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Monday, May 28, 2012



A)'Right Now, We Need Expansion'
by Paul Krugman on Euro Rescue Efforts




SPIEGEL: But aren't banking issues to some extent a by-product of loose monetary policies? That was one reason for the financial crisis in 2008. Even now, having central banks pour money into the system could lead to new financial bubbles, which could trigger new problems within the financial system if they were to burst.
Krugman: I am not convinced that excessively loose monetary policy was actually at the root of the problem in the first place. And then, even to the extent that you think that excessive optimism or exuberance got us into the crisis -- and, therefore, we must be very careful to avoid anything like that ever again -- that's fighting the last problem. Right now, we need expansion.
SPIEGEL: The European banks are already in trouble.
Krugman: What's actually happened now is that a lot of the European banking system is basically heavily invested in the sovereign debt of its own countries. And so it's all tied together. I'm not worried about European banks; I'm worried about Europe. If the euro survives, then so will the banks.
SPIEGEL: Shouldn't the close ties between banks and sovereign debt be cut?

Krugman: You can't cut now. There's a fire, and we need to pour as much water on the fire as possible. Let's worry about reconstruction afterwards.(E.N. SPEAKING ABOUT THE BANK SECTOR NOT THE CITIZENS)
SPIEGEL: Mr. Krugman, thank you very much for your time.

B)It is not a crisis, the bills have finally arrived!!!

Every now and then we hear about one of the greatest economic crises which hit the world at the end of 2008, and how we must save our state budgets, cut public spending, make all sorts of cuts in public administration, including the number of employees etc. To be honest, at first most of us believed in this fairy tale, repeated over and over again, in known and unknown public media. But let us just go a little bit back in time and we will see the naked truth, as it is, and the sad truth is the bills have finally arrived.

When we talk about an economy we must think of the income into any state budget and all its components, as well as about costs and payments the state has had to make for many services, in terms of goods and works. One would say that there is nothing unusual in this, but the general public has never been privy to seeing the true cost in expenditure which occurred through the military intervention in foreign countries. It is evident that the taxpayers were misled by the public media citing all sorts of "human rights" organizations which were mostly located in London and not in the country which was being invaded. That was the case of Libya and now Syria, how convenient, but let us go back now to the economy.
NATO through its acts of aggression against sovereign countries used costly long-range weaponry, of which the aftermath was the land occupation of the country and deployment of military equipment, to supply the forces in the foreign zone or country etc. Now we are not talking about millions, now we are talking about billions of funds of taxpayers' money. I forgot to mention all donor conferences for the restoration of a crippled country through the destruction wrought by NATO. Now we come to the question, where does that money come from? It certainly is not money earned by any Government from the private sector, or from any multinational company. The money used for all NATO aggressions is simply that which has been taken from the citizen states, members of NATO. NATO does not care about any citizens of any country, NATO cares only about itself.
Let me tell you one anecdote, that when during negotiations the representative of the strongest country was presented with a signed document, signed on behalf of his country, he was asked why don't they respect the signed agreement, the answer that followed was striking. The reply was "the privilege of the powerful is to disrespect even a signed agreement". The privilege of the powerful then is to blackmail and to suppress other NATO member states, to do as it pleases, regardless of the impact on the weaker countries. Has anyone noticed that it is not feasible to negate your countries membership of NATO?
Membership in NATO means, besides the requirement of a 2% contribution of any given country's GDP, deployment of military staff, equipment, donor conferences, grants, military members brought back to homeland in coffins, disabled military staff, in one word, a huge hole in the countries budget.
Nowadays we are talking about professionalism, transparency, accountability, values and principles the world desperately needs. But the fact remains, whenever anyone in any specific country wants to find out exactly how much in funding has been contributed for NATO missions, the information has been declared as not permissible and secret. How come that does not surprise me at all?
So, let's once again get back to the economic crisis.... For more than a decade member states of NATO have spent more than they have had, destroying countries around the globe, starting with Serbia, then Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya and now they are trying to impose so called democracy in Syria, all at the expense of the citizens of NATO member states. That funding as an investment, will never came back to the source, besides the fact that the budgets of the member states have already been severely depleted.
Besides being a NATO member state, it is worth to mention that the Europeans real economy was transferred to the East, and as a consequence Europe is nagging about Tiger economies. But who created them, and who is to blame??? Most European countries, instead of making products with new added value, they boosted countless bureaucracy, and through this made all kinds of other stupid mistakes, which will at the end fall on the backs of the common citizens, who were misled and misused for a greater cause because Europe was led by politicians and not by statesman. And at the end let me tell you the name of that greater cause "Our future is gone; it is not a crisis, as the bills have finally arrived".

