With Chinese economic policy now serving as a model for other Asian countries, Japan was faced with a stark choice: back United States criticisms that China is artificially keeping down the value of its currency, the renminbi, or emulate China’s approach. It is a sign of the times that Japan chose to follow China at the cost of irritating America...Japan’s action suggests that, in the aftermath of the recent financial crisis, the dominance of free-market thinking in international economic management is over. Washington must understand this, or find itself constantly outmaneuvered in dealings with the rest of the world. Instead of obsessing over China’s currency manipulation as if it were a unique exception in a world of untrammeled market forces, the United States must adapt to an environment where exchange rates and trade imbalances are managed consciously and have become a legitimate subject for debate in international forums like the Group of 20.
The fact is that the rules of global capitalism have changed irrevocably since Lehman Brothers collapsed two years ago — and if the United States refuses to accept this, it will find its global leadership slipping away. The near collapse of the financial system was an “Emperor’s New Clothes” moment of revelation.
If market forces cannot do something as simple as financing home mortgages, can markets be trusted to restore and maintain full employment, reduce global imbalances or prevent the destruction of the environment and prepare for a future without fossil fuels? This is the question that policymakers outside America, especially in Asia, are now asking. And the answer, as so often in economics, is “yes and no.”
Yes, because markets are the best mechanism for allocating scarce resources. No, because market investors are often short-sighted, fail to reflect widely held social objectives and sometimes make catastrophic mistakes. There are times, therefore, when governments must deliberately shape market incentives to achieve objectives that are determined by politics and not by the markets themselves, including financial stability, environmental protection, energy independence and poverty relief.
What if America decides to ignore the global reinvention of capitalism and opts instead for a nostalgic rerun of the experiment in market fundamentalism? This would not prevent the rest of the world from changing course.
Rather, it would make it likely that the newly dominant economic model will not be a product of democratic capitalism, based on Western values and American leadership. Instead, it will be an authoritarian state-led capitalism inspired by Asian values. If America opts, for the first time in history, for nostalgia and ideology instead of pragmatism and progress, then the new model of capitalism will probably be made in China, like so much else in the world these days.
Tuesday, October 05, 2010
The new international economic order.
Under the 'random curious stuff' category in MindBlog's banner description, I thought this article by Anatole Kaletsky was cogent, if depressing, and so pass on some clips. The article begins with a discussion of Japan's recent decision to manipulate the value of its currency: