The culture of financialised capitalism

After the righteous fury that pervaded Royal Commissioner Hayne’s interim report on the financial system, the final recommendations came as a letdown to everyone (except of course the insiders who bid up bank shares in anticipation of the news).

This ought not to have been a surprise. Hayne correctly identified greed and dishonesty as the key drivers of wrongdoing. But greed (or, more politely, incentive) is the guiding principle of financialised capitalism as is seeking profit to the limits of legality, even when this involves what would ordinarily be called dishonesty. In these circumstances, it’s unsurprising that those limits are regularly breached, particularly given that most such breaches go undetected, and the few that are detected go largely unpunished.

The financial system is at the core of the problem but, as Bernard Keane observes in Crikey (paywalled, I think) its effects are pervasive. As he says, it’s not individual industries, it’s our system. Ross Gittins is also good on this. Even Eugenie Joseph of the Centre for Independent Studies has noticed that there is a big cultural problem here.

The only thing that will change the culture of greed and dishonesty is a reversal of the policies of financial deregulation that produced it.

47 thoughts on “The culture of financialised capitalism

  1. Hayne named Ken Henry, not for being greedy or dishonest, but for being in essence unpersuasive. It was Henry’s perceived attitude to the lawyers, not his work as a banker that was found lacking.

  2. The central issue is the use of money as the central measure of value (we acknowledge other forms of value, but money is the prime) and the key denominator or social difference. Given human status competition, this pushes for the ever-expanding monetisation – of the environment, social relations (hello Facebook), childcare….

    If hereditary social position had a merit, it was that it divorced status from money.

  3. Even if one accepts that money is ‘the central measure of value’ there remains the problem of how it is earned (honestly/dishonestly, legally/illegally, etc).
    The fact that everyone wants to amass it (if this is the case) does not mean that they should be able to do this in any way they find convenient (eg dishonestly). Allowing it in the past has lead to revolutions after all.
    Alsi, hereditary social position would have still meant that its holder was able to get ‘free’ services of various kind (benefits through influence for example, without exchange of money between the parties). The money of course was not less important than it is today as it could still buy one the position of privilage (not lastly through marriage for example).
    So it is hardly human competition that should be blamed for the state of the financial system, but rather tge culture that allowed it.

  4. “The financial system is at the core of the problem.” J.Q.

    There is a system even more deeply embedded in our political economy than the financial system. This system is the ownership system. One should say;

    “The ownership system is the core of all our problems.”

    I might write about this sometime in a Sandpit. When I get around to it.

  5. Rubbish from Eugenie Joseph: “Culture can’t be imposed by government, but must be built from inside an organisation”… yet true enough when the organisation owns the government.

  6. In a just world, a few thousand of these bankers would be imprisoned and a few thousand poor fine defaulters would be released.

  7. @Ikonoclast I am not sure how relevant it is to talk about the ‘ownership system’ in relation to the ‘financial system’ (or what the relevant connection/s is/are). The financial system, it seems to me, demages individuals from the general public, independent of anything else (Looking only at individual citizens, the depositors of their salaries with banks, and banks, the lenders, it is clear that the banks take unfair advantage of its customers, whenever they can).
    Are you simply suggesting that they do this on the behalf of their shareholders, because of the shareholders? Clearly this would not provide an explenation for why the financial system is the way it is, or why it could not be different.

  8. “The culture of financialised capitalism” – as is so often the case, the fundamental problem is described in the heading of JQ’s posts.

    IMHO, the habit of using the word capitalism interchangeably with the word market has assisted in creating the problem. [1] Terms such as social and ecological market economy would be much more helpful. Human history records people having exchanged things in markets and they have traded over long distances long before Adam Smith wrote. The idea of freedom to exchange things (ie a market) is compatible with the idea of democracy. The idea of abstract objects such as real numbers dictating all aspects of economic life and beyond as is the case with ‘financialised capitalism’ is not. Unfortunately, most of macro-economic variables (eg GDP…..) belong to this financialised capitalism.

    Good one, Svante.

    [1] Roy Radner’s theoretical model of an economy with a sequence of commodity and securities markets is helpful, IMO, to understand why more competition (in the issuance of securities) doesn’t work. This work was available for all to see before Thatcher’s Big Bang. The financial markets have never been fully deregulated – a lot of time consuming micro-management rules have been introduced. A quantity constraint is required. The very modest quantity constraint introduced by APRA last year had measurable effects.

  9. at Hugo:
    somebody swiping something from a shop will be incarcerated.
    somebody swiping (through fraud) a persons home and home deposit will be ???

    the impoverishment of people through financial malfeasance is so widespread i wonder how many of the people commenting here personally know or know of anyone this has happened to.
    i’m 1,
    my knowledge is of a couple who had their application form replaced and have been fighting unrepresented for six years to hold, at least, the large sum of money they paid as a deposit.

    and finally:
    https://www.researchgate.net/publication/330778188_conditional_dishonesty
    i have’t actually studied it but thought you might be interested.

    happy perusing.

  10. Hayne has been like a slap in the face to bankers – for too long they thought that the law, and the lawyers, were irritations to be avoided. I think now we will see more vigorous regulators and a more lawful banking culture.

  11. AleD,

    The financial system (in any given extant form) rests on the ownership system. The ownership system in turn rests on legal laws and customs. These in turn rest on violence, in the final analysis, to back them up. Where state laws are involved then it is the state’s monopoly on violence which, in the final analysis, backs these laws. These are very bare statements, on their own, without extensive explanations to back them up. I intend to write about this issue (ownership) in a “Sandpit” fairly soon. J.Q. kindly provides Sandpits from time to time for long posts, involved discussions, idees fixes and so on.