Nada Marcetic Pejnovic

SOURCE   http://english.pravda.ru

C) The future of the USA - 2012-2016: An insolvent and ungovernable United States (this is the first part  of an article)

In this issue, our team gives its anticipations regarding the future of the United States for the 2012-2016 period. We recall that since 2006 and the first GEAB issues, LEAP/E2020 described the global systemic crisis as a phenomenon characterizing the end of the world as we know it since 1945, marking the collapse of the American pillar on which this world order has rested for nearly seven decades. Since 2006, we had identified the period 2011-2013 as that during which the “Dollar Wall” on which the power of the United States sits would fall apart. Summer 2011, with the cut in the United States’ credit rating by S & P, marked an historic turning point and confirmed that the “impossible” (1) was indeed in the process of coming true. Therefore today, it seems essential to provide our subscribers with a clear anticipatory vision of what awaits the “pillar” of the world before the crisis at the point when the crisis moved into “top gear” in summer 2011 (2).

Thus, according to LEAP/E2020, the 2012 election year, which opens against the backdrop of economic and social depression, complete paralysis of the federal system (3), strong rejection of the traditional two-party system and a growing questioning of the relevance of the Constitution, inaugurates a crucial period in the history of the United States. Over the next four years, the country will be subjected to political, economic, financial and social upheaval such as it has not known since the end of the Civil War which, by an accident of history, started exactly 150 years ago in 1861. During this period, the US will be simultaneously insolvent and ungovernable, turning that which was the “flagship” of the world in recent decades into a “drunken boat”.

To make the complexity of the current process understandable, our team has chosen to organize its anticipations around three key areas:

1.US institutional deadlock and the break-up of the traditional two-party system
2.The unstoppable spiral of recession/depression/inflation
3.The breakdown of the US socio-political fabric

The future of the USA - 2012-2016: An insolvent and ungovernable United States (first part)

US institutional deadlock and the break-up of the traditional two-party system

From the beginning of 2010 our team had anticipated the state of institutional paralysis that has characterized the United States since the November 2010 elections. 2011 has allowed everyone to discover that, in fact, it had now become impossible for Washington to take any decision of importance, especially regarding economic and budgetary affairs, even though at the heart of the country's difficulties. Federal authorities are now unable to take measures to reduce the federal deficit, to adopt a sustainable federal budget, to implement policies to support the economy... Whether the Presidency, Congress or the Federal Reserve, each of these three key institutions is proving powerless to decide and/or implement meaningful policies.

The example of the Fed’s inability to implement QE3 (4) is indicative of the internal deadlock of the political system as it is now up against the public opposition of the Republican Party, the Tea Party and Occupy Wall Street (not to mention the outward opposition of most of the world’s central banks). And, far from improving, on the contrary the situation will get worse in 2012 and after.

In fact, one of the major causes of this institutional deadlock is the break-up of the traditional two-party system that accelerated with the November 2010 Congressional elections. Already, for over a decade, one of the phenomena that had allowed US bipartisanism to run relatively smoothly since 1945 was being lost, namely the wide permeability between both parties’ political views: the absence of a strong ideological divide enabling the avoidance of the paralysis that threatens any system with a strict separation of powers backed by the two-party system (5). During the 2000s, this permeability has completely disappeared against the background of growing ideological tensions, particularly at the initiative of the Republican Party and its constituent parts, ultra-religious, anti-tax and now anti-federal government.

Yet, since 2009, we are witnessing the rapid emergence of a new cause of institutional deadlock: the breakup of the two-party system pure and simple. This profound change has begun to register clearly in the US Congressional debates from November 2010 and especially during the summer of 2011 with the stalemate on the budget discussions and the surreal debate on the US public debt ceiling. Elected officials claiming to be representative of the Tea Party movement (TP) have, de facto, become a party within the Republican party, or rather, according to LEAP/E2020, the embryo of a new party in the process of splitting the traditional Republican Party: their arguments akin to the confederate speeches of the Civil War (pro-state, anti-federal, anti-tax, pro-white, isolationist ... and in general manipulated by powerful economic and financial interests).

