“Why capitalism fails” is the intriguing and misleading headline of an article in The Boston Globe. It is a reminder of the theories of Hyman Minsky, who pointed out the obvious: capitalism is inherently unstable…it proceeds in booms and busts…not steady, incremental growth. Of course, that is just the way it works – like nature herself. And that’s why people don’t like capitalism…they can’t control it. So, whenever a bust comes, they imagine that it has ‘failed’ or ‘broken down.’ Then, they propose ways to fix it.
“Since the global financial system started unraveling in dramatic fashion two years ago, distinguished economists have suffered a crisis of their own,” starts the article. “Ivy League professors who had trumpeted the dawn of a new era of stability have scrambled to explain how, exactly, the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression had ambushed their entire profession.
“Amid the hand-wringing and the self-flagellation, a few more cerebral commentators started to speak about the arrival of a ‘Minsky moment,’ and a growing number of insiders began to warn of a coming ‘Minsky meltdown.’
“‘Minsky’ was shorthand for Hyman Minsky, a hitherto obscure macroeconomist who died over a decade ago. Many economists had never heard of him when the crisis struck, and he remains a shadowy figure in the profession. But lately he has begun emerging as perhaps the most prescient big-picture thinker about what, exactly, we are going through.
“A contrarian amid the conformity of postwar America, an expert in the then-unfashionable subfields of finance and crisis, Minsky was one economist who saw what was coming. He predicted, decades ago, almost exactly the kind of meltdown that recently hammered the global economy.”
Economists went off their heads in the last few decades. They thought capitalism would make us all rich. And they thought capitalism automatically tended toward beneficent equilibrium.
Here at Markets and Money, intuitively, we guessed the contrary. The system produces a kind of orderly chaos…in which the rich are frequently impoverished, the proud are humbled…and the goofballs who think capitalism fails inevitably make things worse.
Until next time,
for Markets and Money