    The idea that any or all aspects of the financial system are “independent of anything else” is an idea that I reject, essentially. Rather, I take the position that everything is connected and interacting in the complex systems sense and that each more rarefied or formalized system is built on a more elaborate or more concrete (real) system below it. Ernestine Gross refers critically to “abstract objects such as real numbers dictating all aspects of economic life”. This cuts to the essential nature of the problem. We see this playing out when the abstract numbers (and formulas) “dictate” a great flow of wealth to a few already wealthy people while homeless people, real people, doss on the street. Leaving aside exogenous causes (war, resource shortages), the real system is telling us that the formal system is in error unless our express goal is to create extreme polarization of poverty and wealth. Actually, that is the real but seldom openly expressed goal of the already and soon-to-be wealthy.

    The formal systems (legal systems and financial systems) are constructed, in the main, by an exclusive set of real, rich people with their own agendas and sectional interests. The formal systems are not free-standing nor neutral. They arise out of and bear the biases of the most powerful sectional interests, those who are most powerful in both financial and real power terms. These people via their ownership of capital (as money, stocks, bonds and real material capital like real estate and factories) have the real power of control in our society. This is so as “ownership” is always backed by power (backed ultimately by the state’s laws and its monopoly on violence). This ownership power manifests itself in the ability to physically control, via the use of servants, employees, factotums, managers and private security forces, the disposition of material and human assets. The state’s security forces, as police, para-military and military, certainly act to guarantee the security of the nation and its people overall, but they also act in the service of owners against non-owners in almost every context in civil life. The more someone owns, the more, differentially speaking, the (capitalist) state is acting in that person’s service to guarantee their ownership against other claims and hazards.

  12. Top example just a day or two ago with Nat Bank shutting down 22 branches just days AFTER the RC delivered its findings.
    Change of culture, indeed!

  13. JQ: “it’s our system”. Always the system. And “The only thing that will change the culture of greed and dishonesty is a reversal of the policies of financial deregulation that produced it. “. Thank you JQ.

    And I did not anticipate “EvenEugenie Joseph of the Centre for Independent Studies has noticed that there is a big cultural problem here.”

    Rog, you doesn’t get it imo… “not his work as a banker that was found lacking.”

    Where do you draw the systemic line of a banker Rog. Circumscribe a line from Ken H and it will pass by me and end up back at his desk vectored by laws, culture and govt.

    Peter t… wish I’d said that at 2.

    AleD. “but rather tge culture that allowed it.”… and the systems it allows.

     Ikonoclast.  “The ownership system is the core of all our problems.” via cultural acceptance.

     Svante- Thanks for the “Rubbish from Eugenie Joseph: “Culture can’t be imposed by government, but must be built from inside an organisation”…”

    Hugo – good hugo.

    Ernestine – thank you for pointing out the topological (?) epistomalogical? ontological? cultural value of words. Excellent point we all need to follow through on… “the habit of using the word capitalism interchangeably with the word market has assisted in creating the problem.”

    A reference or small details if poss would be great. I don’t follow APRA. Nor read the fin.
    …”The very modest quantity constraint introduced by APRA last year had measurable effects.”

    “Among Radner’s various contributions, the one that bears his name, Radner equilibrium(1968), is a model of financial markets.[3][4][5]In the traditional approach if the value of an asset or a contingent claim is affordable then it can be achieved. Not so with incomplete market as the payoff has to be replicable by trading of available assets that are now part of the definition of the economy.”
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Roy_Radner

    Anonymous – “Hayne has been like a slap in the face to bankers” And how refreshing.

    paul walter – “Change of culture, indeed!” They are still using the system until it is changed to as Jq said “is a reversal of the policies of financial deregulation that produced it.” 

    Excellent example. Only 22? A thoughtful feedback model (read human) decided scenario 22. For shareholders not society. Thanks. I’d missed it.  

  14. @Ikonoclast Thank you for the clarifications. As someone grown up in a socialist country where state owned everything for a significant period of time I believe that ‘ownership’ cannot explain everything that goes on in a country. It is true that the distribution of wealth was much more even under state ownership, but a critic has suggested to me that this was because ‘everyone was poor’.
    Of course not everyone was poor, and the majority of people lived comfortanly enough before the eventual economic crisis and the rise of nationalism spelled the end of socialism.
    Even under the socialist/communist systems as we have seen, some proportion of individuals will try to get an advantage and power over other people. Once they have power they will use law/army/police etc to reinforce their power. So for the average citizen things are pretty bad independently of who or what exactly owns the capital.

  15. @Ikonoclast So why not insist on regulation of the financial system, independently of ‘ownership’, since implementation of a 70% tax rate on the trully rich (to decrease their ownership) is much less likely to succeed?

  16. Driving customers away from mortgage brokers, who have a high rate of customer satisfaction, will only help not hinder the banks.

  17. @KT

    It was Hayne who expressed his lack of confidence in Henry’s performance at the RC, he didn’t find his answers or attitude convincing. I put that down to poor communication skills on Henry’s part.

    Btw I am “Anon” (browser update lost the details).

  18. Aled,

    I take your point that “Even under the socialist/communist systems as we have seen*, some proportion of individuals will try to get an advantage and power over other people.” That seems to be a perennial problem under every socioeconomic system yet attempted by humans. I guess the question is what problems do we tolerate, and to what degree, in order to ameliorate other problems?

    * Note: I take “as we have seen” to mean the real extant systems which we have seen in historical practice to date. I also take this set to not exhaust the possible types of socialisms which could, in theory, exist. In other words a better variant of socialism than any that has yet existed, could still be brought existence, at least possibly.

