Saturday, October 29, 2011

A brief guide to contemporary economics

"Market capitalism creates inherent difficulties. The two most obvious are macroeconomic instability and extremes of inequality. The tendency of a market-oriented financial system to run away with itself has, again, been demonstrated on a large scale. On the free market right people argue that if only we went back to the gold standard or ended fractional reserve banking, all would be well. I question such claims. Instability is inherent in the game of betting on the future. Humans seem prone to self-fulfilling waves of optimism and pessimism. Ways of mitigating the extent and the consequences of such instability always need to be found.

It is impossible to define an acceptable level of inequality. Any inequality is corrosive if those with wealth are believed to have rigged the game rather than won in honest competition. As inequality rises, the sense that we are equal as citizens weakens. In the end, democracy is sold to the highest bidder. That has happened often before in the history of republics. Peaceful protest is the right of free people. More important, it is a way to bring issues to our attention. The left does not know how to replace the market. But pro-marketeers still need to take the protests seriously. All is not well."

Martin Wolf, Financial Times


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