Category Archives: Financial Economy

Destruction by organised money

80 odd years ago, F D Roosevelt argued that Government by organised money was just as dangerous as Government by organised mob. That assessment was shaped by experience of the run up to the 1929 Wall Street Crash which was followed by the austerity driven Great Depression. We now know it’s much more dangerous than that: leading to the destruction not just of jobs and whole economies, but many of the ecological systems we benefit from on planet earth.

He identified organised money as comprising “business and financial monopoly, speculation, reckless banking, class antagonism, sectionalism (and) war profiteering”. Eisenhower added the “military-industrial complex”. Today, strands of academia and the social media would be included as they argue and promote the theoretical constructs which provide the coat of respectability for organised money’s activities.

The financial sector was largely called into existence to finance the industrialisation process which began in the 18th century and proved far beyond the capacity of the then possessors of capital, mainly the landed gentry. But the sector quickly found far easier ways of making bigger and quicker returns than by long term investment in industry. So the components of organised money came to dominate the financial sector with the ‘robber baron’ excesses which led inevitably to the 1929 crash. That pattern was repeated in the four decades leading up to the 2007-8 crash and subsequent austerity driven decade of lost opportunity.

Those lessons have been rejected by those in power. Government is dictated by organised money whose self-interested criminality is well documented. The Economist described the financial sector as mired in ‘a culture of casual dishonesty’.[i]That culture ignores unprecedented inequalities and denies the imperatives of ecological sustainability. It accepts, simply as a cost of doing ‘business as usual’, the fines for fraud and criminality, so long as they are paid by the corporate entity and the individual decision makers are not held personally responsible.

The saga of such criminality is far too long to reference here. The Financial Times reported that, ‘between 2009 and 2013 the 12 global bankers paid out £105.4bn worth of fines to European and American regulators.’[ii] They were fined for rigging the Forex market, as well as rigging various commodity markets, also for money laundering on behalf of various terrorist organisations and for Mexican drug cartels, not to mention tax evasion and the most energetic avoidance. Those 12 global banks had also made additional provisions in their accounts for a further £61.23bn of anticipated fines for crimes which presumably they knew all about, but which had not yet been uncovered. So a total of £167bn, which was ‘unlikely to be the final hit.

Most financial houses appear to have been behaving in similar fashion as indicated in Remaking the Real Economy.[iii]

So government by organised money is not just predatory on the real economy, and exploitative of the public, but in serving its own sectional interests, it has developed sophisticated means of avoiding and evading taxation and is willing to act with criminal fraudulent intent. Organised money is openly criminal and dominates government, notably in the US and UK.

The net effects are to create ever increasing inequalities of wealth and income both within and between economies, which must at some stage be reversed by whatever means. It also initiates all manner of ecological destructions which must similarly be reversed but within a defined time span.

One of the two first moves has to be to recognise the naked criminality of organised money which includes much of the financial sector. And to correct it.

The other move must be for classical/neoclassical economics to be set aside and disregarded in favour of understanding the practical realities of a modern economy . But that is another story.

Is Modern Monetary Theory the Answer?

Economic theory continues to evolve as it always has.  That is partly because the real world economy is itself continuously evolving.  But it is also partly because economic theories are far from perfect, but are retained till something better comes along.

Monetary theory is a highly pertinent example right now, given the evolving role of money. As a means of exchange, it has long been reduced to the role of lubricant for relatively minor transactions, with further reduced usage of notes and coin being trialled during the coronavirus lockdown. As a store of value it has long been outperformed by many alternatives of varying security from property to financial speculation. And its lasting function as a unit of exchange is now largely maintained in electronic form enabling further possibilities.

Neoclassical economic theory emerged in mid 19th century as the inadequate but mathematical expression of self-interest maximising humans, profit maximising businesses and efficient markets free from government regulation which the theory promised would be no longer subject to booms and slumps.

