8 July 2010
Have you ever noticed how your German friends can't pronounce the name of their own country correctly? No doubt grown tired of us correcting their pronunciation, according to Martin Wolf in the FT they have no made an alliance with China and actually become Chermany . I wish this were a joke, or some sort of economic chimera, because the reality of Germany and China turning inwards and offering only stern words to the rest of the world about our budget deficits is a very worrying development.
It is extraordinary how many politicians fail to understand that, in a globalised and interconnected world, running a surplus is just as destructive as running a deficit. It is only when national economies are in balance that all can thrive; large-scale imbalances lead to tension between countries and suffering and strife within them. This is not news: it was Keynes's understanding at the Bretton Woods conference, which is why he proposed a global trading system within which those with a surplus, as well as those with a deficit, were fined by a global regulatory body. At that time it was the US, flourishing as the purveyor of arms to the world, that resisted; now it is Chermany, which is vaunting its economic strength and ignoring the political consequences.
Martin Wolf draws attention to the problem of 'chronically weak aggregate demand'. This is the most frightening code-word that an economist can find: it means people aren't buying enough stuff. From the point of view of a capitalist economy that spells disaster. The shark has stopped moving through the water and will soon expire. The other code-word of note in his piece is 'protectionism', contrary to expectations one of the most threatening words in the economist's lexicon because it means less trade. In capitalist economics, without growth the economy will fail and the best way to achieve growth is to sell stuff to other countries.
The facile posture adopted by Dave and the Boy George at the G20 is almost as laughable as their suggestion of 40% cuts. We are, apparently, to grow our way out of the recession by exporting more. Leaving aside the understanding of readers of this blog that the planetary limit makes any further growth impossible I have two simple questions for the dining-club boys: what are we supposed to export (the demand for financial services having declined rather rapidly over the past two years), and who on earth is supposed to be buying? Tweet