    You asked the question: “So why not insist on regulation of the financial system, independently of ‘ownership’, since implementation of a 70% tax rate on the truly rich (to decrease their ownership) is much less likely to succeed?”

    That’s a fair enough question. I am certainly in favour of the types of regulation and re-regulation of the financial system which economists like John Quiggin and Ernestine Gross, for example, have recommended on this blog and in other writings of theirs. Greater financial regulation would be an improvement. There’s no need to stop there however. Increased financial regulation AND a 70% tax rate on the truly rich would be better than just one or other of those measures in isolation. In turn, tax rates to re-distribute wealth (accumulated as income and capital gains) is inferior to measures to prevent excessive wealth accumulation in the first place. Before re-distribution there is distribution. Distribution occurs according to the laws of ownership and related laws like wage and remuneration laws (minimum wage laws being an example) and common ownership laws (adult residents of Alaska get a personal dividend from the exploitation of Alaska’s resources via The Alaska Permanent Fund for example).

    Changing ownership laws to achieve more equitable distributions in the first place would reduce, though not obviate entirely, the need for re-distributive taxes. This reduces “churn” essentially, as well as having many other benefits including re-conditioning our expectations of our economic system. Currently our expectations are low. We expect politicians to lie, managers to bully and owners to exploit. We also continue to expect nothing can be done to reduce the power of the rich. Saying “implementation of a 70% tax rate on the truly rich (to decrease their ownership) is much less likely to succeed” is a fair indication of people’s low expectations these days, in such matters. This is particularly the case since some historical rates of taxation on the very rich went as high as 95%, during which period incidentally, the economies in question performed quite well.

  19. KT2, the paper by Prof Roy Radner I have in mind is: “Existence of Equilibrium of Plans, Prices and Price Expectations in a Sequence of Markets”, Econometrica, vol 40, pp 289-304, 1972. (Prof Radner has worked and published in many areas, primarily in economic theory – the math econ variety.)

    Re Radner (1972) and APRA. A problem encountered by Radner when extending the Arrow-Debreu model (1950s) by allowing markets to open again and again but for a finite number of times and there are commodity and financial securities markets is that in contrast to the Arrow-Debreu model, there is no lower bound on the financial securities (roughly translated, there is no limit on issuing financial securities). Radner considered the simplest form of securities. But this brings out the problem of the unboundedness of the system and removes the tendency in more applied areas to get lost in irrelevant details. Last year, APRA put a quantitative constraint (ie a bound) on financial institutions in Australia regarding interest only loans (a type of financial security) to curtail the housing price bubble (I am using the term ‘bubble’ in the sense of asset prices (financed by debt) rising to levels that make no sense – eg in relation to wages). This relatively mild measure worked in the sense that real estate prices, particularly in Sydney and Melbourne, stopped increasing, setting aside some small pockets). Prior to the so-called financial deregulation, the monetary authorities (eg the RBA in Australia) had other policy measures besides the short term interest rate to limit the lending behaviour.) Financial deregulation involved further changes (eg derivative securities), which compounded the problem. IMHO, the deregulation led to an avalanche of band-aid regulations, which understandably results in objections, while leaving the fundamental problems unaddressed. Given the ‘culture of financialised capitalism’ (the mind-set of believing that more competition will solve the problem) the financial sector demands more deregulation. IMO, this problem of excess debt, generated by private financial institutions that are motivated by profits is a problem that cannot be solved by focusing on fraudulent, or greedy behaviour – ie internal culture). It requires a change in the institutional environment (rules of the game), such that limits on various types of financial securities can be set by an institution such as the RBA. IMO, the fraudulent or greedy behaviour is a secondary problem only. Moreover, it is not confined to the financial enterprises.

    I find it a little difficult to go more into details on a blog.

  20. The above ‘Anonymous’ is I, Ernestine Gross. I forgot to fill in my details box or to click on the icon. Apologies.

  21. Again I enjoyed so much reading Ernestine’s comments. Mind you I do not understand all of it but that is my fault. I gave up reading the literature on financial markets after reading John Quiggin’s pivotal book on the weaknesses of financial market theory. The one thing that really struck a cord with me was what Ernestine said about the “ripples” from financial deregulation. The Campbell Commission of Inquiry from 1983-84 and the Martin report from 1984 was the smokescreens for a large political deception. Both sides of politics were keen to join the USA in deregulating our financial markets. In one way, it was the beginning of globalization of our money economy. Whilst vicious rearguard actions were launched to continue to protect Australia’s real markets, politicians wantonly threw away control of our money markets. The idolization of Hawke/Keating era has stopped both sides of politics from seeing the errors in these past deeds.
    I had to teach Economics in this period of a constantly changing deregulation mania. It was NOT pretty.
    Many mistakes were made, but the biggest one was the obsession with the four pillar policy for the banking sector.
    Anyway that is the past. We now must face a future with a lot more uncertainty in financial markets. Any economists will tell you that orthodox economic theory cannot handle the effects of such uncertainty Empirical evidence is of little value when greed and self interest drive financial habits.

  22. Ernestine. As always an excellent post. Thanks.

    “APRA put a quantitative constraint (ie a bound) on financial institutions in Australia regarding interest only loans”

    That is it. All they did. Hayne or someone needs to put a serious culture broom into apra – and manage how humans are appointed. As you say greed seems secondary to the rigging of rules and powers.

    Bounding “no bounds” needs to be embedded in legislation. An ignorant analogy, it seems the reverse of a divide by zero error – a “we can divide infinity ” feature as opposed to bug.

