It is now clear that financial crises are not discrete events but are linked phenomena that have been unleashed on the globe ever since the financial markets were liberalized during the Reagan-Thatcher era in the early 1980s.
To take just the three most prominent crashes, surplus capital that could not find profitable domestic outlets after the Japanese bubble burst in the late 1980s found its way as speculative capital into Southeast Asia, where it contributed to the Asian financial crisis in 1997-98. The Asian crisis, in turn, helped generate Wall Street’s implosion in 2008, owing to the Asian countries’ channeling the financial reserves they had accumulated to protect them from a repeat of 1997 into the United States — where they helped fuel the subprime real estate boom.
The turbulence that hit global stock markets last February, causing much fright and a paper loss of 4 billion dollars, was a reminder that the next big implosion may be just around the corner. A just concluded study by the Transnational Institute reveals that in 10 critical areas where major reform is needed, few to no measures have been taken to prevent a recurrence of 2007. These areas range from shadow banking to fractional reserve banking to international financial governance to central bank accountability.
Skating on Thin Ice Once More
So, not surprisingly, current indicators show that the world again is skating on thin ice.
First, the “too big to fail” problem has become worse. The big banks that were rescued by the U.S. government in 2008 because they were seen as too big to fail have become even more too big to fail, with the “Big Six” U.S. banks — JP Morgan Chase, Citigroup, Wells Fargo, Bank of America, Goldman Sachs, and Morgan Stanley — collectively having 43 percent more deposits, 84 percent more assets, and triple the amount of cash they held before the 2008 crisis.
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