Autumn 2011, witnessed the emergence of the Tea Party’s "democrat twin", namely the Occupy Wall Street movement (OWS). Like the Tea Party movement, OWS brings very disparate trends together: anti-Wall Street, anti-interventionist, anti-military, environmental, in favour of a social security system,... The two movements represent the widespread frustration of US public opinion in the face of the federal political system’s deadlock and the widespread corruption prevailing in Washington (6). LEAP/E2020 believes that the TP and OWS will be key players in the November 2012 Congressional elections. The search for new players outside the two major parties has become a priority for a growing number of American citizens.

As regards the 2012 presidential election, it’s unrealistic to believe that a third force will be able to present an alternative presidential candidate. In fact, at less than a year from the election, no personality has appeared capable of personifying this third avenue, and there is no organization capable of carrying such a candidature countrywide. On the other hand, for the elections to Congress (and certainly in many State elections), the TP and OWS will play the role of “breakers” of the traditional Democrat / Republican duopoly.

For 2012, LEAP/E2020 anticipates an even more divided Congress than this one, with the two movements strongly represented in the House of Representatives. Out of the total, we estimate that elected officials linked to the TP and OWS will account for one third of the House of Representatives and 15% of the Senate. This additional splitting into four parties/movements, with ideologies increasingly closed to the idea of any compromise, will strengthen Congress’ ungovernable nature and therefore the Federal government, since the President cannot do much when Congress hasn’t a secure majority and, on the contrary, it is deeply divided on the country’s broad direction (including the President’s role). The institutional system of the United States is totally helpless in the face of a four-party system, especially when this change represents a rejection of the current system.
Comparison between the Tea Party / Occupy Wall Street movements - Source  Big picture, 11/2011 

Therefore, LEAP/E2020 expects an increase in the number of partial and short-term measures from 2013 (as we have seen already with these partial and last minute budget agreements to “keep the Federal State going" (7)), the inability to schedule the country’s main fiscal balances (8), and in 2014 at the latest (a new election year) a radicalization of competing arguments around a redefinition of what is the United States.

It’s at this moment that the “window of opportunity” will open for the heaven-sent man (9) intended to “save the country”. As a matter of fact, there could be several candidates for the “rescue”, which will strengthen the country’s internal divisions. That man will have the 2016 presidential elections in his sights, with a necessary worsening of the domestic and overseas situation on the menu to enhance his position of “savior” (10).

Our team, like many observers of US politics for that matter, has already identified one of the possible candidates for this role of “savior of the Nation”: General David Petraeus. Besides his name that sounds like a Roman governor, he behaved as such during his term as head of the US Armed Forces in Iraq and Afghanistan. Many are the soldiers, diplomats, and other federal bureaucrats who would like to see a man of this “calibre” restore order in the country and an unquestionable federal state in command. The fans of order (11), for the rest love uniforms.

In the opposite camp, for now, there is no one of any credibility in terms of national visibility or charisma. 2012 may still change that and bring out a strong leader in the OWS movement or the left of the Democratic Party. But here our team remains guarded because this political family has often great difficulty in producing charismatic leaders (12), especially in a country where their mortality rate is particularly high (the Kennedy brothers, Martin Luther King,...).

The issue of balanced budgets in a recession, the financing of deficits and, therefore, the level of the military budget, will considerably push the military-industrial complex (13) to act, reinforcing all the more the option of a “heaven-sent man in uniform”. In summary, the current deadlock in Washington will become more marked from 2012 and become a source of widespread political chaos from 2013, knowing that powerful interests will be tempted to play politics of the worst kind to ensure the victory of a “savior” in 2016.

The problem for these "Beltway" players (14) is that the country isn’t facing a “normal” crisis or even a “serious” one like 1929, but really an historic crisis that happens unexpectedly once every four or five centuries (15). Thus since 2008 the United States has been embroiled, with a significant acceleration in 2011, in an unstoppable economic spiral: the sequence of recession/depression/inflation.


(1) Let’s remember just a year ago it seemed totally crazy to anticipate such a breakdown. Financial experts, the specialized media and other experts of “the future as a mirror image of the past” considered such a breakdown impossible, or possible after five or ten years if the country's financial situation continued to deteriorate.