    “Derivatives and an avalanche of band aids”, (a journo would love this phrase) captures nicely in words, the problems continuing to keep the culture of financialisation embedded. I heard some realist on radio saying ‘we will be having another rc into finance within ten years”.

    I delivered a systems dynamics software lesson to a person in 1991 who developed a currency trading algorithm who stated “I could train bar flies (alcoholics) to do this as the pass mark for trades is 51%”, and “the majors will incorporate my edge within two years further driving algorithmic arms race”. We are still reaping negative societal and cultural effects.

    I am loathed to admit it, but i rang the rc, and if victims went out to 20 yrs instead of ten, I too would have received minor compensation. I had two negatively geared P & I mortgages, one a principal place of residence. Rapid increase in house prices in an area I knew well. Borderline on expenses. I doubted I’d get a full p& I loan and floated question to new loans manager, who was, stunningly, head and shoulders above any I’d encountered before. For some reason he had come from a trading arm of the bank and I now believe he was there to book build with suckers like me (groan – I learnt my lesson). With the aid of an accountant for paperwork ( secret commish?), I took two loans, (greedy and stupid ) one at 110% interest only. Disaster tennants, company I worked for went into receivership and within a year I sold both, coming out even, only due to strength of prevailing market. Stressful and very sobering. This experience finally awoke me from my cultural slumber (she’ll be right, you’d be a mug not to) to take a real interest in banking and economics, leading to JQ’s blog eventually.

  23. Moving forward via “reversal of the policies of financial deregulation that produced it. ”

    Wealth tax in America
    “”Reagan, then Bush and Trump subsequently endeavoured to destroy this heritage. They turned their backs on the egalitarian origins of the country, by counting on historical amnesia and by fuelling identity-based divisions. With the hindsight we have today, it is obvious that the outcome of this policy is disastrous. Between 1980 and 2020, the rise in per capita national income was halved in comparison with the period 1930-1980. What little growth there was, was swept up by the richest, the consequence being a complete stagnation in income for the poorest 50%. There is something obvious about the movement of return to progressive taxation and greater justice which is emerging today and which is long over-due.””
    http://piketty.blog.lemonde.fr/2019/02/12/wealth-tax-in-america/

  24. Nobody has pulled me up on my reference to The Alaska Permanent Fund so I will do it myself. My reference was intended as an example of giving resource rents to all citizens (effectively making citizens owners of the resources, at least from the income angle). However, it is a strategy fraught with certain dangers. In the case of The Alaska Permanent Fund most or all of the revenue comes from oil. One could view this method of distributing resource rents directly to the people as a subterfuge to buy voter agreement for an environmentally damaging policy, namely that of pumping oil. Also, it might be better in general for resource rents to go into consolidated revenue and be available for social programs.

  25. Gregory, ‘unbounded’ means there are no edges in the Edgeworth box diagram (try to find a solution on a bleeding edge sheet of paper).

  26. This is very interesting and well worth reading.

    “Capital as power:Toward a new cosmology of capitalism” – Shimshon Bichler and Jonathan Nitzan

    http://www.paecon.net/PAEReview/issue61/BichlerNitzan61.pdf

    Perhaps people should read that paper, of only 20 pages or so, before reading on below.

    Here is a key quote from the paper:

    “Political economy, liberal as well as Marxist, stands on three key foundations:
    (I) a separation between economics and politics;
    (II) a Galilean/Cartesian/Newtonian mechanical understanding of the economy; and
    (III) a value theory that breaks the economy into two spheres – real and nominal – and that uses the quantities of the real sphere to explain the appearances of the nominal one.”

    I think Bichler and Nitzan are on the right track in a number of ways but I still do have some key disagreements with them. To illustrate these disagreements I will re-write the statement above in what I regard as the more correct form.

    “Conventional economics stands on three key foundations:
    (I) a separation between economics and politics;
    (II) a Cartesian/Newtonian mechanical understanding of the economy; and
    (III) a value theory that breaks the economy into two spheres – real and nominal – that uses the quantities of the real sphere to explain the appearances of the nominal one (ideological justification) and that then uses the quantities of the nominal sphere to manage those of the real sphere (as an instrumental, formalised reason system for the purpose of deriving, in a sense, quantised values for the real).”

    To explain these changes;

    (I) By definition, political economy does not separate economics and politics. Even using the original definition of political economy which meant national economy, the operations of government and politics are implicit in the definition. It is conventional economics which artificially separates the complexly conjoined, but far from identical, “twin” spheres of politics and economics. Political economy in general and Marxism in particular attempt to deal with the entire twinned system. This is not to say that any existing form of political economy, including Marxism, has fully investigated and properly explicated the “cosmology” of this twinned system. Indeed, they have not.

    (II) This point is clearer if only Cartesian-ism and Newtonian mechanics (classical physics) are mentioned. The issue with Cartesian-ism is (substance) dualism which is very arguably a fallacious metaphysics and ontology. The argument is a long one of which more later, at another time. Suffice it to say here that modern physics and complex system science lend weight to the stance of a form of Priority Monism which we might term Complex System Monism where the whole known system (the cosmos) is prior to its parts. Its “parts” in turn are sub-systems which can include, or rather exhibit, emergent and evolutionary complexity. The problem with taking the viewpoint of Newtonian mechanistic physics (and the mathematics which goes with it) is in the very application of mechanistic science (and maths) to complex emergent and evolutionary systems. Conventional economics remains, for the most part, mired in mechanistic and deterministic models. These are wholly inadequate for complex emergent and evolutionary systems.

