The Debtwatch Manifesto | Steve Keen’s Debtwatch

via The Debtwatch Manifesto | Steve Keen’s Debtwatch.

The fundamental cause of the economic and financial crisis that began in late 2007 was lending by the finance sector that primarily financed speculation rather than investment. The private debt bubble this caused is unprecedented, probably in human history and certainly in the last century (see Figure 1). Its unwinding now is the primary cause of the sustained slump in economic growth. The recent growth in sovereign debt is a symptom of this underlying crisis, not the cause, and the current political obsession with reducing sovereign debt will exacerbate the root problem of private sector deleveraging.

Figure 1

US private debt clearly rose faster than GDP from the end of World War II (when the debt to GDP ratio was 43%) until 2009 (when it peaked at 303%), but there is no intrinsic reason why it (or the public sector debt to GDP ratio) has to rise over time. I give a theoretical explanation elsewhere (Keen 2010), but an empirical comparison will suffice here: 1945 till 1965 were the best years of the Australian economy—with unemployment averaging 2 percent—and during that time the private debt ratio remained relatively constant at 25% of GDP (see Figure 2).

Figure 2

America’s minimum private debt ratio in 1945 may have been artificially low in the aftermath of both the Great Depression and World War II (and there are good reasons why the US economy should have a higher sustainable debt ratio than does Australia), but at some time between 1945 and America’s first post-WWII financial crisis in 1966 (Minsky 1982, p. xiii), it passed this level.

The explosion in speculative debt drove asset prices to all-time highs—relative to consumer prices—from which they are now inexorably collapsing (see Figure 3 and Figure 4).

Figure 3

Figure 4

The debt and asset price bubbles were ignored by conventional “Neoclassical” economists on the basis of a set of a priori beliefs about the nature of a market economy that are spurious, but deeply entrenched. Understanding how this crisis came about will require a new, dynamic, monetary approach to economic theory that contradicts the neat, plausible and false Neoclassical model that currently dominates academic economics and popular political debate.

Escaping from the debt trap we are now in will require either a “Lost Generation”, or policies that run counter to conventional economic thought and the short-term interests of the financial sector.

Preventing a future crisis will require a redefinition of financial claims upon the real economy which eliminates the appeal of leveraged speculation.

These three observations lead to the three primary objectives of Debtwatch:

To develop a realistic, empirically based, dynamic monetary approach to economic theory and policy;

To develop and promote a “modern Jubilee” by which private debt can be reduced while doing the minimum possible harm to aggregate demand and social equity; and

To develop and promote new definitions of shares and property ownership that will minimize the destructive instabilities of capitalism and promote its creative instabilities.

Read the rest here:  The Debtwatch Manifesto | Steve Keen’s Debtwatch.

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