(2) This requirement is all the higher that the media and financial sectors are completely parasitized by the “lure” of the “Euro crisis” destined, as we have been emphasizing for the last two years, to hide the seriousness of the situation at the heart of the global financial system, namely on Wall Street and in the City. David Cameron’s resounding failure in Brussels last week incidentally shows the panic that reigns in the heart of Anglo-Saxon finance.

(3) Euroland, despite its “handicaps”, repeated at length in the Anglo-Saxon media and the hysterical gibes of Wall Street and City intermediaries, has managed for nearly two years to build a whole new politico-institutional device to pass through the crisis and prepare for the world after. On the contrary, the United States is proving itself totally incapable of the least initiative to adapt itself to the new world order as was once again recently demonstrated with the failure of the deficit reduction super-committee goal despite its very limited target of 1.5 trillion in reductions over 10 years (see chart above). The history of states, like the species, shows however that the ability to adapt is essential for survival, and it's a law that has no exceptions.

(4) A situation that we had anticipated since QE2 whilst the conventional wisdom of financial markets was that nothing could prevent the Fed from running its printing press indefinitely. Stock market investors currently pay a high price for this mistaken belief.

(5) In fact, the United States institutional system, a faithful reflection of the ideas of the Enlightenment, and of Montesquieu in particular, puts face to face powers that have almost no control over each other. When it works, it's called the balance of power and one marvels at it (the constitutional law courses of these last sixty years have thus made the US a model of its kind). But when it malfunctions, it leads straight to paralysis because no one authority is able to dominate the others and therefore difficult decisions are constantly being deferred, which very quickly throws the country into chaos, especially since this type of situation tends to occur in times of crisis (when very difficult decisions to be taken quickly) and not when all is going well.

(6) Because we really must call “a spade a spade”: the US institutional system is now totally corrupted by the private interests of the country’s richest 1% (big business, hedge funds, billionaires,...) and it really is this observation that causes the anger of American citizens of all stripes. The Supreme Court’s 2010 decision to remove all limits on the financing of political campaigns by businesses merely ratifies the situation whilst showing that the judiciary itself is now also corrupted at the highest level. Our team wishes to clarify that this type of observation is now common currency in the whole of the US population whilst still marginal until 2008. And this shift of the margin to the “mainstream” is a sign that the country is about to face a serious political crisis: the loss of confidence in institutions is always a terrible trauma for a country, especially when it follows an almost blind confidence in these institutions. There’s only the Americanists outside the United States, and in Europe particularly, to still believe in the virtues of the US system, this stage is now well outmoded for the majority of Americans.

(7) This week we are once again witnessing an episode which risks, for the third time this year, closing the federal administration absent a temporary budget agreement. Source: CNBC, 14/12/2011

-8) We think it highly likely that the 2013 budget would be simply impossible to adopt, helping to strengthen the prevailing chaos. In fact, the two opposing trends that make social or military expenditure budgetary “taboos” will find themselves strengthened after November 2012, making any compromise still more illusory. And our team does not believe in the implementation of the “automatic reductions” in 2013 resulting from the failure of the super-commission on the deficit: the military-industrial lobby will not accept this sharp reduction. Only the three major rating agencies pretend to believe it, to defer the timing of a further US downgrade.

(9) Or woman.

(10) These are standard methods for countries in a serious crisis. History is full of such situations. However, losing their outrageous status in terms of wealth and isolation, the US now belongs to history. They are no longer a dream that floats above the harsh reality of other continents.

(11) Which includes, of course, the great fortunes of US business in their ranks and Republicans of all persuasions or substantially all (except the Tea Party libertarian fringe like Ron Paul). Source: Time, 24/06/2011

(12) Generally, the left doubts leaders.

(13) We remind subscribers that this expression was not invented by an inveterate leftist pacifist but by President Dwight D. Eisenhower in his speech at the end of his term of office in 1960. Source: Wikipedia.

(14) Which refers to “insiders” who work at the heart of federal government, inside the Washington ringroad (Beltway).

(15) In other words, the United States has never experienced such a "tsunami" because they it’s too new for that.



Sunday, May 20, 2012


Dart stands to make a hefty profit, having received 100 cents on the dollar


Levels - a record debt of Spanish banks

At levels - jumped a record debt of Spanish banks to the European Central Bank (ECB) in April and amounted to 263.5 billion from 227.6 billion euro in March.