    (III) It is true that conventional (classical) value theory, even Marxist value theory, breaks the economy into two spheres – real and nominal. However, classical theory is not quite so bereft of analytical and pragmatic use in this arena as is suggested by Bichler and Nitzan. The market, however constituted and however imperfect, is the social and economic instrument of measurement of real value in nominally comparable value terms. How good, representative, true or useful the nominally comparable value terms are is another question. Individual humans, as agents, are the agent-actuators of the collective instrument that is the market. The market is a collective and cooperative instrument that is used for the competitive game or rather the pseudo-competitive quasi-rigged game of market economics. This fits within the theory of cooperative-competitive games. Of course, it is still possible, at least in theory, that we could find a better instrument than the market. It is is also possible that we might not.

    Breaking the world into real and nominal spheres (or sometimes real and virtual spheres) is something we humans do all the time. It is not unique to classical economics. Every ideational system, every mathematical system is a model or map (in nominal or formal form) of the real world. Every interaction of a human agent (a human being) with the real world (the physical or material external world in substance philosophy terms) is mediated and managed by our mental models. Even our sensory data is modeled in the brain into a virtual representation (in the brain) of all that which we sense. This virtual representation is a model or a set of models. Modelling is the way, the entire way, in which the human agent (the human person) interacts with the world in any purposive, endogenously directed fashion: modeling and modeling only.

    In the above sense, the broad agent model of modern economics is not wrong, not misconceived. We model values and we build cooperative-competitive instruments (markets) to collectively model economic values as a community. There are of course other ways to model values from religion to moral philosophy to science (oftentimes these are widely differing kinds of values of course).

    However the representative agent model is wrong or inadequate in two specific ways. Individual agents (humans) are dissimilar enough, because of their internal complexity and complexities of their individual histories of socialisation, that they cannot be validly aggregated in many ways. Also, the representative agent model takes no proper cognizance of emergent behaviors.

    Where all this ontological investigation and theorising gets us is not clear at this stage. The investigation, theory and testable theories (hopefully) would have to be carried on and developed. But certainly it is necessary to return to ontology (what is real, how it is real and how do these real things or real processes interact?) before we solve (partially but more than so far solved) the “wicked” problem of economics, or rather of political economy.

    My main criticism of conventional economics and even of Marxism and Capital as Power theorising is that they are all too incomplete and none of them has yet developed a consistent and supportable ontology. They can never be completed of course but surely they can be extended further than their current development. The way to do this is to return to ontology as I say. If we don’t get the basic ontology right we will get nothing else right.

  27. Thanks Ernestine.
    In my mind the “bleeds off the edge of the paper” can be infinity. Again, some human in some culture in some context has the power to effect a bound effecting me.

    I certainly do not want you to teach me via an answer, but if any of my questions below trigger an insight or story we would all be appreciative. And I have always haboured a want to see policy scenario generation “under the flesh and muscles”. And the ‘devide by infinty’ stuff ups. So easy at a technical level to hide from society.

    “Early history of the Edgeworth box diagram 
    “Economists hail it as “a powerful tool,” “a work of genius,” and “one of the most ingenious geometrical constructions ever devised in economics.” It graces the pages of countless textbooks on price theory, welfare economics, and international trade. It is associated with some of the greatest advances ever made in economic theory. It elegantly depicts the two fundamental welfare theorems that are absolutely central to modern economics. In short, it ranks with the preeminent schematic devices of economics since it illuminates the most important ideas economists have to offer. It is none other than the celebrated box diagram used to illustrate efficiency in exchange and resource allocation in hypothetical two-agent, two-good, two-factor models of general economic equilibrium.”
    https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Edgeworth_box#cite_note-5

    “While on other hand, general equilibrium analyzes interactions of different markets. Shift of the supply curve from SS to S’S’ has been caused by the rise in wage and reduction in supply. This is the feedback effect. This can be analyzed further to study market in a more intensive way

    https://www.chegg.com/homework-help/edgeworth-box-diagram-also-used-show-production-possibility-chapter-10-problem-9p-solution-9781111784300-exc

    I can cope with the box diagram to “the further analysis of S’S’.” Yet a myriad of confunding effects, markets, laws, players and that big word culture, would seem to confound any semblance the box diagram ever making a specifc policy effect or decision. However genius, only a result in a model.

    I understand econ text books use it. Why have I never, as an easy graphic to intuitively grasp which, although it “elegantly depicts the two fundamental welfare theorems that are absolutely central to modern economics.” but a systemically deceptive communication device (one result in a given model) have ‘we’,  ever see them in the msn, this blog etc please.

    Any answers appreciated. If it used by say dept of x in Australia;

    Q1.- anyone ask say productivity commision what box diags they used in wage price determinations? Did they?

    Q2- what freedom of info requests would say a brave fool ask to deliver such basic evidence of ‘simple markets’ vs ‘feedback effects on S’s'”. 

    Q. Have you or JQ asked for such?  Or an example of where my life has been and is being effected today.

    Q3 – would a bank use it as money vs housing development. 

    Q4 – Not a 1,000+n to 1,000+n to n arrayed spreadsheet or LaTex math model or other. Is this how you and JQ would see econometric gdse / operational models?

    Q5. What the would be the best question to ask govt re why are we still not able to publish a human readable model of market feedbacks and policy presumptions and scenario generation.

    Q6. What year and how long would this be studied at economics at uni. I’m getting old.
    I want to see under the flesh and muscle please. 

    I’d ask it for the whole systems model and data and assumptions to be delivered in an constant visual interactive interface. A feedback loop diag (instant visual conveyance of size and complexity of model and roadmap of links to be validated or altered) Human readable step functions. Dashboard so I could manipulate and drive my own scenarios. 