That was the context in which monetary theory was given its first coherent expression by Irving Fisher in early 20th century.  It was in the form of a simple equation of exchange: MV=PT, where M is the quantity of money, V the velocity of its circulation, P the overall level of prices and T the volume of transactions taking place in the given time period.  While the equation is a truism and identifies macroeconomic quantities, their content is largely immeasurable and its various interpretations susceptible to simplistic political debate.

Fisher became notorious for his repeated assertion that the stock market had reached ‘a permanently high plateau’. That was just before the 1929 Wall Street Crash, which was followed by the Great Depression, imposed and prolonged by the continued focus on M with policies of austerity. That was only ended by Roosevelt’s relaxing austerity and focusing on V with publicly funded New Deal job creation schemes aimed at putting money into the hands of the poor, who had no choice but to spend it immediately for their survival, thus increasing V and so generating further economic recovery.

The 1970s stagflation was observed by Piatier as having been caused by OPEC’s 400% oil price rises and the stagnation arising from the maturing and decline of 2nd industrial revolution industries.[i]  But neoclassical theorists argued stagflation to be the failure of Keynesian economics, thus enabling monetary theorists to resume control.  But after two decades of application, even leading quantity advocate Milton Friedman admitted the theory had largely failed.[ii]

The lessons of 1929 had been set aside and forgotten as demonstrated by the relearning experience of the early 21st century, a period referred to as ‘the great moderation’ for which both politicians and economists at the time took credit.  That was just before the 2008 crash, which was followed by a decade of austerity in the real economy, which produced only disappointing results, despite massive Quantitative Easing (QE) for the financial economy banking sector – an estimated $14trillion worldwide. [iii]   

That is the context in which Modern Monetary Theory (MMT) emerged, taking account of the limitations of the former theory as well as the evolving possibilities of money itself.  MMT explains how a government that issues its own currency, can control and guide its economic growth absolutely without monetary constraint. That must be the holy grail of modern economy. It does so by promoting growth when needed by increasing the quantity of money in circulation. It could also slow growth by increasing taxation if inflationary pressures threatened to exceed what is advisable. Control of money supply and taxation can both be selective so that the direction of economic growth can also be set. The avoidance of booms and slumps is thus held to be firmly within the grasp of MMT competent governments. The validity of such assumptions will become apparent over the next few years and hopefully it won’t simply be a repeat of the 1929/2008 learning experiences.

Within that broad model, the explosion of new technologies is enabling governments and central banks access to many more detailed control mechanisms which MMT can accommodate. It is a highly dynamic situation in which MMT will continue to develop or could even be replaced by alternative theoretical approaches. One such, currently being promulgated, is Transfinancial Economics (TFE), which takes fuller account of the technological possibilities of developing QE for the global economy.

At this point in time, the possibilities of economic theory, notably of MMT, appear immense, but unpredictable.  As always, the theory is underwritten by political considerations which were previously focused on the M-V dichotomy.

Now, the extreme possibilities of new technologies, make the Real and Financial economic divide absolutely crucial.  The Real Economy is what could produce the needs and wants of everyday life for all people within an environmentally sustainable context. The Financial Economy was initially established to raise the finance for the canals, mills, factories and railways of the first industrial revolution. But since then it has found easier ways of making faster returns than paying for those Real Economy activities. So the Financial Economy has become predatory on the Real by a variety of means, including a process of increasingly sophisticated Merger and Acquisition (M&A) followed by systematic asset stripping and closure of Real Economy organisations. 

It is a process which is ignored since the distinction between the Real and the Financial Economies is not made, a fact celebrated by the simultaneous combination of austerity and QE, symbolic of the global combinations such as tax haven corruptions and the climate crisis.

That Real-Financial dichotomy, so vital to Remaking the Real Economy, is completely ignored by economic theory, including MMT. In orthodox measures such as GDP, a $ is a $, whether it is earned through care home services, bets on the financial casino or prostitution.

However, MMT controls enable both money supply and taxation to be selective, so that the direction of economic progression could be focused on the Real Economy making the financial sector resume its former more restrained role as supportive provider of finance.