This level, which reflects the ability or failure to raise liquidity from the markets by the Spanish banks - in addition to the ECB - is historically the highest since 1999 when the Bank of Spain publishes this data.

Meanwhile, historically high insurance costs climbed Spanish bonds against default payments.
According to data from the Markit, the five-year CDS on Spanish debt rose to 540 basis points. This means that the cost to insure Spanish bonds of $ 10 million is $ 540,000.
Upward move of CDS also Italian and Irish counterparts

GOOGLE TRANSLATION FROM   http://tvxs.gr/news/kosmos/se-epipeda-rekor-xreos-ton-ispanikon-trapezon

Europe: US distressed debt funds scent an opportunity

Many European companies are facing arguably their most testing time since the second world war, with a pernicious combination of anaemic economic growth, government austerity and systemic banking stresses combining into a treacherous corporate climate.

The continent’s largest companies seem resilient to the turmoil. Lenders remain willing, even eager, to bankroll cherished blue-chip clients. Bond investors seeking to escape the risks lurking in many sovereign debt markets have piled into high-grade corporate bonds. But for many smaller or overly indebted companies, the outlook is gloomier.
After years of mostly dealing with impaired loans by extending maturities and hoping an economic recovery would restore many companies to health, restructuring and turnround professionals say banks are starting to tackle their dud debts.

Andrew Wilkinson, head of European restructuring at Goldman Sachs, says: “A year ago, banks were not interested in engaging in a debt restructuring with companies, preferring to ‘amend and extend’, but they’re becoming much more open to it now. Repeated extensions of maturities only get a company so far, and rarely fix the underlying problem.”

Mounting predictions of increasing corporate distress in Europe have attracted a host of predominantly US-based distressed debt funds. Their increasing involvement is likely to shift significantly the dynamics of restructurings in continental Europe, experts say.

“We’re moving into a new phase now,” says Richard Tett, a partner at Freshfields, the law firm. “Historically, restructurings in Europe have been driven by the commercial lenders, but over the past year we have seen an increasing number of US funds involved.”

With distressed debt funds starting to snap up the loans of some companies, many restructurings could be far less convivial in the future.

While banks may still prefer simply to extend maturities, funds do not want to be long-term lenders, and have typically bought the debts at a discount.

That allows them to advocate debt writedowns to improve the health of a company, or even to take companies over in a debt-for-equity swap. Although in the long run this may be better for many companies, the sometimes aggressive stances taken by funds can cause consternation among traditional bank lenders and company owners who may be wiped out in the process.

“It will be a wake-up call,” predicts David Kurtz, global head of restructuring at Lazard, the bank. “Restructurings in Europe will become less consensual, the way they are in the US.”

Yet the culture shock works both ways. US distressed debt funds enjoy a largely uniform restructuring environment across their home market.

That is not the case in Europe, which has a jumble of legal regimes. Martin Gudgeon, head of European restructuring at the Blackstone Group, notes: “The different jurisdictions in Europe make outcomes unpredictable, so we have more ‘out-of-court’ restructurings.”

This makes an aggressive approach much less viable in Europe, argues Gina Germano, a partner at Goldbridge Capital Partners, a newly set up fund.

“It’s a lot harder to be a nuisance and get paid out in Europe. It pays to be consensual and constructive,” she says.

Ms Germano adds that US funds will also “be surprised at how much inertia there is here. The UK is a relatively efficient jurisdiction, where a restructuring can take six months, but in continental Europe it often takes more than a year.”

Moreover, experts disagree over the scale and speed at which European banks will deleverage through selling loans to third parties such as distressed debt investors.

The IMF recently forecast that European banks looked set to trim balance sheets by €2tn over the next 18 months.

Most of this will come from constricting lending – but some is expected to come from asset sales. And PwC estimates that there are some €2.5tn of “non-core” loans that could be for sale at the right price.

Richard Thompson, a partner at PwC, says that loans with a face value of €20bn were sold in the first four months of the year, and estimates that total sales this year could hit €50bn.

Sales are likely to continue apace, Mr Thompson says, despite the European Central Bank’s €1tn emergency bank loans under its longer-term refinancing operation (LTRO).

Yet many experts caution that European banks move slowly.

Provisioning for stressed or impaired loans costs capital, at a time when profits are already under pressure.

Bar any cataclysmic economic and financial shocks, deleveraging is therefore likely to be more measured than some funds are predicting.

