbot und Spielbankenverbot. Die halbdirekte Demokratie fuehrte z.B. auch dazu, dass Frauen, nicht nur aber vor allem in AI viel laenger vom Stimm- und Wahlrecht ausgeschlossen blieben als in der zivilisierten Welt, oder zu willkuerlicher Einbuergerungspraxis.
Will man einen ueberragenden Nutzen der halbdirekten Demokratie feststellen, muss man untersuchen, welche schlechten Gesetze damit verhindert wurden, geschaffen wurde kaum was relevantes damit.
Die schweizerische Demokratieform ist einzigartig auf der Welt. Sie wird von niemandem kopiert. Daraus den Schluss zu ziehen, dass nur wir Schweizer schlau und alle anderen doof sind, erscheint mir ziemlich dumm. Wenn ich denke, alle anderen sind Idioten, liegt doch dehr Schluss nahe, dass ich selber der Idiot bin?
Zumindest die Frage, ob Initiative und Referendum tatsaechlich nuetzlich sind, draengt sich auf Grund der Fakten auf. Was Sie betreffend Foederalismus schreiben unterstuetze ich, Macht muss verteilt werden und zwar moeglichst dezentral.

Alain Burky sagt:  2. August 2011 um 20:52
Ich bin weder Oekonom noch Finanzspezialist. (Habe aber schon fuer sie gearbeitet).
Ich weiss nur, dass Struktur-/Systemwidersprueche auch in der IT (Struc. boundery clash, u.v.a.), und das ist ja nur ein rel. kleines Abbild der rel. Welt, immer zu grossen Problemen gefuehrt haben – z.T. zu Abbruechen riesiger Projekte. Prag. Loesungs-Moeglichkeit: “Kontrolliertes Backtracking” …

Thomas Ernst sagt: 2. August 2011 um 21:31
…was in der IT relativ normal ist und geübt wird (Backtracking) ist in der grossen Politik natürlich nicht vorgesehen. IT Leute wissen, dass Fehler passieren können und dass man darauf vorbereitet sein muss. Politker machen natürlich keine Fehler, darum überlegen sie auch nie, wie man darauf reagieren müsste.

Andres Müller sagt: 2. August 2011 um 22:51
Doch, auch in der Finanzwirtschaft wäre sowas möglich, es trägt den Namen Preisniveausteuerung. Eine Preisniveausteuerung basiert auf dem Versuch einen in der Vergangenheit liegenden Idealzustand mit einer bestimmten (künstlich herbeigeführten) Inflationsrate wieder herzustellen. Sowas könnte z.B. die SNB nun tun. Auch die Politik könnte dies, indem Geld auf dem Markt aufgenommen wird um in der Schweiz längst fällige Strukturdefizite zu beheben.

Andres Müller sagt: 2. August 2011 um 22:16
“Das heisst, wenn auch auf internationaler Ebene – weltweit oder über mehrere Länder hinweg – demokratische Prozesse die Regeln bestimmen.”
Sorry Herr Markus Diem Meier, die EU hat vor Kurzem die sogenannte “Wirtschaftsregierung” (sprich Sozialabbauregierung) geschaffen, und die hat mit Demokratie weniger zu tun denn als die Wettbewerbsfähigkeit Europäischer Konzerne mit allen Mitteln zu erhalten. Was die Kluft zwischen Arm und Reich automatisch vertieft, ist aus meiner Sicht Antidemokratisch. Ihr Wunsch für mehr Demokratie in der Wirtschaft wird leider nicht mehr aufgehen, dafür ist es nun zu spät… die westlichen Politiker haben den point of no return des Neoliberalismus verpasst. Nun regiert der Markt, und der ist das Gegenteil von Demokratie. Den Chinesen gefällts, denn die wissen wie es ohne auch geht.

Rolf Schumacher sagt: 3. August 2011 um 07:59
Hier wird darüber palavert wie man das EUORO-Problem lösen könnte. Will die Wallstreet es aber überhaupt lösen? Es geht nicht um eine logische Handlungen, es geht ganz alleine um brutale Macht. Und diese brutale elitäre Wallstreet-Macht hat mit der Ernennung von Harvard-Goldmansachs Adept Mario Draghi in die EZB und Christiane Lagarde im IWF (Lagarde war jahrelang im erzkonservativ geführten politischen US-Think tank CSIS tätig) nun alle wichtigen Schaltheberl der Weltfinanz besetzt. Denn die Weltbank wird sowieso immer von einem US-Wallstreet-Amerikaner präsidiert und in der Bank of international settlement ist der FED (eine rein private Wallstreet-Institution, welche die alleinige Legitimation hat gegen Zinsen US-Dollars zu drucken) die tonangebende “Nationalbank”.
Ihr kommt mir hier im Forum so vor, als wie jene Politologen die unter Stalin über faire humane soziale politische Entwicklung für das Land gesprochen haben.
Fakt ist, dass wir der Willkür der US-Hawks ausgesetzt sind. Das bedeutet, weltweite Destabilisierung der Märkte. Geldwertzerfall, bis die Menschen bereit sind für einen neue runde Weltkrieg. Nach dem nächsten grossen Flächenbrand gibt es neue Schuldige und abermals einen Retter der Welt, bei dem alle Kriegsparteien hochverschuldet sind. Das bestialische Wirtschaftsspiel kann so von vorne beginnen. Das US-Wirtschaftswunder (das UK-Weltimperium zuvor ebenfalls) war auf mörderischem Fundament gewachsen, ganz mnörderischem. Wer es bewundert hat, ist entweder abgebrühter, kaltschnäuziger Falke oder einer, der die Augen vor der hässlichen Realität verschliesst.
Wirtschaft ist der Motor der Kriegsgeschichte. Oekonomen die sich dem bewusst sind, würden ganz anders handeln. Aber eben, wie in einem schönen Experiment an der Stanford Uni gezeigt, dass unbescholtene Studenten bereit sind ihre Kollegen in einem Rollenspiel TOEDLICHE Stromschläge zu geben.
In der Wirtschaft ist die Hemmschwelle andere zu töten noch viel tiefer. Man gibt Geld aus, damit die Drecksarbeit (töten) um sieben Ecken von andern gemacht wird.
Es wäre hier interessant, wenn sich einer darum bemühen würde, zu recherschieren, wer zum Beispiel die NSDAP hauptsächlich finanziert hat. Wer in der Krisenzeit in Deutschland Baron Thyssen dazu bewegte in Massen Waffen herzustellen, wer die Fabrik IG-Farben errichten liess, wer das Kaiser-Wilhelm-Institut für Rassenhygiene bezahlte. Welche Länder vor dem 2 WK Lehrstühle für Rassenhygiene hatten (Julian Huxley (Bruder von Aldous Huxley) war Präsident des universitären britischen Rassenhygieneinstituts), wer währende dem ganzen Krieg die Vermögensverwalter der Nazis waren (die Firmengeschichte von Goldman Sachs, JP-Morgan, Bank of England wären sehr, sehr aufschlussrreich).
Zusammenfassend. Wir sind in einer weltweiten Krise (durchaus von ähnlichem Format wie in den 20ern) das schon einige Jahre. Was die Wirtschaft vor dem zweiten WK tat, wird sie auch heute wieder tun. Denn zuerst muss man töten, dann kann man billig investieren und Kredite bis zum Abwinken vergeben. Das ist Wirtschaft, alles andere ist nicht rentabel.
Wenn ihr hier wirklich diskutieren wollt, nicht abstrakt über ökonomische-Theorien schwachsinnig referieren, sondern die Biographien (bis ins Detail) von etlichen Politikern und die Firmengeschichte einiger Betriebe röntgen. Und die Daten zu einem Bild zusammenfügen. Wer sich getraut dem Teufel auf den Zahn zu fühlen, fürchtet ihn nicht mehr, er ekelt sich höchstens vor seinem stinkendem Atem.

Hampi sagt:   3. August 2011 um 10:12
@Rolf Schumacher
Schön, wieder mal von ihnen zu lesen! Alle wissen, dass die FED von Wall-Street beeinflusst wird. Wie sollte es auch anders sein. Die ganze Welt weiss um die Macht von Wall Street. Wie um Himmels Willen sollte Wall Street keinen Einfluss auf die FED ausüben. Das wäre höchstens möglich, wenn sie die FED auf dem Mond ansiedeln würden (dann würde sie aber immerhin noch von der NASA beeinflusst).
Sie schreiben deutlich, dass die FED eine rein private Wall-Street-Institution ist. Heisst das, dass alle anderen privaten Wall-Street-Institutionen (Citigroup, Goldman Sachs, etc.) unrein sind, nur weil deren Chef nicht auch vom US-Präsidenten (plus Bestätigung vom US-Senat) ernannt wird? Also gibt es in der Tat nur eine einzige rein private Wall-Street-Institution?
Ihre simplen “Schwarz-Weiss-Rundum-Schuldzuweisungs-Tiraden” symbolisieren für mich den kürzlich gelesenen Satz von Henning Mankell: “Eine Rebellion gegen die Kompliziertheit der globalisierten Gesellschaft”.
Sie reiten da, gleich wie die “Tea-Party”, momentan eine populäre Welle!

Rolf Schumacher sagt: 4. August 2011 um 15:37
Tue ich nicht. Der FED ist keine Nationalbank. Er gehröt Privatmännern und das ist skandalös. Noch skandalöser ist, dass der FED sich beim Drucken von neuen Dollars (etwas anderes macht er nicht) an anfallenden Zinsen dumm und dämlich verdient.

Andreas Dombek sagt: 3. August 2011 um 10:28
Ach Gott, schon wieder dieser Klabautermann einer EU-Transferunion. Wenn man ohne nationalen, ideologischen und nachbarschaftlichen Vorurteilen sich solch ein Konstrukt einmal näher anschaut, wird manch einer der Beobachter sicherlich altvertraute Sachen vorfinden.
Das Schreckgespenst dieser Transferunion soll wohl dem Zwecke dienen, so hat man inzwischen etwas den Eindruck, ein monströses monetäres Schwein durchs europäische Dorf zu treiben.
Schaut man vorurteilsfrei in die gesamtdeutsche Geschichte des heutigen Länder Deutschland, Schweiz, Österreich, Liechtenstein sowie noch etlichen anderen Ecken und Kanten des ehem. Heiligen Römischen Reiches (Deutscher Nation) wird dann dieses Gehacke irgendwie wohlvertraut. Alles schon mal da gewesen! Legt man sehr, sehr idealisiert den entsprechenden Grundstein zur römisch-deutschen Transferunion in den Zeitraum von Karl dem Großen liegt man vielleicht richtig. Das Durchstarten würde man sicherlich nach der Zeit des Hochmittelalters vorfinden können, in der die gemeinte Transferunion begann ihre gute und sicherlich auch schwierige Wirkung zu entfalten.
Das Geld der örtlichen Herrscher floss in die Reichskasse nach Frankfurt, wurde dort gehortet und dann über einen Proporz wieder in die jeweiligen Landen zum Reichsunterhalt, dem dt. König bzw. Kaiser und sonstige andere Reichssachen verteilt. Zur Anschauung dient hier der Geldfluss des ostmärkisch-österreichischen Erzherzogs, der am Vormittag des frankfurter Reichsausschusses so wenig als möglich nach Frankfurt abführen wollte. Der selbe Mensch als dt. König bzw. Kaiser wollte am Nachmittag soviel wie möglich aus der Reichskasse herauspressen. Man ist schon erstaunt, dass diese Spielchen mehrere Jahrhunderte mehr oder weniger gut funktioniert haben. Betrachtet man das dt. Kaiserreich nach 1871 wird man feststellen, dass nicht nur der gewonnene Krieg die Basis zum Erfolg gelegt hatte, sondern auch die schlagartige Vereinheitlichung der bisherigen 28 einzelnen Währungen im Dt. Reich und auch solcherart von Ausgleichszahlungen.
Auch der Erfolg in der Bundesrepublik Deutschland nach 1949 ist zu einem Teil solch einer Transferunion zu verdanken. Das heurige Gejammere in Baden-Württemberg und Bayern sollte man tunlichst überhören. Diese beiden Länder hatten von Anfang des Finanzausgleichs in der Bundesrepublik bis zu 30 Jahre dauernd Ausgleichszahlungen (in Form von Geld, aber auch in Form von Deputatskohle!) vom damals erstarkten westdeutschen Land Nordrhein-Westfalen mit seinem Ruhrgebiet erhalten. Jetzt müssen nun auch diese beiden Armen ihrer Pflicht für Transferleistungen nachkommen. Die Regularien des schweizerischen zwischenkantonalen Finanzausgleiches muss man sicherlich in diesem Forum nicht extra ausbreiten. Jedoch diese deutsche und schweizerische „Eigenart“ als eine Art vom besonderen „schweizertypischen“ Lösungsansatz löst wirklich nur noch ein müdes Lächeln aus.
Hier ein seltsames Fazit: Es ist fast ein historisches Paradoxon, dass der, der anderen „Darbenden“ etwas gibt (oder auch geben muss!) am Ende der Erfolgreichere ist. Diese Erkenntnis wird die Angela Merkel sicherlich nicht realisieren, denn das übersteigt ihren konservativen Horizont. Die Hoffnung ruht auf ihrem Nachfolger in 2 Jahren, egal welchen Colour. Somit sieht man als dt. Befürworter der europäischen Sache angstfrei in die Zukunft.
Um irrationale und vorurteilsbehaftete Ängste zu überwinden ist das Beschäftigen und Verstehen versuchen mit dem europäischen Gegenüber angebracht.

Hampi sagt:   3. August 2011 um 10:56
@Andreas Dombek
Guter Kommentar. Wird man um die sieben Ecken der kruden Aktualität geschubst, tut es immer gut, einen Kommentar zu lesen, der sich von der täglichen Hektik abhebt.

Thomas Ernst sagt: 3. August 2011 um 20:30
@Dombek
Ihr historischer Vergleich beleuchtet die richtigen Aspekte. Was Sie leider völlig ignorieren, ist das Timing. Auch wenn die Wirtschaft sich in den letzten 100 Jahren rasant beschleunigt hat, sind die Menschen, ihre Kultur, ihr Selbstverständnis nicht schneller geworden.
Das Problem, das Europa mit der EU hat, ist die Ungeduld der Brüsseler Technokraten (mal abgesehen vom unsäglichen Schmarotzertum der Politabzocker; diese hat es auch im Mittelalter gegeben, sonst wären nicht soviele katholische Pfaffen derart fett geworden und wir hätten nicht in jedem Dorf eine Kathedrale).
Statt die Bürger Europas langsam an den Gedanken zu gewöhnen, dass die Nation nicht das relevanteste aller Gebilde ist, und dem Kontinent Zeit zu geben, sich kulturell und wirtschaftlich anzugleichen, wurde mit dem Holzhammer, Lügen und Tricks “Vereinigungsprojekte” wie der EURO in die Landschaft betoniert, obwohl das bei den gegenwärtigen Strukturunterschieden zwischen den verschiedenen Teilen EUROropas schon aus rein sachlogischen Gründen (siehe den Beitrag von Markus Diem Meier und lesen Sie auch das Originalpaper über die Trilemmen) HEUTE nicht funktionieren KANN.
Man kann den Ast eines Baumes mit Geduld und Zuwendung durchaus dorthin wachsen lassen, wo man will. Wenn man es mit Gewalt versucht durchzustieren, wird der Ast abbrechen.
Man sollte NIEMALS das Timing vergessen.

Thomas Ernst sagt: 3. August 2011 um 20:34
@Dombek
…selbstverständlich kann man natürlich die Meinung vertreten, dass ohnehin der Krieg der Vater aller Dinge ist, dass sich die Strukturprobleme Europas am besten bereinigen lassen, wenn man alles platt macht und neu beginnt und dass deshalb eine möglichst grosse und desaströse kriegerische Auseinandersetzung das beste sei, was Europa passieren könne, weil es dann frisch aufgestellt und unbelastet von historisch gewachsenen Strukturen in die Zukunft durchstarten könne.
Man kann eine solche Meinung vertreten – oder auch klandestin auf eine solche Umwälzung hinarbeiten…

Andreas Dombek sagt: 3. August 2011 um 21:25
@Hampi
Danke. Sie haben so recht. Wenn man vom Kantenrand in die Depression (geologisch gemeint) hinuntersieht, erkennt tief unten am Grund die derzeitig wahnwitzig hin- und her rennenden Ökonomisten, Monetaristen, Kapitalisten, Nationalisten, Populisten, auch Journalisten und sehr viel Volk an Spezialisten agierend mit deren wirklichen Depression (psychologisch und pathologisch gemeint).
Da erinnert man sich mit Wollust an 1975. Da war’s umgekehrt. Die Schweiz der nachbarschaftliche Billigheimer. Habe höherwertige Fotoausrüstung zu 50 % als in Deutschland erworben. Beiderseits der Grenze war auch das Geschrei groß: Die Schweiz geht unter. Man wird ein 3.-Welt-Land. Die Schweiz geht in die Knie. Alles Wunsch- und Angst-Denken. Wie heutzutage auch, aber heurig ist vieles an realerem Wissen und Scheinwissen genauer, da inzwischen computerberechnet und mit den superschnellen elektronischen Medien blitzgeschwind in die Welt geblasen. Im realen Leben nennt man solche Pseudoaktionen auch „technische Scheinschärfe“. Das schnelle Auftauchen solchen Wissens ist inzwischen der wirkliche Beweis der Richtigkeit, denn man glaubt am liebsten sich selbst. Den selbstseienden Experten seines eigenen Vertrauens.
Na, die Zeiten haben sich geändert. Vermutlich ist der Gipfelpunkt der jetzigen „positiven“ Entwicklung für die Schweiz bald überschritten. Nun, da gibt es sicherlich noch den Schwungradeffekt, der alles etwas weitertreibt. Und nicht vergessen sollte man die Mitverantwortung der internationalen Geldspekulationsblasenmacher.
Die übersteile Anstiegstangente dieser unwirklichen Entwicklung setzt sich auf vielen Funktionsableitungen zusammen, und viele davon können die armen Schweizer überhaupt nicht beeinflussen. Im Jahre 2025 sieht einiges an Tatsachen wieder ganz, ganz anders aus. So werden sich wieder die Zeiten ändern. Die Schweiz ist in ihrer asynchronen Entwicklung bezüglich z. B. gegenüber Deutschland gefangen. So richtig spannen wird alles erst dann, wenn die Finanzmeute die Schweiz aus dem Biss entlässt.

Andreas Dombek sagt: 3. August 2011 um 22:19
@ Thomas Ernst
Zeit: Herr Ernst, natürlich haben Sie mit Ihrer Meinung bezüglich „Timing“ recht. Es ist heurig alles schneller, dichter und kürzer mit der Zeit als Funktion in Wirtschaft, Technik uam. Aber trotzdem wage ich einen kleinen Widerspruch. Der Mensch als solcher ist in der Zeitentwicklung niemals zurückgeblieben. Der Mensch setzt bewusst oder unbewusst die Vorgaben und Entwicklungen zu dem, was Sie richtigerweise das „Timing“ nennen. Da das menschliche Leben eine Funktion in der Zeit ist, wird das Empfingen für die Zeit in allen vergangenen, jetzigen und sicherlich auch den zukünftigen Generationen immer im gleichen Verhältnis stehen. Die Aussage lautet, dass diese Empfindung der jeweiligen Zeit immer 1:1 ist.
Wenn die Römer vor 2.000 Jahren vom Bodensee an die dänische Ostseeküste 1.000 km gewackelt sind, haben sie sicherlich eine Zeit von ca. 40 Tagen beötigt, wenn nich ca. 10 Tage mehr. Damals: Phantastisch. Der mittelalterliche Händler mit schwerem Tand brauchte auch ca. 40 Tage, eventuell ca. 3 bis 5 Tage weniger: Phantastisch. Die Eisenbahn um 1875 brauchte ca. 2 Tage: Unvorstellbar. Ich fuhr diese Strecke mal in 6 Stunden: Na ja. Mit dem Flugzeug brauchts ca. 1 Stunde. wau. Der Satellit bracht einige Minuten: Super Das Internet ca. Null Komma nix: Eigentlich sollte man jetzt sprachlos sein. Und hier beginnt das Problem. Noch, sicherlich aber bald nicht mehr. Und nun die Frage an Sie: War da was mit Timing? Vermutlich nicht mehr.
EU: Nun, da ich ein unverbesserlicher Optimist bin und das auch bei Ihrem Thema bleibe, möchte ich nur ruhig sagen, dass Ihre Meinung offensichtlich bei Ihnen im Innersten sich festgefressen hat. Warum, dass wissen nur Sie selbst oder vielleicht auch nicht. Eine Verdammnis, wie Sie hier über „EU“- Europa schreiben stimmt natürlich teilweise und ansatzweise. Sind halt noch Kinderkrankheiten. Aber auch stimmt es, dass diese Entwicklung eine lange friedliche und prosperierende Zeit gebracht hat. Besonders auch für Deutschland. Unterschätzen Sie bitte den uralten, aber immer geheimen Wunsch etlicher anderer Europäer, das große Land, dass sich Deutschland nennt, wenns geht immer und ewig zu überwachen, zu kontrollieren und an der unsichtbaren Kandare zu halten. Das ist bisher geglückt. Jeder musste etwas von seinen wichtigen Dingen dem Anderen geben. Und das ist gut so. Der gesamte Erfolg gibt den Europäern recht. Die von Ihnen beschriebenen Auswüchse werden nicht bestritten. Aber viele der pauschalen Vorwürfe werden auch Sie niemals beweisen können. Auswüchse gibt’s in jedem europ. Land, überall, sogar im Vatikan-Staat und bei der Schweizer-Garde.
Also ich finde den Euro gut, habe damit keine Probleme. Ich finde die dt. Mark war auch nur Geld, denn man brauche kein Geld, um sich kulturell und national zu definieren. Drum gehen Sie mal bitte über diese Schwelle und denken Sie über das nach, was Sie für unmöglich halten: Die europäische Möglichkeit.
Denn unsere Zeiten in unserem europ. Homeland werden langsam, eventuell für Sie aber nicht erkennbar, sehr schwierig und recht ungemütlich. Da ist dann ein Zusammenrücken angebracht. Na, wie in der guten alten Zeit in der guten Stube am warmen Herd. Teilen der einzigen Wärmequelle. Ein sehr interessanter Event, zur Zeit bei uns noch nicht sehr beliebt. Aber bald sicherlich bitter nötig.

Josef sagt:   4. August 2011 um 08:03
Danke, Andreas Dombek!
Man möge mal mit Google-Earth aus der Schweiz rauszoomen, dann aus Europa, nach Amerika schwenken und dann weiter nach Asien. China, Indien und Russland zusammen. Wieder etwas weiter nach Europa. Kommt es ihnen nun auch so vor, dass wir uns da in Europa innerhalb der Familie streiten?

Andreas Dombek sagt: 4. August 2011 um 08:31
@Josef
Ja, ich denke diese Frage haben auch Sie sich schon längst selber beantwortet. Zur Zeit sollte man glauben, der Turm zu Babel stehe mitten in Europa.
In der gemeinten Geschichte um den Turm wurde danach die Familie aufgetrennt. Wir in Europa sind jedoch schon getrennt und können uns auf einen Neubeginn konzentrieren. Das echte Scheinproblem ist, dass man weiter miteinander verwandt bleibt und man deshalb sich seine Verwandtschaft nicht aussuchen kann. Aber einen riesigen Vorteil hat man dadurch: Den ähnlichen Stallgeruch.
Die Augen der Leute möchte man nicht sehen, die bei der Überflutung durch z. B. chinesisch-mongolische oder indischen unendlichen Pferdemengen dann diese aufreißen und geschockt stammeln: So wars nit besproche, so hamers uns nit vorgstellt!

Thomas Ernst sagt: 4. August 2011 um 08:46
@Josef
…zoomen Sie doch geistig mal raus ins Sonnensystem und es würde Ihnen auffallen, dass nicht Europa die Familie ist, sondern die ganze Welt. Europa ist nur EINE Ebene im Gesamtsystem.
Um sich geistig-emotional in der Welt zuhause zu fühlen, bedarf der Mensch (evolutionär immer noch primär auf ein Leben in Stammesgesellschaften von max. 150 Mitglieder programmiert) einer sorgfältig subsidiär strukturierten Umgebung: Dorf/Quartier – Stadt/Gegend – Region/Kanton – Land – Kontinent – Welt. Jede Ebene braucht ihre Eigenheiten. Damit wird die notwendige Vielfalt und Anpassungsfähigkeit sichergestellt. Wer zuviel Macht zentralisiert und zuviel Vereinheitlichung (Europa-Bananen…) tob-down durchdrückt, schädigt die mittleren Ebenen. Damit bricht aber die Verbindung vom individuellen zum weltweiten ab.
Ihr Zoom-out löst das Problem nicht, sondern generiert nur emotionsfreie Distanz. Das ist nicht schlecht, aber es ändert auch nichts hienieden, im real existierenden Leben.
Wir streiten uns seit Jahrtausenden in der Menschen-Familie und die Gräueltaten die Menschen Menschen antun wird nur gerade noch übertroffen von den Gräueltaten, die wir anderen Lebewesen dieses Planeten antun. Wenn wir das endlich ändern wollen, müssen wir eine Umgebung entwickeln, welche das Gute in jedem fördert und dem (jederzeit möglichen) Schlechten die Energie entzieht. Dazu gehört auch, sich von dem patriarchalischen Hobby zu lösen, das wir unter dem Stichwort “Krieg” kennen. Eine erst von den Assyrern (ca. 6’000 bC) erstmals ersonnene Freizeitbeschäftigung, die primär dazu dient, den Herrschenden Unsterblichkeit zu vermitteln. Andere, weniger grausame Wege dazu sind der Bau von Pyramiden, Domen, Kathedralen, Mausoleen (Taj Mahal) und anderen Tempeln der gerade aktuell führenden Religion (LHC Genf, Hubble etc.).
Wenn Sie also vom Zoom-Out wieder zurück auf den Boden kommen, wäre es mir lieb, wenn Sie sich um eine menschengerechte Umgebung für die Menschen kümmern würden.

Thomas Ernst sagt: 4. August 2011 um 08:28
@Dombek:
Zeit: Es ist m.E. gerade das Problem, dass wir heute Distanzen in Sekundenschnelle technisch überwinden, die kulturelle Abstände von Jahrzehnten (wenn nicht Jahrhunderten) darstellen. Das vermittelt den zentralistischen Technokraten die Illusion, eigentlich sei es überall wie bei ihnen zuhause. Das mag für die Einheitsarchitektur der Flughäfen, die überall gleichen Hotelzimmer und die Büro- und Sitzungsräume gelten, in denen sich diese Population herumtreibt.
Kulturell, d.h. in den tiefliegenden Einstellungen, Wertvorstellungen und Zielbildern unterscheidet sich aber Athen gewaltig von Bonn, da liegt Sizilien auf einem anderen Kontinent als Dänemark. Die geistige Annäherung bewegt sich auch heute noch zu Fuss, auch wenn die Überflieger den Jet nehmen können.
Was ich den Eurokraten vorwerfe, ist, dass sie aus Egoismus und Ungeduld mittels banaler, pseudo-demokratischer Macht auf einer elitär-abgehobenen Ebene eine Vereinheitlichung über eine höchst heterogene Kulturansammlung gestülpt haben, ohne auch nur den Ansatz eines Vesuches zu unternehmen, die Menschen mitzunehmen und eine gemeinsame, elementare Basiskultur unter der Vielfalt wachsen zu lassen und zu fördern.
Damit haben diese Figuren zwar scheinbar ihre Wichtigkeit für die Geschichtsbücher gesichert, damit aber gleichzeitg die Idee “Gemeinsames Europa” in vielen Völkern in Verruf gebracht. Für viele Griechen ist EU doch heute ein Synonym für eine ferne Obrigkeit, die als Handlanger deutscher Suprematievorstellungen den Griechen das ohnehin mühsame Leben erschwert und daher nach Möglichkeit abgezockt werden muss. Kurz: Das Projekt Europa wird durch die real-agierenden Figuren von EUROropa aus Ungeduld in den Abgrund gefahren. Europa ist einfach viel zu wichtig, als dass man es den Brüsseler Eurokraten überlassen dürfte.
Gerade WEIL wir (weltweit) am Ende der konventionellen Wirtschaft angekommen sind wäre es enorm wichtig – hier sind wir uns in der Zielvorstellung offenbar durchaus ähnlich – echte Community zu leben (Zusammenrücken, gegenseitige Hilfe statt gegenseitige Ausbeutung etc.). Ich glaube aufgrund längerer Beschäftigung mit dem Thema (ich empfehle jedem “Halbzeit der Evolution” von Ken Wilber zu lesen), dass eigentlich nur Europa hier den Lead übernehmen kann. Leider sind die Kindergartenspielchen, die der europäische Polit-, Grossfinanz- und Industriefilz jetzt abziehen, dazu keine gute Entwicklung.
Als in der Wolle gefärbter Alpenrepublikaner habe ich tatsächlich ein tiefsitzendes Misstrauen gegenüber JEDER Obrigkeit und jeder Machtballung. Diese hierzulande verbreitete Haltung hat per Saldo die Schweiz seit langen Jahrhunderten davor bewahrt, ähnliche Gräuel zu veranstalten, wie sie die deutlich obrigkeitshörigere Kultur in unserem nördlichen Nachbarland ermöglicht und letztlich gefördert hat. Ich sehe daher deutlich mehr Risiken in den aktuellen EURO-Politbasteleien, als Sie das offensichtlich tun.

