End of the Line for Financial System;
Bankruptcy Issue Raised
Aug. 10, 2008 (EIRNS)The death of the financial system was the implicit subject of several articles in the financial press over the weekend, reflecting the way reality is setting in and attitudes are changing.
- "Investment banking is dying," was the blunt statement by William Cohan, in a op-ed in today's Washington Post entitled "The End of the Masters of the Universe?" Cohan says that the revenue streams of the investment banks are drying up, and that there is genuine fear in the corridors of power on Wall Street.
- "We have a banking crisis and an agency crisis and a mortgage crisis and a coming credit card crisis. We've never seen anything like that before. And it all seems to be coming home to roost at the same time. That's never happened either," Charles Geisst, a professor of finance at Manhattan University, told yesterday's Washington Post. He said the Great Depression was the last time the financial markets were hammered by such a variety of factors, adding: "But we did not even have credit cards in the 1930s; there was no such thing as student loans."
- The specter of generalized bankruptcy was raised by Yale finance professor Robert J. Shiller in an op-ed in the New York Times. Citing the failure of Bear Stearns and the government measures to bail out Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, Shiller asks, "What if the next case is worse? No one in government seems to feel a responsibility for warning about such possibilities and formulating a detailed policy for dealing with them." Shiller says that "Bankruptcy law is a good place to start. After all, the dreaded financial meltdown would amount to a wave of bankruptcies.... What would happen to the economy if hedge funds had to liquidate, one after another, in a financial crisis? We need to rethink the theory and practice of bankruptcy, given the new complexities."
Shiller points to the inherent limitations in current bankruptcy laws, which were largely drawn to protect narrow financial interests, and are poorly suited to deal with systemic problems, when a "subsidized system of triage would be needed to identify which companies should be saved, with the main criterion being the possible economic impact of their liquidation."
These comments, taken as a whole, represent the way discussions of the "unthinkable" are beginning to percolate, and converge upon the outlook of Lyndon LaRouche. Shiller's mention of triage by bankruptcy echoes the emergency measures proposed by LaRouche, of putting the financial system itself through bankruptcy, protecting the population with a firewall, and freezing the financial paper while we determine what debts will, and won't, be honored. Whatever Shiller may think about LaRouche's proposals, he is implicitly admitting that the system is finished, and that we must prepare for its demise, making decisions on the basis of the interests of society, and not merely the narrow interests of financial institutions. Reality is setting in, and reality leads inexorably to the policies outlined by LaRouche.