“The European banking sector debt is an enormous iceberg that is melting very slowly,” says Mr Gudgeon. “If they are to deleverage more quickly they would need more capital to take the provisions that would ensue.”

Nonetheless, even distressed debt funds based in Europe, or with longstanding experience investing in the continent, say that regional lenders will eventually have to shrink their balance sheets significantly – providing many opportunities for those ready to snap up the assets that drip out.

“Banks have kicked the can down the road. They live in an accounting world, but eventually reality has to hit,” says Frits Prakke of Alchemy Partners, a London-based fund.

“We will have a post-financial crisis landscape where many countries will be lucky to have anaemic growth, and some will suffer double-dip recessions. Default rates will be meaningful.”

SOURCE FT  - 18/5/12

Corporate debt a ‘perfect storm’ in the making, S&P warns

The physics of ocean waves are still difficult for existing science to fully explain. Mark Nolan/Getty Images - The physics of ocean waves are still difficult for existing science to fully explain. | Mark Nolan/Getty Images
If you enjoyed the thrills, spills and chills of the last credit crisis, I have great news. The makings of the next one are looming – large – right in front of us.
In a report last week, Standard & Poor’s said the world faces a mountain of roughly $46-trillion (U.S.) in corporate debt needs between now and the end of 2016. In addition to a $30-trillion “wall” of corporate debt that will come due and require refinancing, S&P estimated that corporations worldwide will need between $13-trillion and $16-trillion of new debt to meet their capital spending and working-capital needs – essentially, to finance growth.

Actually, those numbers are just for the five major borrowing markets in the world (the United States, the euro zone, Britain, China and Japan). A true global estimate would be even bigger. (But what’s a few trillion bucks among friends, eh?)
“This demand for funds will potentially compound the credit rationing that may occur as banks seek to restructure their balance sheets, and bond and equity investors reassess their risk-return thresholds. These factors, amid the current euro zone crisis, a soft U.S. economic recovery following the Great Recession, and the prospect of slowing Chinese growth, raise the downside risk of a perfect storm for credit markets, in our view,” S&P wrote.
Such a “perfect storm” is, essentially, another credit crunch. As you recall from the last one, those pesky things have a knack for choking off growth, fuelling liquidation of financial assets and generally making everyone very nervous – all bad news for the markets and the economy.
And S&P warned that the forces used to counter the last credit crunch – namely, an opening of the fiscal and monetary floodgates – may not be there next time around.
“Governments and banking regulators are now not as well placed to counter another perfect storm scenario, given that they have already expended so much of their fiscal and monetary arsenal to mitigate the problems arising in recent years,” it said.
Now, S&P isn’t saying this is a done deal; it believes the financial sector has recovered sufficiently to at least be able to clear the $30-trillion refinancing wall. It helps that corporate borrowers generally look more credit-worthy now than before the financial crisis, as the majority of them have improved their balance sheets by building up higher cash balances.
“However, the $13-trillion to $16-trillion required to fund future growth could be more at risk,” it said.
More than three-quarters of all global corporate debt is in the form of bank loans. Banks in most of these major lending regions (China being the well-heeled notable exception) face both new regulatory restraints and still-delicate balance sheets, which may prompt them to keep a tighter reign on their corporate lending than in past cycles. If the current euro zone sovereign crisis were to escalate or the economic slowdowns of China and Europe to broaden, already-tight lending policies could all but dry up.
“Given our expectation that certain borrowers may find the availability of bank financing more limited than in the past – and when available, at a higher cost with likely more onerous terms and conditions – alternative providers of debt financing may be set for a new challenge,” S&P said.
That means the bond markets – which may have a lot of trouble absorbing that much new supply. For example, if European companies were forced to turn to the bond market to raise, say, 50 per cent of their new funding needs (compared with 15 per cent historically), that would mean more than $200-billion per year of new issues; only twice in the past decade have European corporate bond issues even topped $100-billion in a year.
While this suggests potential for tremendous growth in corporate bond markets, it also implies a lot of competition for a slice of the bond-financing pie. Companies are going to have to pay higher interest rates to secure their funding, and some won’t be able to raise the money they need on terms they can afford. Higher rates, higher borrowing costs and insufficient available capital are all, at very least, substantial headwinds for healthy, sustainable economic and equity-market growth.
And it would all be exacerbated by heightened risk and economic deterioration, as Europe is already demonstrating. European Central Bank data show that banks’ corporate lending standards have tightened considerably since last fall.
“At best, we are currently at a fragile peace,” S&P concluded. “At worst, we have created the makings of a perfect storm for the future.”