Andreas Dombek sagt: 4. August 2011 um 09:24
@ Thomas Ernst
Als nördlicher Nachbar wage ich die Aussage, dass aus Ihrer alpinen Sicht sich Ihre eigene innere Sicht so wunderbar logisch und „rein“ gestaltet darstellt.
Herr Ernst, ich wage sehr ernsthaft die Frage, ob die von Ihnen in der Historie richtigerweise beschriebenen Gräuel auch heutzutage oder in der nahen Zukunft wirklich zur Angstbeschwörung gegen “Europa” brauchbar sind. Gegen Ihre Befürchtungen könnte ich eine andere “Befürchtung” entgegensetzen. Denn alle Länder um die Schweiz (ohne FL) haben ihre nationalistisch-faschistische Zeit bereits hinter sich. Ob I, A, F und D. Daraus könnte ich jetzt eine natürlicherweise unlogische Angstthese aufbauen, dass der Schweiz nun der Extremnationalismus oder sogar der Faschismus bevorstehen würde. Nun, Sie und ich werden natürlich dieses nicht für möglich halten, aber es scheint sich bei Ihnen jedoch ein Angstvirus eingenistet zu haben, dass immer die Anderen die Schlimmen sind. Auch die eidgenössische Geschichte ist nicht frei von blutigen und schwarzen Flecken. Da waren die Eidgenossen die Täter und die Deutschen die Opfer.
Über die sog. höhere obrigkeitshörige Kultur im Norden kann ich nur den Kopf schütteln. Aufgrund meiner Geschäftsbeziehungen und sonstiger anderer Aktivitäten kann ich behaupten, dass im Vergleich mit solchen Festlegungen die Schweiz immer im vorderen Rang zu finden ist. Was ich mit den Schweizer Partner bei, mit und durch Behörden wie Polizei, Grenzwächtern, Militär und Militärpolizei erleben konnte hat mich schon in einen unsicheren Zustand gebracht. Das würde man als dt. Bürger in D so nicht hinnehmen. Natürlich sind andere Bereiche wie in der Stadt- und Gemeindeverwaltung oder in den Beitreibungsämtern um etliche Werte wohl besser. Aber die eigenen Voraburteile sind das passenden und oft fehlenden Gegengewicht für die eigene Selbstgerechtigkeits-Waagschale.
Bitte dies nicht falsch verstehen, aber von einer anderen Warte aus gesehen erscheint die selbstherbeigeträumte alpine Haltung auch nur aus teilweise nichterfolgten Niederlagen sich zusammenzusetzen. Da denkt man sofort an den kleinen Korsen. Ein Griff zur Karte und die moderne Helvetik ist geboren. Mit späten Geburtswehen wie z. B. dem Sonderbundskrieg. Und dass einige Jahrzehnte nach der durch einen Ausländer durchgeführten “Schweizwerdung”. Sie sehen, man hat auch der Schweiz ihre Zeit zue Entwicklung gegeben. Mit damals ca. 1,5 Mio Einwohnern. Warum geben Sie den Europa mit ca. 500 Mio denn keinen Zeitkredit.
Wenn man einige andere Leser- und Bloger-Beiträge als Auswärtiger liest und nicht wissen kann, dass da extrem viel heiße alpine Druckluft abgelassen wird, würde man denken können, in Ihrem Land würde sich gegenwärtig ein moderner Faschismus entwickeln würde. Dem ist natürlich nicht so, aber glauben sie mir, nur mit alpinen Widerstand und Trotz kann man heutzutage keine gute und brauchbare Politik betreiben. Solcherart von Mythen machen in Europa keinen Eindruck mehr. Das sagt Ihnen ein in der Wolle farbfest durch und durch gefärbter Europäer.

Thomas Ernst sagt: 4. August 2011 um 09:50
@Dombek
Nun, ich schätze, Sie bellen 3/4 der Zeit unter dem falschen Baum. Es ist kein besonderes/alleiniges Verdienst der Schweiz(er), dass dieses Land heute subsidiär, direktdemokratisch und relativ frei von externer Gewaltausübung (naja, das war auch schon besser) ist. Ich habe auch nichts gegen Europa und neide Ihnen Ihre Weltsicht nicht.
Meine Kritik richtet sich gegen das aktuelle Europaprojekt, das in meiner Wahrnehmung das wirklich nötige Europa nur verhindert und die Entwicklung zeitlich zurückwirft. EUROropa ist die Fortsetzung der bereits überholten Doktrin unter neuen Titeln. Natürlich überzeichne ich die Risiken, um sie deutlich zu machen. Meine eigenen Ängste damit/davor sind vernachlässigbar. Das Universum weiss, was es tut, und ich bin nicht auf der Welt, um als Couchpotato zu vergammeln. Ein bisschen Action ist daher unerlässlich. Blinder Optimismus schadet aber sehr.

Andreas Dombek sagt: 4. August 2011 um 15:25
@Thomas Ernst
Ist doch nicht schlecht. Da hat mein Hund ¼ der Zeit , d.h. 25 % mit Erfolg richtig gebellt. Glück für Sie, dass Sie oben im Baum waren, sonst hätte er Ihnen ans Bein gepinkelt!
Dank meinem gesunden Optimismus haben wir, Sie und ich, jetzt einen halben guten Kompromiss. Sie sehen, ein gesunder Optimismus bringt zwei sichtlich unterschiedliche Typen doch auf einen halben Weg aufeinander zu. Wenn wir Zeit und Raum hätten, würden wir uns gegenseitig bestimmt zu guten Verstehern der jeweiligen anderen Seite machen.
Der Zug in Richtung Europa ist doch schön längst abgefahren und Sie sehen wahrscheinlich nur noch rote Schlusslichter. Was Sie mit einer überholten Doktrin meinen ist mir nicht klar. Wenn Sie möglicherweise so eine Art von Nazikeule meinen, dann sollten sie diese vergraben. Deutschland hat seinen Weg zum Ziel der Genesung nach dem deutschen Wesen aufgegeben. Vergleiche solcher Art prallen bei fast allen normalen Bürgern ab. Aber Europa will sich auch das Schweizer Wesen nicht aufdrücken lassen. Irgend wie scheint dieses aufdrücken des eigenen Wesens und glücklich machen wollen eine unausrottbare Schwäche der Südgermanen zu sein.
Das Problem für Sie könnte sein, wenn Sie tatsächlich Schweizer sein sollten, dass Europa inzwischen kaum noch Notiz von ihr nimmt. Leider muss man da sagen! Aber diese Entscheidung wurde der Schweiz nicht aufgezwungen sondern sie hat sich „basisdemokratisch“ dafür entschieden. Alles hat halt seinen Preis. Den Spruch mit dem Weggen und dem Liber braucht man sicherlich hier nicht zu schreiben.
Es gibt einen Haufen „Action“, Sie sollten mal die Augen aufmachen und über die Grenzen schauen. Da gibt’s viel zu schauen. Als tröstlichen Abschluss möchte man auf die Problematik mit Timing hinweisen. Alle Prozesse brauchen ihre Zeit. Oder haben Sie erlebt, wenn Weine gepflückt wurden, das diese am nächsten Tag oder nach einem Monat die „richtige“ Reife haben. Die Schweiz hat mindestens 300 Jahre gebraucht, um durch eigene und durch sehr sehr viel fremde Leistungen zu dem zu werden, womit Sie wohl zufrieden sind. Bei Europa mit einem Vergrößerungsfaktor von mindestens 60 geben viele Ihrer Landsleute nicht mal 8 Jahre.
Grübel, grübel geht durch den Kopf. Hier das Nachdenken gemeint, nicht der Geldbonze.


Kommentar
Die Zeit    3. August 2011

Geld
Im Blütenrausch
Warum Initiativen im Freistaat eigene regionale Währungen drucken lassen.
Von Juliane Schiemenz

In Thomas Hempels Portemonnaie stecken zwischen den Euroscheinen immer auch ein paar Blüten. Die hat der 40-Jährige selbst drucken lassen – mit Blumenmotiven verziert und etwas kleiner als reguläre Banknoten. Sie ähneln Spielgeld. Die Havelblüten, so ihr Name, sind eine Regionalwährung für Potsdam. Hempel und einige Mitstreiter haben sie dort vor fünf Jahren auf den Markt gebracht. Damals lebte der Sozialpädagoge noch in Brandenburg und leitete ein Internat. Mittlerweile ist er mit seiner Familie in sein sächsisches Heimatdorf Schlegel bei Zittau zurückgekehrt und arbeitet im Stahlbaubetrieb seines Vaters. Die Idee vom Regionalgeld hat er nach Sachsen mitgebracht: Er entwickelte den Lausitzer, der von September an zwischen Görlitz und Bautzen kursieren soll – als zweite sächsische Regionalwährung: In Mittweida und Umgebung sind bereits seit vier Jahren Zschopautaler in Umlauf.

Regionalgeld kann nur in einem begrenzten Gebiet verdient und ausgegeben werden, darf nicht abfließen, muss aber immer im Fluss bleiben. So soll es die Wirtschaftskraft der Region stärken. Es dient ausschließlich als Tauschmittel und ist an den Euro gebunden. Der Zschopautaler etwa ist genau einen Euro wert. Der Rücktausch in Euro kostet fünf Prozent Gebühr. Anlegen und für sich arbeiten lassen kann man ihn nicht, Regionalgeld wirft keine Zinsen ab – im Gegenteil: Wer spart, wird bestraft, das Geld verliert mit der Zeit an Wert. Es zu horten wäre dumm. Der Taler soll wandern.

Große Welt – kleines Geld
    Etwa 70 Regionalgeld-Initiativen gibt es im deutschsprachigen Raum, neben den bisher drei sächsischen zum Beispiel das Stuttgarter Rössle, den Hallertauer in Pfaffenhofen oder den Allgäuer. Sie sind der überschaubare Gegenentwurf zur immer undurchsichtiger werdenden globalen Finanzwelt. Regionale Währungen sind im Umrechnungskurs meistens eins zu eins an den Euro gebunden.
    Die Scheine sind wie echtes Geld mit verschiedenen Merkmalen versehen, die sie fälschungssicher machen sollen. Das Prägen von Münzen hingegen ist vergleichsweise aufwendig und kostspielig, deshalb gibt es Regionalwährungen beinahe ausschließlich in Papierform. Centbeträge werden in Eurocent ausgezahlt.
    Mehrere Hunderttausend Euro in regionalen Währungen kursieren momentan in Deutschland, darunter sind ungefähr 18000 Zschopautaler. Mehr als 120 Unternehmen akzeptieren den Zschopautaler – und es werden immer mehr.
Seine Wege verlaufen allerdings nur zwischen einheimischen Unternehmen, die in der jeweiligen Regionalgeld-Initiative mitmachen: Der Bäcker um die Ecke kauft seine Milch beim Bauern im Nachbardorf, dieser wiederum lässt sein Scheunendach vom örtlichen Dachdecker reparieren. Vielleicht wäre ein anderes Unternehmen, etwa aus dem östlichen Nachbarland, billiger – aber dort gilt die Regionalwährung nicht. Deshalb bleiben die Scheine in der Heimat.

Sinn und Unsinn des kleinen Geldes sind umstritten. Um Unternehmer für seinen Lausitzer zu begeistern, hat Thomas Hempel jede Woche drei bis vier Termine. Er selbst kam über die Probleme, mit denen er als Sozialarbeiter konfrontiert war, zu wirtschaftlichen Fragen und Theorien über Geld- und Warenfluss – von Adam Smith bis Karl Marx. »Geld ist heute eines der letzten Tabuthemen«, sagt er. »Viele Menschen fühlen, dass etwas nicht stimmt, dass da ein Fehler in unserem Finanzsystem steckt, dass dem Geld etwas Schmutziges anhaftet.«

Die Skepsis gegenüber einer intransparenten Finanzwelt wächst. Steigende Inflationsraten beim Euro und der aktuell drohende Kollaps des Dollars befeuern die Ängste. Vor diesem Hintergrund werden immer mehr Regionalgeld-Vereine gegründet. In Deutschland sind sie im Dachverband Regiogeld e.V. organisiert. Bald ist eine dritte sächsische Währung am Start: Einen Elbtaler für den Raum Dresden plant der Wirtschaftsinformatiker Norbert Rost, der schon den Lausitzer mit konzipiert hat.

Mehr zum Thema
•    Regionalgeld Der Regio rollt
•    Regiowährungen Das andere Geld
•    Währung | Währungspolitik | Geld | Sachsen
Eigentlich ist es in Deutschland verboten, einfach seine eigenen Scheine zu drucken; es herrscht ein staatliches Geldmonopol. Doch Regionalgeld gilt offiziell als vereinsinternes Zahlungsmittel im Sinne einer Bonusmarke. Und es wird dem Euro nicht gefährlich. »Eine tatsächliche Konkurrenz zum Euro sehe ich nicht«, sagt Sachsens Finanzminister Georg Unland. »Der Zschopautaler beispielsweise ist keine Währung als solche. Dass sich derartige Modelle nicht großflächig durchsetzen, liegt auch mit daran, dass ihre Wirkung systembedingt regional begrenzt ist.« Der Wirtschaftswissenschaftler Uwe Vollmer von der Universität Leipzig meint: »Wir reden hier von Kleckerbeträgen. Deshalb bewegen sich solche Initiativen in einem Graubereich, wo die Bundesbank ein Auge zudrückt.«

Die Idee ist nicht neu
Die Idee ist nicht neu, sogenannte Schwundgelder gab es bereits vor hundert Jahren. Als erstes Beispiel für eine regionale Währung wird oft das Wörgler Schwundgeld aus dem Jahr 1932 genannt: Durch seine Einführung befreite Bürgermeister Michael Unterguggenberger die österreichische Gemeinde Wörgl damals von Inflation und Arbeitslosigkeit – bis die Regierung das Experiment verbot. Und schon im Mittelalter wurden in regelmäßigen Abständen bestimmte Münzen »verrufen«: Sie verloren nach und nach ihren Wert und irgendwann komplett die Gültigkeit. Wer auf seinem Geld hockte, hatte am Ende nichts übrig. So ist es auch beim Regionalgeld, wer die Scheine nicht schnell wieder unter die Leute bringt, hält irgendwann nur noch wertloses, buntes Papier in den Händen.

»Der Zschopautaler tut nur gut, wenn man ihn benutzen tut« steht heute auf einem Aufkleber, der an vielen Schaufensterscheiben in Mittweida prangt. Der Spruch signalisiert, wo die Regionalwährung akzeptiert wird. Zum Beispiel in der Käsetheke von Jürgen Voigt, der mittlerweile zwei bis fünf Prozent seines Monatsumsatzes in Zschopautalern macht. »Anfangs kamen nur die ganz Überzeugten«, sagt Voigt. »Mittlerweile bezahlen viele in der Regionalwährung, vom Arzt bis zum Bauarbeiter.« Das wiederum lenkt Voigts Wareneinkäufe. »Wir bieten stärker als früher Produkte aus der Region an«, sagt der Ladenbetreiber, »weil wir sie mit Zschopautalern bezahlen können.« Auch Apothekerin Christine Hellbach nutzt die Regionalwährung. »Meine Mitarbeiter fanden die zusätzlichen Scheine anfangs exotisch«, sagt sie. Doch mit der Zeit habe man sich daran gewöhnt – und auch daran, dass das Geld nur etwa drei Monate »hält«.

Auf jeden Schein ist ein Verfallsdatum gedruckt. Was kurz vor Ablauf der Frist noch in der Kasse liegt, tauscht Hellbach in der Volksbank Mittweida in frische Zschopautaler oder Euros um. Dafür bezahlt sie Tauschgebühren. Ein Verlustgeschäft, das die Apothekerin gern in Kauf nimmt. Denn die Gebühren gehen als Spende an einen örtlichen Verein ihrer Wahl. Bei Uhrmacher Jens Grundmann hingegen ist am Quartalsende meist kein einziger Zschopautaler mehr übrig. »Die haben wir dann längst wieder ausgegeben«, sagt er, »damit wir nicht auf den Gebühren sitzen bleiben.« Viele seiner Kunden seien aufgeschlossen gegenüber der Regionalwährung, sagt Grundmann, mache reagierten allerdings auch schroff: Versteh ich nicht, kenn ich nicht, will ich nicht!

Christian Schwerin, dem Mathematiker und Chef der Zschopautaler-Initiative, wird gar unterstellt, er wolle Brückenzoll und Kleinstaaterei wieder einführen. »So was muss man eben aushalten als Regionalgeld-Evangelist«, sagt der 46-Jährige und lacht.

Matthias Damm, Bürgermeister von Mittweida, ist bei allem Respekt für den Idealismus des Zschopautaler-Vereins, auch skeptisch. Regionalgeld sei etwas für die, die es sich leisten könnten: »Wer ALG II bekommt, kann nicht frei entscheiden. Der muss sparen, weil er selbst nicht genügend hat«, sagt der CDU-Mann. Außerdem könne man auch mit Euros möglichst viele regionale Produkte kaufen.

Wozu dann der Aufwand mit Regionalwährungen? »Wir bieten einfach andere Spielregeln an«, sagt Thomas Hempel. »Und wer will, kann mitmachen.« Den Zschopautaler beispielsweise akzeptieren mittlerweile über 120 Unternehmen. In Regionalgeld-Vereinen treffen Rentner und Ingenieure auf Studenten und Hausfrauen; Linke, Grüne und Liberale finden einen gemeinsamen Nenner. Leider wird jedoch auch der ganz rechte Rand von den Schlagworten Heimat und Lokalpatriotismus angezogen. »Davon grenzen wir uns klar ab«, sagt Thomas Hempel. »Wir sind nicht ideologisch, wir wollen nicht den Euro abschaffen oder eine Revolution starten.«

Ein wenig Aufregung gab es um den Lausitzer anfänglich aber trotzdem: Gegen ein Vereinsmitglied wurde wegen des Vorwurfs der Nebengeldproduktion ermittelt. Das Verfahren wurde jedoch bald wieder eingestellt. Thomas Hempel kann also loslegen. Eine Druckerei hat er auch schon gefunden, am liebsten würde er die Rechnung dort direkt mit den ersten Lausitzern begleichen. Doch er grübelt noch: »Vielleicht finden die Angestellten es anstößig, wenn ich sie mit dem Geld bezahle, das sie eben erst selbst gedruckt haben.«

Kommentar
1 iconoclast    22.08.2011 um 15:19 Uhr
Komplementärwährung: Ausfluss multi-dimensionaler Erwägungen
Dass auch die Sherpas hier und dort nicht in der Lage zu sein scheinen, ihre Auftraggeber genügend tiefgängig, klar und zielführend zu beraten, geht insgesamt auch aus vielen bedenkenswerten Kommentaren zum Zeit-Interview von Peer Teuwsen, "Es braucht ein neues Finanzsystem" hervor (www.solami.com/WIR.htm#ETH).
Das Resultat unserer eigenen mehrjährigen Krisengenesis-Forschung findet sich hier (www.solami.com/capitalism...) bezüglich Materialien,
hier (www.solami.com/porkbellie...) bezüglich Grunderkenntnisse und erster Diskussions- und Lösungsansätze, und
hier (www.solami.com/outofthebo...) spezifisch zu Griechenland. Comments and newcomers welcome!


Kommentare
Die Zeit    11.August 2011   Nr. 33

"Es braucht ein neues Finanzsystem"
Zwei ETH-Wissenschaftler erklären, warum die Weltwirtschaft krank ist,
Adam Smith unrecht hatte – und wir ganz anders über Geld nachdenken müssen.
von Peer Teuwsen

DIE ZEIT: Herr Helbing, Sie schrieben schon im März 2008, das Finanzsystem sei nicht mehr kontrollierbar. Jetzt brechen die Börsen wieder ein. Haben wir nichts gelernt aus der Finanzkrise?
Dirk Helbing: Nicht viel. Und es wird immer schlimmer. Wir wissen nicht, wie die USA mit ihren Schulden zurechtkommen, wie sich Japan von der Atom-Katastrophe erholt, wie sich die Vorgänge in Arabien auf die Weltwirtschaft auswirken, was mit dem Euro passiert – und es ist nicht sicher, dass China stabil bleibt, die dortige extreme Schere zwischen Arm und Reich ist gefährlich. Nein, von einer Stabilität sind wir weit entfernt.

ZEIT: Weiter denn je?
Helbing: Es gibt Forscher, die sagen, dass die Komplexität und die Intransparenz des Systems extrem zugenommen haben und dass es dadurch noch instabiler geworden ist. Jedenfalls ist das Wirtschaftssystem so komplex, dass es zu diesen Kaskadeneffekten kommt, dass also Finanzwerte in Sekunden zerstört werden können. Wir hier an der ETH Zürich beschäftigen uns mit der Frage, wie man das Finanzsystem vor solch fatalen Ereignissen schützen kann. Das geschieht unter anderem im Rahmen des FuturICT-Flagships , eines 10-Jahres-Projekts (siehe Kasten), das sich mit den Schwierigkeiten beschäftigt, vor die hochkomplexe Systeme uns Menschen stellen. Hier arbeiten Soziologen, Ökonomen, Physiker, Computerwissenschaftler und noch viele andere mit. Es gibt fundamentale Wissenslücken zu schließen.

FuturICT-Flagships
Sie wollen nichts weniger, als die moderne Welt zu verstehen. Weil sie angesichts der sich häufenden Extremereignisse eingesehen haben, dass man der Realität mit den herkömmlichen Methoden nicht mehr beikommt. Die besten europäischen Wissenschaftler aller Fachrichtungen sollen bei FuturICT mitarbeiten. Das zehnjährige Projekt, das 2013 beginnen und von der EU mit einer Milliarde Euro unterstützt werden soll, will die Zukunftsszenarien unserer heutigen Welt erforschen. Dazu will man eine Supercomputer- und Datenanalyseplattform entwickeln, die frühzeitig Krisen und Chancen erkennen kann. Führend mit dabei sind Dirk Helbing, 46, ETH-Professor für Soziologie, der zuvor als Physiker und Verkehrswissenschaftler arbeitete, und der promovierte Physiker Tobias Preis, 30. Er erforscht Finanzmärkte und andere komplexe Systeme. Seine aktuellen Wirkungsstätten sind die Boston University, das MIT in Cambridge und die ETH Zürich.
ZEIT: Herr Preis, das heißt doch, dass die Menschheit mit den Finanzmärkten ein System geschaffen hat, das sie nicht beherrschen kann.
Tobias Preis: Ja, vielleicht, aber das war natürlich nicht die Absicht. Finanzmärkte sollen Angebot und Nachfrage zusammenbringen. Einem Anbieter geben sie die Möglichkeit, sein Geld gewinnbringend anzulegen. Einem Nachfrager ermöglichen sie die Finanzierung von Investitionen. Damit dienen die Finanzmärkte auch als Ideenbörse, an denen neue und alte Ansätze im Wettbewerb zueinander stehen – um letztlich Werte für die Gesellschaft zu schaffen. Aber leider gibt es unerwünschte Nebenwirkungen.

ZEIT: Wann kippte das System?
Preis: Das ist nicht einfach zu sagen. Was wir wissen, ist, dass der Mangel an Transparenz, der zunehmende Grad an Vernetzung und die Spielregeln des Marktes dazu beigetragen haben. Man hat die systemischen Risiken nicht durchschaut, man meinte, sie würden verschwinden, indem man sie auf möglichst viele Schultern verteilt.

ZEIT: Sie behaupten jetzt, Sie könnten helfen.
Preis: Ja. Wir fragten uns, warum das System irgendwann kippt. Wir haben dazu den üblichen Forschungsansatz aus der Ökonomie umgedreht. Herkömmlicherweise entwickelt man Modelle mit einem Satz von sinnvoll erscheinenden Annahmen, die man mit empirischen Daten aus der realen Welt kalibriert. Wir aber haben eine sehr große Menge dieser empirischen Finanzmarkt-Daten gesammelt und, von diesen ausgehend, die Gesetzmäßigkeiten extrahiert – um neue, verbesserte Modelle zu entwickeln, die keine vereinfachenden Annahmen benötigen. Ich werde Ihnen ein konkretes Beispiel geben: Zusammen mit meinem Kollegen H. Eugene Stanley von der Boston University stellte ich die Frage, wie eine Finanzblase entsteht. Wann kommt die Gier, wann setzt der Herdentrieb ein? Und wir haben sehr erstaunliche Dinge gefunden. Das Volumen in einem Markt steigt zunächst sehr langsam an, aber am Ende eines Trends beobachtet man einen sehr rapiden Anstieg. Das Besondere ist jedoch, in welcher Form das Volumen ansteigt. Ausgehend von diesem gewaltigen Datensatz, der 2,6 Milliarden Börsentransaktionen beinhaltet, waren wir in der Lage, eine Gesetzmäßigkeit dafür zu finden, ein sogenanntes Potenzgesetz.

ZEIT: Was zeigt dieses Potenzgesetz?
Preis: Dass extreme Ereignisse viel häufiger auftreten, als man erwartet. Außerdem können sie eine beinahe beliebige Größe annehmen. Wir konnten auch herausfinden, dass die Gesetzmäßigkeit unabhängig vom Zeitpunkt der Entwicklung gilt. Das ist wichtig, weil wir daraus etwas über das Platzen von Blasen lernen können. Wir können heute abschätzen, wann Blasen platzen werden. Daher könnte man sie auch zum Platzen bringen, bevor sie zu groß werden und ganze Länder in den Abgrund reißen.

ZEIT: Warum muss es erst zu Blasen kommen?
Helbing: Weil das System nicht kontrollierbar ist. Man glaubt, alles organisiere sich von selbst am besten. Das zugrunde liegende Paradigma ist die »unsichtbare Hand« von Adam Smith. Man kann es mit Fußgängerströmen vergleichen, wo geordnete Bahnen ganz von selbst entstehen. Aber diese effiziente Selbstorganisation kann auch zusammenbrechen, es kann zu Massenpaniken kommen, bei denen die Situation außer Kontrolle gerät. Genauso ist es an den Finanzmärkten, sie brechen immer wieder zusammen. Wenn man sich Adam Smith nochmals zu Gemüte führt, dann sollte das System am besten funktionieren, wenn jeder individuell sein Glück sucht. Das ist aber wissenschaftlich nicht haltbar. Die Märkte sind nicht zwangsläufig kooperativ, es gibt soziale Dilemmata. Daher kann ein Individuum davon profitieren, nicht kooperativ, sondern egoistisch zu handeln. Dadurch kann die Kooperation erodieren – und letztlich verlieren alle. Es stellt sich also die Frage: Wie schafft man kooperatives Verhalten? Dazu braucht es Vertrauen sowie Sanktionsmechanismen für unkooperatives Verhalten.

Mehr zum Thema
•    Finanzkrise "Gier ist eine menschliche Konstante"
•    Schuldenkrise Krisensprech für Dummies
•    Finanzmärkte Wohin fließen die Börsen-Milliarden?
ZEIT: Wie haben sich denn die Märkte in den letzten Jahrzehnten verändert?
Helbing: Früher war das Finanzsystem regional, heute haben sogar die deutschen Landesbanken global mitgepokert. Das birgt Gefahren für die Kooperation. Adam Smiths Regel funktioniert nur in guten Zeiten. Wie also müssen die Spielregeln eines Systems beschaffen sein, damit es stabil bleibt? Unsere Antwort: Es braucht Sicherungen, damit ein lokales Problem sich nicht ausbreiten kann. Das gilt nicht nur für das Finanzsystem. Deshalb brauchen wir so etwas wie einen sozioökonomischen Flugsimulator. In sämtlichen Bereichen, wo wir neue Dinge erschaffen – Autos, Flugzeuge, Medikamente –, wird heute alles auf Supercomputern getestet, bevor es auf die Menschheit losgelassen wird. Nur bei sozioökonomischen Systemen machen wir das nicht. Warum eigentlich nicht?

ZEIT: Sie hätten also zum Beispiel Derivate vorher getestet und notfalls verbieten lassen?
Preis: Einzelne Systemkomponenten herauszugreifen wäre nicht sinnvoll, wir testen ganze Systeme. Wir hätten zum Beispiel vor der Abschaffung des Goldstandards getestet, was passiert, wenn man die Geldmenge unbegrenzt wachsen lässt.

DIE ZEIT: Was denn?
Tobias Preis: Die Expansion der Geldmenge entsteht durch die zunehmende Menge der im Umlauf befindlichen Kredite, für deren Zinsen die Aufnahme weiterer Kredite notwendig wird. Dies macht Wirtschaftswachstum zwingend notwendig. Sogar nach der Einschätzung von Alan Greenspan war ein entscheidender Vorteil des Goldstandards, dass keine utopische Staatsverschuldung möglich war. Seine Aktionen als ehemaliger Vorsitzender der Federal Reserve ließen aber entsprechende Einsichten vermissen. Die Nationalbanken, vor allem die amerikanische, versuchen seither, jedes Problem mit niedrigen Leitzinsen und hohen Geldmengen zu lösen. Das hat eine riesige Liquiditätsblase geschaffen, die nach Anlagemöglichkeiten sucht – und sie etwa in Immobilien, Rohstoffen oder Nahrungsmitteln gefunden hat. Mit teilweise schlimmen Folgen.

Helbing: Mit anderen Worten, es gibt mehr Geld als gute Anlagen. Das führt automatisch zu Übertreibungen an den Finanzmärkten. Und es wirkt sich auch sozial aus: Die Lebensmittelpreise steigen, Menschen geraten in Notlagen.

ZEIT: Wie bewerten Sie die jüngsten Maßnahmen der Schweizer Nationalbank, den Höhenflug des Franken zu bremsen?
Helbing: Die althergebrachten Rezepte funktionieren nicht mehr. Die Schweizer Nationalbank kann sich nicht lange gegen die Märkte stemmen, das produziert nur Verluste, und niemandem ist dabei geholfen. Es gäbe aber neue Instrumente, mit denen man Devisenspekulationen vielleicht in vernünftige Grenzen weisen könnte. Wir haben da einige Ideen – unsere Türen stehen offen.

ZEIT: Zugleich haben die Staaten mehr und mehr Schulden aufgetürmt, von Griechenland bis Amerika. Können Sie berechnen, wann das System hier zusammenbricht?
Helbing: Das ist schwer zu sagen. Aber es ist wahrscheinlich, dass wir die nächste Finanzkrise haben, bevor wir uns von der letzten erholen konnten. Man könnte meinen, sie ist schon da. Irgendwann wird man vielleicht nicht mehr darum herumkommen, den Reset-Knopf zu drücken.