    I also think from the tomatoes market box diag example in chegg above, you and JQ must wince when buying tomatoes, and at only 2 outlets – woolies and coles – to buy them! 

  28. Ikon you are right, the Bichler Nitzan paper is very interesting. We should stop looking at life in such a binary fashion.

  29. KT2, the Edgeworth box diagram is a diagrammatic exposition of the simplest conceivable general equilibrium model involving 2 individuals and 2 physical commodities (with a fixed supply, which, together with the quantities of each commodity owned by each individual gives the boundaries of the box), who trade only once. Quantities of each of the 2 commodities are measurable in real numbers (excluding lumpy things) and the preferences of each individual for the consumption of the 2 commodities are typically assumed to be strictly convex, as represented by the smooth level sets.

    My comment was addressed to Gregory, making an assumption, possibly a wrong one, as to which word may have been unfamiliar but being quite sure that he will know the Edgeworth box diagram. So I used the Edgeworth box diagram to illustrate the meaning of a word. I suspect this will be sufficient for you to answer most if not all of your questions.

  30. Anonymous,

    Yes, I think Bichler and Nitzan’s approach is very interesting and useful. I am however a little puzzled by their rigid insistence that “Capitalism is not a mode of production. It’s a mode of power.”

    To me, it is clear that capitalism is both a mode of production and a mode of power. The extensive fact is that both activities are intrinsic to its overall operations. Imagine we asked a question about bees. Are bees producers of honey or pollinators of flowers? The answer is that they are both. Both functions are intrinsic to their overall activities. One activity is an intermediate goal (the final goal being feeding young for reproduction purposes) and the other activity produces a byproduct service from the point of view of wider ecology. A person may focus on the study of one activity or the other but a study focus should not mean that one overlooks the wider system embedded nature of the activity or process being studied.

    I suspect the issue is really a definitional one. If one defines, or at least closely identifies, capitalism with the operations of financial capital then capital itself will appear as a mode of power. But it is only the proximal source of power. Ownership, symbolically signified and proved at law by possession of nominal quantities (shares and dollars), is the legitimation for manipulating real quantities. Ownership in turn is backed by state laws and the state’s monopoly on violence. Violence, real, implicit or threatened, is always the final underwriter of (political and biological) power.

    In one important way, Bichler and Nitzan follow Veblen in dividing economic activity into industry (actual production) and business (buying, selling, manipulating and even sabotaging industry). This too is a useful way of looking at things. These different methods of looking at capitalism are prisms to view it through. They split capitalism up in different ways into different apparent constituent components. But after all reductionist analysis, the key is to put a model of the whole system back together conceptually. This is the most difficult task and perhaps even impossible for a truly complex system.

    One component of capitalism which must not be forgotten is the state. The state too is a component of capitalism and (paradoxically perhaps) statist activity heavily underwrites oligarchic capitalism. The rule of (capitalist-favouring) law, backed by the state’s monopoly on violence, is a key component of capitalism. State subsidies also underwrite capitalism, or a least our current form of capitalism. Most successful, established, capital intensive industries, even when in private hands, are heavily underwritten by state subsidies. We only have to look at fossil fuels (massive subsidies), industrial agriculture (massive subsidies), banks (massive subsidies), armaments production (massive subsidies). This conformation of state activity to the interests of large capitalist holdings (big government to big business) probably explains why China finally made the transition to “statist capitalism” so easily. It’s a natural fit under the current system.

  31. The policy to get rid of trailing commissions to mortgage brokers and to force consumers to pay upfront for services rather than the banks paying seems the policy recommendation in Hayne with most punch. This would, I think, reduce the profitability of the mortgage broking industry since customers would not pay thousands of dollars for a service (a cost currently hidden from them). Haynes suggests capitalising this cost into the value of the loan but the cost would still be visible to the borrower. This model, apparently, has been tested in the Netherlands and works.

    The only argument I have seen for leaving mortgage brokers untouched is in yesterday’s AFR (p. 47). Mortgage brokers are claimed to reduce consumer search costs and to provide scale economies in lending opportunities for smaller lenders. If banks are forced to clearly advertise their rates then the search issue seems trite to me – choose the cheapest mortgage. I am unsure about the scale economies issue – mortgage brokers face a conflict of interest issue when, as now, they are paid by the banks. They will favor the bank that most benefits them rather than the mortgage-buying customer. Moreover most loans are now based in the large banks.

    Unfortunately Hayne’s strong recommendation, on the mortgage brokers, was immediately rejected by the LNP. Labor have pledged to enforce it though there is a fair bit of time for under the table deals between the brokers and Labor before the latter’s likely electoral success. I can imagine the argument: “there are thousands of small businesses out there….offering broking services etc”. The LND have already swallowed this.

    The surge in bank share prices some claim is due to the expectation of extra profits from reduced competition when the mortgage brokers disappear. I doubt this because I cannot see why there would be less competition and one layer of transactions costs would be eliminated – Hayne stlll sees the necessity of banks charging fees for setting up a loan. There are many parts of the report that go easier on banks than was initially envisaged so shareholders are relieved at that.

  32. Is finance more dishonest than other sectors of the market economy? Abuses have always been common – false weight, adulteration, non-delivery, unfitness for purpose, misrepresentation.. But when business is ultimately about material objects or services, there is a reality check that doesn’t apply to disembodied information, which is what finance sells. Even music and literature is embodied in physical substrates. The closer finance gets to the material world, as with insurance, the cleaner it generally seems to be.

    Cryptocurrencies support this argument. They are shady as all get out; but they don’t come from the traditional worlds of finance capitalism, but from the intersection of computer science and libertarian ideology. They quickly reached the same place as the creators of bundled subprime mortgages.