SOURCE   http://www.theglobeandmail.com


Saturday, May 12, 2012



3.2 The Paradigm

There are two aspects to the Swiss paradigm; first, forces inside the Swiss domestic policy arena caused its formation. Secondly, the paradigm functioned as Europe’s prime example of successful economic management, during the 19th century. Both aspects undermine the Hobson’s Anglo-centric viewpoints on laissez-faire.127 Let us deal first with the paradigm as an instrument of Swiss state building.

Soon, after Napoléonic rule, the Swiss cantons ultimately transformed themselves into a

federal, republican version of Haller’s ideal patriarchal and monarchic Usong state. The emerging ‘new Eidgenossenschaft’ of the 19th century, would prove to be strongly supportive of free trade, merchants and industry. Nevertheless, agrocracy (the nongben foundation of Haller’s model) had to be first identified as the most virtuous foundation of the ‘old Eidgenossenschaft’, to be additionally embraced by the ‘founding elite of 1848’.128 In other words, the post-1800 affirmation of the agrarian variant of wu-wei was politically generated to legitimise the new domination of commercial wu-wei. After the Civil War of the 1840s, an constitutional reform based on this ‘double embrace’ promised to be the best way to assure national unity and economic welfare, while easing the strong national strife between Catholics and Protestants, commercial Liberals and agricultural Conservatives.129 To preserve the historical myth of the free, democratic alpine peasant (i.e. Wilhelm Tell) as the founder of the Swiss nation, inside the ‘new Eidgenossenschaft’, it was absolutely necessary to eulogize Haller’s ideal of alpine agrarian wu-wei and therefore to legitimize the new government of the Swiss commercial elite.130

Secondly, this successful economic compromise of Switzerland produced widespread admiration throughout 19th century-Europe – while images of prosperous China were still being diffused .The commercial wu-wei had resulted from the fact that Switzerland’s prosperity (i.e. the welfare of Swiss minben) had depended on the free flow of European commerce, for centuries.131 Haller’s general wu-wei 

framework of the ideal state included a re-affirmation of this Swiss
laissez-faire commercial tradition. As one of Europe’s key economic gateways, a majority of the cantons’s economies had conditioned themselves to function in a continuous environment of free trade (like Bale), although pockets of protectionism continued to exist (like Bern), right up to the 19th century.132 The influential English free trader Richard Cobden was one of the first admirers of Switzerland’s strange blend of agricultural and industrial prosperity, of agrarian and commercial wu-wei. On the 6th June 1834, he wrote to his brother, from Geneva:
"The people of this country [Switzerland], are I believe the best governed and therefore the most prosperous and happy in the world. It is the only Government [,] which has not, one     
douanière in its pay, and yet, thanks to free trade, there is scarcely any branch of manufacturing industry which does not in one part or other of the country find a healthy occupation. The farmers are substantial. Here is a far more elevated character of husbandry life than I expected to see. Enormous farm-houses and barns; plenty of out-houses of every kind; and the horses and cows are superior to those of the English farmers."133
Like the prominent German political economist Friedrich List, Cobden was amazed that the free-trading Swiss economy, unlike his native England, included substantial farming.134 Nonetheless, he was just as impressed by the Swiss partly urban manufacturing industry i.e. Haller’s commercial wu-wei. This type of admiration of the Swiss economy was typical for the 19th century-disciples of the Libaniusian model. In consequence, the paradigm of the Swiss wu-wei state helped to  
transform Europe into an altered image of the
wu-wei Empire. At last, Confucius and Libanius would fuse into one great modern Eurasian theory of political economy and the European diffusion of wu-wei had been completed.

