– by Michael Hudson,.Counterepunch.org. July 8, 2015
The major financial problem tearing economies apart over the past century has stemmed more from official inter-governmental debt than with private-sector debt. That is why the global economy today faces a similar breakdown to the Depression years of 1929-31, when it became apparent that the volume of official inter-government debts could not be paid. The Versailles Treaty had imposed impossibly high reparations demands on Germany, and the United States imposed equally destructive requirements on the Allies to use their reparations receipts to pay back World War I arms debts to the U.S. Government.
Legal procedures are well established to cope with corporate and personal bankruptcy. Courts write down personal and business debts either under “debtor in control” procedures or foreclosure, and creditors take a loss on loans that go bad. Personal bankruptcy permits individuals to make a fresh start with a Clean Slate.
It is much harder to write down debts owed to or guaranteed by governments. U.S. student loan debt cannot be written off, but remains a lingering burden to prevent graduates from earning enough take-home pay (after debt service and FICA Social Security tax withholding is taken out of their paychecks) to get married, start families and buy homes of their own. Only the banks get bailed out, now that they have become in effect the economy’s central planners.
Most of all, there is no legal framework for writing down debts owed to the IMF, the European Central Bank (ECB), or to European and American creditor governments. Since the 1960s entire nations have been subjected to austerity and economic shrinkage that makes it less and less possible to extricate themselves from debt. Governments are unforgiving, and the IMF and ECB act on behalf of banks and bondholders – and are ideologically captured by anti-labor, anti-government financial warriors.
The result is not the “free market economy” it pretends to be, nor is it the rule of economically rational law. A genuine market economy would recognize financial reality and write down debts in keeping with their ability to be paid. But inter-government debt overrides markets and refuses to acknowledge the need for a Clean Slate. Today’s guiding theory – backed by monetarist junk economics – is that debts of any size can be paid, simply by reducing labor’s wages and living standards, plus by selling off a nation’s public domain – its land, oil and gas reserves, minerals and water distribution, roads and transport systems, power plants and sewage systems, and public infrastructure of all forms.
Imposed by the monopoly of inter-governmental financial institutions – the IMF, ECB, U.S. Treasury, and so forth – creditor financial leverage has become the 21st century’s new mode of warfare. It is as devastating as military war in its effect on population: rising suicide rates, shorter lifespans, and emigration of the age-cohort that always have been the major casualties of war, young adults. Instead of being drafted into the army to fight foreign foes, they are driven from their homes to find work abroad. What used to be a rural exodus from the land to the cities from the 17th century onward is now a “debtor exodus” from countries whose governments owe unpayably high sums to creditor governments and to the banks and bondholders on whose behalf they impose their policy.
While pushing the world economy into a state of war internationally, high finance also is waging a class war against labor – and ultimately against governments and thus against democracy. The ECB’s policy has been brutal toward Greece this year: “If you do not re-elect a right-wing party or coalition, we will destroy your banking system. If you do not sell off your public domain to buyers we will make life even harder for you.”
No wonder Greece’s former Finance Minister Janis Varoufakis called the Troika’s negotiating position “financial terrorism.” Their idea of “negotiation” is surrender. They are unyielding. Official creditor institutions threaten to isolate, sanction and destroy entire economies, including their industry as well as labor. It transforms the 19th-century class war into a purely destructive meltdown.
– – – > For full text of article – http://www.counterpunch.org/2015/07/08/71809/
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Also have a look at his interview entitled “Capitalism and Government Debt at Odds in Greece” (1/2) at http://therealnews.com/t2/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=31&Itemid=74&jumival=14213
About the author:
Michael Hudson is a Distinguished Research Professor of Economics at the University of Missouri, Kansas City. He is the author of The Bubble and Beyond and Finance Capitalism and its Discontents. His most recent book is titled Killing the Host: How Financial Parasites and Debt Bondage Destroy the Global Economy.Michael Hudson says unlike personal and corporate debt, there is no legal framework for writing off government debt, so there is deliberate anarchy in place. He is a former Wall Street analystand consultant as well as president of the Institute for the Study of Long-term Economic Trends (ISLET) and a founding member of International Scholars Conference on Ancient Near Eastern Economies (ISCANEE).
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About the editor:
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Bio: Educated as an international development economist, Eric Britton is an American political scientist, teacher and sustainability activist who has worked on missions and advisory assignments on all continents. Professor of Sustainable Development, Economy and Democracy at the Institut Supérieur de Gestion (Paris), he is also MD of EcoPlan Association, an independent advisory network providing strategic counsel for government and business on policy and decision issues involving complex systems, social-technical change, civil society and sustainable development. Founding editor of World Streets: The Politics of Transport in Cities | See Britton online at https://goo.gl/9CJXTh and @ericbritton