The crash 10 years on

The most telling contemporary observation about the ‘worst financial crisis in global history’ (to quote Ben Bernanke, who was chair of the US Federal Reserve when the crash hit in 2008) is that its causes are unresolved. It is true that the financial crash brought about a recession 10 years ago, but it did not trigger the fundamental weakness of the real economy. Slowing productivity growth across the mature economies can be traced back to the early 1970s. It was from that decay within production that the rot spread, gradually, unevenly, but steadfastly. The financial crash was simply one of this decay’s most serious manifestations.

Despite the shock felt in 2008, it is striking how little has changed in economic terms since then.

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Ten Wasted Years: The Crash One Decade On

This summer has seen the start of the discussion about the 10th anniversary of the financial crisis. It’s a discussion that will continue through to autumn next year. To recap, it was on 9 August 2007 that the French bank BNP Paribas announced that the ‘complete evaporation of liquidity in certain market segments of the US securitisation market’ had ‘made it impossible to value certain assets fairly’. This blunt admission by BNP Paribas that it could no longer price, and therefore redeem, investments in three of its funds triggered a breakdown in trust between financial institutions.

As a result, the wide diversification of repackaged debt around the financial system, which had previously been heralded as sound ‘risk management’, backfired. No one seemed to know which bundles of paper were worthless, so none could be relied upon. Credit markets began to freeze up.

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What my new book is about

Creative destruction: How to start an economic renaissance

To be published on 29 March 2017 by Policy Press

The mature economies have been stuck in a long, contained depression since the 1970s. The pressing question that arises today is not why investment and productivity have been so weak, important though that is. Rather it is whether we are hitting the limits of effectively muddling through this dismal reality. The financial crash of 2008 was the first significant indicator that sustaining reasonable living standards could no longer rely on an ever-expanding financialised debt economy. The subsequent recession was one of the sharpest since the 1930s but thankfully the system’s collapse was avoided. Can we expect to be as fortunate when today’s bubbles burst? Continue reading