To conclude, we will draw attention to the three major findings of this paper. Firstly, the analysis demonstrated that the Chinese principle of
wu-wei was actually imported and primarily diffused by the commercial and Jesuit nexus of the Low Countries. Consequently, the details of China’s expertise entered Europe via the textual diffusion of the Jesuit texts and were visually supported by million of minben-images during the ceramic boom. Secondly, it has been shown that the intellectual foundation of the School of Physiocracy is a direct replica of the imported Chinese economic craftsmanship of agrarian wu-wei; consequently the European Libaniusian ideology cannot to be considered the intellectual master-model of Physiocracy. Thirdly, it has been made clear that Switzerland was the first European paradigm state of wu-wei. The European crystallization process of wu-wei ultimately ended with the Swiss state of 1848, in which Chinese agrarian wu-wei was institutionally fused with traditional Swiss commercial wu-wei. In due course, this alpine paradigm enabled the Libaniusian model to verify and reflect upon its own theory of a commercial society. In the following, we will touch on the broader implications of these three findings.

The fact that the Chinese principle of wu-wei was imported into Europe via the Low Countries proves clearly that research, which stresses the purely indigenous development of Europe’s laissez-faire doctrine, is mistaken. McCormick and others do focus too much on the non-Eurasian development of the European revival of the Libaniusian model and leave out the parallel emergence of the Chinese model. Only    
by re-focusing on the historical forces, which allowed both models to exist and mature simultaneously, can historians win a deeper understanding of the origins of  
laissez-faire in Europe. The Low Countries are a supreme example of the historical proximity of both models, and a great deal may be learned from a direct and more detailed juxtaposition of Grotius and the early characteristics of wu-wei’s importation; on this matter, I have only touched the historical surface. Furthermore, the Low Countries offered essentially two entry points for wu-wei’s diffusion into Europe: firstly, their printing presses and secondly, the import of ceramics.

The groundbreaking textual base was truly enhanced by the visual wave of images that confirmed a China at the peak of her economic development. The sinophile triangle of Amsterdam, Antwerp and Douai, was perfectly suited to push the message of       
wu-wei into the wider European arena of diffusion. Yet it was also an environment that was perfectly conditioned to receive wu-wei in the first place. In sum, wu-wei in the Low Countries was the outcome of a Catholic-Protestant, Flemish-Dutch co-production. Without the Jesuit from Douai the printing presses of Amsterdam would have remained quiet – so much for Max Weber.

The second part’s re-affirmation of Physiocracy as a direct copy of Chinese expertise is not as novel to current research, as it may sound – Hudson and Clarke are only the two recent examples of this approach. Yet, the assertion of Quesnay as the ‘Confucius of Europe’ remains controversial, until this very day. Repeatedly, textbooks on the history of economic thought have continued to re-instate Physiocracy’s debt to Europe’s indigenous Libaniusian model. In this Eurocentric model, the direct links between the ancient Stoics, Newton and Quesnay remain untouched by incoming Eurasian influences. Part two of this paper has tried to demonstrate that this linear model of European thought is erroneous. The relative qualities of Europe can only be located in her capacity to embrace, fuse and transform non-European information; it is incorrect to construct her history of economic thought around a nexus of  
mental autarchy and the example of the history of      
wu-wei in France verifies this claim. Quesnay has to be understood as a mind inside the Eurasian web of economic thought, his ordre naturel as a product of wu-weian influence and his so-called Physiocracy as a copy of China’s nongben-minben paradigm. It is only through this Eurasian assertion that one can appreciate the implications of Physiocracy’s Swiss connections.

Finally, Switzerland’s economic model of 1848 is not completely a one-to-one model of the wu-wei Empire, and of course, her commercial wu-wei is as much a product of the Libaniusian model as much it is reinforced by the European diffusion of wu-wei. Nevertheless, the first state inside Europe, which is actually deeply shaped by wu-wei, remains Switzerland – neither the British Empire of Adam Smith, nor François Quesnay’s France. Albrecht von Haller’s Swiss vision of Usong can be considered the first work of a European mind, which dis-connected the original agrarian wu-wei doctrine of China from its agrocentric i.e. nongben base, and added something truly European, namely commercial wu-wei. This process of fusion led to the European paradigm of wu-wei, namely 19th century Switzerland – admired and renowned by the disciples of the Libaniusian model, Cobden and List. The ‘new Eidgenossenschaft’ of 1848, based on free trade, commerce and a peasant state ideology can therefore be seen as the ultimate apex of wu-wei in Europe. Thus, two hundred years after the end of the terror of the Thirty-Years-War, a mountainous part of western Eurasia had created a new vision of harmonious government for the welfare of its people – we now know that without the diffusion of wu-wei, this might never have happened.           


Christian Gerlach

Department of Economic History
London School of Economics



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