The Flaw *****

Watched David Sington‘s, The Flaw, this weekend.

This feature length UK documentary is by far the best account that I’ve seen or read about the 2008 financial crash. I highly recommend it. 5 stars without doubt.

It gives a very accessible account of the distinction between the mechanisms of ‘goods markets’ and ‘asset markets ‘ and plausibly claims that these differences undermine the Efficient Market Hypothesis that underlies the Neoliberal free-market ideology that has dominated economic policy in the Anglo-American world since 1979.

The Efficient Market Hypothesis claims that in a free-market the forces of supply and demand mean that the current price of a product or service is always the right price. If the price rises too high people won’t pay it and so the price drops again and vice versa. This is why free-marketeers resist moral or value judgements in economic affairs because they claim that the logic of supply & demand and the effect of the totality of our individual choices on price establishes beyond doubt what we as a society value. The argument being that this is the ultimate in democratic freedom.

The film doesn’t challenge the Efficient Market Hypothesis in ‘goods markets’ (something which is of course highly contested) but posits the theory that in ‘asset markets’ the laws of supply and demand are reversed so that as prices rise more and more people buy which in turn forces the price up further and further, thus giving rise to the phenomenon of the ‘asset bubble’. But then when the bubble bursts everyone wishes to sell instantly and the price collapses in an extremely short time creating huge losses.

My only problem with this is that…….it seems to be stating the bleeding obvious. I did not meet anyone in the last 30 years who thought house prices could go on rising for ever. Ordinary people, even those who benefited in the short-term from house rises, were baffled as to how or why it was happening. We all knew that incomes were not keeping pace with the cost of housing and that one day it had to end. Except it seems Alan Greenspan who after decades promoting Neoliberal ideology and serving as Chairman of the Federal Reserve of the United States from 1987 to 2006, finally recognised there might be a ‘flaw’ in his world view – but only after the crash of 2008. it seems Greenspan and the rest of the $1 million bonus financial wizards of Wall Street and London were the only fecking idiots who did think house prices could keep rising indefinitely!?

Or maybe it’s more plausible that they all knew the bubble had to burst one day but they didn’t give a monkey’s fart because they knew that by the time it did all come crashing down they would be so rich they could see the storm out and anyway ultimately governments and tax-payers would have to bail the system out.

Either way it’s not great. Either the obscenely rich men & women who determine all of our futures are cynical, greedy, amoral, psychopathic  bastards or fucking idiots. Or of course they could be cynical, greedy, amoral, psychopathic, idiots!

The other important info in the film is the clear evidence that wages for those workers in theUS and UK who don’t work in high-finance, i.e. almost everybody,  have been static in real terms (after accounting for inflation) since 1979. The false perception of increasing consumerist-based prosperity has rested entirely on a bed of debt, financed by the housing bubble. This has resulted in a wholesale 30 year upward redistribution of wealth from the working and middle classes to the super-rich amounting to $1.5 trillion a year!

As someone asks in the film, how on earth have the super-rich elite got away with it? And yet again we’re back to Joseph Goebbels and his big lie.

Some quotes from the film:

For the last 30 years a dollar put into credit card debt or mortgage debt made you more than a dollar put into a factory.

Louis Hyman, Economic Historian, Harvard

All Wall Street bankers are always greedy, as are all capitalists. That’s the whole basis of our system.

Louis Hyman, Economic Historian, Harvard

What we’ve seen in the last 30 years is a $1.5 trillion every year redistribution of wealth upwards from the 90% to the top 1%

Robert Wade, Professor Of Political Economics, LSE.

What we are doing is transferring money from people who would spend it to people who don’t need it and won’t or even can’t spend it, because they have so much already.

Josef Stiglitz

 We’ve masked lack of income growth by more debt.

Josef Stiglitz

 What we need is to make Capitalism work for us, not work us over.  We need to work out a way to make profits create jobs. If profits only create wealth for a tiny few Capitalism will not work because people will not stand for it……..Capitalism for the last 30 years has decreased the standard of living for everyone except those at the very top.

Louis Hyman, Economic Historian, Harvard


About I Am Not A Number

I Am Not A Number is written by Chris Jury. For 30 years Chris Jury was a TV actor, director and writer best known for playing Eric Catchpole in over 60 episodes of the BBC’s antique classic, Lovejoy, and for directing over 50 episodes of Eastenders. In 2008 he was appointed as the Senior Lecturer in Recorded Media in the School Of Music & Performing Arts at Bath Spa University. He currently presents, Agitpop, a pop & politics radio discussion programme on North Cotswold Community Radio He is currently the Communications Officer for UCU at Bath Spa University and a UCU SW Regional Rep at SWTUC.
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3 Responses to The Flaw *****

  1. I’m in the process of studying this article. I want to glean a solid understanding. Additional comments will eventually follow.

  2. Keegan says:

    “..current price of a product or service is always the right price.”

    EMH does not state this..

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