ZEIT: Liegt das Problem vielleicht im Geld selbst?
Helbing: Ich habe nichts gegen Geld, aber ich finde es eher langweilig. Es gibt andere Anreizsysteme. Mein Kollege Bruno Frey hat ja mit seinen Forschungen gezeigt, dass sich nicht alles in Geld messen lässt. Das wissen die Soziologen schon lange. Geld ist viel zu eindimensional. Das hat schwerwiegende Konsequenzen. Wir versuchen, mit dieser einen Dimension unglaublich viel gleichzeitig zu steuern. Meines Wissens hat noch keiner gezeigt, dass dies funktionieren kann.

"Regulierung ist nicht der Königsweg"
ZEIT: Mussten erst die Physiker und die Soziologen kommen, um den Ökonomen begreifbar zu machen, dass ihr Weltbild zu eng ist?
Helbing: Eigentlich wissen das auch die Ökonomen schon seit Längerem, jedenfalls einige der Nobelpreisträger. Aber den Studenten wird meist noch das eindimensionale Weltbild beigebracht, dasjenige des Homo oeconomicus, des perfekten Rationalisten. Das hat ebenfalls mit Herdentrieb zu tun.

ZEIT: Herr Preis, angenommen, Sie wären König der Welt. Welches wären Ihre ersten Maßnahmen zur Stabilisierung der Finanzmärkte?
Preis: Es sind koordinierte Maßnahmen notwendig, um die Fehlentwicklungen an den Finanzmärkten in den Griff zu bekommen, etwa die ungenügende Berücksichtigung der Risiken in den verwendeten Modellen. Da wurde aus der Finanzkrise nicht viel gelernt. Ein Beispiel ist der Diversifikationseffekt, der eigentlich helfen soll, Risiken zu reduzieren. Wenn man also Aktienfonds optimal zusammenstellt – so der Glaube –, sollte dies das Verlustrisiko reduzieren. Dabei nimmt man allerdings an, dass die historischen Abhängigkeiten der Aktienkurse in der Zukunft konstant bleiben. Es können aber auch blitzschnell alle Aktien nach unten gezogen werden. Das nennt man den »Zusammenbruch der Abhängigkeiten«. Man sieht das beim Platzen von Blasen an den Finanzmärkten. Dies ist in keinem Risikomodell berücksichtigt, und folglich sind die Risikopuffer der Finanzinstitutionen in Krisen zu gering. Ich würde das sofort ändern. Im Gesamten braucht es aber wahrscheinlich eine neue Finanzarchitektur. Angesichts der immer wiederkehrenden Finanzkrisen muss man die Grundannahmen auf den Prüfstand stellen und Alternativen anschauen. Die sollte man vorher aber testen.

ZEIT: Warum hat man nicht früher intensiv in diesem Bereich geforscht?
Helbing: Das frage ich mich auch. Man hat Milliarden in die Elementarteilchenforschung investiert, in Fusionsforschung, Nanotechnologie, Gentechnik. Das ist alles schön – aber den sozioökonomischen Bereich hat man vergessen. Insbesondere weiß man über globale systemische Risiken viel zu wenig. Diese Wissenslücken müssen dringend geschlossen werden.

ZEIT: Im Interesse der Menschheit?
Helbing: Auf jeden Fall. Wichtig scheint mir aber, dass man Marktteilnehmer nicht zur Kooperation zwingt. Sie müssen selber einsehen, dass diese sich langfristig auszahlt. Regulierung ist nicht der Königsweg, es ist nur eine Randbedingung. Wie soll man etwa in Zeiten des high-frequency trading überhaupt rechtzeitig reagieren können? Gerade in komplexen Systemen ist es so, dass die Selbstorganisation stärker ist als externe Steuerungsversuche; aber nicht die Selbstorganisation nach Smith. Man kann indes Regeln identifizieren, die eine Selbstorganisation unterstützen, welche nicht nur dem Einzelnen, sondern auch dem Gesamtsystem, also unserer Gesellschaft, nutzt.

ZEIT: Sind Basel III oder das Swiss Finish, welche die Eigenmittelquote erhöhen wollen, für Sie nur Symptombekämpfung?
Preis: Man versucht, an einem anfälligen System herumzudoktern, zu dem es möglicherweise bessere Alternativen gäbe. Natürlich ist es nicht schlecht, das Eigenkapital zu erhöhen. Aber man müsste viel weiter gehen. Denn wir müssen endlich begreifen, dass wir vor existenziellen Fragen stehen: Wie kann man zum Beispiel den Wohlstand in Europa retten? Die EU generiert ein Bruttosozialprodukt von über 16 Billionen Dollar und ist damit die größte Volkswirtschaft der Welt. Aber das System besteht aus einem Staatenverbund mit sehr unterschiedlicher Leistungsfähigkeit. Wie rettet man dieses hochkomplexe System, das nicht einmal eine gemeinsame Fiskalpolitik kennt, in die Zukunft? Wir lösen es jetzt mit Transferleistungen. Das scheint mir aber noch nicht sehr durchdacht zu sein.

ZEIT: Müssen wir die Volkswirtschaften wieder an die Realwirtschaft anbinden? Also zum Beispiel mit einem Hilfsmittel wie dem Goldstandard?
Helbing: Ich denke nicht, dass dem kranken System mit abgelaufenen Medikamenten geholfen wäre. Es muss neu erfunden werden. Man muss die Stärken der einzelnen Länder fördern. Zu viel Homogenität tut Europa nicht gut. Anders wird es nicht möglich sein, dass alle Länder überleben.

ZEIT: Das war doch jetzt zum Abschluss ein schönes Plädoyer für eine Verschweizerung Europas, Herr Helbing.
Helbing: Sehen Sie das, wie Sie wollen

Kommentare

111 iconoclast   21.08.2011 um 22:51 Uhr
Komplementärwährung: Ausfluss multi-dimensionaler Erwägungen
Dass auch die Sherpas hier und dort nicht in der Lage zu sein scheinen, ihre Auftraggeber genügend tiefgängig, klar und zielführend zu beraten, geht insgesamt auch aus all diesen Kommentaren hervor. Das Resultat unserer mehrjährigen Krisengenesis-Forschung findet sich hier (www.solami.com/capitalism...) bezüglich Materialien, und hier (www.solami.com/porkbellie...) bezüglich Grunderkenntnisse und erster Diskussions- und Lösungsansätze. Comments and newcomers welcome!




Tages-Anzeiger    15.August 2011

«Der Kapitalismus zerstört sich selbst»
Von Philipp Löpfe

Die Ungleichgewichte zwischen Superreichen und Mittelstand in den westlichen Industriestaaten werden zu einer Gefahr für Marktwirtschaft und Demokratie. Es gibt nur ein Rezept.
«US-Konzerne horten Geld», schreibt die «NZZ» heute im Wirtschaftsteil und fügt dann eine eindrückliche Liste an, welche Firmen auf wie grossen Geldbergen sitzen. Um eine lange Geschichte kurz zu machen: US-Unternehmen horten derzeit rund 2000 Milliarden Dollar. Zum Vergleich: Das Bruttoinlandprodukt der USA im Jahr 2010 betrug rund 14 Billionen Dollar, also rund siebenmal soviel. «Amerikanische Firmen haben so viel Geld in ihren Kassen wie noch nie zuvor», stellt die «NZZ» lakonisch fest.

In der «New York Times» von heute Montag stellt der legendäre Investor Warren Buffett heute ebenfalls eine Rechnung an: «Die Superreichen zahlen 15 Prozent Steuern auf dem grössten Teil ihres Einkommens und sie zahlen praktisch keine Lohn-Nebenkosten», schreibt er. «Ganz anders sieht die Lage für die Mittelschicht aus: Sie zahlt typischerweise zwischen 15 und 25 Prozent Steuer auf ihrem Einkommen und dazu gesellt sich zusätzlich eine kräftige Portion Lohn-Nebenkosten.» Die Superreichen sind in den letzten 20 Jahren gemäss Buffett extrem gut gefahren. Seit 1992 hat sich ihre Steuerbelastung von durchschnittlich 29,2 Prozent auf 21,5 Prozent verringert, obwohl sich das steuerbare, jährliche Einkommen der 400 Reichsten auf unglaubliche 227,4 Millionen Dollar im Durchschnitt erhöht hat.

Dramatischer Einbruch
In einem Video-Interview mit dem «Wall Street Journal» analysiert der Star-Ökonom Nouriel Roubini den Zustand der westlichen Industriestaaten. Wegen einer massiven Umverteilung des Wohlstandes zugunsten der Superreichen sei die Nachfrage in den westlichen Industriestaaten zusammengebrochen. Der Einbruch sei so dramatisch, dass wir Glück gehabt hätten, nicht bereits jetzt in eine Depression abgerutscht zu sein, sagt Roubini und prophezeit im besten Fall lange Jahre einer schmerzhaften Stagnation.

In den letzten Wochen haben sich die Erwartungen an die Zukunft der Ökonomen dramatisch verändert. Die neue Einschätzung lautet: Die USA stehen unmittelbar vor einem Rückfall in die Rezession, einem Double Dip, in Europa wird das Wirtschaftswachstum ebenfalls zum Stillstand kommen. Nicht nur die üblichen Problemländer verharren in ihrem Schlamassel. Auch in Frankreich herrscht de facto Null-Wachstum, der deutsche Wirtschaftsboom ist bereits vorbei. Allein im Juni ist die industrielle Produktion der Eurozone gegenüber dem Vormonat durchschnittlich um 0,7 Prozent eingebrochen. «Wir haben eine neue Gefahrenzone betreten», warnt auch der Präsident der Weltbank, Robert Zoellick.

Unmögliches Rezept
Vereinfacht gesagt sieht die Lage der westlichen Industriestaaten derzeit wie folgt aus: Konzerne und Superreiche haben in den letzten Jahrzehnten ungeheure Vermögen angehäuft und profitieren heute von tieferen Löhnen, billigem Geld und sinkenden Steuern. Der Mittelstand hingegen blutet aus: Die Löhne sinken, die Wohnkosten und die Steuerbelastung steigen. Das Resultat ist eine einbrechende Nachfrage, die im Begriff ist, in eine Verelendungsspirale zu münden. Dieses Phänomen ist Ökonomen bestens bekannt, sei es als «Liquiditätsfalle» oder als «Balance Sheet Recession».

Vermeintliche Freunde des Kapitalismus, Liberale und Konservative, wollen mit Sparen und Steuersenken der Liquiditätsfalle entrinnen. Das kann unmöglich zum Erfolg führen. Wie soll bei fallenden Löhnen und steigender Arbeitslosigkeit Nachfrage entstehen? Und weshalb sollten Unternehmen investieren, wenn keine Nachfrage besteht?

Massive Umverteilung
Der Weg aus der Liquiditätsfalle sieht anders aus: Kurzfristig muss mit sinnvollen Investitionsprogrammen in Infrastruktur und Bildung Nachfrage geschaffen werden, um Massenarbeitslosigkeit und Deflation zu verhindern. Gleichzeitig muss der Lohnzerfall der Mittelschicht gestoppt werden. Um zu verhindern, dass die Staatsschulden ausser Kontrolle geraten, muss die massive Umverteilung zugunsten der neuen Oligarchie wieder rückgängig gemacht werden. Das geht nur – wie es auch Buffett fordert – mit einer Erhöhung der Steuern für Superreiche.

All dies ist keine Frage der Ideologie mehr und es geht auch nicht um Fairness oder Moral. Wer das System retten will, muss jetzt handeln. «Die Märkte funktionieren nicht mehr», sagt Roubini. «Der Kapitalismus ist im Begriff, sich selbst zu zerstören.»




Tages-Anzeiger    19.August 2011

Das Einmaleins der Währungspolitik
Was kann oder soll die Nationalbank gegen die Aufwertung des Frankens tun?
Tagesanzeiger.ch/Newsnetz erklärt die wichtigsten Begriffe und Wirkungsmechanismen.
Der Primat der Schweizerischen Nationalbank ist die Inflationskontrolle: SNB
Von Markus Diem Meier

Geldpolitik generell
Die Geldmengen
Der Leitzins Libor
Inflation
Deviseninterventionen
Währungsanbindung und Obergrenze
Negativzinsen
Selten sind die technischen Details, wie die Schweizerische Nationalbank die Wirtschaft mit Geld versorgt und welchen Einfluss sie auf die Währung hat, auf so viel Interesse gestossen wie jetzt. Hier ein Überblick über die Begriffe, die in der letzten Zeit viel genannt werden, und zu den Möglichkeiten der Notenbanken, auf den Franken einzuwirken.

Geldpolitik generell
Was ist das?
Wie jede Notenbank steuert die Schweizerische Nationalbank (SNB) die Geldmenge der Wirtschaft. Dabei soll sie einerseits dafür sorgen, dass das Preisniveau möglichst stabil bleibt – das heisst, dass die Inflation nicht über 2 Prozent steigt und dass die Wirtschaft nicht in eine Rezession abgleitet.

Möglichkeiten der SNB:
Die SNB kann Schweizer Franken aus dem Nichts erschaffen. Doch bei ihrer Steuerung der Geldmenge muss sie darauf achten, dass sie keine Inflation riskiert, indem sie zu viel davon neu schafft. Schafft sie dagegen zu wenig, riskiert sie eine Rezession.

Wirkung auf die Währung:
Grundsätzlich gilt, dass eine Zunahme der Geldmenge den Wert des neu geschaffenen Geldes schwächt – das gilt sowohl gegenüber Gütern, aber auch gegenüber fremden Währungen. Doch diese Wirkung stellt sich erstens nur indirekt und mit einiger Verzögerung ein, und sie hängt von weiteren Umständen ab (Details dazu unten).

Die Geldmengen
Was ist das?
Die von der SNB verkündeten Massnahmen zur Frankenschwächung sehen eine Ausweitung der Geldmenge vor. Genau genommen kann die SNB die Menge des in der Wirtschaft umlaufenden Geldes nicht direkt beeinflussen, diese wird mit den Geldmengen M1, M2 und M3 gemessen. Sie umfassen vom Bargeld bis zu kurz und mittelfristigen Einlagen auf Banken alle Zahlungsmittel und werden nach ihrer Verfügbarkeit gegliedert. Das Geld, das die SNB selbst schafft, zählt nicht dazu, denn dieses vermittelt sie nicht direkt in den Wirtschaftskreislauf, sondern nur an die Banken. Die von der SNB geschaffene Geldmenge ist die sogenannte Notenbankgeldmenge und von dieser ist bei den in den letzten drei Wochen verkündeten Massnahmen auch die Rede. Die Geldmengen in der Wirtschaft (M1, M2 und M3) sind um ein Vielfaches grösser als die Notenbankgeldmenge. Das liegt am Kreditkreislauf der Banken. Wenn diese über Kredite Geld an die Wirtschaft ausgeben, landet zumindest ein Teil davon – was nicht in Cash oder als Reserve der Banken gehalten wird – wieder auf einer Bank, die damit erneut Kredite vergeben kann. Unbedeutend ist der Unterschied von Bargeld und Buchgeld. Das Bargeld hat ohnehin nur einen sehr kleinen Anteil an den Geldmengen. Wenn von «Gelddrucken» gesprochen wird, sollte man das nicht wörtlich nehmen

Möglichkeiten der SNB:
Unter gewöhnlichen Umständen steigen die Geldmengen in der Wirtschaft an, wenn auch die SNB ihre Notenbankgeldmenge ausweitet. Wie stark sich aber die Geldmenge tatsächlich ausweitet, hängt vom Verhalten der Banken und der Bevölkerung ab. Herrscht zum Beispiel grosse Angst um die Konjunktur oder um das Finanzsystem vor, horten sowohl Banken, Bürger und auch Unternehmen das Geld. Die Banken tun es zum Beispiel, indem sie das Geld schlicht auf ihren Konten bei der SNB liegen lassen oder sogar noch weiteres dort parken. Damit wird es dem Wirtschaftskreislauf entzogen. So kann es sein, dass die Notenbank zwar mehr Notenbankgeld schafft, aber die tatsächlich relevanten Geldmengen stabil bleiben oder sogar schrumpfen. So wie es im Nachgang der Finanzkrise geschehen ist.

Wirkung auf die Währung:
Wirkung auf die Währung haben nur die Geldmengen im Wirtschaftskreislauf (M1 bis M3). Damit gilt, dass die Wirkung einer Geldmengenausweitung der SNB (also einer Ausdehnung der Notenbankgeldmenge) auf den Wert der eigenen Währung sich nicht nur – wie unter «Geldpolitik generell» bereits vermerkt – verzögert einstellt, sondern auch davon abhängt, wie die Banken und die Wirtschaft generell reagieren. Das heisst, die Möglichkeiten der Nationalbank auf eine sofortige Wechselkursänderung sind hier kurzfristig stark eingeschränkt.

Der Leitzins Libor
Was ist das?
Libor ist die Abkürzung für «London Interbank Offered Rate». Er ist ein Massstab dafür, welchen Zins sich Banken untereinander für Ausleihungen verrechnen. Die British Bankers Association ermittelt täglich von einer Reihe von Banken die entsprechenden verlangten Sätze und errechnet daraus einen gewichteten Durchschnitt, den sie dann in London veröffentlicht. Daher das «L» im Libor. Der entsprechende Zinssatz für Ausleihungen im Zeitraum von drei Monaten und in Schweizer Franken ist gleichzeitig auch der Leitzins der Schweizerischen Nationalbank.

Möglichkeiten der SNB:
Weil es sich beim Libor um einen Marktzins handelt, kann sie diesen Satz nur indirekt beeinflussen – eben über die Geldversorgung der Banken. So kann es sogar sein, dass die SNB eine «Leitzinssenkung» verkündet, während der Libor tatsächlich steigt. Das ist zum Beispiel im Herbst 2008 geschehen. Der Grund ist der unter «Geldmengen» erklärte Mechanismus: Wenn die Banken mehr Geld von der SNB erhalten, aber einander dennoch nicht trauen, geben sie sich das Geld nicht billiger und möglicherweise sogar teurer weiter. Der Mechanismus erklärt, warum der Leitzins auch jetzt nicht sofort auf den Wert sinkt, den die SNB zur Schwächung des Frankens offiziell anpeilt – momentan ist das null Prozent. Die Notenbank kann jeweils nur hoffen, dass die Banken sich das Geld untereinander billiger weitergeben, wenn die SNB ihnen mehr Geld zur Verfügung stellt.

Die Nationalbank selber stellt den Banken das Geld zur Verfügung, indem sie ihnen zum Beispiel etwas abkauft: Das sind aktuell vor allem Anleihen der SNB selbst, die sie einst geschaffen hat, um die Notenbankgeldmenge zu verringern. Sie kann ihnen auch eine Art von Kredit gewähren: Dafür kauft sie formal Wertpapiere, die sie am Ende einer vereinbarten Frist wieder zu einem im Voraus vereinbarten Preis zurückkauft. Man spricht hier von sogenannten Repo-Geschäften (für Repurchase Agreement). Solche Repo-Geschäfte dominieren die Geldversorgung der Banken durch die Nationalbank.

Weil die Geldmenge bei den Banken schon sehr gross ist, hat die SNB bis zu ihren Währungsmassnahmen über das umgekehrte Geschäft (sogenannte Reverse-Repos) Geld von den Banken abgeschöpft. Das heisst, sie hat faktisch gegen die Hinterlegung von Wertpapieren Kredite von den Banken erhalten (formal über Wertpapierverkäufe). Jetzt erneuert sie diese Geschäfte nach ihrem Ablauf nicht mehr, was automatisch die Geldmenge bei den Banken ausdehnt. Weil die Geldmenge bei den Banken ohnehin schon gross ist, war auch der Libor schon vor den neu beschlossenen Massnahmen der Nationalbank sehr tief (bei 0,175 Prozent), mit den Massnahmen ist er gestern auf 0,028 Prozent gefallen.

Die Massnahmen der Notenbank sehen ausserdem auch Devisenswaps vor. Dabei handelt es sich nur um ein weiteres Instrument der Geldversorgung von Banken. Formal kauft die SNB hier fremde Währung gegen Schweizer Franken, wobei auch hier der Rückverkauf der Devisen schon zu Beginn vereinbart wird. Daher hat dieses Geschäft auch keinen Einfluss auf die Währungskurse.

Wirkung auf die Währung:
Generell gilt: Tiefere Zinsen führen ohne weitere Einflüsse zu einer Abschwächung der eigenen Währung. (Ein solcher weiterer Einfluss ist die Angst der Anleger, wenn sie trotz tieferer Zinsen den Schutz einer als besonders sicher geltenden Währung suchen.) Wie ausgeführt, beeinflusst die SNB den Leitzins Libor über ihre Notenbankgeldmenge, doch dieser reagiert nur indirekt – über das Bankensystem – darauf. Da der Libor schon sehr tief und die Geldmenge bei den Banken schon gross ist, bleibt die Wirkung einer weiteren Senkung dieses Zinses auf den Franken äusserst beschränkt.

Inflation
Was ist das?
Als Inflation werden anhaltende Preiserhöhungen bezeichnet. Sie stellen sich mittel- bis langfristig ein, wenn die Notenbank die Wirtschaft mit zu viel Geld versorgt.

Möglichkeiten der SNB:
Wann sich Inflation durch eine Erhöhung der Notenbankgeldmenge einstellt, hängt wie oben beschrieben vom Verhalten des Bankensystems und der übrigen Wirtschaftssubjekte ab. Wenn diese viel Geld horten – aus Angst oder weil die Wirtschaft stagniert –, dann wirkt die Geldmengenerhöhung der Notenbank nur eingeschränkt auf die Geldmengen im Wirtschaftskreislauf. Entsprechend gering ist dann die Inflationswirkung beziehungsweise vergeht mehr Zeit, bis sie sich zeigt.

Wirkung auf die Währung:
Mit einer höheren Inflation schwächt sich auch die eigene Währung ab. Doch in beiden Fällen gilt, dass diese Wirkung nicht sofort eintrifft und vom Zustand der Wirtschaft und dem Verhalten von Banken, Unternehmen und der Bevölkerung insgesamt abhängt.

Deviseninterventionen
Was ist das?
Damit ist gemeint, dass die Nationalbank direkt auf den Devisenmärkten fremde Währungen kauft oder verkauft, um deren Preis in der eigenen Währung zu beeinflussen.

Möglichkeiten der SNB:
Problematisch ist die Stärkung der eigenen Währung, denn dafür benötigt eine Notenbank fremde Währungen, um die eigene zu kaufen. Doch über fremde Währungen verfügt sie immer nur beschränkt im Umfange ihrer Devisenreserven. Die eigene Währung zu schwächen, ist dagegen rein ökonomisch gesehen immer möglich, denn die eigene Währung für den Aufkauf fremder Währungen kann sie selbst schaffen. Allerdings wächst unter den oben genannten Umständen bei grossen neu geschaffenen Summen die Inflationsgefahr. Glauben Spekulanten, dass die Notenbank deshalb nicht wagt, ausreichend Geld zur Schwächung der eigenen Währung zu schaffen, werden sie mit grossen Summen gegen die Notenbank setzen und möglicherweise sogar Erfolg haben. Wenig glaubwürdig ist eine Notenbank auch dann, wenn sie die eigene Währung schwächen will, obwohl diese kaufkraftbereinigt einigermassen fair bewertet ist. Auch dann kann es sich für Spekulanten lohnen, mit grossen Summen dagegenzuhalten. Währungsinterventionen sind daher für die SNB aktuell mit so wenig Risiken verbunden wie schon lange nicht mehr: Die Inflation ist tief – auch wegen des teuren Frankens und absehbaren Bremsspuren in der Wirtschaft –, und der Franken ist massiv überbewertet.

Wirkung auf die Währung:
Deviseninterventionen zielen direkt auf das Verhältnis von Währungen ab, deshalb haben sie auch die direkteste, schnellste und grösste Wirkung aller geldpolitischen Massnahmen.

Währungsanbindung und Obergrenze
Was ist das?
Eine Währungsanbindung bedeutet, dass eine Notenbank (unter der Voraussetzung eines freien Kapitalverkehrs) ihre ganze Geldpolitik nur daran ausrichtet, dass die eigene Währung immer genau im gleichen Verhältnis zu einer anderen bleibt. So könnte die SNB sich zum Beispiel vornehmen, stets den Preis von 1.30 Franken pro Euro sicherzustellen. Etwas ganz anderes ist eine obere Wertgrenze, die sich die SNB für den Franken setzt. In dem Fall muss sie nur auf den Devisenmärkten intervenieren, wenn der Franken die von der SNB gesetzte Aufwertungsschwelle überschreitet – etwa wenn der Euro weniger als 1.25 Franken kostet.

Möglichkeiten der SNB:
Im Fall einer Währungsanbindung müsste die SNB ihre Geldversorgung allein daran ausrichten, dass das angestrebte Verhältnis beibehalten wird. Dafür müsste sie laufend die Zielwährung kaufen oder verkaufen, wenn sich deren Wert zur eigenen Währung verändert. Das ist aus mehreren Gründen problematisch: Die Notenbank müsste in diesem Fall vollständig auf eine Geldpolitik (mit einer Geldmengenversorgung) verzichten, die einem anderen Zweck als dieser Anbindung dient. Sie könnte zum Beispiel nicht die Geldmenge ausdehnen und damit den Leitzins senken, wenn die eigene Wirtschaft schlecht läuft, denn das würde das Währungsverhältnis verändern. Die SNB müsste daher vollständig die Geldpolitik des Währungsraums mit der angebundenen Währung übernehmen und ihre Unabhängigkeit aufgeben. Eine weitere Schwierigkeit ist, dass die Notenbank von Spekulanten herausgefordert werden könnte. Solche Angriffe abzuwehren, ist bei einer festen Anbindung sehr viel schwieriger, als wenn die Notenbank bloss eine obere Grenze für den Wert der eigenen Währung setzt (siehe «Deviseninterventionen» oben). Ausserdem würde es in der aktuellen Situation mit der dramatischen Überbewertung des Frankens für die SNB auch keinen Sinn machen, sich einer weiteren Abschwächung des Frankens entgegenzustemmen.

Wirkung auf die Währung:
Feste Währungsanbindungen haben historisch gesehen über längere Zeiträume schlecht funktioniert. Wenn die Bedürfnisse der eigenen Wirtschaft zu stark in Widerspruch zu den Anforderungen an die Geldpolitik zur Aufrechterhaltung der Währungsanbindung geraten waren, wurde diese Anbindung oft fallen gelassen. Oft war das dann mit hohen Folgekosten verbunden. Viel erfolgversprechender ist dagegen, wenn die Notenbank nur eine obere Grenze für den Wert der eigenen Währung setzt. Das gilt ganz besonders in der aktuellen Situation der Schweiz mit einer massiven Überbewertung des Frankens.

Negativzinsen
Was ist das?
In jüngster Zeit ist viel von Negativzinsen die Rede, die dazu dienen sollen, Investoren in den Franken abzuwehren. Gleichzeitig erfährt man dieser Tage, dass es Negativzinsen bereits gebe und dass dies ein Erfolg der neuen Massnahmen der SNB sei. Das sind aber komplett verschiedene Dinge. Jene, die Negativzinsen zur Abwehr einer weiteren Aufwertung des Frankens fordern, verweisen auf Massnahmen, die in der Schweiz Ende der 1970er-Jahre eingeführt wurden. Dabei hat man Anlegern in Schweizer Franken sozusagen per Dekret eine Kommission auf ihren Einlagen abgenommen, sodass sie auf diesen Investitionen einen Verlust verzeichnen mussten. Unter anderem mit dieser Massnahme wollte man sie von weiteren Frankenkäufen abschrecken. Bei den aktuell vorhandenen Negativzinsen handelt es sich dagegen um Marktpreise. So zeigt sich bei heute auf die nächste Zukunft abgeschlossenen kurzfristigen Ausleihungsvereinbarungen, dass Anleger sich mit einem (allerdings sehr geringen) Abschlag auf ihren Anlagen zufriedengeben. Das deutet aber nicht auf eine Abschreckung von Anlegern in Franken hin, sondern gerade im Gegenteil darauf, dass diese Franken-Anlagen so attraktiv sind, dass dafür sogar ein negativer Marktzins in Kauf genommen wird. Ein Grund dafür könnte sein, dass Anleger eine weitere Aufwertung des Frankens erwarten, der sie dafür entschädigt.

Möglichkeiten der SNB:
Die Negativzinsen in den 1970er-Jahren hat die SNB nicht über Operationen auf den Märkten eingeführt, sondern über eine Vereinbarung mit den Banken, die dann ihren Frankenanlegern die Kommission abgenommen haben. Das wäre heute sehr schwierig umzusetzen. Allein schon, weil sich der Frankenmarkt bei weitem nicht auf die Schweiz beschränkt und weil solche Massnahmen leicht umgangen werden können. Die Negativzinsen auf den Geldmärkten sind mit ein Ergebnis der Geldmengenspritzen der Nationalbank, weil dadurch die gesamten Kurzfristzinsen sinken. Aber sie sind auch Ausdruck davon, dass Anleger für Frankenanlagen sogar Abschläge in Kauf nehmen.

Wirkung auf die Währung:
Negativzinsen wie in den 70er-Jahren sind heute kaum durchzusetzen, ausserdem konnten sie schon damals die Aufwertung des Frankens nicht verhindern. Die Negativzinsen auf den Geldmärkten sind weniger ein Bremsmechanismus für den Aufwertungsdruck auf den Franken als dessen Folge.

Zurück zu: Geldpolitik generell, Die Geldmengen, Der Leitzins Libor, Inflation, Deviseninterventionen, Währungsanbindung und Obergrenze, Negativzinsen (Tagesanzeiger.ch/Newsnetz)
Erstellt: 19.08.2011, 14:29 Uhr

Kommentare

Hans Iseli    19.08.2011, 17:10 Uhr
Sperrig, aber wirklich informativ!

Patrick Ryf    19.08.2011, 17:01 Uhr
Das Steigen der Preise als Inflation zu bezeichnen ist eine irreführende Neudefinition dieses Wortes. Die Ausweitung der Geldmenge wird gemäss ursprünglicher Definition als Inflation bezeichnet und das Steigen der Preise nennt man richtigerweise Teuerung. Weil eine steigende Geldmenge tendenziell zu höheren Preisen führt, ist demnach die Teuerung ein verzögert eintretendes Symptom der Inflation.

Walter Mayer    22.08.2011, 19:02 Uhr
Das ist keine Neudefinition, sondern die eigentliche Definition der Inflation. Und zwar bloss der Anstieg des Preisniveaus. Inflation muss nicht mit einer Geldmengenerhöhung zu tun haben, sondern Inflation kann auch durch Güterverknappung eintreten. Wenn der Erdölpeak mal erreicht sieht, werden sie schnell sehen, wie schnell die Preise in die Höhe schnellen werden. Auch das ist Inflation.

daniel spirig    19.08.2011, 16:45 Uhr
Tiefe Zinsen der Gelder die die NB an die Banken ausleiht verstärken den Wert des Frankens da
die Nachfrage nach solchen Krediten steigt.
Die Wirtschaftswissenschaft ist nur bedingt eine Wissenschaft da weder die Systeme noch die Messinstrumente klar definiert sind.
Einstein war sicher dass die menschliche Dummheit unendlich ist.
Keynes dachte dasselbe über die Geldmenge.
Ja toll! und zusammen?

Eugen Fischer    19.08.2011, 15:48 Uhr
Schön wenn man träumen darf, doch die neusten Entwicklung, vor allem die der EZB zeigen ein klar unmissverständliches Bild. Chaos und somit wenn EU-Banken stark unterstützt werden müssen, so sind die Zeichen auf Sturm. d.h. das ganze Gefüge der Finanzwelt wird und muss auseinander brechen. Viel Geschreei um das liebe Geld, doch die Systeme sind auseinandergebrochen.

Rene Baumann    19.08.2011, 15:11 Uhr
Sobald es um Negativzins geht, werden die Erklärungen "schwammig". Auch wenn nur ein Teil der CHF in der Schweiz gehandelt wird, kann die Massnahme greifen, wenn dieser gross genug ist.. Negativzins hat den Vorteil, dass man zumindest sagen kann "Nützts nüt so schads nööd.". Die Einführung ist ein klares Signal an die Märkte und nicht mit "Spekulationsverlusten" wg. Überbewertung gleichzusetzen.

Fritz Moser    19.08.2011, 14:40 Uhr
Alles Chabis! Das ist laengst out! Die Spekulanten mit ihfren perversesten Gambling-Spielchen haben laengst alles ausgehebelt. Sie wissen um diese Theorien und nuetzen sie aus. Wahrend sie sich dabei koestlich amusieren. Wann versteht man das endlich und macht was gegen die wirkliche Ursache? Derviative und undurchsichtigste Instrumente, computer-assisted, diktieren alles. Wirklich alles.

Herb Jost    19.08.2011, 16:37 Uhr
Moser: Stimmt. Die obigen Bildchen sollen Dummies beruhigen. Während die Wetterstationen heute Tag und Nacht Prognosen liefern kann man an den letztwöchigen Tagescharts der CHF/€ Verläufe dafür die Kaffeepausen erkennen und wie vor Arbeitsschluss noch schnell einmal nachgelegt wird. Aber die SNB verbrennt ja nur Papiergeld. Wenn dann in USA die Märkte einbrechen liegt man im verdienten Tiefschlaf.

George Freeman    19.08.2011, 15:03 Uhr
Ich denke vorallem die blauen "Derviative" und die grünen "computer-assisted" sind gefährlich...

Hans Huber    19.08.2011, 14:37 Uhr
Wenn jetzt Deviseninterventionsbedingt die Wirkung auf die Währung zu den Möglichkeiten der SNB zählt, würde durch die Währungsanbindung an die Obergrenze die Negativzinsen eine konjunkturelle Liborierung durchsetzen. Spekulanten hätten durch den komissionierten Frankenmarkt dann im freien Kapitalverkehr zur Aufrechterhaltung der Währungsstabilität indirekten Bremsmechanismus .

Hans Müller    19.08.2011, 14:35 Uhr
Gute Idee mit diesem Artikel,
wenn ich so die Foreneinträge lese...hoffentlich hilfts...aber da fällt mir als erstes ein nettes Zitat von Albert Einstein ein...




The Telegraph    August 21, 2011

Council chief executives enjoy pay rises as services are cut
Two thirds of Britain's highest-paid council bosses won pay rises last year
despite Government orders to slash their salaries, an investigation by The Telegraph has found.
 By Heidi Blake, Sebastian Payne and Conrad Quilty-Harper

Town hall chief executives have seen their pay packets rise by as much as £17,000 while cutting front-line services, including libraries, care for the elderly and bin collections.

A survey of local authorities has established that 114 town hall chiefs earn more than the Prime Minister, despite calls from Eric Pickles, the Communities and Local Government Secretary, for them to take a 10 per cent pay cut. They include chief executives who won plaudits by publicly announcing that they would slash their salaries last year but have instead replenished their pay packets with bonuses, allowances and perks.

Ministers last night reacted angrily to the disclosures. Grant Shapps, the local government minister, said: "It is astonishing that it appears chief executives are finding elaborate ways to hike their pay through the back door. "A culture of bumper pay and perks has no place in local government especially during these tough times across the public sector. Cutting pay is one thing chief executives can do to demonstrate a personal commitment to protecting the front line. I urge them to do the right thing and lead from the front."

An analysis of the accounts published by 128 of the largest councils in England and Wales has found that almost 70 per cent of town hall bosses earned more than David Cameron's £142,000 salary last year, while nearly half of them took home more than £200,000.

Of the 25 highest paid council chiefs, 16 were given pay rises. The highest paid is Joanna Killian, joint chief executive of Essex and Brentwood councils, who received £289,143, an increase of £4,000. She previously promised to cut her pay by 5 per cent.

Essex county council's draft accounts for 2010-11 disclose that while Miss Killian's basic salary fell by £4,000, she received a £6,900 bonus payment, £815 in expenses and a £4,021 pension contribution. Her pay package rose as Tory-led Essex council announced that 450 jobs were to be cut as it struggled to find savings of £98 million. The council has faced controversy after announcing plans to close 12 youth centres and cut library hours. A spokesman said that by acting as chief executive of two councils Miss Killian ultimately saved taxpayers money.

The second highest-paid council boss in Britain last year was Geoff Alltimes, who received a total of £281,666 for his role as the chief executive of Hammersmith and Fulham borough council and the local primary care trust, according to the draft accounts. Despite a pay freeze across the council, Mr Alltimes took home £11,193 more last year than he earned in 2009 after receiving a supplementary payment for acting as returning officer in the local and general elections.

The Conservative borough is to cut funding for nine of its 15 children's centres and axe about 50 children's services posts as it looks to save £65 million over the next three years. A spokesman for the council said Mr Alltimes's basic pay had not changed and his payment as a returning officer was due to “the system”.

Kevin Lavery, the chief executive of Cornwall council, agreed to take a 5 per cent pay cut last October. But the council’s draft accounts disclose that, while Mr Lavery’s basic pay fell £2,500 to £197,500 last year, he claimed £9,527 in expenses, so his total pay package rose by £6,542 to £245,342. An investigation by The Telegraph found earlier this year that Cornwall council had the highest credit card bill of any local authority in the country after staff spent millions on items including home cinemas and stays in hotels.

David McNulty, the chief executive of Surrey county council, claimed £12,053 to cover the cost of moving house last year, bringing his total pay to £253,133 including his salary and pension.

Mr McNulty, who took up his post in June 2009, is the fifth highest-paid council chief in Britain, earning 10 times more than the average British worker. He was paid the relocation allowance, available to anyone who has to move to take a job at the council. A spokesman for the council said no one was available to comment on Mr McNulty’s pay last night.

Chris Williams, the Buckinghamshire chief executive, received £259,104 last year including benefits worth £4,770 and pension contributions of £47,334 — a small increase of £236 on 2009. The council has switched off 1,600 of its 28,000 street lights to cut energy costs and introduced a pay freeze to trim its £125 million salary bill. Mr Williams, the third highest paid council boss, has confirmed that 550 jobs face the axe.

The Norfolk boss David White earned £256,900 last year, including a bonus of £12,300, making him the fourth highest paid town hall chief. The council is struggling to find £155 million in savings over the next three years, with 1,000 jobs under threat. The country’s lowest paid council boss last year was Tim Howes, of West Somerset District, who earned £61,000. The average pay packet of the chief executives surveyed was £186,872.

The draft accounts analysed by The Telegraph have not yet been audited and are subject to revision.
Chief executive salaries: interactive table




Wall Street Journal    22 Aug 2011

Federal Asset Seizures Rise, Netting Innocent With Guilty
By JOHN R. EMSHWILLER and GARY FIELDS

New York businessman James Lieto was an innocent bystander in a fraud investigation last year.  Federal agents seized $392,000 of his cash anyway.

An armored-car firm hired by Mr.  Lieto to carry money for his check-cashing company got ensnared in the FBI probe.  Agents seized about $19 million""including Mr.  Lieto's money""from vaults belonging to the armored-car firm's parent company.

He is one among thousands of Americans in recent decades who have had a jarring introduction to the federal system of asset seizure.  Some 400 federal statutes""a near-doubling, by one count, since the 1990s""empower the government to take assets from convicted criminals as well as people never charged with a crime.

Last year, forfeiture programs confiscated homes, cars, boats and cash in more than 15,000 cases.  The total take topped $2.5 billion, more than doubling in five years, Justice Department statistics show.

The expansion of forfeiture powers is part of a broader growth in recent decades of the federal justice system that has seen hundreds of new criminal laws passed.  Some critics have dubbed the pattern as the overcriminalization of American life.  The forfeiture system has opponents across the political spectrum, including representatives of groups such as the American Civil Liberties Union on the left and the Heritage Foundation on the right.  They argue it represents a widening threat to innocent people.

"We are paying assistant U.S. attorneys to carry out the theft of property from often the most defenseless citizens," given that people sometimes have limited resources to fight a seizure after their assets are taken, says David Smith, a former Justice Department forfeiture official and now a forfeiture lawyer in Alexandria, Va.

Backers of the system say there are adequate protections for the innocent, and describe the laws as a powerful tool for returning money to crime victims.

The government has recovered for eventual distribution to victims more than $650 million from imprisoned swindler Bernard Madoff and others who received money from his scheme.  Federal officials are in the process of recovering over $6.5 billion more from the Madoff fraud. Last year, federal authorities say, some $293 million of forfeiture proceeds were returned to crime victims nationally, nearly double the amount in 2009.  The Justice Department filed about 90,000 criminal cases last year.  There were forfeiture actions in a total of about 3,700 criminal cases, double the number of five years earlier.

Supporters further say there should be many more forfeiture actions.  Even an imprisoned criminal "can have a smile on his face because he is going to be able to enjoy the proceeds of his crime when he gets out," says Charles Intriago, a former federal prosecutor and now president of the International Association for Asset Recovery, a Miami organization for asset-recovery specialists.

Forfeiture law has its roots in the Colonial days, when it was used to battle pirates and smugglers.  In the 1970s and 1980s, Congress began giving law-enforcement officials power to go after the assets of other criminals, such as organized-crime figures. The more than 400 federal statutes allowing for forfeiture range from racketeering and drug-dealing to violations of the Northern Pacific Halibut Act, according to a December 2009 Congressional Research Service report.  The report shows that seizure powers were extended to about 200 of those laws in 2000 in a major congressional overhaul of the forfeiture system.

Top federal officials are also pushing for greater use of civil-forfeiture proceedings, in which assets can be taken without criminal charges being filed against the owner.  In a civil forfeiture, the asset itself "not the owner of the asset" is technically the defendant.  In such a case, the government must show by a preponderance of evidence that the property was connected to illegal activity.  In a criminal forfeiture, the government must first win a conviction against an individual, where the burden of proof is higher.

Raul Stio, a New Jersey businessman, is caught up in the civil-forfeiture world.  Last October, the Internal Revenue Service, suspicious of Mr. Stio's bank deposits, seized more than $157,000 from his account.  Mr. Stio hasn't been charged with a crime. In a court filing in his pending civil case, the Justice Department alleges that Mr. Stio's deposits were structured to illegally avoid an anti-money-laundering rule that requires a cash transaction of more than $10,000 to be reported to federal authorities.  Mr. Stio made 21 deposits over a four-month period, each $10,000 or less, the filing said.

Steven L. Kessler, Mr. Stio's attorney, says there was no attempt to evade the law and that the deposits merely reflected the amount of cash his client's businesses, a security firm and bar, had produced.  Mr.  Stio was saving to buy a house, he says. A Justice Department spokeswoman declined to comment on the case.

Speaking about civil forfeiture broadly, another Justice Department official called it a tool of "critical" importance in taking away the ill-gotten gains of international criminal organizations operating in the U.S.  Otherwise, participants in criminal operations such as these might often be beyond federal authorities' reach, leaving asset seizure as one of the ways authorities can target an operation.

In fiscal year 2010, there were more than 11,000 noncriminal forfeiture cases, according to available federal statistics.  That figure has held fairly steady the past five years. It's tough to know how many innocent parties may be improperly pulled into the forfeiture system.  Last year, claimants challenged more than 1,800 civil-forfeiture actions in federal court, Justice Department figures show. Justice Department officials say they rarely lose such cases, a fact they cite as evidence the system is working properly.  Forfeiture attorneys counter that the government often settles cases, returning at least part of the seized assets, if it thinks it might lose.

Part of the debate over seizures involves a potential conflict of interest: Under a 1984 federal law, state and local law-enforcement agencies that work with Uncle Sam on seizures get to keep up to 80% of the proceeds. Last year, under this "equitable-sharing" program, the federal government paid out more than $500 million, up about 75% from a decade ago. The payments give authorities an "improper profit incentive" to seize assets, says Scott Bullock of the Institute for Justice, a libertarian public-interest law firm in Arlington, Va.  It's a particular concern amid current state and local government budget problems, he contends.

Justice Department officials say the 8,000 state and local agencies in the equitable-sharing program have greatly expanded the federal government's ability to go after criminal activities, particularly the movement of drugs and drug cash along the nation's highways.  The program is monitored to ensure seizures are handled properly, they add.

Seeming abuses occasionally emerge.  In 2008, federal Judge Joseph Bataillon ordered the return of $20,000 taken from a man during a traffic stop in Douglas County, Neb.  Judge Battaillon quoted from a recording of the seizure, in which a sheriff's deputy complained about the man's attitude and suggested "we take his money and, um, count it as a drug seizure."

The judge's order said the case produced "overwhelming evidence" that the funds were clean. Douglas County Sheriff Tim Dunning said the remarks made by his officers on the recording were "uncalled for" and "had a potential for tainting the case." But overall, he says, the seizure was handled properly.  Since 2002, he says, his department has earned $11 million in equitable-sharing money. A spokesman for the U.S.  Attorney's office in Nebraska said the deputy's remarks were "a rare and isolated event."

About a decade ago, the forfeiture system got a major overhaul.  The 2000 Civil Asset Forfeiture Reform Act, or Cafra, put in protections for individuals, including increasing the government's burden of proof in many proceedings.  Cafra also extended forfeiture powers to additional crimes.

Cafra's new safeguards didn't go far enough, critics argue.  For instance, reformers failed to win a broad guarantee that poor people would have access to a lawyer.  "It isn't much good to say you have the right to get your property back if you can't afford a lawyer," said the late Rep. Henry Hyde ( R-Ill.) at a 1999 congressional hearing.

Jorge Jaramillo, a construction worker, says he couldn't afford a lawyer after more than $16,000 was seized from him last year in a traffic stop.  "I had all of $20 left," he says.

In a Delaware federal-court filing, the Justice Department argued the money was related to drug dealing.  It pointed to air fresheners in the car, which could mask the smell of drugs, and a fast-food bag containing cigar tobacco, which the filing said was often a sign that the cigar wrapper had been used to smoke marijuana. The filing also said a police dog had signaled that the cash carried residue of illegal drugs.  Such "dog sniffs" are a common but controversial feature in forfeitures.

Mr.  Smith, the Virginia attorney, represented Mr. Jaramillo at no upfront cost.  In court documents, Mr. Jaramillo, who wasn't charged with a crime, said he was carrying the money because he was traveling to buy a car from a seller who wanted cash. The government in May agreed to return Mr. Jaramillo's money, with interest.  Mr.  Smith was also awarded $6,000 in attorney's fees.  Under Cafra, attorneys' fees in civil-forfeiture cases are at least partially payable if the claimant wins.

The Cafra reforms helped Mr. Jaramillo find a lawyer even though he says he had no money.  Still, forfeiture attorneys say this feature of the law is being eroded in some instances.  In April, the U.S.  Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals found that the Cafra attorney's fee should be paid to the client, not directly to the lawyer. Lawyers say this makes it possible for the government to seize their fees if the client has a tax lien or other obligation.

Mr.  Lieto, the New York businessman, discovered the frustrations an innocent party can face as he worked for months to keep open his check-cashing business after federal agents seized his firm's working capital.

For years, according to court filings, Mr.  Lieto used an armored-car company to pick up cash from his bank for delivery to his check-cashing outlets.  The sealed bank bags were routinely stored overnight in the car company's vault.  In February 2010, the FBI raid seized the $19 million as part of the fraud probe.

Under the law, an innocent third party generally can't seek an asset's return until the underlying criminal case is resolved, which can take time.  In this case, two men pleaded guilty last fall to a multi-million-dollar fraud. An innocent party's money is returnable if it's clearly separate from the fraud.  Mr.  Lieto's two sealed and marked bank bags with the $392,000 qualified, his attorney, Mr.  Kessler, argued in court filings.  Others among the scores of customers made similar claims.

The government countered that the crooks' operation, which included the armored-car service, routinely commingled customers' money.  Thus, everyone had to get in line as fraud victims.

Court records indicate that fraud victims might get about 25 cents or less on the dollar.  However, in February the government agreed to give Mr.  Lieto's money back in full.

Mr. Lieto's lawyer, Mr. Kessler, had filed a deposition from a vault manager who had watched Mr. Lieto's two still-sealed bags being loaded onto the FBI's truck.  If the bags were opened and commingled, it was done by authorities, a Lieto court filing argued.




Reykjavík Grapevine    August 24, 2011

A Deconstruction of “Iceland's On-going Revolution”
by Anna Andersen

Last night, ‘Shock Doctrine’ author Naomi Klein tweeted: “#Iceland is proving that it is possible to resist the Shock Doctrine, and refuse to pay for the bankers' crisis” with a link to an article called, Iceland’s On-going Revolution,” by Deena Stryker.

This article is full of factual errors, so we tweeted back: “@NaomiAKlein We are fans of yours, but we are sad to say that your tweet and the article it cites are both dead wrong. #Iceland”

She replied: “@rvkgrapevine tell me and i'll correct”.

So here it is, a deconstruction of that error-ridden article, “Iceland’s On-going Revolution,” which is unfortunately making rounds in the Twitter-sphere.

In the first paragraph, the article states: “Americans may remember that at the start of the 2008 financial crisis, Iceland literally went bankrupt. The reasons were mentioned only in passing, and since then, this little-known member of the European Union fell back into oblivion.”

There are two errors there. One is obvious. Namely, Iceland is not a member of the European Union. The other one is perhaps less obvious, but it is nonetheless an important point. That is, Iceland did not go bankrupt. This factual error was heavily criticised in 2008 when Iceland’s banks collapsed and news spread that Iceland, the country, had gone bankrupt. This is as wrong today as it was then.

Then there’s this statement: “In 2003 Iceland’s debt was equal to 200 times its GNP, but in 2007, it was 900 percent. The 2008 world financial crisis was the coup de grace.”

These numbers are wildly inaccurate (and not to be too pedantic here, but sticking to a multiplier or percent would be helpful when making such a comparison). To set this straight, Iceland’s debt (as in The Central Bank) was equal to 57% of the GDP in 2003 and fell to 43% of the GDP in 2007, according to World Bank [and DataMarket] statistics. In 2009, that percentage reached 104%.

Now, if by Iceland the author meant Iceland’s banks, then it’s true that the banks’ debt was pretty big—astronomical really—and by 2007, Iceland’s banks did in fact reach 9 times the GDP, though that’s GDP not GNP.

Then there’s this: “The three main Icelandic banks, Landbanki, Kapthing and Glitnir, went belly up and were nationalized, while the Kroner lost 85% of its value with respect to the Euro.  At the end of the year Iceland declared bankruptcy.”

Again the statement, “At the end of the year Iceland declared bankruptcy” is wrong. And the Icelandic krónur lost more like 50% of its value compared to the Euro any way you look at it.

Moving on to the next paragraph: “Contrary to what could be expected, the crisis resulted in Icelanders recovering their sovereign rights, through a process of direct participatory democracy that eventually led to a new Constitution.  But only after much pain.”

It’s true; we had a referendum to elect a Constitutional Assembly—a group of twenty-five people tasked with writing a new Constitution. But there were 500 plus candidates to choose from, and the results were nullified because proper election procedures weren’t followed. Rather than hold another referendum, those individuals were ‘appointed’ to a Constitutional Committee. They have now submitted a ‘proposal’ for draft of our new Constitution, but we by no means have a new Constitution yet! This is definitely jumping the gun. Our old one still reigns supreme.

Then it says: “Geir Haarde, the Prime Minister of a Social Democratic coalition government, negotiated a two million one hundred thousand dollar loan, to which the Nordic countries added another two and a half million. But the foreign financial community pressured Iceland to impose drastic measures.  The FMI and the European Union wanted to take over its debt, claiming this was the only way for the country to pay back Holland and Great Britain, who had promised to reimburse their citizens.”

Okay, come on now. It’s the IMF, not FMI. Furthermore, Geir Haarde is from the right-wing Independence Party, which had a coalition with the Social Democrats.

Back to the Constitution: “This document was not the work of a handful of politicians, but was written on the internet. The constituent’s meetings are streamed on-line, and citizens can send their comments and suggestions, witnessing the document as it takes shape. The constitution that eventually emerges from this participatory democratic process will be submitted to parliament for approval after the next elections.”

Apparently the author was confused about whether or not we had a new Constitution when she started writing and then did some more research toward the end to realise that yes, it is still a draft with a number of hoops to go through.

The idea that the Constitution was ‘crowdsourced’, as the international media has been keen on reporting, is at best half true. But accepting suggestions via Facebook and an Internet submission form is hardly the same as the Constitution being “written on the internet”. It sounds cool though.

While nearly every paragraph in this article is riddled with factual errors, the concluding message is also misleading: “Today, that country is recovering from its financial collapse in ways just the opposite of those generally considered unavoidable, as confirmed yesterday by the new head of the IMF, Christine Lagarde to Fareed Zakaria. The people of Greece have been told that the privatization of their public sector is the only solution. And those of Italy, Spain and Portugal are facing the same threat.

They should look to Iceland. Refusing to bow to foreign interests, that small country stated loud and clear that the people are sovereign.”

First of all, it’s naive to think that Iceland was able to stand up to the IMF. In his article, ‘New York Times Reporting Misses the Mark on Iceland, Prints Neoliberal Line’ on www.truth-out.org, Sam Knight makes some good points: “Why Iceland is pursuing its welfare-for-the-elite policies is anyone's guess,” he says, “but with the IMF providing emergency currency support, it has had influence in diverting Icelandic resources back toward the financial sector.”

He adds: “If Iceland had refused to share the IMF's worldview, it could have been denied funds necessary to implement capital controls and stop the Krona's tailspin. Failure to adhere to the IMF's demands could have also caused Iceland's sovereign credit rating to drop significantly, which could have isolated Iceland from international capital markets (despite the fact that credit ratings agencies, in the wake of 2008, are in need of urgent reform).”

Whether or not influenced by the IMF, one might note that two of the three banks that Iceland “let fail” because it couldn’t bail them out (they were nine times the country’s GDP), have been re-privatised and there is currently a debate about privatising the third.

Not to mention, there’s the case of HS Orka, in which 98 percent of a publically owned geothermal energy company was sold to Canadian company Magma Energy (now called ‘Alterra Power’), giving it access to geothermal energy in the Reykjanesbær peninsula for 65 years with a renewal option for another 65. This erupted in controversy with Björk leading the crusade against Magma Energy. Alas, it was without success.

The case might as well feature in Naomi Klein’s book, ‘The Shock Doctrine’.

Furthermore, while Iceland may seem like a symbol of sticking it to the financial institutions that brought about the financial collapse, the people really haven’t escaped the burden. To quote respected political commentator Egill Helgason in an article that will print in The Grapevine on Friday: “According to an OECD report Iceland has put more money into its failed financial institutions than any other country except Ireland. So in this way Iceland is not a model—the people in Spain need not wave Icelandic flags.”

To the contrary of the message put forth in this article, “Iceland’s On-going Revolution,”  and the notion that Iceland was able to resist the shock doctrine, he says: “The political debate in Iceland has gotten horribly stale and repetitive. In some places Iceland is held up as being a model of how to survive an economic crisis and rebuild society. For most Icelanders this seems totally wrong. Some politicians, including our President, like to flaunt this view when they go abroad, but this is definitely not the feeling in Iceland.”

So, @NaomiAKlein have we crushed the hopes of millions? As a publication we strive to practice good journalism, though we have to say that a part of us is reluctant to correct these kinds of articles, as it is nice to see citizens of other nations, like Spain and Portugal, being inspired by our story. Hope has to come from somewhere.




Washington Times    August 31, 2011

Growing the Economy for Dummies
New books put answers right at our policymakers’ fingertips
By Richard W. Rahn

Did you know that in Denmark, the poorest 30 percent pay 14.1 percent of all taxes and the richest pay 48.7 percent, while in the United States, the poorest 30 percent pay just 6.1 percent of all taxes and the richest 30 percent pay a whopping 65.3 percent? The surprising thing is not that the richest pay most of the taxes but that the U.S. has nearly the most progressive tax system in the world, while the Scandinavian countries have about the least progressive tax systems, contrary to commonly held belief.

The above facts, along with hundreds of other useful tidbits, are found in a compelling new book, “Government Versus Markets: The Changing Economic Role of the State” (Cambridge University Press, 2011), by Vito Tanzi. Mr. Tanzi is one of the world’s most highly regarded economists, and for good reason. As a senior economic official of the International Monetary Fund for two decades, an undersecretary for economics and finance in the Italian government and author of 14 books, he does not let his biases get in the way of empirical evidence.

In his new book, Mr. Tanzi clearly shows how governments in most developed countries have grown over the past century. The many tables are a delight for us data hounds. Some advocates of higher taxes argue that tax rates on labor do not have much impact on the willingness to work, but Mr. Tanzi gives us a very clear chart plotting the tax rate on labor versus the number of hours worked per year in many countries. It shows that there is a strong inverse relationship between tax rates on labor and hours worked. Such facts are inconvenient for the big-government, high-tax crowd. Mr. Tanzi is far from being anti-government, but the facts and data he presents show how most governments have grown far beyond the optimum point, and he is a bit pessimistic about the ability of democracies to rein in excessive and destructive government.

Near the end of the book, Mr. Tanzi observes: “Once the population of a country (or, more often, groups within it) come to see the government as a potential cow that can be milked, there is no longer a limit to the demands for more public spending. There are literally infinite ‘needs’ of the population, and infinite groups capable of organizing politically, to press for more government spending or other government actions that would benefit them.”

But despite Mr. Tanzi’s pessimism, he documents how two countries, Sweden and Canada, have changed course and reduced the size of government because the body politic came to understand that the cow was being overmilked and soon would go dry or die.

By happenstance, Peter Ferrara has written “America’s Ticking Bankruptcy Bomb” (Broadside Books, 2011), which is almost a companion piece to Mr. Tanzi’s book. Where Mr. Tanzi primarily uses data to show the global growth of government spending, taxing and regulation, Mr. Ferrara gives us more of a historical narrative of how the United States got to this point. Mr. Ferrara served in President Reagan’s White House Office of Policy Development and, subsequently, in President George H.W. Bush’s Justice Department and has spent much of his life developing and proposing policies that would lead us back to economic sanity. His new book not only gives us the history of the various programs and how they contributed to the current debt crisis but also proposes solutions, including describing what other countries have done to deal successfully with similar problems.

Mr. Ferrara’s chapter on the retirement debt bomb clearly describes how the Social Security funding solution has been well-known to U.S. policymakers for 30 years, yet many politicians have preferred to demagogue the issue rather than solve the problem. Chile was the first nation in the Americas to adopt a traditional social security system, way back in 1925 - 10 years before the United States. By the late 1970s, however, the Chilean system was running out of money despite higher and higher taxes. The young labor minister, Jose Pinera, who has a doctorate in economics from Harvard, led a fundamental reform of the system from a government-defined benefit system to a private-account defined-contribution system, which is owned by the workers.

The Chilean system has been so successful during the past 30 years that it has been copied by more than 30 countries, including Sweden and Australia. Chileans retire with far more wealth than the average American, despite the fact that Chile is just a low-middle-income country. In both Chile and the United States, employers are required to set aside a little more than 12 percent for the pension program, but in Chile, someone with the same earnings as an American will be getting $55,000 as an annual pension, while the American, working the same number of years, just gets $18,000.

The fact, as Mr. Ferrara explains so well, is that we need not have miserable retirement and government medical systems that barely serve the needs of the people while driving the country into bankruptcy. What we need instead are programs in which individuals have control over their own retirement and medical accounts and have the flexibility to design them to meet their needs. Other countries have proved it can be done.

If every member of Congress and Washington policymaker would read the books by Mr. Tanzi and Mr. Ferrara and act upon their recommendations, our fiscal and entitlement mess would soon be part of a dark past.

Richard W. Rahn is a senior fellow at the Cato Institute and chairman of the Institute for Global Economic Growth.





May 26, 2012

Let’s Be Less Productive
By TIM JACKSON

Sophia Martineck

HAS the pursuit of labor productivity reached its limit?

Productivity — the amount of output delivered per hour of work in the economy — is often viewed as the engine of progress in modern capitalist economies. Output is everything. Time is money. The quest for increased productivity occupies reams of academic literature and haunts the waking hours of C.E.O.’s and finance ministers. Perhaps forgivably so: our ability to generate more output with fewer people has lifted our lives out of drudgery and delivered us a cornucopia of material wealth.

But the relentless drive for productivity may also have some natural limits. Ever-increasing productivity means that if our economies don’t continue to expand, we risk putting people out of work. If more is possible each passing year with each working hour, then either output has to increase or else there is less work to go around. Like it or not, we find ourselves hooked on growth.

What, then, should happen when, for one reason or another, growth just isn’t to be had anymore? Maybe it’s a financial crisis. Or rising prices for resources like oil. Or the need to rein in growth for the damage it’s inflicting on the planet: climate change, deforestation, the loss of biodiversity. Maybe it’s any of the reasons growth can no longer be safely and easily assumed in any of today’s economies. The result is the same. Increasing productivity threatens full employment.

One solution would be to accept the productivity increases, shorten the workweek and share the available work. Such proposals — familiar since the 1930s — are now enjoying something of a revival in the face of continuing recession. The New Economics Foundation, a British think tank, proposes a 21-hour workweek. It may not be the workaholic’s choice. But it’s certainly a strategy worth thinking about.

But there’s another strategy for keeping people in work when demand stagnates. Perhaps in the long run it’s an easier and a more compelling solution: to loosen our grip on the relentless pursuit of productivity. By easing up on the gas pedal of efficiency and creating jobs in what are traditionally seen as “low productivity” sectors, we have within our grasp the means to maintain or increase employment, even when the economy stagnates.

At first, this may sound crazy; we’ve become so conditioned by the language of efficiency. But there are sectors of the economy where chasing productivity growth doesn’t make sense at all. Certain kinds of tasks rely inherently on the allocation of people’s time and attention. The caring professions are a good example: medicine, social work, education. Expanding our economies in these directions has all sorts of advantages.

In the first place, the time spent by these professions directly improves the quality of our lives. Making them more and more efficient is not, after a certain point, actually desirable. What sense does it make to ask our teachers to teach ever bigger classes? Our doctors to treat more and more patients per hour? The Royal College of Nursing in Britain warned recently that front-line staff members in the National Health Service are now being “stretched to breaking point,” in the wake of staffing cuts, while a study earlier this year in the Journal of Professional Nursing revealed a worrying decline in empathy among student nurses coping with time targets and efficiency pressures. Instead of imposing meaningless productivity targets, we should be aiming to enhance and protect not only the value of the care but also the experience of the caregiver.

The care and concern of one human being for another is a peculiar “commodity.” It can’t be stockpiled. It becomes degraded through trade. It isn’t delivered by machines. Its quality rests entirely on the attention paid by one person to another. Even to speak of reducing the time involved is to misunderstand its value.

Care is not the only profession deserving renewed attention as a source of economic employment. Craft is another. It is the accuracy and detail inherent in crafted goods that endows them with lasting value. It is the time and attention paid by the carpenter, the seamstress and the tailor that makes this detail possible. The same is true of the cultural sector: it is the time spent practicing, rehearsing and performing that gives music, for instance, its enduring appeal. What — aside from meaningless noise — would be gained by asking the New York Philharmonic to play Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony faster and faster each year?

The endemic modern tendency to streamline or phase out such professions highlights the lunacy at the heart of the growth-obsessed, resource-intensive consumer economy. Low productivity is seen as a disease. A whole set of activities that could provide meaningful work and contribute valuable services to the community are denigrated because they involve employing people to work with devotion, patience and attention.

But people often achieve a greater sense of well-being and fulfillment, both as producers and consumers of such activities, than they ever do in the time-poor, materialistic supermarket economy in which most of our lives are spent. And here perhaps is the most remarkable thing of all: since these activities are built around the value of human services rather than the relentless outpouring of material stuff, they offer a half-decent chance of making the economy more environmentally sustainable.

Of course, a transition to a low-productivity economy won’t happen by wishful thinking. It demands careful attention to incentive structures — lower taxes on labor and higher taxes on resource consumption and pollution, for example. It calls for more than just lip service to concepts of patient-centered care and student-centered learning. It requires the dismantling of perverse productivity targets and a serious investment in skills and training. In short, avoiding the scourge of unemployment may have less to do with chasing after growth and more to do with building an economy of care, craft and culture. And in doing so, restoring the value of decent work to its rightful place at the heart of society.

Tim Jackson is a professor of sustainable development at the University of Surrey and the author of “Prosperity Without Growth: Economics for a Finite Planet.”




Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung    30. Juli 2012

Sahra Wagenknecht und Michael Hudson im Gespräch
Nicht der Euro wird gerettet, sondern eine Ideologie

Er ist Leo Trotzkis Patensohn, der Eispickel, mit dem der Revolutionär ermordet wurde, gehörte seiner Tante: Michael Hudson, Kopf der Occupy-Bewegung, trifft auf Sahra Wagenknecht von der Linken.
Sahra Wagenknecht und Michael Hudson, die Weite des Hosenbunds seines ehemaligen Chefs Herman Kahn andeutend, im Berliner Redaktionsgebäude der F.A.Z. © Jens Gyarmaty

Sahra Wagenknecht ist unseren Lesern bekannt. Bei Ihnen, Michael Hudson, ist das noch nicht in dem Maße der Fall. Könnten Sie uns erzählen, woher Sie kommen und was Sie geprägt hat?

HUDSON: Ich bin in Minneapolis geboren und groß geworden, dem Zentrum der amerikanischen Arbeiterbewegung. Minnesota hatte einen Gouverneur namens Floyd Olson, der den Kapitalismus zur Hölle wünschte. Mein Vater war einer der Führer der amerikanischen Trotzkisten und kam dafür ins Gefängnis. Roosevelt und Stalin hatten zuvor einen Deal geschlossen: Wenn die amerikanischen Trotzkisten verfolgt würden, gäbe es auch keine Streiks in Kriegszeiten. Es hingen auch viele Genossen bei uns zu Hause herum, Exilanten aus Russland und Europa, auch solche, die noch Karl Liebknecht und Rosa Luxemburg gekannt hatten. Die habe ich als Kind sehr bewundert und mir vorgenommen, später auch mal die „Universität der Revolution“ zu besuchen, also ins Gefängnis zu gehen. Das ist mir, wie ich zu meiner Schande gestehen muss, aber noch nicht gelungen. Leo Trotzki war mein Taufpate. Der Eispickel, mit dem er ermordet wurde, gehörte übrigens meiner Tante. Aber das ist eine andere Geschichte.

Ihr Leben ist wirklich der Stoff für einen Roman. Später haben Sie für Herman Kahn gearbeitet, den berühmten Kybernetiker und Zukunftsforscher.

HUDSON: Kahn war ja ein Stratege und Militärtheoretiker, der ein gutes Buch über nukleare Kriegsführung geschrieben hatte, schlicht clausewitzianisch „Vom Nuklearkrieg“ genannt. In ihm stand, dass und wie man einen Atomkrieg überleben und gewinnen kann. Er wurde zum Vorbild für „Doktor Seltsam“ in Stanley Kubricks gleichnamigem Film mit dem Untertitel „Wie ich lernte die Bombe zu lieben“. Kahn wog vierhundert Pfund! Einmal, auf Reisen in Paris, sollte ich ihm seine Hose reichen und konnte meine Arme gar nicht weit genug ausspannen, um die Taille ganz zu fassen. Er litt an Narkolepsie. Manchmal schlief er im Restaurant ein, dann fiel sein Gesicht auf den Teller. Dort wachte er kurz darauf wieder auf und führte aus, wie glänzend unsere Zukunftsaussichten seien und dass bald alle Menschen so leben und essen könnten wie er. Dabei tropfte Soße von seinem Gesicht auf die Krawatte. Alle, die dabei waren, gingen anschließend auf Diät. Wir entwickelten bald unterschiedliche Ansichten über das Wesen des Kapitalismus, insbesondere über die Wirkung des Zinseszinses, und trennten uns. Allerdings übernahm ich die meisten seiner Kunden und beriet sie mit Erfolg. Davon konnte ich mir eine Sammlung tibetanischer Kunst kaufen und Immobilien, was es mir ermöglicht, unabhängig zu bleiben und mich dem Schreiben zu widmen.

Wir wollten heute über Europa in der Staatsschuldenkrise sprechen und die Frage, ob dies nicht auch die Krise einer bestimmten Rationalität ist, eine Krise des Denkens. Wie beurteilen Sie denn die Lage, Frau Wagenknecht?

WAGENKNECHT: Ich finde die Lage sehr beängstigend, weil ich glaube, dass man in Europa auf dem völlig falschen Weg ist. Er führt nicht zur Rettung Europas, er hat ja schon nicht zur Rettung der Griechen geführt. Griechenland ist ärmer und kaputter als zu Beginn der vermeintlichen Hilfen. Es hat auch mehr Schulden als damals. All das sollte uns davon abhalten, diesen Weg weiterzugehen. Bald wird es heißen, die Rettungsmilliarden für die Griechen seien alle verbrannt. Doch das stimmt nicht. Das Geld ist nicht weg, es hat nur den Besitzer gewechselt. Aus dem Geld der Steuerzahler sind private Vermögen geworden. Denn die meisten Mittel wurden dafür verwandt, private Gläubiger, also Banken, Hedgefonds, reiche Privatanleger, Spekulanten, vor Verlusten zu schützen, indem man ihnen ermöglicht hat, Geld für Anleihen, die am Markt noch vierzig Prozent wert waren, zu hundert Prozent zurückzubekommen. Auch die exorbitanten Zinsen, für die sich Griechenland 2009 und Anfang 2010 refinanzieren musste, wurden mit dem Geld der europäischen Steuerzahler beglichen. Der einzige Posten im Budget von Griechenland, der lange Zeit von allen Kürzungsdiktaten befreit blieb, waren ausgerechnet die Zinszahlungen. Und selbst nach der sogenannten Gläubigerbeteiligung haben die Anleger immer noch sehr viel mehr bekommen, als ihr Investment am Markt wert war. Jetzt werden die griechischen Banken mit europäischem Steuergeld saniert. Das ist, glaube ich, das Entscheidende: Die Euro-Rettung wird, so, wie sie bisher praktiziert wurde, nicht den Euro retten, aber sie hat schon jetzt sehr viele Euros in den Portfolios reicher Leute in Griechenland und anderswo gerettet.

Rationalisiert wird dieses Vorgehen mit dem Gedanken, dass mit den Bankern auch deren Kunden, die vielen kleinen Sparer gerettet, werden.

WAGENKNECHT: Das ist eine Legende. Es geht um die Rettung der großen Spieler, nicht der Kleinanleger. Am Ende müssen die gigantischen Schulden, die es aktuell gibt, private wie öffentliche, ohnehin entwertet werden. Wir haben jetzt über Jahrzehnte ein Schuldenwachstum erlebt, das weit über dem realwirtschaftlichen Wachstum lag. Damit ist ein Schuldenberg entstanden, dessen Zinsansprüche nicht mehr bedient werden können.

Kurzfristig sicher nicht, aber - nur, um das zu verstehen, warum nicht in einem oder zwei Jahrhunderten?

WAGENKNECHT: Unwahrscheinlich, denn das ist ja die Logik von exponentiellen Wachstumsfunktionen: Sie wachsen immer schneller. Heute werden die Zinsen alter Schulden fast nur noch durch neue Schulden finanziert. Aber das verschärft das Problem immer weiter. Lange Zeit war es so, dass die Banken, dank deregulierter Finanzmärkte, das Schuldenwachstum finanziert und damit unverschämte Gewinne gemacht haben. 2008 war damit weitgehend Schluss. Seitdem werden die Schulden der Banken sozialisiert, das heißt, auf den Steuerzahler übertragen. Das im Zuge des vorangegangenen Finanzmarktbooms entstandene Vermögen wird dagegen in keiner Weise haftbar gemacht. So sind die Staatsschulden überall drastisch angestiegen, in einigen Ländern bis an die Grenze der Tragfähigkeit. Im Rahmen der Euro-Rettungsschirme werden jetzt die Schulden dieser Länder auf die noch solventen Staaten übertragen. Nach den letzten Gipfelbeschlüssen sollen jetzt sogar ihre Banken direkt mit europäischem Steuergeld gestützt werden. Die Banken untereinander trauen sich längst nicht mehr, weil sie wissen, dass viele von ihnen durch waghalsige Geschäfte praktisch pleite sind. Ein Zeichen für dieses Misstrauen sind die berühmten Target-Salden der Zentralbanken. Das alles zeigt, wie sich die Probleme zuspitzen. Natürlich kann man so lange Schulden vergemeinschaften und dadurch Zeit kaufen, solange es noch mindestens einen solventen Retter gibt. Aber selbst Deutschland hat inzwischen eine Schuldenquote von mehr als achtzig Prozent, und wenn die Milliardenbeträge, für die wir bereits heute haften, fällig werden, gehen wir stramm auf hundert Prozent zu. Das muss im Crash enden.

HUDSON: Statt der Banken wird eine Ideologie gerettet, nämlich jene, dass all die Schulden irgendwann tatsächlich zurückgezahlt werden müssen. Doch das Problem kann auch ganz anders gelöst werden.

Banken und Versicherungen haben aber auf Staatsanleihen vertraut. Wenn die nun ihren Wert einbüßen, dann kollabieren doch auch diese Institute, mit fürchterlichen Folgen für Sparer und Versicherte. Was antworten Sie darauf?

HUDSON: Das ist falsch. Schon einen Tag nach dem Schuldenschnitt könnten die Banken und die Versicherungen ihre wichtigen Funktionen wiederaufnehmen. Die Chefin der amerikanischen Einlagensicherung, Sheila Bair, hat das mal ausführlich erklärt. Sie hätte beispielsweise die Einlagen der sehr leichtsinnigen Citibank retten, die normalen Bankfunktionen bewahren und die problematischen Zweige der Bank schließen können. Verluste hätten nur die Zocker an der Spitze erlitten. Ähnlich bei AIG; die Regierung hätte das Unternehmen schließen und zugleich alle wichtigen Funktionen retten können. Man rettet in Wahrheit die Interessen des oberen Prozents. Wenn wir in der Logik der Sozialisierung von Schulden und Privatisierung von Gewinnen weitermachen, dann ist der Preis für die sogenannte Bankenrettung die Zerstörung der Gesellschaft.

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Eine wichtige Rolle in diesem Prozess spielt ja die Europäische Zentralbank, deren Aufgabe Sie, Herr Hudson, ganz anders beschreiben als etwa die Bundeskanzlerin oder andere Wirtschaftswissenschaftler. Wie kommen Sie zu Ihrer Auffassung?

HUDSON: Dazu muss man einen Blick in die Geschichte werfen: Im Jahre 1694 wurde die Bank of England gegründet, die amerikanische Federal Reserve 1913. Die historisch wichtigste Funktion solch einer Bank ist es, die Defizite der Staaten zu finanzieren, und zwar durch das Drucken von Geld. Alle Staaten entwickeln Haushaltsdefizite, weil sie die Wirtschaft stimulieren, Infrastruktur bezahlen und anderes mehr. Wenn die Zentralbanken das Defizit nicht übernehmen, dann fällt diese Aufgabe den Geschäftsbanken zu, die ja ebenso Geld per Computer generieren, nämlich über die Kredite, die sie verkaufen. Das bleibt nicht ohne Folgen für die Verbraucher, denn alles wird zur potentiellen Sicherheit und dadurch teurer. Mit der Entwicklung von Infrastruktur haben die Geschäftsbanken eigentlich gar nichts mehr am Hut. Sie sind zu Spielhallen geworden, die die riskanten Wetten finanzieren, oftmals zu Lasten bestehender Unternehmen übrigens, die ausgenommen werden, um die Kosten ihres Ankaufs zu amortisieren. Banken fördern die Deindustrialisierung.

WAGENKNECHT: Genau dies beobachten wir in diesem Jahr. Man hatte ja Anfang des Jahres eine leichte Entspannung in Italien und Spanien dadurch erkauft, dass die europäische Zentralbank insgesamt eine Billion Euro in das Bankensystem gepumpt hat. Von dieser Billion ist ein Bruchteil tatsächlich in Staatsanleihen investiert worden. Dadurch sind die Renditen vorübergehend gesunken, und für die Banken war es ein wunderbares Geschäft. Sie bekamen Geld für ein Prozent und verleihen es für fünf oder sechs Prozent. Aber ein großer Teil des Geldes ist in die Spekulation geflossen. In der Folge sind die Aktienmärkte, der Rohölpreis und die Lebensmittelpreise nach oben geschossen. Dieses Vorgehen ist fatal. So wird das Monster der Spekulation immer weiter gefüttert. Man sieht im Moment auch, dass die Banken und die wirklich Reichen sich auf einen Währungs-Crash vorbereiten und sogenannte Realwerte kaufen. Die Gefahr für den Kleinanleger bleibt hingegen bestehen: Wenn der Euro zerfällt, kann der Kleinanleger tatsächlich alles verlieren.

Wenn die Zentralbank aber die staatlichen Defizite finanziert statt der Geschäftsbanken, droht uns dann nicht das deutsche Schreckgespenst der Inflation? Dann würde der kleine Bankkunde ja wieder seine Ersparnisse verlieren.

HUDSON: Lassen Sie uns doch einfach die historischen Fakten betrachten. Seit 2008 erleben wir die größte Geldschöpfung in der Geschichte. Allein in Amerika wurden Rekordsummen aufgenommen, um die Banken zu retten. Und dennoch hatten wir in dieser Zeit keine Inflation. Die Zentralbanken haben wenig Einfluss auf die Preise von Gütern des täglichen Bedarfs oder von Immobilien, wohl aber die Geschäftsbanken. Sie setzen eine gut messbare Preisspirale in Gang. Und was die deutsche Hyperinflation angeht, dazu könnte ich leicht eine Vorlesung halten. Hier dominieren falsche Begriffe und Missverständnisse. Hyperinflation ist nie ein binnenwirtschaftliches Phänomen; sie entsteht nur durch Ungleichgewichte der Währungen und im internationalen Zahlungsverkehr, aber nicht dadurch, dass eine Zentralbank zu viel Geld ausgibt, um Brücken und Straßen zu bauen. Dazu gibt es viele Beispiele, vor allem Chile und Russland.

WAGENKNECHT: Ich bin ganz Ihrer Meinung. Wenn Zentralbankinterventionen Inflation hervorrufen würden, hätten wir zum Beispiel in Japan längst Hyperinflation. Dort hat die Japanische Zentralbank seit Jahren japanische Staatsanleihen gekauft, und das Land litt trotzdem unter hartnäckiger Deflation. Heute bekommen die Staaten das Geld für ihre Defizite von den Banken, die es sich bei der Europäischen Zentralbank leihen. Wenn die Staaten das gleiche Geld direkt von der Europäischen Zentralbank leihen würden, wären die Defizite nicht größer, sie wären sogar kleiner, weil die Staaten deutlich weniger Zinsen zahlen müssten. Der einzige Unterschied zwischen beiden Systemen ist: Bei dem einen System verdienen die privaten Banken, nämlich an der Zinsdifferenz, bei dem anderen System nicht. Und deswegen gibt es ein klares Geschäftsinteresse des Finanzsektors, das System so zu lassen, wie es ist. Eine andere brisante Frage ist, ob die Geldschöpfung nicht generell viel rationaler über die Staaten stattfinden könnte. Wenn man weiter Milliarden an Zentralbankgeld ins Finanzsystem pumpt, die dann zum großen Teil die Spekulation aufblähen, ist das viel gefährlicher, als den Staaten innerhalb bestimmter Limits billiges Geld zur Verfügung zu stellen, mit dem sie dann sinnvolle Investitionen finanzieren. Das tun die privaten Großbanken nämlich kaum noch.

Was halten Sie angesichts der Hermetik solcher interessegeleiteter Prozesse von der These, wir würden uns einem postdemokratischen Zeitalter nähern?

WAGENKNECHT: Das stimmt. Wenn die Staaten derart am Gängelband der Finanzmärkte hängen, ist Demokratie gar nicht möglich. Und wir erleben ja in Europa aktuell eine brutale Politik gegen die Interessen der großen Mehrheit.

HUDSON: Wir befinden uns in einer vorrevolutionären Situation. Eine Bewegung wie Occupy ist da sehr wichtig, weil sie eine ganz andere pädagogische Agenda betreibt und verbreitet. Viele Leute sind ja unzufrieden, sehen sich aber außerstande, neue Regeln zu entwerfen oder zu erfinden. Darum braucht man die Arbeit von Occupy, und zwar am besten dort, wo das Problem sitzt, an der Wall Street.





August 10, 2012

Down With Shareholder Value
By JOE NOCERA

I’ve been known to say that I was present at the creation of “shareholder value.”

It’s an exaggeration, of course. But in 1982 — literally half a lifetime ago for me — I wrote an article about the first big takeover attempt by T. Boone Pickens. One of his central justifications for the takeover movement that he helped spawn was that company managements didn’t care enough about the company’s owners, a k a the shareholders. Their cash-based compensation wasn’t properly aligned with the desires of shareholders. Shareholders, he believed, need to assert their primacy — and force executives to start paying attention to the price of their companies’ stock. I later learned that Pickens was not the first person to make this argument — academics had already created the theory that undergirds it. But, at the time, it was still a pretty radical view.

As the expression goes, be careful what you wish for. Shareholder value has long since become the mantra of the business culture. Corporate boards shower executives with stock options to “align” them with shareholders. “Underperforming” companies find themselves under siege from activist investors. Increasing shareholder involvement is viewed as the way to fix whatever ails corporate governance. Over time, “maximizing shareholder value” became viewed as the primary task of the corporation.

And, well, you can see the results all around you. They’re not pretty. Too many chief executives succumb to the pressure to boost short-term earnings at the expense of long-term value creation. After all, their compensation depends on it. In the lead-up to the financial crisis — to take just one extreme example — financial institutions took on far too much risk in search of easy profits that would lead to a higher stock price.

Now, though, it feels as if we are at the dawn of a new movement — one aimed at overturning the hegemony of shareholder value. Lynn Stout, a Cornell University law professor, has written a new book, “The Shareholder Value Myth,” in which she argues that there is nothing in the law that supports the idea that shareholders should be the only constituency that matters. Other academics, such as Roger Martin, the highly regarded dean of the Rotman School of Management at the University of Toronto, are critical of the emphasis on shareholder value. A number of chief executives, such as Howard Schultz of Starbucks, have said that companies need to have a larger purpose than merely raising the stock price.

And, most recently, in the Harvard Business Review, Jay W. Lorsch, a professor at Harvard Business School, and Justin Fox, the editorial director of the HBR Group (and a former colleague of mine at Fortune), published an article entitled, “What Good Are Shareholders?” Not much, is their answer.

One of their arguments is that the calls for increased shareholder democracy are misguided; shareholders, they write, simply aren’t particularly well-suited to be “corporate bosses.” They are too diffuse, and too short-term-oriented, especially now that high-frequency trading dominates the market. Indeed, despite the increased emphasis on shareholders the past few decades, companies haven’t gotten noticeably better.

A second argument, though, is that the central idea that led us to elevate shareholders above all others is off-base. According to the reigning academic theory, shareholders are “principals” and management serves as their “agent.” Thus, it is the job of the principals to keep the agents in line. But, said Fox, “The more you treat executives that way, the more they are going to act like mercenaries, and the more they get away from seeing themselves as stewards of an organization with lasting value.”

“Look at almost any company that has lasted,” he continued. “It is inevitably because executives see themselves as trying to move the organization forward, and not because they are incented by their pay package to maximize the share price.”

Lorsch, for his part, says that he believes that “the function of business in a society is not just a return to investors, but to provide goods and services, provide employment, pay taxes, and so on.” A half-dozen other business school professors I spoke to held similar views. To the extent this new movement is taking root, it is in business schools.

Still, it is hard to know yet whether this new movement will have legs. Measuring chief executives on the basis of their companies’ stock prices is easy to understand — that was always part of its appeal. Those who want to change that, including Lorsch and Fox, have struggled to come up with breakthrough ideas that would be similarly appealing. Besides, shareholder value is so deeply entrenched, it will be difficult to dislodge.

On the other hand, the other day, Marissa Mayer, the new chief executive at Yahoo, ordered that the stock ticker be removed from the company’s internal home page. “I want you thinking about users,” she told employees, according to The Wall Street Journal.

That’s progress.




World Economic Review     Vol #1.September 12, 2012

Incorporating the Rentier Sectors into a Financial Model
by Dirk Bezemer and Michael Hudson

ABSTRACT
Current macroeconomics ignores the roles that rent, debt and the financial sector play in shaping our economy. We discuss the Classical view on rents and policy responses to the rentier sector in the 19th century. The finance, insurance & real estate sector is today’s incarnation of the rentier sector. This paper shows how financial flows can be conceptually and statistically studied separately from (but interacting with) the real sector. We discuss finance’s interaction with government and with the international economy.


1. Introduction
Now that the Bubble Economy has given way to debt deflation, the world is discovering the shortcoming of models that fail to explain how most credit creation today (1) inflates asset prices without raising commodity prices or wage levels, and (2) creates a reciprocal flow of debt service. This debt service tends to rise as a proportion of personal and business income, outgrowing the ability of debtors to pay – leading to (3) debt deflation. The only way to prevent this phenomenon from plunging economies into depression and keeping them there is (4) to write down the debts so as to free revenue for spending once again on goods and services.

By promoting a misleading view of how the economy works, the above omissions lead to a policy that fails to prevent debt bubbles or deal effectively with the ensuing depression. To avoid a replay of the recent financial crisis – and indeed, to extricate economies from their present debt strait-jacket that subordinates recovery to the overhang of creditor claims (that is, saving the banks from taking a loss on their bad loans and gambles) – it is necessary to explain how credit creation inflates housing and other asset prices, while interest and other financial charges deflate the “real” economy, holding down commodity prices, shrinking markets and employment, and holding down wages in a downward economic spiral. We are dealing with two price trends that go in opposite directions: asset prices and commodity prices. It therefore is necessary to explain how credit expansion pushes asset prices up while simultaneously causing debt deflation.

Yet the typical MV=PT monetary and price model focused on commodity prices and wages, not on the asset prices inflated by debt leveraging. Similarly, today’s ‘Dynamic Stochastic General Equilibrium’ (or DSGE) models are characterized by the “absence of an appropriate way of modeling financial markets” (Tovar 2008:p.29). While Schumpeter (1934:95) already noted that “processes in terms of means of payment are not merely reflexes of processes in terms of goods. In every possible strain, with rare unanimity, even with impatience and moral and intellectual indignation, a very long line of theorists have assured us of the opposite”, this finds no place in DSGE models or, for that matter macroeconomics in the last decades. Cecchetti et al (2011:p.2) describe current practice in writing that “for a macroeconomist working to construct a theoretical structure for understanding the economy as a whole, debt is … trivial … because (in a closed economy) it is net zero – the liabilities of all borrowers always exactly match the assets of all lenders. … With no active role for money, integrating credit in the mainstream framework has proven to be difficult.“ And yet credit and its counterpart, debt, have shaped our economic systems since prehistory (Hudson 2004). Understanding how credit is used is therefore a sine qua non for understanding our economy. That requires, in turn, to think about a fundamentally different model which can replace DGSE type models as the standard for analysis. Only then can the ’naked emperor be dethroned’ (Keen 2011).

2. Finance is not The economy
In the real world most credit today is spent to buy assets already in place, not to create new productive capacity. Some 80 percent of bank loans in the English-speaking world are real estate mortgages, and much of the balance is lent against stocks and bonds already issued. Banks lend to buyers of real estate, corporate raiders, ambitious financial empire-builders, and to management for debt-leveraged buyouts. A first approximation of this trend is to chart the share of bank lending that goes to the ‘Fire, Insurance and Real Estate’ sector, aka the nonbank financial sector. Graph 1 shows that its ratio to GDP has quadrupled since the 1950s. The contrast is with lending to the real sector, which has remained about constant relative to GDP. This is how our debt burden has grown.

Graph 1: Private debt growth is due to lending to the FIRE sector: the US, 1952-2007

Source: Bezemer (2012) based on US flow of fund data, BEA ‘Z’ tables.

What is true for America is true for many other countries: mortgage lending and other household debt have been ‘the final stage in an artificially extended Ponzi Bubble’ as Keen (2009) shows for Australia. Extending credit to purchase assets already in place bids up their price. Prospective homebuyers need to take on larger mortgages to obtain a home. The effect is to turn property rents into a flow of mortgage interest. These payments divert the revenue of consumers and businesses from being spent on consumption or new capital investment. The effect is deflationary for the economy’s product markets, and hence consumer prices and employment, and therefore wages. This is why we had a long period of low cpi inflation but skyrocketing asset price inflation. The two trends are linked.

Debt-leveraged buyouts and commercial real estate purchases turn business cash flow (ebitda: earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization) into interest payments. Likewise, bank or bondholder financing of public debt (especially in the Eurozone, which lacks a central bank to monetize such debt) has turned a rising share of tax revenue into interest payments. As creditors recycle their receipts of interest and amortization (and capital gains) into new lending to buyers of real estate, stocks and bonds, a rising share of employee income, real estate rent, business revenue and even government tax revenue is diverted to pay debt service. By leaving less to spend on goods and services, the effect is to reduce new investment and employment. Contemporary evidence for major OECD economies since the 1980s shows that rising capital gains may indeed divert finance away from the real sector’s productivity growth (Stockhammer 2004) and more generally that ‘financialization‘ (Epstein 2005) has hurt growth and incomes. Money created for capital gains has a small propensity to be spent by their rentier owners on goods and services, so that an increasing proportion of the economy’s money flows are diverted to circulation in the financial sector. Wages do not increase, even as prices for property and financial securities rise – just the well-known trend that we have seen in the Western world since the 1970s, and which persists into the post-2001 Bubble Economy.

It is especially the case since 1991 in the post-Soviet economies, where neoliberal (that is, pro-financial) policy makers have had a free hand to shape tax and financial policy in favor of banks (mainly foreign bank branches). Latvia is cited as a neoliberal success story, but it would be hard to find an example where rentier income and prices have diverged more sharply from wages and the “real” production economy.

The more credit creation takes the form of inflating asset prices – rather than financing purchases of goods and services or direct investment employing labor – the more deflationary its effects are on the “real” economy of production and consumption. Housing and other asset prices crash, causing negative equity. Yet homeowners and businesses still have to pay off their debts. The national income accounts classify this pay-down as “saving,” although the revenue is not available to the debtors doing the “saving” by “deleveraging.”

The moral is that using homes as what Alan Greenspan referred to as “piggy banks”, to take out home-equity loans, was not really like drawing down a bank account at all. When a bank account is drawn down there is less money available, but no residual obligation to pay. New income can be spent at the discretion of its recipient. But borrowing against a home implies an obligation to set aside future income to pay the banker – and hence a loss of future discretionary spending.

3. Towards a model of financialized economies
Creating a more realistic model of today’s financialized economies to trace this phenomenon requires a breakdown of the national income and product accounts (NIPA) to see the economy as a set of distinct sectors interacting with each other. These accounts juxtapose the private and public sectors as far as current spending, saving and taxation is concerned. But the implication is that government budget deficits inflate the private-sector economy as a whole.

However, a budget deficit that takes the form of transfer payments to banks, as in the case of the post-September 2008 bank bailout, the Federal Reserve’s $2 trillion in cash-for-trash financial swaps and the $700 billion QE2 credit creation by the Federal Reserve to lend to banks at 0.25% interest in 2011, has a different effect from deficits that reflect social spending programs, Social Security and Medicare, public infrastructure investment or the purchase of other goods and services.

The effect of transfer payments to the financial sector – as well as the $5.3 trillion increase in U.S. Treasury debt from taking Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac onto the public balance sheet – is to support asset prices (above all those of the banking system), not inflate commodity prices and wages. Similarly, the 2009 ‘quantitative easing’ policy in Britain confused loans used in the real economy (which were stagnating or falling throughout the experiment) with boosting bank balances with the Bank of England which quadrupled over 2009 (Graph 3). Bezemer and Gardiner (2010) show that neither bank loans nor spending nor GDP increased noticeably during or after the exercise, but there was a curious stock market rally during 2009.

A London Stock Exchange press release on 29 December 2009 reported that “a record £82.5 billion was raised through new and further issues of equity on the London Stock Exchange during the course of 2009… despite difficult market conditions”. Finance is not the economy.

Graph 2: ‘Quantitative Easing’ in Britain increased bank reserves (right hand axis), but not lending to the real sector(left-hand axis) (bln Pound Sterling)

Source: Bezemer (2012) based on Bank of England data and author’s calculations

Most models treat the international sector either as a “leakage” (as Keynes termed foreign trade and capital flows) or as a balancing item in the private/public sector surplus or shortfall (as in the Levy Institute model – see Zezza 2009 for an analytical description). But the international sector involves not only export and import trade and other current account items (emigrants’ remittances, and above all, military spending) but also foreign investment and income – and foreign central bank reserves held in U.S. Treasury and other securities, that is, loans to the U.S. Government.

Capital flows have swollen enormously since the turn of the millennium, and they have increasingly been matched by outflows of investments into dollar-denominated assets held both by private citizens and their governments. This was facilitated by new investment vehicles such as Sovereign Wealth Funds (SWFs). UNCTAD (2011: p. 119) reports 25 newly established SWFs since 2000 only. Thanks to capital inflows, the capital account is now moving independently from the current account. It is not as if the buildup of international savings requires current account surpluses. Even developing countries with current account deficits had accumulated foreign reserves as well as private investments in enormous quantities at the eve of the crisis, as Obstfeld (2008) reports. At the heart of this is the U.S. economy and its financial markets. For instance, U.S. consumers and businesses ran a trade deficit, and banks used the entire $700 billion QE2 supply of Fed credit for foreign currency arbitrage and other international speculation, not for lending to the domestic U.S. economy. But the U.S. Treasury received an inflow from foreign central banks building up their dollar reserves by buying Treasury securities and other U.S. financial securities.

Fig. 1: Private sector, government sector, international sector

This model can be used to trace U.S. transactions with China. The economy runs a trade deficit with China, and also a private-sector investment outflow to China. There is some return of earnings from these investments to U.S. companies. But on balance, there is a dollar outflow to China – which also receives dollars from its exports to third countries. China’s central bank has recycled most of these dollar receipts to the U.S. Treasury (and earlier, into Fannie Mae bonds and kindred investments), but was not permitted to buy U.S. companies such as Unocal’s refinery operations.

Fig. 1A: U.S. transactions with China, private and government sectors

This public/private/international model may be made more realistic by treating the financial, insurance and real estate (FIRE) sector as distinct from the underlying production and consumption economy, as motivated in Graph 1.

4. The FIRE sector, rents, and the Progressive response
The FIRE sector deals with the economy’s balance sheet of assets and debts, real estate, stocks and bonds, mortgages and other bank loans – and the payment of interest, money management commissions and other fees to the financial sector, as well as insurance payments and also rental payments for housing. The FIRE sector is today’s form that the rentier class takes. Rentiers are those who benefit from control over assets that the economy needs to function, and who, therefore, grow disproportionately rich as the economy develops. These proceeds are rents – revenues from ownership “without working, risking, or economizing”, as John Stuart Mill (1848) wrote of the landlords of his day, explaining that ‘they grow richer, as it were in their sleep’. Classical economics from Adam Smith onwards analysed rents, its effects, and policies towards rents, but the very concept is lost in today’s economics.

Just as landlords were the archetypal rentiers of their agricultural societies, so investors, financiers and bankers are in the largest rentier sector of today’s financialized economies: finance controls the economy’s engine of growth, which is credit in all its forms. Economies obviously need banking services, insurance services, and real estate development and so, of course, not all of finance is ‘without working, risking, or economizing’. The problem today remains what it was in the 13th century: how to isolate what is socially necessary for “retail” banking – processing payments by checks and credit cards, deciding how to re-lend savings and new credit under normal (non-speculative) conditions – from extortionate charges such as 29% interest on credit cards, penalty fees and other charges in excess of what is socially necessary cost-value.

In principle, all monopolies should be included in this rentier sector, as they represent a special privilege (control over markets, especially for necessities) whose return in the form of prices and income in excess of necessary costs of production is a form of economic rent, that is, a transfer payment rather than “earned” income. But statistically there is no practical way to isolate monopoly rent in the NIPA, as this would include a large part of the information technology sector, pharmaceuticals, and much “industry.” The ideal conceptual framework for statistics would be to separate economic rent from underlying cost value.

Classical political economists from the Physiocrats through Adam Smith, John Stuart Mill and their Progressive Era followers were reformers in the sense that they treated the rentier sectors as extracting transfer payments rather than earning a return for producing actual output (“services”). Their labor theory of value found its counterpart in the “economic rent theory of prices” to distinguish the necessary costs of production and doing business (reduced ultimately to the value of labor) from “unearned income” consisting mainly of land rent, monopoly rent, and financial interest and fees. The various categories of rentier income were depicted as the “hollow” element of prices.

Land rent, natural resource rent, monopoly rent and returns to privilege (including financial interest and fees) had no counterpart in necessary costs of production. They were historical and institutional products of privileges handed down largely from the medieval conquests that created Europe’s landed aristocracy and banking practice that developed largely by insider dealing, legitimized by lending to kings to finance war debts in an epoch when money and credit were the sinews of war. So banking as well as military rivalries for land essentially involved the foreign sector. Mill (1848) asked “What claim have they, on the general principle of social justice, to this accession of riches? In what would they have been wronged if society had, from the beginning, reserved the right of taxing the spontaneous increase of rent, to the highest amount required by financial exigencies?”

The political aim of classical analysis, then, was to minimize the economy’s cost structure by freeing industrial capitalism from these carry-overs from feudalism. The reformers’ guiding idea was to minimize the role of rentier income (economic rent) by public investment, tax policy and regulation. We consider these in turn:

(1) direct public investment in basic infrastructure, including education, transportation systems, communication systems and other enterprises that were long kept in the public domain or publicly regulated from the late 19th century onward. The premier example of this is the French Crédit Mobilier bank founded by followers of the Count de Saint-Simon (1760–1825), who inspired key Classical economists including Karl Marx and John Stuart Mill.

The Crédit Mobilier bank, founded in 1852, was named in contrast to the common mortgage bank (Sociétés du Crédit Foncier) or land banks, which lent money on the security of immovable property. The Crédit Mobilier aimed to loan to the owners of movable property and so to promote industrial enterprise, mining and the construction of railways and other infrastructure. Today, the bulk of bank lending is again to real estate and other property already in existence, not for the creation of new productive capacity and innovation of production processes. We need Crédit Mobilier – type financial institutions.

(2) tax policy (taxing land and natural resources). Here the foremost Classical-era name is Henry George (1839-1897). In his Progress and Poverty (1879) he observed that much of the wealth created by social and technological advances is captured by landowners and other monopolists via economic rents. This concentration of ‘unearned’ income – which strictly speaking is not income, though it is a revenue stream – in the hands of the few is, according to George, the cause of increasing poverty precisely in those areas which are more developed. The plight of the poor in the mature economy of New York struck him as much worse than the living standards of the poor in his native (then underdeveloped) California.

Today, the impoverishing rent flows are (a) in payment for inflated assets prices and (b) in servicing loans against those assets. A large part of the economy’s surplus flows to the property and finance sectors in payment of loans, interest and fees for the use of land and housing. And today just as in George’s days, inequality has increased strongly as bank loans have been reoriented away from supporting the real sector and towards FIRE sector loans. This drives up asset prices and thus mortgages, increasing the drain from the real economy while enriching assets owners.

(3) regulatory policy to keep the prices charged by natural monopolies such a railroads, power and gas companies in line with actual production costs plus normal profit. The classical example of this is the US Sherman Antitrust Act (1890), enacted in response to the development of business conglomerates or ’trusts’ in the last third of the 19th century, which often stifled competition and manipulated prices. Today again the global financial market place is dominated by a few giants; and in most economies three of four banks control 80% or more of domestic markets.

The result is just the behavior that progressive Americans deplored in 19th century business, now played out in finance: artificial price increases for bank services and banker’s remuneration, far above the level necessary to cover costs with a reasonable profit left; block buying and price fixing in the trading of financial products; and even fraud and intimidation of competitors. And after the crisis, small banks have been bankrupted in their hundreds while the large banks have been bailed out. Re-introduction of financial anti-trust policies will not be the end (in the first 10 years of existence of the Sherman Antitrust Act, many more actions were brought against unions than against big business). But it will be a start.

5. How the FIRE sector operates
The financial sector has become the leading rentier sector. Its “product” is debt claims on the “real” economy, underwriting, and money management on a fee basis. For this it receives interest and dividends from real estate and business borrowers, and from consumers. Over time, a real estate buyer typically pays more in interest to their mortgage lenders than the original purchase price paid to the property seller.

Fig. 3: Interaction between the FIRE and government sectors

In its interactions with the government, the financial sector buys bonds (and also makes campaign contributions). The Federal Reserve pumps money into the banking system by purchasing bonds and, when the system breaks down, makes enormous bailout payments to cover the bad debts run up by banks and other institutions to mortgage borrowers, businesses and consumers. The government also enhances the real estate sector by providing transportation and other basic infrastructure that enhances the site value of property along the routes. Finally, the government acts as direct purchaser of monopoly services from health insurance providers, pharmaceutical companies and other monopolies. In the other direction, the U.S. Government receives a modicum of taxes from real estate (mainly at the local level for property taxes), not much income tax but some capital gains tax in good years.

Hardly by surprise, the financial sector prefers to make itself invisible – not only to the tax collector and government regulators, but to voters. In fact, tax polices favor unearned income. The ordinary income tax rate in the US is twice the level of taxes on capital gains: for the 15 % income tax rate brackets, 5-year capital gains taxes are 8%; and for the 39.6% bracket, they are 18% (Kiplinger 2009). And yet, since capital gains are not income, higher capital gains tax is opposed on the grounds that this tax falls on (non-capital gains) incomes, which would therefore be unfairly taxed. Minarik (1992:16) writes against capital gains taxation asserting that “the burden of proof should rest on those who would violate the basic principle of equal tax rates on incomes from whatever source.” This conflates revenue streams with income.

Successful attempts to break out the rentier sector from the rest of the economy—and hence, balance sheet and debt transactions from the purchase of goods and services—have helped soften criticism of shifting the tax burden off land and monopoly rent, and off finance. Yet Epstein and Crotty report that “financial sector total financial assets grew from about a third of total US economy financial assets in the post-World War II decades to 45 percent of total financial assets. Their value was approximately equal to the US GDP in the early 1950s, whereas now it amounts to 4.5 times of the US GDP. Financial sector profit has grown from about 10 percent in the 1950-60s to 40 percent of total domestic profits in the early 2000s.”

Fig. 4: Overall model of the FIRE sector: producers, consumers, government, world

The distinction between rentier and “earned” income was not incorporated into the NIPA. It is as if all income was earned by playing a productive role, and in which money (and hence, credit and debt) were “neutral,” only a “veil,” not as affecting the distribution of income and wealth. Credit was spent only on goods and services, not on assets. And the financial sector’s loans always took the form of productive credit, enabling businesses to pay back the loans out of future earnings while consumers paid out of rising future incomes. This is still the representation found in most textbooks today. For instance, Mishkin (2012:1 and 24) explains that “in our economy, nonbank finance also plays an important role in channeling funds from lender-savers to borrower-spenders… Finance companies raise funds by issuing commercial paper and stocks and bonds and use the proceeds to make loans that are particularly suited to consumer and business needs.”

There thus was no explanation of how a credit bubble could inflate real estate prices and then collapse into a negative equity disaster. Finance seemed only to create wealth, not impoverish the underlying economy. Amazingly, this was claimed even for the exotic products whose proliferation preceded the 2008 crash. As late as 2006 academics asserted that “[f]inancial risks, particularly credit risks, are no longer borne by banks. They are increasingly moved off balance sheets. Assets are converted into tradable securities, which in turn eliminates credit risks. Derivative transactions like interest rate swaps also serve the same purpose [of eliminating credit risks, MH & DB]” (Das 2006).

Nor was there any way for mainstream models to distinguish government transfer payments to the financial sector (e.g., the $13 trillion in post-2008 financial bailouts in the United States) from Keynesian-style deficit spending. Such transfer payments did not “jumpstart” the economy. They turned a politically well-connected financial elite into new vested interests. All this is completely missed in conventional macroeconomics, which cannot come to grips with the role of the financial sector in the economy. Eminent economists have described training in today’s macro models as a useless, even socially wasteful activity (Buiter 2009; also Krugman 2009; Solow 2010).

One can understand why the financial sector has had so little interest in tracing the effect of rising money and credit on diverting income from the circular flow between producers and consumers, diverting business revenue from new capital formation, and stripping industrial assets and natural resources. Most model builders isolate these long-term structural, environmental and demographic feedbacks as “externalities.” But they are part and parcel of reality. So one is tempted to say that the financial element of economic models is too important to be left to bankers and the think tanks they sponsor.

6. Effects on the environment, demography and the economy
Just as debt deflation diverts income to pay interest and other financial charges – often at the cost of paying so much corporate cash flow that assets must be sold off to pay creditors – so the phenomenon leads to stripping the natural environment. The so-called “debt-resource-hypothesis” suggests that high indebtedness leads to increased natural resource exploitation as well as more unsustainable patterns of resource use (Neumayer 2012). This is what occurs, for instance, when the IMF and World Bank act on behalf of global banks to demand that Brazil pay its foreign debt by privatizing its Amazon forest so that loggers can earn enough foreign exchange to pay foreign bankers on the nation’s foreign-currency debt. The analogy is for absentee landlords who pay their mortgages by not repairing their property but letting it deteriorate. In all these cases the effect of debt deflation extracting interest is not only on spending – and hence on current prices – but on the economy’s long-term ability to produce, by eating into natural resources and the environment as well as society’s manmade capital stock.

Demographically, the effect of debt deflation is emigration and other negative effects. For example, after Latvian property prices soared as Swedish bank branches fueled the real estate bubble, living standards plunged. Families had to take on a lifetime of debt in order to gain the housing that was bequeathed to the country debt-free when the Soviet Union broke up in 1991. When Latvia’s government imposed neoliberal austerity policies in 2009-10, wage levels plunged by 30 percent in the public sector, and private-sector wages followed the decline (Sommers et al 2010). Emigration and capital flight accelerated: the Economist (2010) reported that an estimated 30,000 Latvians were leaving every year, on a 2.2 mln population. In debt-strapped Iceland, the census reported in 2011 that 8% of the population had emigrated (mainly to Norway).

Inasmuch as investors today have come to aim more at “total returns” (net income + capital gains) rather than simply income by itself, a realistic model should integrate capital gains and investment into the current production-consumption model. Producers not only pay wages and buy capital goods as in “current economy” models; they also use their cash flow (and even borrow) to buy other companies, as well as their own stock. When they make acquisitions on credit, the resulting debt leveraging finds its counterpart in interest payments that absorb a rising share of corporate cash flow.

This has an effect on the government’s fiscal position, because interest is a tax-deductible expense. By displacing taxable profits, the business revenue that hitherto was paid out as income taxes is now used to pay interest to creditors. The result in the early 1980s when debt-leveraged buyouts really gained momentum was that financial investors were able to obtain twice as high a return (at a 50% corporate income tax rate) by debt financing as they could get by equity financing. This tax incentive for debt leveraging rather than equity investment is the reverse of what Saint-Simon and his followers urged in the 19th century to become the wave of the future.

7. In conclusion
Only a portion of FIRE sector cash flow is spent on goods and services. The great bulk is recycled into the purchase of financial securities and other assets, or lent out as yet more interest-bearing debt – on easier and easier credit terms as the repertory of bankable direct investments is exhausted. So the pressing task today is to trace how directing most credit into the asset markets affects asset prices much more than commodity prices. Loan standards deteriorate as debt/equity ratios increase and creditors “race to the bottom” to find borrowers in markets further distanced from the “real” economy. This increasingly unproductive character of credit explains why wealth is being concentrated in the hands of the population’s wealthiest 10 percent. It is the dysfunctional result of economic parasitism.

Keynes recognized a “leakage” in the form of saving (specifically, hoarding). But at the time he wrote in the midst of the Great Depression there was little motivation to focus on debt service, or on the distinction between direct capital investment (tangible capital formation) and financial securities speculation or real estate speculation (which had all but dried up as asset markets were shrinking to reflect the economy’s shrinking). Saving took the form of non-spending, not of paying down debt. There was little lending under depression conditions.

Today’s post-bubble attempts to incorporate balance-sheet analysis into NIPA statistics on current activity are too crude. Stock averages do not give an adequate quantitative measure distinguishing the flow of funds into land and capital improvements or industrial capital formation in contrast to speculation in financial securities. So monetary analysis needs to be reformulated along with a better structural breakdown of NIPA to distinguish between money and credit spent on goods and services from that spent on financial assets and debt service.

References
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Athens News / Naked Capitalism    September 18, 2012

Michael Hudson on How Finance Capital Leads to Debt Servitude
interview with Dimitris Yannopoulos

This edited transcript is expanded from a live phone interview with Michael Hudson by Dimitris Yannopoulos for Athens News. It summarizes some of the major themes from Hudson’s new book, The Bubble and Beyond: Fictitious Capital, Debt Deflation and Global Crisis, which is available on Amazon.
Q: How has the financial system evolved into the form of economic servitude that you call “debt peonage” in your book, implying a negation of democracy as well as free-market capitalism as classically understood?

A: The original hope of banking and finance capitalism in the 19th century was that banks would make productive loans to finance industry. The aim was for banks to do something new, that no economy had done in the past: make loans not merely to ship and market goods once they were produced, but to finance new capital investment by manufacturers and producers, as well as by the public sector to build infrastructure. The idea was for these investments to create profits out of which to pay the interest and the principal back to the lenders.

This was defined as productive lending. Nothing like it occurred in antiquity or in the post-feudal period. Investment always had been self-financed out of savings. Banks only entered the picture when it came to shipping and trading what had been produced.

As matters have turned out, banking has allied itself with real estate, mineral extraction, oil, gas and monopolies instead of with industry. So instead of getting a share of the profits, it has focused on lending against economic rent. This technical term is defined as unearned income. It is obtained by charging prices in excess of cost value. Economic rent has no counterpart in the cost of putting means of production in place. And land has no cost; it is provided by nature. The only “cost” is the price of buying the right to charge rent on it. This economic rent is created by special legal privilege or ownership rights to install tollbooths on roads, education systems and other basic needs. Owners aim to charge as they can, without regard for how this affects overall growth and balance.

Banks have the privilege of creating credit and charging for access to it. Most bank credit is extended to buy property or rent-seeking privileges already in place. Banks rarely are set up to evaluate new capital investment. Their time frame is notoriously short-term. It takes time to develop production facilities, mount a sales campaign and develop markets for new goods. It is easier simply to buy a privilege to extract charges without producing anything at all. This is what property rights are, along with special privileges such as charging interest without making a tangible investment. So banks back the kind of economy that makes money without new capital investment. The easiest way to do this is to make loans for real estate at increasingly debt-leveraged, bank-inflated prices. They call this a post-industrial “service” economy. It is simply a rentier tollbooth economy.

Classical economists from the Physiocrats down through the Progressive Era a century ago explained why land rent, subsoil natural resource rent and monopoly rent should have been the source of tax for cities, states and nations. That is the essence of classical economics. But instead of supporting productive industry by extending credit to increase tangible capital investment, the banking system has extended credit mainly (about 80 percent in the United States and most English-speaking countries) to buy real estate and load it down with debt. The result is that rental income is used to pay interest to the banks rather than to pay taxes. This forces governments to tax wages, profits and sales. That increases the cost of living and doing business, on top of the interest charge.

In search of this loan market, banks have come to back untaxing real estate and deregulating monopolies, so that their economic rent can be paid to the banks as interest by customers eager buy these rights – and charge even higher rents or raise prices even further without making a new capital investment of their own. Instead of financing industry, U.S. banks don’t make loans for what can be produced in the future. They make loans against collateral already in place – including entire companies with high-interest “junk” bonds. The target company is obliged to pay the debt that the corporate raider takes on. The raider then is “free” to downsize and outsource the work force, squeeze the budget and hope to come out with a capital gain after paying off the banks and bondholders. The process is more extractive than productive.

This is the basic problem with the Anglo-American-Dutch banking system. Instead of extending loans to create new factories to employ people, new means of production, bankers look at what can be pledged as collateral on which they can foreclose.

Stock markets were supposed to supply “equity investment” capital. But they have been turned into a vehicle for debt-financed leverage buyouts (LBOs). Raiders borrow money much like landlords borrow to buy a rental property and bleed it. This turns corporate cash flow into interest. Governments permit this to be tax-deductible, so this encouragement of debt financing over equity worsens their fiscal position. It forces them into debt to bondholders. So the process becomes a deteriorating financial spiral.

Q: When did this process get out of hand?

A: The turning point was in 1980, when the Reagan Administration was elected in the United States, right after Margaret Thatcher led Britain’s Conservatives into office and began the big privatization sell-offs at enormous, unprecedented commissions that made the financial sector richer than ever before. Drexel Burnham led the practice of turning the stock market into a vehicle for banks to emulate their real estate loan departments by creating credit for corporate raiders to take over companies, load them down with debt and extract profits to pay out as interest. This was done by downsizing the labor force, shifting over to non-union labor, and where possible, renegotiating employee pensions downward or simply grabbing the pension funds or Employee Stock Ownership Plans (ESOPs) to pay creditors. So corporate finance became destructive instead of productive.

This sort of banking has concentrated wealth, and used it to privatize and buy control of governments and their regulatory agencies. Banks have lobbied to keep interest tax-deductible so as to favor corporate financing by issuing bonds and taking out loans instead of issuing stocks. Bank lobbyists back the political campaigns of lawmakers committed to deregulating the banking industry and its major clients (real estate, natural resources and monopolies). It even has taken over the Justice Department and the courts, so that financial fraud in America has been decriminalized, as there is no regulation of outright criminal behavior. This is especially true of the largest banks such as Citibank and Bank of America where the fraud tends to be concentrated, as my colleague William Black at the University of Missouri at Kansas City has shown.

Q: How do they get off the hook?

A: Nearly every large Wall Street bank has paid large sums of money to settle criminal fraud cases with the U.S. legal authorities, without admitting criminal liability for their huge gains. So no banker has gone to jail. The banks have paid the fines, not the managers who have paid themselves enormous salaries, bonuses and stock options for writing junk mortgages and operating in a manner that would have sent them to jail back in the 1980s. That’s when S&L fraudsters were sent to jail for doing what commercial bankers much higher up on the social pyramid have done over the past decade.

The top executives know that if they are convicted of billions of dollars of fraud, their banks will pay a fraction of this amount, not themselves. They know that the jig is nearly up, so they are giving themselves enormous bonuses and running. The Treasury argues that if it fines the banks to recover the full amount of the fraud, they’ll be driven under – and the government will have to bail them out. In effect it would be paying the fine to itself. So it does nothing, except receive more campaign contributions from Wall Street for being so passive.

Q: Is the so-called “financialization” of the economy an outcome of deregulating banking and finance?

A: Financialization is an appropriate term because it means the surplus is used for financial purposes and not spent on the real economy. It began by taking over the real estate and insurance sectors, prompting national income economists to lump together what they call the FIRE sectors (Finance, Insurance, Real Estate). It also should include the legal sector, because most law these days is corporate law that condones, protects or even facilitates financial fraud and monopolies. Finance has expanded to absorb the entire economic surplus in the form of debt service to the banks. This leaves it unavailable for capital investment to increase output or consumption.

Q: Isn’t this also because the profits for financial investment in asset bubbles are much higher than profits in manufacturing?

A: There’s a problem in terminology here, between technical economic jargon and popular understanding. Classical economists were careful to define the term “profit” to mean an economic gain made by investing in plant and equipment (capital) and employing labor to produce goods and services to sell at a markup. Profits were a return on tangible capital investment and current expenses on labor, raw materials and other inputs.

This is not how the financial sector makes its gains. Its interest, fees, commissions and penalties are the result of built-in, standardized legal privileges. Economists call these returns “economic rents.” Unlike profits, they are independent of the cost of production. Their “cost” consists of buying privileges, not of making tangible capital investment. The same is true of the other major element financial returns: asset-price (“capital”) gains.

A privilege is literally a “private law” (from the Latin legis, law), a monopoly right. The main privilege is to create bank credit and take deposits that are insured by governments, ultimately by public debt and the right to tax. These financial returns have an entirely different dynamic from commercial and industrial profits. They are made off the economy, not part of the economy’s physical and technological growth and capital formation. They are an overhead charge paid out of profits and wages.

In these respects, financial returns and profits are quite different dynamics. When a company is bought out on credit, the profits end up being paid out as interest rather than reinvested to expand production and employment. Financialized companies are treated much as absentee-owned commercial real estate: Buyers pledge the rent (in this case, the corporate profits) to the creditor who lends the credit for the purchase. Buyers may even pay depreciation (tax-deductible cash flow) to the banks and bondholders – hoping to squeeze out a capital gain or sell of the company’s parts for more than the whole is worth. Low-return divisions are closed down or sold off. The basic dynamic is shrinkage.

Paying out profit as interest leaves no reportable earnings. Interest is deemed a “cost of doing business.” But it is not a cost of production. It is financial overhead. And since the 1980s, growth in this overhead has absorbed and even outstripped the rise in productivity. Instead of living standards rising, the economic surplus has taken the form of a return to the FIRE sector, mainly the financial sector – commercial banks, investment banks, mortgage packagers and brokers, and so forth. Real estate owners gained during the bubble years as property prices rose faster than the bank debt that was inflating them. But the reckless junk mortgage lending and outright fraud led to a collapse of new lending after September 2008, leaving a residue of negative equity, bankruptcy, foreclosures and abandonments in its wake.

Companies that pay out all their cash flow as interest do not pay income taxes on this diversion of revenue, because interest is a tax-deductible expense. As for the financial engineers at the top – the class that has replaced industrial engineers – they aim to get rich not by earning profits, but by capital gains. These are taxed at much lower rates. So the financialized tax system encourages speculation rather than profit-making direct investment.

Suppose that a company earns $1 million dollars of profit in a year. About $400,000 must be paid in income tax. A corporate raider will buy the company’s stockholders (equity owners), for $10 million in junk bonds. The entire $1 million dollars of profit will now be paid to the banker or the bondholder in the form of interest. The company won’t report a profit, so there is no tax payment. The financial manager will hope to increase the company’s price (to re-sell it on the stock exchange) by cutting costs or selling off its pieces to make a capital gain. This is how Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney’s Bain Capital made money. It is “balance sheet” engineering, not aimed at raising production or living standards.

Q: What makes capital gains so different from business profits?

A: This is best understood in real estate. The motto of new buyers is that “Rent is for paying interest.” The parallel for a corporate raider is that “Company profits are for paying interest.” A real estate buyer will look at a building to see how much rent it pays off, and bid against other prospective buyers for a loan. The winner usually is whoever will anticipate earning the most rent from tenants to pay the interest – and promise to pay this to the bank. What the speculator or long-term investor wants is the capital gain.

Yet this does not appear on the National Income and Product Accounts (NIPA), despite the fact that bubble economies are all about orchestrating such gains. That is how the banks got people to borrow larger and larger debts – hoping to buy homes that would rise in price. The larger the home they bought – with the largest mortgage loan – the more money they would make in the bubble economy. They thought they could get rich by becoming bigger bank customers.