  33. James Wimberley,

    That’s a good question. Perhaps, as you suggest, finance has more scope to be dishonest. Where there is more scope to be dishonest, more dishonesty arises. In turn this raises the issue of regulation. The main issue brought to the fore is that self-regulation does not work. The customer-voter needs to continuously apply pressure to government. Government in turn needs to regulate industries adequately. The costs of regulation can be considerable. However, we should never forget that failure to regulate can incur high costs too. There must, in theory, be an approximate regulatory “sweet spot” for each industry, in terms of costs and benefits.

    Even more interesting, to me, is your statement beginning with the mention of material goods and material services. You note “Even music and literature are embodied in physical substrates”. This is a very important observation which is true from the physicalist or materialist standpoint. We can extend this and note that even financial services are embodied in physical substrates. Physical computers, wires, energy etc. are all used to deliver financial services. What is delivered, in the first instance, by music, literature and financial services is information, as defined in information science. A slightly older term is “data”. The human being receives sense impressions from screens, pieces of paper, speakers etc. and these convey information to the brain (via the nervous system).

    Thus, in this sense, financial services are not different from music and literature. They are all delivered as information embedded in and transmitted by physical substrates and energy consumption. Our reactions to music and literature, on the one hand, and to the detail of financial services are usually quite different. With music and literature we experience enjoyment of our favorite forms and our eyes glaze over with boredom at non-favoured forms. With financial services our eyes universally glaze over when confronted by the detail unless we are one those “special” persons who are both avaricious AND numbers-orientated. There can be bad art aesthetically and even “dishonest” art ethically or ideologically but it is hard to call original art, be it good or bad, (excluding fake reproductions) dishonest in the economic sense.

    Thus financial services and art evoke different reactions from us. Financial services are formally calculative and full of tedious formulas and clauses which often provoke avoidance of detail and shutdown on our part. With art we enjoy, there are subjective rewards in every step of the detail and this keeps us engrossed. Clearly, the purveyors of financial services recognize the twin benefits of detail which serves to tie people up legally and also makes their minds glaze over so they give up on reading the fine print and just sign on the dotted line.

    I could write much more on the overall topic (real systems, formal systems and human agents) because it bears, eventually, on the ontology of economics. It gets very interesting once we begin to consider human agents as entities who use formal systems to manipulate real systems and to consider how this happens and works out. All formal systems are still real in one sense, the very sense we have discussed above. They consist of information embedded in, transmitted by and even manipulated by material substrates and material systems (up to and including computers and human brains). These formal systems don’t exist anywhere except in these physical substrates. As I say, I could write much more on this topic but I have found in general that people want to discuss economics without first discussing the ontology of economics. In my view that is precisely why orthodox economics is to date a failed research program.

  34. $55 million of “All RIGHT at the ABC”. CIS flood watch.

    I heard a touch of Eugenie. As a human I was not impressed. The ABC will now be able to hold an enquiry showing the pendulum has swung.

    “The Right Rev Robert Forsyth, a senior fellow at the CIS, appeared on God Forbid, a religion program hosted by James Carleton; Carlos d’Abrera, a psychiatrist and research associate at the CIS, was on Amanda Vanstone’s Counterpoint to discuss the libertarian view on homelessness; and the John Bonython lecture hosted by Switzer at the centre last year was featured on Big Ideas. The lecture by the Brexit supporter Daniel Hannan was titled How Identity Politics Are Undoing the Enlightenment.

    Nick Cater, a former editor of the Weekend Australian and now executive director of the Menzies Research Centre, also made an appearance on the show.

    This week Eugenie Joseph, a senior policy analyst at the CIS, was a panellist on Big Ideas.

    A few months ago Wayne Swan said the right had invested “huge sums of money” on getting a seat at the table of ideas. Labor’s federal president said the Institute of Public Affairs had revenue of $6.1m in 2016-17 and had raised $29.9m since 2009, and the CIS had revenue of $3.9m in 2016-17 and had raised $25.9m.

    “Which means that since the global financial crisis, those two organisations alone have raised over $55m to argue for less government, less financial regulation, less power for working people, less equality and less action to combat climate change,” he said.

    An RN spokesman said the network’s program teams “ensure they follow theABC’s editorial policies”.
    https://www.theguardian.com/world/2019/feb/15/daily-telegraphs-attempt-at-humour-tanks-with-nauru-v-auschwitz-graphic

    I’d ask jq to do a serious rebuttal but it seems he has said it so many times his fingers are stumps.

  35. Gee! What could go wrong? Odds firming on another banking rc by 2030. Submission suggestion: “Stop Innovating and Start Regulating”.

    “Cross-border testing pilot for innovative firms open to applications ”

    “”ASIC today announces the launch of the Global Financial Innovation Network (GFIN). As part of its launch, GFIN is inviting applications from firms to be part of a pilot to test innovative financial products, services or business models across more than one jurisdiction. “‘

    https://asic.gov.au/about-asic/news-centre/find-a-media-release/2019-releases/19-017mr-cross-border-testing-pilot-for-innovative-firms-open-to-applications/

  36. iko: Your point about the material substrates of financial instruments passed through my mind or brain too. I suggest there is a distinction. The song or symphony we hear and “consume” is necessarily an instantiation in performance, except for a minority of musicians who can respond to a score. In the case of a film, it’s impossible to experience the bitstream directly. The same goes for reading, on paper or e-reader. Contrast a share in a company. The stock certificate is simply evidence of ownership of an immaterial bundle of rights: to dividends, a share of the assets in case of liquidation, a vote at the AGM etc. I gather that few shareholders bother with the physical stock certificates Victorian entrepreneurs took such trouble over, and most are content with depositary receipts.

