Skip to main content

Galbraith on capitalism, economic policy and inequality

Jamie Galbraith on how policy, rather than capitalism per se, is the real cause of inequality. In other words, a more equalitarian version of capitalism is possible (anybody remembers the Golden Age?). He says:
"Finance has driven income inequality, because credit booms accelerate economic growth and because bankers tend to be rich. In the US income inequalities sharpened in the information-technology boom in 2000, again in the housing-finance bubble in 2007, and yet again as the banks and the stock market recovered after 2010.
Across the world, income inequality became more marked in the two decades from 1980. The trend started with the global debt crisis in Latin America and Africa, swept through central and eastern Europe, and moved on to Asia. Only countries that were outside the global financial system (notably China and India) were largely unaffected in the 1980s – though in the 1990s inequality rose with market reforms in both places. Worldwide, as a very broad generalisation, it seems that inequality peaked in 2000.
Political structures matter: social democracies are more egalitarian. Institutional changes matter: military coups (Chile in 1973, Argentina in 1976) precipitated rising inequality. Revolution (Iran in 1979) brought a sharp fall. The rise in the 1980s and 1990s was stronger in countries with weak institutions and weaker in countries with strong ones."
Neoliberalism was the culprit. There is much nuance lost in the current debate on Piketty's Capital. Read rest here (subscrition required).


  1. Capitalism v policy, a distinction without a difference. The first makes the latter possible. The latter reproduces the former. Chickens and eggs.

    Though the slogan -- it's policy not the system -- could be interpreted as a cheap political point -- TP is too radical for polite company. Of course he isn't all that radical.


Post a Comment

Popular posts from this blog

What is the 'Classical Dichotomy'?

A few brief comments on Brexit and the postmortem of the European Union

Another end of the world is possible
There will be a lot of postmortems for the European Union (EU) after Brexit. Many will suggest that this was a victory against the neoliberal policies of the European Union. See, for example, the first three paragraphs of Paul Mason's column here. And it is true, large contingents of working class people, that have suffered with 'free-market' economics, voted for leaving the union. The union, rightly or wrongly, has been seen as undemocratic and responsible for the economics woes of Europe.

The problem is that while it is true that the EU leaders have been part of the problem and have pursued the neoliberal policies within the framework of the union, sometimes with treaties like the Fiscal Compact, it is far from clear that Brexit and the possible demise of the union, if the fever spreads to France, Germany and other countries with their populations demanding their own referenda, will lead to the abandonment of neoliberal policies. Aust…

A brief note on Venezuela and the turn to the right in Latin America

So besides the coup in Brazil (which was all but confirmed by the last revelations, if you had any doubts), and the electoral victory of Macri in Argentina, the crisis in Venezuela is reaching a critical level, and it would not be surprising if the Maduro administration is recalled, even though right now the referendum is not scheduled yet.

The economy in Venezuela has collapsed (GDP has fallen by about 14% or so in the last two years), inflation has accelerated (to three digit levels; 450% or so according to the IMF), there are shortages of essential goods, recurrent energy blackouts, and all of these aggravated by persistent violence. Contrary to what the press suggests, these events are not new or specific to left of center governments. Similar events occurred in the late 1980s, in the infamous Caracazo, when the fall in oil prices caused an external crisis, inflation, and food shortages, which eventually, after the announcement of a neoliberal economic package that included the i…