The NIPA were not designed to analyze this kind of an economy making gains by inflating asset prices rather than investing directly to create tangible assets. They were designed to track direct investment, profits and wages (along with government spending and taxes), not monetary and financial phenomena that affect balance-sheet assets and debts. But financial engineering of balance sheets is what all about, and that is what makes today’s finance capitalism so different from the industrial capitalism that classical economists analyzed.

The result is that property investors on credit appear not to be making any income. They “expense” their revenue as an interest charge, while their capital gains are invisible in the National Income and Product Accounts (NIPA). These “capital” gains in asset prices are taxed at much lower rates than taxes on wage income and profits. In fact, they typically are not taxed at all, if the gain is spent on buying yet more property. By making capital gains tax exempt, the tax code diverts investment away from tangible capital formation into financial speculation.

Q: Were derivatives and structured bonds the final stage in pumping up the financial bubble that burst in 2008?

A: Well, at least it was the stage before austerity and debt deflation. I call it Casino Capitalism. Large Wall Street banks made money by betting which way the economy would go, much like betting on a horse race. As in other forms of gambling, the casino always wins – and crime is rife. Credit default swaps are the easiest to manipulate in ways that were illegal in the past. So the cards are stacked in favor of banks against their customers and counterparties.

Investment banks that deal in these derivatives don’t count their capital gains as profits. They are not part of the production process, unlike profits made by employing labor to work with capital equipment to produce output. Derivatives and the financial system don’t have much to do with production and employment – except to shrink markets. They have to do with buying and selling assets to make a capital gain. This is the increasingly dominant speculative part of the FIRE sector, not part of the production and consumption economy. We’ve turned Industrial Capitalism inside out and made gambling the most important market, not production and consumption.

Q: Is this why derivatives don’t appear on the balance sheets of banks? And does this make it difficult to know whether or not they are solvent?

A: Derivatives are bets on the price of assets and on which way interest rates – and hence, bond prices – will go. Banks bet on stocks, currencies or anything they want to. But they don’t use money for this, so the bet is a “contingent liability” with an elusive statistical appearance, sort of like the Higgs boson in physics. The result is a casino economy betting which way prices will go rather than actually producing goods and services.

The problem is that for every winner there is a loser. So on balance it’s a zero-sum game. The economy as a whole doesn’t gain. In fact, large losers who can’t afford to pay the winners receive public bailouts. The government says that the economy needs to keep the casino’s big players solvent or the game will end and there will be a crisis. So the central bank and Treasury print more public debt to make bad debts good. All the big players are made winners leaving the government with more debt. This debt is not a result of spending more current income into the economy. It is purely a balance sheet phenomenon.

Q: Hasn’t this system collapsed since 2008?

A: Just the opposite. The 2008 aftermath was used by Wall Street as an opportunity to panic Congress into taking the losses of big banks onto the public balance sheet, incurring $13 trillion of added debt. In effect the Obama administration told the real economy to drop dead. The crisis became an opportunity to turn democracy into an oligarchy. The same thing happened in Ireland. After its banks made enormous insider loans, reckless loans and fraudulent loans, the government pledged to make the gamblers whole. The non-financial economy must now pay the bad bank debts, because the European Central Bank (ECB) now rules the eurozone economies.

Q: Isn’t the ECB taking over the function of bailing out EU governments, having done so with eurozone banks?

A: The ECB is not bailing out the existing status quo as much as acting to change it. The aim is aggressive, not passive. It is to replace democratically elected governments in Greece and Italy (and ultimately, everywhere) with oligarchy. German Chancellor Merkel and other neoliberals claim that democracy would put the interest of people first. And there’s not enough to maintain their living standards and sustain a growth in wealth at the top at existing rates. So something has to give – and it is living standards, not the debt overhead. This is the social revolution in which Europe and the entire Western world is in today.

The ECB puts commercial banks first. That’s what central banks do. That’s why the Federal Reserve Bank was made independent from the U.S. Treasury in 1913. They are there to promote bank interests, increasingly at odds with the rest of the economy. The first ploy is to place technocrats (a scientific sounding euphemism for bank lobbyists) in place of elected governments in Greece and Italy.

The anti-democratic transformation occurring in Europe today resembles what occurred in Rome in 133 BC to inaugurate a century of financial war, which historians called a Social War. It was waged by the creditor oligarchy (which had enriched itself largely by privatizing public land after the Punic Wars with Carthage, much as today’s financial oligarchy has grown rich by privatization and corrupt public-private financial “cooperation”). At issue was whether the economy should be run to enforce creditor “rights” by depriving the population of its liberty from debt servitude, or should help the citizenry prosper.

The patrician creditor class used violence and murder of political leaders, as in Chile in 1973. Advocates of debt cancellation (such as supporters of Catiline’s “conspiracy”) were killed. The Social War ended with much of the population falling into bondage. Today’s creditors are winning not to put individuals into bondage, but to let them be free to work and live anywhere they want – as long as they pay taxes to government to subsidize high finance, and buy goods and prices from privatized infrastructure squeezing out extortionate economic rent. This is the ECB’s idea of a free market financial-style. That is the essence of neoliberal ideology, and explains why its politicians are so well subsidized by the banking sector.

Q: Wasn’t the case of Greece unique in allowing creditors to shift the burden of the financial and fiscal crisis onto eurozone governments, by turning it into a sovereign debt crisis?

A: Neither Greece nor other eurozone countries have a central bank monetize their budget deficits. So they need to borrow from bankers and bondholders, at interest rates that rise as the dysfunctional system grows more untenable. Governments have been directed to shift taxes off property and the wealthy onto labor and industry, and to finance the resulting budget deficits by raising taxes, cutting wages, axing social welfare and selling off the public domain. Financial neoliberals are using Greece’s debt crisis as an opportunity to pry away whatever its government owns: real estate and public buildings, mineral wealth, oil and gas rights in the Aegean, port facilities, electric utilities and roads. The eurozone banking sector is to benefit, not the Greek people.

In times past, what the ECB is achieving in Greece would have taken an army to carry out by invading the country and taking over its land and infrastructure. The ECB is doing this without military force, just by appointing technocratic proconsuls of high finance. A lame attempt is made to frighten voters into believing that There Is No Alternative (TINA, as Margaret Thatcher liked to express her diktat). Propaganda sites blare out that all this is for the best. It is as if writing down debts will bring about poverty, not liberate economies from debt.

The situation is reminiscent of what occurred in Sparta at the end of the 3rd century BC. Sparta’s kings Agis IV and Cleomenes III sought to cancel the citizenry’s debts, as a creditor oligarchy had taken over. Neighboring oligarchies called in Rome, which waged a war (ultimately against Nabis, the last old Spartan leader), ending the democracy with Rome’s Empire. It established “peace” by imposing martial creditor rules that ended up driving the population to emigrate and shrink.

If Greece goes along with this, it will be surrendering without even a fight. That is the political aim of the oligarchy: to win by conquest of the brain and ideology rather than the more expensive physical oppression of an outright police state.

Q: Why has there been so much emphasis on austerity and internal devaluation to drastically reduce wages and pensions?

A: Financialization escalates the class war in a new way. For the last hundred years people thought the war was between employers and employees over workplace conditions, wage levels and benefits. But the debt overhead adds a new dimension in class war. Finance controls governments, especially in the public sector where unions typically are strongest. Most of all, financial lobbyists and the academic advisors they corrupt promote austerity and unemployment so as to drive down wages to a degree that could not occur in the company-by-company clash between industrial employers and their workers.

In the United States, Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan explained triumphantly to Congress that what was so remarkable since 1980 was that labor productivity rose by about 83 percent, but real wages didn’t rise. The Maestro found the explanation to be that workers had been obliged to take on enormous mortgage debts, education debts, auto loans, and live on credit-card debt in order to keep up with their neighbors. Their precarious financial situation made them afraid to go on strike or even to complain about working conditions, because if they are fired and miss a payment in their electric utility bill, the interest rate on their credit card jumps to 29 percent. And in America if you miss a few mortgage payments, you can lose your home. So many workers fear that they are “one paycheck away from being homeless.” That’s what the debt overhead has achieved for relations between labor and capital. The two-thirds of Americans who own their homes are afraid to complain and lose their job, because this would threaten their economic solvency and hence their social status.

What’s happening in Greece is similar. And for a dress rehearsal, look at Latvia, where neoliberals had a free hand. Two years ago, internal devaluation reduced its public sector wages by 30 percent. This helped drag down wages in the private sector. Cutbacks in public spending shrank the domestic market and hence employment – and spurred emigration of young labor. Workplace rights are being rolled back in a way 19th-century industrialists never dreamed they could achieve under democratic government.

Nearly everyone expected that democratic government would act to promote rising living standards and expanding markets, not to act on behalf of the wealthy to shortsightedly shrink them. It seemed logical that technology would increase the economic surplus and hence make it less necessary for families, companies or governments to run up debt, not sink into it even more rapidly than the tangible surplus was growing.

Q: But if neither Greek banks nor local industrialists are gaining from this, what do international creditors expect to receive from borrowers that can’t pay their debts, mortgages or taxes? How does a jobless workforce help them?

A: The financial sector always has been so short-term as to be self-destructive. There’s been a race to the bottom – who can extract the surplus for themselves before anyone else does? Creditors treat the economy like an oil well, to be depleted, ignoring the long-term environmental consequences.

In this case the economic environment consists of tangible capital and technology, including the education and culture of the citizenry, capped by the debt overhead and rising concentration of property ownership, along with the political corruption that accompanies the polarization of wealth by giving government power to the most avaricious, shortsighted and vicious members of society. So political economy turns into the asocial and anti-social economics of Ayn Rand and the Chicago School, and financial predators find their Alan Greenspans and Tim Geithners to act as their factotums. They dismantle the power of government (kings in the Bronze Age, democratic governments today) to write down debts or regulate credit. Government becomes a board of directors of the financial wreckers.

You are quite right to notice that if such a government imposes such extreme austerity that families and companies cannot pay their debts, the banks will lose and the government can’t collect the taxes it needs to reduce the deficit. This is what the International Monetary Fund’s austerity programs imposed on Latin America of the 1970s and ‘80s. That required military dictatorships backed by U.S. armed force and covert destruction of the left – mass murder of intellectuals, labor leaders and school teachers on a continent-wide scale. Greece is now being treated economically the way that Latin American countries were treated by the IMF back then. It has not been necessary for U.S. state Department to send in the usual assassination teams to impose financial “equilibrium” creditor style, as under the Chicago Boys in Chile and Operation Condor in the Americas. The absence of covert and overt military force simply reflects the absence of serious opposition to the creditor plan.

Now that U.S.-backed dictatorships are being thrown off in Latin America and elsewhere, these countries are taking off economically. It shows the power of growth, once the financial oligarchy is checked from imposing its self-destructive economic policies. On the other hand, there is still a bonanza to be squeezed out of Greece and the rest of Europe by worsening the crisis – to the point where hapless governments there do what Latin American governments did: privatize the public domain, turning it over to buyers on credit, that is, on terms laid down by the banks, while deregulating the privatized monopolies.

Of course many banks will go under and many governments will be driven into insolvency. That’s the objective. The idea is for big fish to eat little fish. Banks that go under will sell off their debt claims on the cheap to major financiers in other countries. The vultures will have a field day, as they did in taking over Iceland’s banks. (That story has not been widely told.)

Financialization leads to the bankruptcy of local banking systems so that outsiders can come in and make a huge property grab. So the banks become casualties, just as the most highly criminalized U.S. banks deepest into fraud, Countrywide Washington Mutual (WaMu) and their cohorts in recent years were absorbed by the five large U.S. “too big to fail” giants. Many countries have pension systems that can be looted after the manner perfected under Pinochet in Chile in the late 1970s. This in fact remains the U.S. plan today.

Of course it will impoverish the economy. But the big banks and bondholders hope to be able get out fast enough to take their money and run, and repeat the process somewhere else. The problem ultimately is that which Alexander the Great faced: He cried when he felt there were no more worlds to conquer. So finance capital will end in tears – first for the debtors, then for the creditors themselves. The parasite will die with the host. That is what caused the decline and fall of the Roman Empire.

Q: How has finance capitalism shaped economic theory to change the idea of a “free market” and treat social spending and investment as deadweight overhead instead of treating rentier income and property claims as overhead as in the classical economics of industrial capitalism?

A: Rhetoric plays a key role here. The essence of a “free market” financial style is to take planning out of the hands of government – democratically elected political representatives – and centralize it in Wall Street and other financial centers. Relinquishing the allocation of credit and untaxing property and finance transforms the mode of planning into the diametric opposite of what it meant to the Enlightenment and to the classical economists who sought to steer the drives of industrial capitalism to serve society’s long-term growth and raise living standards.

A free market financial-style means disabling government regulation (which Hayek called the Road to Serfdom), to give rentiers the unchecked freedom to exploit, not protect society by ensuring it freedom from exploitation. So this isn’t really a “free market” as people discussed this in the 19th and 20th centuries. It is a market of unchecked fraud and exploitation, with wealth and power being untaxed as well as deregulated. This is the economics of General Pinochet elaborated along the lines that Margaret Thatcher in England and Ronald Reagan’s “crazies” in the United States pushed under the slogan of the “Washington Consensus.” As Grover Norquist expressed matters, the aim is to “shrink government to a size so small that it can be drowned in the bathtub.” Of course, it is the citizenry that ends up being drowned in debt.

In practice a financialized “free market” simply shifts planning out of the hands of government and centralizes it in those of Wall Street and other banking centers. Financial dirigisme aims to endow a rentier oligarchy, not uplift the citizenry and the “real” production-and-consumption economy. So what ends up being reduced is not government debt, but public spending on goods and services, especially on Social Security and medical care – along with taxes on wealth and debt-leveraged “capital” gains. In contrast to public purchases of goods and services employing labor, new government debt is created mainly to bail the banks out of the losses that result from their self-destructive over-lending and outright gambling. The effect is to increase the government’s deadweight overhead under oligarchy, in contrast to democracy.

What is important to recognize in analyzing this shift in the locus of centralized planning is that the financial sector’s objectives are the opposite of those in the public sector. Democratic governments seek to increase employment, output and living standards. But relinquishing central planning to the banks, as the ECB and Washington Consensus wants to do, replaces democracy with oligarchy. Under these conditions financial planning takes the form of austerity, lowering wages and living standards. The ensuing economic crisis is used as an opportunity to grab whatever property is in the public domain – infrastructure, real estate and mineral rights, and even the creation of new monopolies to sell off and use the proceeds to pay the debts. (Chicago, for instance, sold the right of Wall Street investors to install parking meters on its sidewalks – increasing the cost of driving and doing business.)

This is how the South Sea Bubble was orchestrated: Sale of the asiento monopoly on the slave trade with the Americas that Britain’s government had won from Spain. Stock in the company was sold to the public – with insiders making early gains and then selling out before sticking the public with the crash. This is basically the plan to privatize Social Security. It is Pinochet’s and Thatcher’s “pension fund capitalism” expanded to orchestrate bubbles by inflating asset prices on credit, and then letting the economy collapse as it becomes high-cost and insolvent. The process is capped by the government creating debt to bail out the banks, but to help the tangible production-and-consumption economy recover. So financial planning under oligarchic government is all about the FIRE sector.

Unfortunately, economic history no longer is taught as part of the neoliberalized economics curriculum, at least here in the United States. So people are not aware of how destructive financialized management and planning has been ever since the fall of Rome.

Q: What would be a progressive solution to this crisis? Should the central bank simply monetize the deficits and consequent increase in public debt?

A: The technocratic solution is indeed for the central bank to create new government IOUs – money – to bail out bankers at home and abroad. If they the existing debts are paid in this way (or by letting banks foreclose), it would make the financial sector by far the most powerful economic and political actor. The economy would polarize between creditors and debtors, government insider rentiers while the rest of society falls into poverty.

My alternative is to anticipate that the end game must be a Clean Slate in any event. It’s simply a mathematical fact that debts that can’t be repaid, won’t be. So trying to collect them threatens to tear the economy apart. A lot of pain will be saved by cancelling the debts. Greece should tell its fellow Europeans that every government has a prime mandate to protect its people from catastrophe. To carry this policy out, Greece should annul all its debts and begin again with a Clean Slate, like Germany did in 1948. This would make it a low-cost competitive economy – as long as it taxes the free lunch of the land’s site-value rent that has been freed from debt, as well as natural resource and monopoly rents as a basis for its post-Clean Slate fiscal policy. So fiscal and financial reform need to go together.

Q: Do we need a central bank to monetize and coordinate such a policy?

A: You need a central bank or Treasury to create money to finance budget deficits without recourse to commercial banks and bondholders charging interest for credit that they create electronically on their own computer keyboards. The central bank’s role should be to regulate commercial banks and their lending policies, not serve as their lobbyist as presently is the case. The problem is that Europe doesn’t have a real central bank to finance government deficits, unlike the Bank of England or the Federal Reserve. This is crazy! The ECB won’t lend to governments – which is what central banks were founded to do. The ECB only buys from commercial banks, buying government bonds at a much higher price than the “free market” would set. So here again, neoliberal “free market” policy financial-style is antithetical to what most people think of as free markets.

It also runs against what voters expected when they joined the eurozone. Greece joined Europe because it wanted to increase its prosperity. To do this, it needs a real central bank. Either this needs to be created within the eurozone, or else Greece and the European periphery should start afresh with the kind of Clean Slate that fueled Germany’s Economic Miracle. All Europe needs a debt cancellation to bring debts back within the ability to pay.

Germany and its creditor allies would be welcome to join in the South’s effort to restructure eurozone finances, escaping from the craziness of a currency area of governments without central banks. The important thing is to avert an epoch of debt peonage resulting simply from being denied the right to have a proper central bank to do what every central bank in every civilized country of the world will do, namely finance the public deficit.

Q: Could a re-nationalized Greek central bank create enough money to pay off the debt in euros before the ECB has the chance to pull the plug on it?

A: The eurodebt shouldn’t be paid at all. In any case, it can’t be paid without selling off the country’s public domain. It is true that debts can be paid off by printing the amount of money that’s needed. That happened in the United States when the Federal Reserve created $13 trillion to cover the bad debts held by the banking system before it could stick Europeans, pension funds and other gullible buyers with junk mortgages and impossibly convoluted derivatives.

The problem is that the Fed’s act rescued the banks, not the economy. It kept the bad debts on the books instead of writing them down. The banks created a recklessly and unpayably high debt overhead that is subjecting the national economy to debt deflation as debtors try to pay by drastically reducing their consumption and tangible new investment. The opposite policy should be pursued: Mortgage debt should be written down to the ability to pay instead of the Federal Reserve and Treasury financing bank losses and bad gambles. Bondholders should lose, and only FDIC-insured depositors be rescued.

Greece should learn from America’s folly and refuse to borrow from the ECB to pay bondholders on debts that have been run up by lacking a central bank and by not taxing the wealthy – and by letting them avoid taxes by accounting tricks such as taking their profits in tax-avoidance centers such as Switzerland. Greek banks have acted as enablers in capital flight and corruption. So let eurozone creditors pursue this flight capital while Greece builds a more rational financial and fiscal system with a Clean Slate. It may find allies in Southern Europe (Italy, Spain, Portugal), the BRICS or neighboring countries in the Baltics and Far East.

Q: Haven’t Germany and the major Eurozone countries shifted the bulk of Greek public debt out of the hands of private bondholders (mainly EU banks and hedge funds) onto the official sector (EU states via the ECB and IMF), ultimately to be paid by Greek and other EU taxpayers?

A: That’s right. As matters stand, the eurozone has been waging warfare against Greece. Greece has a right to respond by taking back control of its property by taxing its economic rent or windfall gains. This is why the financial sector a century ago sought to deny that there was any such thing as economic rent, that is, unearned income.

Remember that Henry VIII nationalized the monasteries and church lands in England. Northern Europe responded to the papacy in Rome draining tribute by elevating national interest to the highest religious plane as the only way to break the financial bond. Protestantism was largely a financial response against papal bankers, the Lombards, Florentines and their brethren described by Dante in his Inferno. To achieve financial independence, Northern Europe needed a new ideology capped by religious independence – and indeed, civil independence from religion. That came finally in the form of the Protestant Reformation. Greece needs to do the same thing politically today. This requires an ideological alternative to neoliberal pro-creditor doctrine insisting that paying debts is part of “free markets” and denying that any income or wealth is unearned.

Q: How can Greece counter the terror propaganda warning about the horrors and calamities that threaten to befall the nation if it defies its troika conquerors and tries to go it alone?

A: The real terror is what would happen if Greece surrenders to the financial aggressors behind the ECB. Throughout most of history, populations and governments have fought back. Creditors know this, which is why it really is the banks that are afraid, because they’re paper tigers in a fight with a government that uses its sovereign legal powers. Greece can do whatever it wants with regard to which debts get paid or are written down or written off altogether. It can re-denominate debts in its own currency and then devalue. Or it can simply repudiate the debt as being unpayably high.

In the first place, Greece wouldn’t have to act alone. It has options. Its diplomats can pursue agreements with other countries that are in the same sinking debt boat. They may reject that the eurozone model of austerity and debt deflation. In America, for instance, Donald Rumsfeld has referred contemptuously to “old Europe.” This reflects a feeling that the eurozone is a Dead Zone. Greece can say that it has no intention of being sucked financially and fiscally into this dead zone. It can approach the BRIC countries, and even ask for U.S. support to become a new potential growth area.

Q: What are the options available to the rest of the world to resolve the debt crisis and avoid global depression?

A: A shrinking economy tends to fall further into arrears in a debt spiral. The question today is whether a new ideology and political program of reform will emerge to complete the task of classical political economy by freeing markets from unproductive debt overhead and unearned rentier income. The alternative is a Counter-Enlightenment that would roll back the democratic era that industrial capitalism promised to inaugurate.

Rentier interests have escalated their fight against Progressive Era reforms to defend financial interests. They have gained control of the mass media and universities, the courts and now the government itself under the U.S. “Citizens United” ruling that relinquishes election campaign financing to whomever has the most money – which is turned into TV commercials and a massive ideological propaganda machine to convince voters that There Is No Alternative to debt peonage. This bold ideological inversion of Enlightenment values even celebrates asset-price inflation and debt peonage as the workings of the “free market” as if it were a natural evolution, not a hijacking and derailing of economic development.

At issue is how society will liberate itself from the buildup of debts that can’t be paid. If governments let the financial sector foreclose, they will end up being forced to privatize the public domain under duress conditions at distress prices. They will have to dismantle public administration and welfare services. The problem is capped by having to turn tax policy over to financial lobbyists who claim to be objective technocrats. The result must be economic polarization between creditors and debtors ushering in a new Dark Age of poverty and deepening debt peonage. Wages, profits and property rents will be earmarked to pay interest – on loans that can’t be paid in a shrinking economy.

This is the point at which the financial sector uses its political clout to demand bailouts from the government, adding to public debt. The new credit given to the banks is sent abroad as banks jump ship. This is what happened to the U.S. Federal Reserve’s $800 billion Quantitative Easing #2 in 2011.

The alternative to this nightmare scenario is write down debts to what can be paid, within the framework of a mixed public/private economy geared to distribute wealth and income more equitably. This involves not only monetary and financial reform but tax reform as well. It needs to be highlighted in the public consciousness by placing at the heart of the academic curriculum and media discussion the history of how societies have dealt politically with their debt overhead throughout history.

A new set of key measures needs to be reported and kept in the forefront of political discussion. Monetary theory needs to distinguish between asset-price inflation (the bubble economy’s debt-leveraged real estate, stock and bond market boom) and consumer price inflation. The National Income and Product Accounts need to recognize the magnitude of the FIRE sector and treat its revenue as eating into the economic surplus, not increasing it. And asset-price (“capital”) gains need to be tracked as part of “total returns” to explain the economic polarization between rentiers and wage earners.

But I realize that all this is another story.

83 Comments





September 29, 2012

As Money Pours Down, It’s No Wonder That Stocks Are Up
By JEFF SOMMER

THE markets are getting plenty of help from the world’s big central banks. Will it be enough to keep the current rally going?

The overall economy is sluggish at best, and unemployment has remained above 8 percent since early 2009. Yet despite a decline last week, stock investors have been on a roll. In the three months ended on Friday, the Standard & Poor’s 500-stock index rose 5.8 percent. In Europe, stocks fared even better for the quarter, with the Euro Stoxx 50 index up 8.4 percent. Japan was a laggard, as the Nikkei index dropped 1.5 percent, but in Hong Kong the Hang Seng index rose 7.2 percent.

During much of this period, the Federal Reserve and other central banks have been flooding the planet with money. Cause and effect is hard to prove, but it seems reasonable to assume that the central banks have had something to do with the markets’ buoyancy. “Clearly central bank actions have been a major factor in the market rally,” Ethan Harris, chief North American economist at Bank of America Merrill Lynch, wrote in a recent report. News reports of “super dovish” announcements by the Fed and the European Central Bank correlated neatly with stock market climbs, he found.

On Sept. 6, for example, Mario Draghi, president of the European Central Bank, said that under certain conditions it would buy unlimited amounts of government bonds, a move that could lower borrowing costs for Spain and other troubled countries in the euro zone. Stocks immediately rose around the world.

The next week, the Fed met the market’s expectations, and then some. It extended its plans for maintaining near-zero short-term interest rates into the middle of 2015. And it announced that it would increase its bond-buying to a total of $85 billion a month for the rest of the year, with a focus on mortgage-backed securities, a program aimed at giving the housing market another lift. What’s more, the Fed linked the duration of its loose policies to the state of the job market. As long as the unemployment rate remained unacceptably high, the Fed planned to maintain its expansionary monetary policy, Ben S. Bernanke, the Fed chairman, said in a news conference.

“We will be looking for the sort of broad-based growth in jobs and economic activity that generally signal sustained improvement in labor market conditions and declining unemployment,” Mr. Bernanke said.

Last week, however, the markets gave up ground. The central banks aside, it’s easy to see why the bullish mood might darken quickly. A partial list of dangers includes rising tensions in the Mideast, a contentious election campaign and a looming “fiscal cliff” in the United States, an unresolved and multifaceted financial crisis in Europe, and a global economy that is far from robust.

Little of this would appear to augur well for stocks, except that the central banks have tilted the odds on the bullish side, at least for now, some analysts say.

“A modestly growing economy with the cyclically sensitive sectors at still-depressed levels is a relatively stable and safe, if not exciting, environment,” said Larry Kantor, head of research at Barclays, in a recent report. “When this is combined with a central bank committed to aggressively supporting growth through higher asset prices, it amounts to a very attractive environment for taking risk.”

In fact, Barclays calls the current version of its flagship quarterly research publication “Global Outlook: Don’t Fight the Fed.”

OF course, no one knows where the markets are going day to day. After their recent run upward, and even without the emergence of any nasty news, stocks could easily “consolidate,” that is, decline for a while before moving upward again. And because the global economy is already rather weak, an external shock — a disruptive geopolitical event — could alter perceptions abruptly.

Some analysts are not upbeat even now. The Economic Cycle Research Institute, an independent forecasting organization with an excellent record, says it believes that the United States is already in recession, and that action by the Fed won’t change that. “Unfortunately, the economy is just going to have to ride out the business cycle,” Lakshman Achuthan, chief operations officer of the institute, said recently. “The Fed’s actions have been increasingly ineffective.” The relationship between the economy and the stock market is complex, he said, and it’s not always clear whether the market is predicting the direction of the economy, reacting to it or responding to other factors.

Robert Rodriguez, managing partner and chief executive of FPA, an asset management firm in Los Angeles, says it’s possible that fund managers, seeking to bolster their returns, will “continue to pile into stocks in the remainder of this year and push them to even higher levels.” But he says he believes that the market is already overextended, and his firm has begun to reduce its stock exposure.

Mr. Rodriguez anticipated the subprime mortgage crisis and the financial crisis. But, as he acknowledged ruefully in an interview, he “was early, and got out of the market too soon, and could well be doing so again.” Still, he says he fears what he calls “the unintended consequences of the expansionary activities of the central banks.”

Another credit bubble is likely if the banks persist in trying to prop up the global economy, he said. As he sees it, the fundamental problem in the United States can’t be solved by the Fed. “We must get our fiscal house in order,” he said, “and we have only a limited amount of time to do it.”

For the next several months, though, he suspects that Wall Street’s fascination with the Fed may well keep stocks rising.




Neue Zürcher Zeitung    1. Oktober 2012
re:  Der Aktienmarkt verabschiedet sich von der Realwirtschaft,
Langsames Auftauchen aus einer Traumwelt

Anton Keller (1./2.Oktober 2012  11:34 / 18:40 / 11:43 / 13:40) Kappt das Schleppseil zur Casino-Titanic!   (3 x zensuriert)
Michael Rasch bringt es noch unmittelbarer auf den Punkt als Andreas Uhligs zaghaft, aber immerin aufgezeigte gelbe Karte zuvor („Langsames Auftauchen aus einer Traumwelt“, NZZ 1.10.12). Sie und andere hellsichtige Beobachter verdienen weit mehr Beachtung als ihnen bislang generell – also auch von gestandenen ehemaligen Treuhändern und von akademischen Modellschreinern und nicht nur von erfolgstrunkenen Zauberlehrlingen - zuteil geworden ist. Dies umsomehr, als in dem seit der Entankerung der Währungen künstlich verbreiteten Nebel die Voraussicht zusehends abhanden gekommen ist, und weitere Schlüsselkomponenten der wirtschaftlichen Fehlentwicklungen ebenfalls nur selten miteinander in Betracht gezogen und gesamtschaulich gewürdigt werden (siehe z.B. z.B. Interpellation 12.3200  Illusionswirtschaft und Realwirtschaft (www.solami.com/parlament.htm#Realwirtschaft), Jeff Sommer, "As Money Pours Down, It’s No Wonder That Stocks Are Up" (New York Times, 29 Sep 12: www.solami.com/porkbellies.htm#nowonder) und Roger Lowenstein, "A Speed Limit for the Stock Market" (NYT, 1 Oct 12: www.solami.com/bankingblues.htm). Wer schafft den Über-, Durch- und Vorausblick - und ist willens und in der Lage, die Entscheidungsträger hier und dort zeitig zu entsprechenden Kurskorrekturen zu animieren, das Schleppseil der realen Wirtschaft zur Casino-Titanic zu kappen, und - soweit noch möglich - eine sanfte Bruchlandung hinzukriegen?