Moral philosopher Adam Smith started his inquiry into the nature and causes of the wealth of nations with observation of real economic activity (pin making), rather than theoretical argument. There was no theory at the time.  Real economic activity clearly didn’t require a theory. Today, further progression without detruction might be better achieved if freed from theoretical constraints and diktats.


[i]  Piatier, A., (1984), ‘Barriers to Innovation’, London: Francis Pinter.

[ii] Friedman, M., (2003), in interviews with Joel Bakan for the documentary film ‘The Corporation’, see https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y888wVY5hzw [accessed 10.January 2020].

[iii] Martin, F., (2014), Money: the Unauthorised Biography, London: Vintage Random House.

Fighting for Fairness

Fairness is envisaged as an extremely broad concept. It includes universal human rights and equal opportunities for all, with social balance and some limitations on inequalities of income and wealth and the means of their achievement, all applied within and between communities and nation states. It also relates to fairness between generations. We are making a total mess of everything, and unless we change radically, we will bequeath a planet earth to future generations which is simply not sustainable. We don’t need to. There is an alternative, as we are continuously being reminded.  But so far we have done very little about it.

We need to remake the real economy and escape destruction by what Roosevelt so long ago identified as organised money. The real economy is what employs most people, making and innovating the products and services of everyday life and their continuous improvement. It is distinguished from the financial economy which came into being mainly to support developing the real economy by enabling the necessary finance for investment.  But, latterly, the financial economy has become predatory on the real, focused on extracting value in order to maximise shareholder take (MST) and increase its portion of the overall economy.

That distinction between the real and the financial is not widely recognised, and it is completely ignored by orthodox measures such as GDP. The modern state and its regulatory authorities need to make the distinction and regulate each appropriately so as to achieve progression with fairness.

The real economy comprises three quite distinct layers which are nominated here as  the social-infrastructural layer, the progressive-competitive layer and technological-revolutionary layer. Each layer requires quite different forms of support and regulation so that overall,  progression without destruction might be achieved, with fairness for all.

Roosevelt identified organised money when he introduced the second round of the New Deal which ended the austerity driven Great Depression which followed the 1929 Wall Street crash.  He identified its various constituents as ‘business and financial monopoly, speculation, reckless banking, class antagonism, sectionalism and war profiteering.’  He noted that organised money ‘had begun to consider the Government of the United States as a mere appendage to their own affairs’ and recognising its  criminal tendency, he  warned that ‘Government by organised money is just as dangerous as Government by organised mob.

Roosevelt and Keynes victory over organised money last but four decades.  Over the past four decades, organised money has been reborn as the self-perpetuating driving force behind governments in Anglo-America and beyond. Its various constituents have been the prime beneficiaries from the application of the 21st century version of neoclassical microeconomics. That free market, profit maximising model was born in the 19th century and didn’t change much till the 1980s when Friedman and colleagues refocused it on MST.

The simple truth is we don’t need a theory of how things work when the reality is there before us to observe and understand. And we certainly don’t need a 19th century economic theory which has been shown, so many times, to be utterly false. Understanding how the real world works is much more important. That understanding reveals the various constituents of organised money, including government itself, to be initiating and approving the most fundamental crimes against humanity ever conceived.

‘Remaking the Real Economy: Escaping Destruction by Organised Money’ (to be published by Policy Press, August 2020) identifies actions necessary to rebuilding the social-infrastructural layer of the real economy, re-establishing the progressive- competitive layer and refocusing the technological-revolutionary layer to achieve a fully sustainable planet earth.

The practicalities of such an agenda will require a host of corrective measures which will be dependent on the effective regulation and restraint of organised money and the complete displacement of neoclassical economics.

That can be achieved either with the realisation and support of constituents of organised money, or, by some more aggressive action by other constituents. It may not be easy. But if the necessary actions are not achieved, then it will be our generation which is condemned by our daughters and grand-daughters as the contemptible traitors who destroyed their world.