    The trend is longstanding. There is a nice passage in Huizinga IIRC about the origin of the word luxury. This was connected to lust, and points to the sensual pleasure of mediaeval wealth: the weight and glitter of a cascade of gold coins, the touch of silks and furs, the sheen of a pearl necklace on the breast of your young mistress. The richest man in the world today, Jeff Bezos,has a beautiful young mistress too, and all he sends her are dick photos.

  37. Mt previous commemt above was not positive about ASIC and I still stand by it. So to be fair…

    “ASIC threatens maximum jail terms of 15 years and much steeper fines for convicted white-collar criminals ”
    “Those that don’t fear ASIC will be making an error. We are now entitled to pursue extremely long custodial sentences,” Mr Crennan said.
    “If wrongdoers persist in their wrongdoing which has been uncovered in great detail in the royal commission process, if they persist in engaging in this wrongdoing, they will be facing long custodial sentences and very high, crippling civil penalties.”

    https://mobile.abc.net.au/news/2019-02-15/asic-imposes-jail-terms-of-15-years-for-white-collar-criminals/10815976

  38. My guess was the Labor Party would crumple on this one. Today they did:

    The Government stated it would implement all provisions of the Hayne Royal Commission except for those on mortgage broking.

    Labor’s thunderous response was to say it will implement ALL the recommendations.

    Today Labor changed its mind. Quite a bit of politicking with thousands of mortgage brokers I assume.

    Not a small issue – this was a major argument at the start of the Hayne report and Hayne guessed at the politico-economic responses.

    https://www.theage.com.au/business/banking-and-finance/labor-backs-down-on-overhaul-of-mortgage-broker-commissions-20190222-p50zks.html?ref=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_source=rss_feed

  39. The mortgage brokers should be forced to tell the customers how much the fee paid to mortgage brokers by the banks adds to the interest payments on the loan.

  40. Mortgage brokers have no credibility. They are by the Banks. They do not increase competition.
    Moreover there is no justification for a trailing commission in gaining a housing loan.
    If they do add value for a customer then charge a fee

  41. Do tell, harryrclarke, what’s the substantive difference between “upfront commissions … paid by banks to brokers for arranging loans … capped at 1.1 per cent of a loan’s value … paid only on the amount of money drawn down in a loan” and paying brokers an upfront fee. Either way it’s easy enough to calculate the added brokerage cost to borrowing. Either way expect that the broker must provide that breakdown of costs up front. With the LNP expect higher un-capped commissions and obfuscation for more than “several years” should they retain government.

    The ALP has merely neutralized yet another LNP campaign of electioneering FUD, the only kind of campaign LNP types can muster. Crikey, recall Turnbull and fraudband!

  42. On the slight chance Jonathan Nitzan checks back here, I haven’t been able to register on his site’s forum yet. It seems reCAPTCHYA V1 is shut down.

    I feel I have to apologize to Jonathan Nitzan and his readers for a very poorly written blog piece. My ideas are not made at all clear. My apparent claim in that post that I bring new insights to the table looks rather threadbare upon review, at least in that screed. I used a lot of words to say very little.

    I’m taking a metaphysical approach, from first principles as it were, in an effort to find a shared ontology for the Hard and Social Sciences. This is clearly a different approach, or at least an approach from a different direction, compared to the methods of CasP. However, what struck me was our shared judgement that orthodox economics commences with Cartesian Dualist and Classical Physics reductionist and mechanistic a priori assumptions. Whenever the Social Sciences commence with these a prioris, they have already taken a wrong turn, in my opinion.

    Just briefly, what is it which separates the hard and social sciences? Traditionally, it is considered to be the divide between objectivity and subjectivity. Despite at times sharing some scientific methods and statistical techniques with hard science, albeit with less scope to abstract objective quantitative data, the social sciences tend still to offer explanations predicated on the assumption of a substance difference between conscious or mind systems and physical systems.

    This clearly introduces the connection problem, or as I call it, the transmission problem. I refer here to the transmitting of matter, energy and information between real systems, including minds and formal systems instantiated in real systems, which is the only place formal systems are instantiated according to my development of monist ontology. Formal systems are there instantiated (in some real systems) as patterns which can influence other patterns. Clearly, this then leads on to aspects of information theory. Humans (human agents) perform the role of encoders, decoders, translators and transformers of the information in these patterns.

    Assuming a substance difference between conscious or mind systems and physical systems leads on to assuming the “wrong kind of difference” between rational formal systems and real systems. The difference assumed essentially entails assuming that consciousness, rationality and formal systems “come from somewhere else” other than from processes emergent from the monistic complex system of existence itself. An a priori epistemological rift or schism is placed between matter and consciousness or its rational ideations, which then presupposes that explanations, connections and causes cannot “chain up” or “link up” in the emergent and evolutionary sense from the phenomena of the hard sciences (physics, chemistry, biology). Emergence and searches for emergence-conditioned explanations perforce are excluded where Social Science adopts dualist, reductionist and mechanistic assumptions. Orthodox economics seems to be particularly beset by this limitation and it probably suits a number of justificatory ideologies to keep it that way.

    I am not claiming this approach or set of insights are unique. I’m not in a position to assess this as I work alone on this project in an autodidact fashion and am quite unconnected with academia. Also, it is not clear that this approach will lead anywhere pragmatically useful. It is all rather theoretical and metaphysical. Plus, it is probably extensively covered already in the academic world in manners quite unlike my idiosyncratic approach. If it is, then the news has not reached orthodox economics, or at least not the dominant, bowdlerized and ideology-ridden form known as neoclassical economics.

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