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Global Cashastrophe

by William Bowles Wednesday, 12 September 2007

Question: How many classical economists does it take to screw in a lightbulb?

Answer: As many as it takes to screw up an economy

Never mind global warming, I’ve realised that it’s better to own nothing than owe everything.

Apparently those who have (had) their cash in Northern Rock (around 2 billion at the last count), believe it’s better to keep what they own (or more likely owe) in a paper bag under the bed than to entrust it to a gang of financial ‘whizzkids’.

Alan Greenspan former chair of the US Fed, said “he never saw it coming”, yet it was under his ‘watch’ that the US financial markets were ‘deregulated’, the single most important source of the current capitalist crisis (as if it doesn’t have enough to worry about).

And apparently it’s not just banks that are going bust, bankruptcies amongst all businesses are up 300% this year in the US.

Hey but don’t panic, be happee … keep on spending like there’s no tomorrow (which used to be a figure of speech) to keep those shareholders happee.

Cast your mind back to the 1980s (if you dare); remember the last time a bunch of banks went bust? Then it was after the ‘deregulation’ (a newsspeak way of saying that doing something illegal is now legal) of the Savings & Loans industry that they came a cropper, with the federal government having to fork out a couple of trillion dollars to save the banking industry from total collapse.[1]

What caused the run on Northern Rock that made it to turn into Northern Sand? When banks were ‘deregulated’, they were free to take their customers’ money and invest in what they perceived to be the highest returning financial instruments eg, ‘collaterised mortgage obligations’ amongst other, weird, wonderful and wacky scams. Great while the going was good, who’s complaining? The stock market is on the up, ‘we’re’ all making oodles of moola (the ‘we’ being the banks who have been making record profits, not for their customers you understand but for their shareholders!).

This is how the BBC ‘explained’ it in a piece entitled ‘What happened at Northern Rock?’

Mortgage lending Northern Rock lends a large amount for mortgages, and finances this with money from banks and savers

Savings Northern Rock receives a relatively small amount of money from savers

Money markets Have stopped lending money to Northern Rock due to the crisis in the US sub-prime mortgage market

Bank of England Steps into the breach to give Northern Rock an emergency loan

Not very illuminating is it? And in fact this is the sum total of the ‘explanation’ offered by the pundits at the BBC.

But then the Piper called in the tune (so to speak), ‘Where’s my money?’ howled the institutions, lumbered with a load of worthless paper now the reality of ‘collaterised mortgage obligations’ that were neither collaterised nor obligations to anybody and the mortgages were history.

Northern Rock were doing what the so-called market economy encourages it to do: speculate. It’s as simple as that. Prior to deregulation, financial institutions were not allowed to undertake such risky investments, that’s why they were illegal.

Little known fact (especially if you get your news from the BBC and alike): Strict state regulation of the financial sector followed on from the disastrous Crash of ‘29, where a financial free-for-all, much like today’s fiasco, was the single biggest cause of the crash. That’s what Roosevelt’s ‘New Deal’ was all about; getting the state to rescue capitalism’s sorry, tired arse.[2]

Look, the chickens have all come home to roost and all at the same time. And what a pathetic bunch of no-hopers they are too.

What people have got to realise—for now our future literally depends on it—is the plain fact that our current economic system is totally buggered; it staggers from crisis to crisis, each one worse, because of it geographical extent, than the last, now made all the more disastrous by the impact runaway (is this an oxymoron?) capitalism has had on the biosphere. There’s literally no place left to go for capitalism except down, the problem is that it will take everyone with it rather than relinquish its control over our lives.

So for example, to a great extent all the noise about Iran is connected not only to the tragi-farce that is Iraq but to the current financial meltdown, but so great are the disasters that not even threatening to nuke Tehran has taken people’s minds of the dire situation.

Surely by now folks it should be as plain as the nose on your face that our much vaunted ‘civilisation’ is a sham, as fraudulent as those ‘sub-prime’ loans were. It may not be what you want to hear but the only way out is to get rid of this rotten, murderous system and embark on the most important task that faces humanity; the rehabilitation of our planet and its people.


1. See The Bush Family Saga, Part 1 by William Bowles. This article, part of a larger multi-parter, contains lots of links to background information on the S&L scandal.

2. See my review of the excellent Gangster Capitalism, the United States and Global Rise of Organized Crime by Michael Woodiwiss, where he goes into some detail as to the situation in the US prior to the New Deal and then again after WWII, under Nixon who initiated the dismantling of state regulation of the financial sector.

Gangster Capitalism – The United States and the Global rise of Organized Crime by Michael Woodiwiss. Constable, London, 2005. Buy it from or

See also The Crimes of Wall Street: What Are We Going To Do Before Its Too Late? By Danny Schechter and, Some disturbance in the market George Anthony reviews a week of panic selling

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