Tages-Anzeiger / Basler Zeitung    11.Oktober 2012
Der Sündenbock der Finanzkrise
Einst viel gepriesen, werden strukturierte Produkte heute vielerorts verteufelt – trotzdem weiter gekauft.
Von Lukas Hug.
Schrottpapiere. An den Börsen wird die Vergangenheit beseitigt - bekommen Finanzpapiere nun eine zweite Chance? Bild: Keystone

Verbriefte Hypotheken, Zweckgesellschaften oder toxische Papiere. Diese Worte wecken seit der Insolvenz der US-Investmentbank Lehman Brothers mehrheitlich negative Assoziationen. Der einst boomende Markt für strukturierte Produkte – kurz Struki – erlebte einen dramatischen Einschnitt. Ein Grund dafür ist, dass man bis zur Lehman-Pleite das sogenannte Emittentenrisiko, das Risiko, dass der Herausgeber von Produkten Konkurs geht, nicht berücksichtigt hatte. Die Folgen waren fatal. Als wie «sicher» gewisse Papiere auch verkauft wurden, durch den Ausfall des Herausgebers waren sie Schrott.Das Wort «Kapitalschutz» musste plötzlich kritisch hinterfragt werden. Durch die weltweite Vernetzung der Finanzmärkte mussten überall Wertberichtigungen vorgenommen werden.

Doch trotz dem fatalen Imageverlust wurden vergangenes Jahr über die Schweizer Börse für strukturierte Produkte Scoach rund 50 Milliarden Franken umgesetzt. 2007, vor dem Zusammenbruch von Lehman Brothers, erreichten die Umsätze an die 75 Milliarden Franken. Damit ist die Derivatebörse Scoach eine der grössten ihrer Art weltweit. Ein Grund für die vielleicht nicht mehr so hohe, aber immer noch respektable Nachfrage nach Strukis ist, dass diese Anlageklasse viele Vorteile bringt, die gerade in Zeiten wie diesen sehr nützlich sein können.

Strukturierte Produkte
    Ein strukturiertes Finanzprodukt ist ein Produkt, bei dem Finanzanlagen, wie beispielsweise Obligationen oder Aktien, mit Derivaten kombiniert und in einem Wertpapier verbrieft werden. Derivate sind meist Optionen und leiten sich von einem anderen Wert ab.
    Plane ich beispielsweise für den nächsten Sommer eine Reise und kaufe schon heute bei der Fluggesellschaft das Recht, um für einen fixen Betrag zu fliegen, so wurde ich Besitzer einer Kaufoption auf ein Flugticket. Komme ich nächsten Sommer an den Flughafen und stelle fest, dass der Flugpreis teurer wurde, übe ich meine Option aus: Ich bezahle den abgemachten Betrag.
    Ist aber der Flugpreis günstiger geworden, bezahle ich den normalen Flugpreis und lasse die Option verfallen. Optionen werden auch an der Börse auf alle möglichen Basiswerte (in unserem Beispiel den Flugpreis) gehandelt.
    Die Konstruktion solcher Produkte ermöglicht es, unzählig verschiedene Börsenszenarien als Anlagechance nutzen zu können. Man kann so sogar auf fallende Kurse setzen. (hug)

Szenetreff in Zürich
Am 24. und 25. Oktober findet in Zürich die Messe für strukturierte Produkte statt. Präsentiert werden Trends und die Einsatzmöglichkeiten der Produkte –ganz nach dem Messemotto: «Ent­decken Sie das Pozential.» Eröffnet wird die Messe durch Rohstoffguru und Buchautor Jim Rogers.

Artikel zum Thema
Umsatz mit strukturierten Produkten im September gesunken
Schweizer Banken verteidigen Geschäft mit Agrarrohstoffen
Dougans Plan steht vor einer harten Prüfung
«Griechenland wird mit mehr als 50 Prozent Wahrscheinlichkeit aus dem Euro austreten»
Sparen, sich neu ausrichten oder untergehen
Das Glück liegt in Angola

Viele Anlagemöglichkeiten
So kann man mit strukturierten Produkten auf fast alles setzen. Auch auf Dinge, für die es sonst keinen Markt gibt. Nicht nur Aktien, Obligationen, Währungen oder Rohstoffe, auch Indizes, Zinsen oder sogar Volatilität und das Wetter sind einige der vielen Möglichkeiten. Entgegen anderen Anlageklassen hat man mit dem Struki für alle Markterwartungen ein Instrument, um zu investieren.

Einige Besipiele: Geht man von steigenden Aktienpreisen aus, kann man mit Hebelprodukten überproportional am Kursgewinn partizipieren; will man sein Geld sicher parkieren, kann man Kapitalschutzprodukte kaufen. Bei seitwärts tendierenden Märkten empfehlen sich Renditeoptimierungsprodukte. Ein solches Renditeoptimierungsprodukt ist der Barrier Reverse Convertible. Der Barrier Reverse Convertible, in Fachkreisen kurz BRC genannt, ist das beliebteste strukturierte Produkt auf dem Schweizer Markt.

Fixierte Laufzeit
Der BRC hat eine fixierte Laufzeit, während der der Anleger das Papier hält. Entschädigt wird der Investor, ähnlich einer Obligation, mit einem fixen Coupon oder Zins und der Rückzahlung seines Kapitals zum Ende der Laufzeit.

Der BRC ist ein Finanzkonstrukt, das sich an einem Basiswert orientiert, beispielsweise eine Aktie. Das Wort Barrier, zu Deutsch Barriere, gibt diesem Produkt seinen Charakter: Unterschreitet der Basiswert, also die Aktie, während der vorab definierten Laufzeit die Barriere oder den Grenzkurs, erhält der Anleger anstatt der Rückzahlung des eingesetzten Kapitals eine Lieferung von Aktien zum Marktwert. In jedem Fall aber erhält er den Coupon.

Adrenalin langsam abgebaut
Christian Reuss, Geschäftsführer von Scoach Schweiz, kann nicht nachvollziehen, dass die strukturierten Produkte als «Schwarzer Peter» dargestellt werden. Alle anderen Anlageklassen, beispielsweise Geldmarktfonds, erleiden ebenfalls Umsatzeinbrüche, nur werde dies viel seltener thematisiert. Was die Anlegerschaft zurzeit von Investitionen abhalte, seien die Ermüdung und Orientierungslosigkeit. Die Quote an Bargeldhaltung sei noch selten so hoch gewesen, meint Reuss. Eine Krise sei wie ein Ausnahmezustand, ­Adrenalin werde freigesetzt, die Umsätze an den Börsen schiessen in die Höhe.

Dieses Börenparadoxon war insbesondere an den Tagen nach Fukushima oder der Bonitätsabstufung der USA zu beobachten. Aber wenn Adrenalin zu lange im Blut ist, so wie es die anhaltende Krisenstimmung verursacht, macht das auf Dauer müde: «Das Adrenalin ist langsam abgebaut», so Reuss.

Daniel Manser, unter anderem Chefredaktor des führenden Schweizer Magazins für strukturierte Produkte «Payoff» und des gleichnamigen Internetportals, stört sich daran, dass strukturierte Produkte automatisch mit hohem Risiko und Spekulation verbunden werden. Ironischerweise sei es gerade umgekehrt: Mit keiner anderen Anlageklasse könne ein Anlagewunsch so gezielt umgesetzt werden, denn für jede Markterwartung und jedes Risiko gebe es die passende Anlagemöglichkeit.

Nur das kaufen, was man versteht
Man habe in den letzten Jahren viel unternommen, um die Anleger zu schützen und für mehr Transparenz zu sorgen. Durch Kennzahlen können Risiken numerisch dargestellt werden, weiter existiere die vom Schweizerischen Verband für strukturierte Produkte (SVSP) herausgegebene Swiss Derivative Map – eine Kategorisierung der gängigsten Produkte in deren Risikokategorie. Auf der Website des SVSP könne man sich auch einem Wissenstest unterziehen.

«Man soll sich nur das kaufen, was man auch versteht», meint Manser. «Im Vordergrund steht das Anlegen und nicht die Spekulation.» Was weder Reuss noch Manser begrüssen, ist das in Belgien geplante Verkaufsmoratorium für strukturierte Produkte. Wird ein Produkt in Belgien als «übermässig komplex» eingestuft, ist dessen Verkauf an Privatanleger verboten.

Keine Rendite ohne Risiko
«Man kann Komplexität nicht regulieren, da sie subjektiv wahrgenommen wird», kritisiert Reuss und setzt dabei auf die Eigenverantwortung der Anleger. Voreilige Regulierungsbemühungen seien häufig gefährlich, da die Gefahr einer Überregulierung bestehe. Gerade der Markt für gehandelte Optionen (Warrants) in Korea, welcher aufgrund von Regulierungen an Bedeutung verloren hat, biete dazu ein aktuelles Beispiel. In Bezug auf Belgien kann Reuss nicht verstehen, weshalb Produkte, die sich vom Goldpreis ableiten, für Privatanleger erlaubt, jedoch Produkte auf Silber verboten werden sollten. Manser zufolge reduziere eine verschärfte Regulierung nicht nur die Risiken, sondern nehme den Anlegern auch ihre Chancen. Anlegen sei wie Autofahren, man solle es lernen und nicht verbieten.

Als Alternative für die Schweiz könnte sich Manser eine zwingende Fachberatung durch die Banken vorstellen. Die goldene Regel dabei: «Ein hohes Renditeversprechen ist immer gepaart mit hohen Risiken.» (Basler Zeitung)




Neue Zürcher Zeitung    17.Januar 2013

«Die Währungskriege sind sehr gefährlich»
Christof Leisinger, Interview mit William White

Die Diskussionen über die Lösung der Wirtschafts- und Finanzkrisen in den Industriestaaten treiben wilde Blüten. Zum Beispiel die Überlegung, eine Eine-Billion-Dollar-Münze zu prägen. William White, der frühere Chefökonom der Bank für Internationalen Zahlungsausgleich und Berater der Organisation für wirtschaftliche Zusammenarbeit und Entwicklung, macht sich ganz andere Sorgen.
Die Diskussionen über die Lösung der Wirtschafts- und Finanzkrisen in den Industriestaaten treiben wilde Blüten. Selbst angesehene Ökonomen und Medien haben jüngst ernsthaft darüber philosophiert, ob die USA eine Platinmünze mit einem Nominalwert von einer Billion Dollar prägen sollten, um formal die gesetzliche Schuldengrenze auszuhebeln. Zynische Beobachter setzten den dekadenten Ideen eine Krone auf, indem sie vorschlugen, Japan solle die Münze kaufen, um der eigenen Wirtschaft mit einer schwächeren Währung zu helfen. William White hat sich mit dieser Frage erst gar nicht beschäftigt. Der frühere Chefökonom der Bank für Internationalen Zahlungsausgleich und Berater der Organisation für wirtschaftliche Zusammenarbeit und Entwicklung hält jeden Vorschlag, der vorgibt, ein Wundermittel zu haben, für Unsinn.

Was macht Ihnen zurzeit die grösste Sorge?
Beinahe jedermann spricht im Moment offen über Versuche, aktiv die eigene Währung zu schwächen. In Japan denken Ministerpräsident Shinzo Abe und andere über die Möglichkeit nach, dass die Bank of Japan Geld schöpfen könnte, um durch Wertpapierkäufe im Ausland den Wert der eigenen Währung zu mindern. Interessanterweise plädieren in den USA Experten wie Fred Bergsten und Joe Gagnon vom Peterson Institute dafür, genau dasselbe zu tun. Sie wollen Dollar schöpfen und verkaufen, um den Yen stärker zu machen. Was für eine Welt ist das denn?
    Das sind Währungskriege, die mit aller Macht geführt werden. Unkooperative Trends dieser Art nach dem Motto «Rette sich, wer kann» sind höchst unwillkommen und gefährlich. Auf der anderen Seite jedoch sind sie nur die Fortsetzung dessen, was wir in den Industrie- und Schwellenstaaten schon seit einiger Zeit beobachten können.

Was meinen Sie konkret?
In den Industriestaaten haben wir mit QE1, QE2 bis hin zu «QE-Infinity» ultralockere geldpolitische Strategien, die unter normalen Umständen zu einer Schwächung der Währung jener Länder führen würde, die sich so verhalten. Andererseits bringt das die Währungen der Schwellenländer und von Staaten wie der Schweiz unter Aufwertungsdruck und zwingt sie, ebenfalls zu intervenieren, um den Wertzuwachs zu stoppen. Fundamental betrachtet handelt es sich um zwei Seiten derselben Medaille.

Wo führt das hin?
Solche Strategien können gefährliche Konsequenzen haben. Die Staatsverschuldung in Asien etwa ist deutlich grösser als 1997, und das Kreditwachstum ist sehr hoch. Trotzdem intervenieren die asiatischen Staaten am Devisenmarkt und lockern die Geldpolitik im Binnenmarkt, um die eigenen Währungen nicht stärker werden zu lassen. Zu tiefe Zinsen jedoch führen entweder zu Inflation, volkswirtschaftlichen Ungleichgewichten, Fehlinvestitionen et cetera. Die ultralockeren geldpolitischen Strategien führen weltweit zu vielen Problemen, die zu wenig beachtet werden.

Lässt sich das ändern, und hat überhaupt jemand den Willen dazu?
Es gibt nur wenige, die sich berechtigte Sorgen machen, nicht zuletzt die Deutschen. Blickt man jedoch in die USA oder nach Japan, so sieht es nicht so aus, als ob es zu einer Änderung kommen würde. Die meisten Zentralbanker von der Federal Reserve, der Bank of England oder auch von der Europäischen Zentralbank halten die «ultralockere Geldpolitik» weiterhin für einen praktikablen Weg, um die Wirtschaft ihres Landes zu stimulieren. Die langfristigen Probleme werden kaum beachtet, denn sie gelten als kontrollierbar. Deswegen wird man nicht zu schnell davon abrücken.

Lassen sich die negativen Konsequenzen unter Kontrolle halten?
Ich denke, die eingeschlagenen volkswirtschaftlichen Strategien können nicht aufgehen und die negativen Folgen werden im Laufe der Zeit immer grösser. Ich fürchte, es wird zwar irgendwann klarwerden, dass der Nutzen der extremen Geldpolitik geringer ist als der Schaden, den sie anrichtet. Allerdings wird es dann möglicherweise zu spät sein, um die Zinsen anzuheben.

Die Finanzmärkte jedoch scheinen sich in den vergangenen Monaten beruhigt zu haben. Immerhin steigen die Kurse an den Börsen, und die Renditen der Anleihen europäischer Peripheriestaaten sind deutlich gefallen . . .
Die Marktteilnehmer wägen im aktuellen Umfeld keine Risiken gegen die möglichen Erträge mehr ab, sondern sie sind völlig verunsichert. Sobald jedoch ein Politiker oder ein Zentralbanker wie Mario Draghi interveniert, wechseln alle gleichzeitig auf die andere Seite des Bootes. In dem Moment nähern sich die Korrelationen der Erträge risikoreicher Wertpapiere der Eins an.
    Plötzlich gibt es keine Diversifikationsmöglichkeiten und keine Analyse der fundamentalen Faktoren mehr – sondern die Anleger finden ein risikoträchtiges Papier und wollen es sofort haben. Sobald jedoch etwas Unerwartetes passiert, wechseln sie wieder in den «Risk-off-Modus» und verkaufen. Ich denke, das ist jederzeit möglich. Die Märkte sind zu politischen Märkten geworden. Sie sind so seltsam, dass die Preise und Kurse die fundamentalen ökonomischen Fakten in keiner Weise widerspiegeln.

Wo liegt denn das fundamentale Problem?
Die Ungleichgewichte, die uns in die Krise geführt haben, sind noch lange nicht beseitigt. In vielen Staaten haben sich die Immobilienmärkte noch nicht erholt. In Ländern wie Kanada oder in ganz Skandinavien dagegen verführen die tiefen Zinsen zum Kauf zu teurer Immobilien, und die Verschuldung ist zu hoch. In weiten Teilen der Welt wird zu viel konsumiert und zu wenig gespart, weil hohe Hauspreise den Eindruck erwecken mögen, man sei reich – das ist verrückt. Es gibt nur zwei Möglichkeiten, um Schulden loszuwerden. Entweder man schreibt sie ab – wie es die Banken in den USA in Ansätzen gemacht haben –, oder man spart mehr und arbeitet sie ab. Die Sparquoten aber sind bisher kaum gestiegen. Vielleicht kommt das noch.

Stehen die Schwellenländer in dieser Beziehung besser da?
Wie schon angesprochen, verleiten die tiefen Zinsen die Schwellenländer zu albernen Strategien. In Asien etwa liegen die privaten Verbindlichkeiten deutlich über dem Niveau des Jahres 1997. In Brasilien haben die Schulden der Konsumenten zuletzt unglaublich schnell zugenommen, weil viel auf Raten gekauft wird. Abgesehen von Immobilien waren vor der Krise 2007 viele Vermögenswerte zum Teil dramatisch überbewertet. Inzwischen liegen sie teilweise sogar darüber – einschliesslich der Aktienkurse, obwohl die Risiken heute höher sind als damals.

Immerhin scheinen viele Unternehmen gut zu verdienen . . .
Das kann mit den tiefen Zinsen zusammenhängen. Immerhin steigt der Barwert eines erwarteten Zahlungsstroms bei Zinsen nahe null beinahe gegen unendlich. Zudem können sich viele Firmen derzeit sehr günstig refinanzieren und Bilanzpositionen höher als früher ansetzen. Das mag die Gewinne steigen und die Bewertung von Aktien «solide» aussehen lassen. Wenn die Zukunftsaussichten aber so rosig sind, wieso investieren die Unternehmen dann nicht und schütten lieber Dividenden aus? Wieso bringen tiefe Zinsen die Investitionstätigkeit nicht auf Trab, wie die Zentralbanken erwarten? Möglicherweise sehen sie, dass die Entwicklung nicht nachhaltig ist.

Wie geht das aus?
Es gibt drei Varianten. Erstens ist es möglich, dass das Vertrauen bei unveränderten politischen Rahmenbedingungen ganz langsam wieder zurückkehrt, vor allem auch auf der Unternehmensseite. Das könnte dann der Beginn einer normalen, schrittweisen wirtschaftlichen Erholung sein, in deren Rahmen erst die Investitionen zunähmen und schliesslich auch der Konsum nachzöge.
    Zweitens ist denkbar, dass die Regierungen weltweit direkt die ökonomischen Grundprobleme angehen. Damit meine ich das, was ich im Paper mit dem Titel «Credit Crises and the Shortcomings of Traditional Policy Responses» darlegte. Letztlich geht es darum, auszuloten, welche konkreten Handlungsspielräume man auf makroökonomischer Ebene hat, um die Wirtschaft in die Gänge zu bringen. China zum Beispiel könnte mit effektiven Massnahmen den Konsum im Binnenmarkt ankurbeln und so die Importe aus anderen Regionen steigern.
    Oder Deutschland könnte sich sagen, wir verfügen über beachtliche Auslandsvermögen, die Staatsschulden sind nicht allzu hoch und die Finanzierungskosten liegen praktisch bei null. Nun wäre es an der Zeit, Geld in die Hand zu nehmen und beispielsweise in die eigene Infrastruktur zu investieren. Staaten mit hohen externen Überschüssen haben auf makroökonomischer Ebene Manövrierspielraum, den sie nutzen sollten. Die öffentlichen Investitionen sind in vielen Ländern nicht nur unzureichend, sondern sie werden sogar vielfach noch gekürzt. Das ergibt überhaupt keinen Sinn. Denn wenn man zum Beispiel eine Brücke baut, deren Nutzen im Verhältnis zu den Kosten nachweislich hoch ist und die folglich eine hohe soziale Rendite abwirft, steht der zunehmenden Verbindlichkeit ein enormer Vermögenswert gegenüber. Das ist ein wesentlicher Unterschied zu Staatsschulden, die entstehen, um steigende Sozialausgaben zu begleichen.
    Drittens müssen mehr Schulden beseitigt werden. Denn viele öffentliche und private Verbindlichkeiten, die in «Boomzeiten» eingegangen wurden, werden nie zurückgezahlt werden und müssten abgeschrieben werden. Niemand weiss, wie gross der notwendige Abschreibungsbedarf bei den grösseren Banken möglicherweise ist. Kern des Problems jedoch ist der Unwille, genau hinzuschauen und den Zusammenhang zwischen Schuldnern, die nicht zahlen können, und Gläubigern, deren Kapitalbasis bedroht ist, zu analysieren. Da niemand wissen kann, wer ein guter und wer ein schlechter Gläubiger ist, sind alle verunsichert. Das bedeutet den Tod des Interbanken-Marktes und führt zu einer sehr restriktiven Kreditvergabepraxis.

Auf der anderen Seite verbuchen die Bankaktien schon seit Wochen starke Kursgewinne. Ist das irrational?
Das ist ein Teil des «Risk-on-Risk-off-Modus». Ob es irrational ist, kann ich nicht sagen. Sicher jedoch ist, dass die Verunsicherung weiterhin sehr, sehr gross darüber ist, was die Zukunft bringen wird.

Die Zeit, in welcher Anleger zwischen Risikoappetit und Risikoaversion hin- und herschalten, scheint immer kürzer zu werden und die Kursausschläge immer grösser.
Absolut. Sobald Marktteilnehmer den Eindruck haben, kurzfristig seien die Risiken begrenzt, schalten sie auf «Risikomodus» und kaufen riskante Papiere wie Bankaktien. Sie alle halten sich für smart und wollen als Erste verkaufen, sobald sich die Risikowahrnehmung wieder verändert hat. Da jedoch alle gleich klug sind, wollen alle gleichzeitig in die Märkte hinein und dann wieder heraus. Das verzerrt die Märkte. Nachdem sie sich von fundamentalen Faktoren abgekoppelt haben, können sie nicht mehr normal funktionieren.

Welche Rolle spielen dabei automatisierte Handelssysteme, wie sie etwa von Hochfrequenzhändlern verwendet werden?
Ich habe mich damit bisher kaum beschäftigt. Ich sehe allerdings nicht, dass sie die Märkte funktionaler und effizienter machen. Die Hochfrequenzhändler argumentieren zwar, sie stellten Liquidität zur Verfügung. Wenn sie das aber nur in guten und nicht in schlechten Zeiten tun, wird die Marktentwicklung nur noch prozyklischer, als sie ohnehin schon ist.

Sehen Sie jemanden, der in der Lage wäre, das Wirtschafts- und Finanzsystem «durchzuputzen» und beispielsweise die Schulden zu senken? Oder ist ein Ereignis denkbar, welches dazu führen könnte?
Ein Kollege von der Bank für Internationalen Zahlungsausgleich verfasste ein Arbeitspapier zu dieser Thematik. Es verglich den japanischen Ansatz zum Umgang mit überschuldeten Banken mit dem skandinavischen Modell. Wir alle hielten damals die skandinavische Lösung für die bessere. Heutzutage jedoch scheint sie nicht durchsetzbar zu sein.

Wieso nicht?
Selbst wenn der Wille vorhanden wäre, eine der grossen Banken zu rekapitalisieren oder gar abzuwickeln, fehlte vielfach immer noch eine wesentliche Grundlage dafür in Form der geeigneten gesetzlichen Grundlagen. Banken sind nur dann nicht mehr zu gross, um sie aus systemischen Gründen retten zu müssen, wenn im Problemfall tatsächlich jene den Preis zahlen müssen, welche zuvor zu hohe Risiken eingegangen sind. Also die Aktionäre, die Obligationäre und andere Gläubiger. Weltweit sollte man sich stärker mit der Frage auseinandersetzen, wie Kreditinstitute – vor allem auch international vernetzte – im Notfall abgewickelt werden können. Es wird zwar an solchen Fragen gearbeitet, aber die Fortschritte sind erschreckend langsam. Praktisch kann man nicht das tun, was man wirklich möchte, sondern nur das, was aufgrund der juristischen Rahmenbedingungen überhaupt möglich ist.

Gibt es Lichtblicke?
Daniel Tarullo, Gouverneur des Federal Reserve, schlug im vergangenen Jahr vor, die Töchter ausländischer Banken sollten für ihre Geschäfte innerhalb der USA dasselbe Eigenkapital vorhalten müssen, wie lokale Banken das müssten. Sie könnten sich nicht mehr auf die Eigenkapitalbasis und die Liquidität der Zentrale verlassen. Presseberichte deuten zudem an, dass sich in der Schweiz und in Grossbritannien ähnliche Ideen durchsetzen könnten. Solche Modelle würden nationale Regulatoren in die Lage versetzen, bei Problemen durchgreifen und ausmisten zu können.

Die Schweizer Nationalbank hat grosse Risiken auf sich genommen, indem sie am Devisenmarkt intervenierte und riesige Währungsreserven angesammelt hat. Ist das vernünftig?
Die Währungen von Staaten, die grosse Leistungsbilanzüberschüsse erzielen, tendieren langfristig zur Stärke. Der Schweizerfranken hat das in der Vergangenheit über Jahre hinweg bewiesen. Die Euro-Krise jedoch hat diesen Prozess so stark beschleunigt, dass man sich in der Schweiz wirtschaftlich bedroht fühlte, sich politisch zu Interventionen entschloss und sie auch umsetzte. Die Nationalbank wird irgendwann versuchen, aus ihrer Interventionsstrategie auszusteigen. Das kann zwar zu Verlusten führen. Verluste sind jedoch angesichts des enormen externen Schocks unvermeidlich. Die Frage war und ist nur, wie sie sich zeigen. Entweder in Form schwachen Wachstums und zunehmender Arbeitslosigkeit oder möglicherweise in Form von Verlusten auf den Fremdwährungsbeständen. Letztlich geht es für die Schweiz darum, den unvermeidlichen Gesamtverlust an sich zu minimieren.

Einerseits ist es komisch, dass man gemäss dieser Logik politisch nicht über Interventionen nachdachte, als der Schweizerfranken in den Jahren 2004 bis 2007 dramatisch unterbewertet war. Grundsätzlich dagegen stellt sich die Frage, ob das Finanz- und Währungssystem an sich wirklich effizient ist.
Ich denke, das internationale Währungssystem – oder besser gesagt das internationale «Nichtwährungssystem» – ist einer Hauptgründe, wieso wir überhaupt in die Schwierigkeiten mit Überschuldung, Überkonsum und anderen Phänomenen gekommen sind, die letztlich in der laufenden Krise mündeten. Unter dem Goldstandard wären Ungleichgewichte dieser Art nicht möglich gewesen, und auch das Bretton-Woods-System hätte entsprechende Ausgleichsprozesse vorgesehen. Aber es hat nicht funktioniert, weil der Internationale Währungsfonds keinen Einfluss auf die Gläubiger nehmen konnte. Am Ende wurden die Lasten externer Verbindlichkeiten so gross, dass das gesamte System zusammenbrach.
    Seit den 1970er Jahren haben wir ein Nichtsystem, in welchem jeder selbst sein eigenes Schicksal in die Hand nehmen kann. Dann passiert das, was man in Asien beobachten kann. Die Währungen der Staaten tendieren nach oben und bedrohen das exportorientierte volkswirtschaftliche Modell. Das führt zu Interventionen am Devisenmarkt und zu tiefen Zinsen in den Binnenmärkten. Damit schliesst sich der Kreis der Argumente, die wir gerade eben ausgetauscht haben. Gäbe es dagegen internationale Regeln, wie man sich am Devisenmarkt zu verhalten hat, sähe die Welt ganz anders aus.

Brauchen wir ein System, in welchem die Wechselkurse quasi verwaltet werden (Managed Currencies)?
Ehrlich gesagt, weiss ich das nicht. Die Frage ist jedoch sicher ein Thema, über das man in Zukunft reden muss. Denn letztlich stehen wir einem Marktversagen gegenüber, das folgendermassen aussieht: Auf der einen Seite steht Ben Bernanke, der aufgrund schwachen Wachstums die Nachfrage stimulieren will, die Zinsen senkt und indirekt den Dollar schwächen will. Beides ist ein Vorteil für die USA, weil die Währungen anderer Staaten stärker werden. Das Ganze basiert auf der Theorie der ungedeckten Zinsparität, die davon ausgeht, dass Wechselkurse immer zu einem bestimmten Gleichgewicht hintendieren. Leider geht die Theorie in der Praxis nicht auf. Denn Trendfolgesysteme, Momentumstrategien et cetera führen zu gewaltigen Wechselkursschwankungen, die für die Volkswirtschaften der betreffenden Staaten teuer werden. Das führt zu Interventionen, die zunächst vernünftig erscheinen mögen, die letztlich aber oft unangemessen sind. Nötig wären dagegen kooperative Lösungsansätze.

Notenbankmanager gehen von bestimmten etablierten Theorien und makroökonomischen Modellen aus. Muss man diese nicht in Zweifel ziehen, weil sie wesentliche Faktoren nicht berücksichtigen?
Ich habe schon einiges über dieses Thema geschrieben. Das Problem vieler bisher verwendeter makroökonomischer Modelle ist tatsächlich, dass sie Faktoren wie Schulden, Banken, Insolvenzen oder auch die Kreditwürdigkeit von Unternehmen nicht integrieren. Sie berücksichtigen vieles nicht, was in der realen Welt eine wesentliche Rolle spielt. Falsche Modelle jedoch führen automatisch zu falschen Resultaten und möglicherweise zur falschen Politik. Die Verwendung falscher Analyseinstrumente führte uns unmittelbar in die Krise – es handelt sich dabei um intellektuell-analytisches Versagen.