First free access, then getting rid of money altogether
I’ve just heard from Jacques Attali who is currently in Shanghai that he will need to be in New York on Thursday morning. This will make it impossible for him to give the lecture planned at the VUB on Wednesday April 17. I’m sure this will be especially disappointing for those of you for whom it was their second attempt at attending his talk.
The scheduled plan was that I would be giving the second part of the talk, I will thus give it all. I’ll be speaking on the arranged topic: “What can we tell about the future?” and I will explain why the future is particularly unpredictable for those few who, as is the case with Jacques Attali, hold a clearer view than most about where precisely we’re heading.
Hoping to see you in any case on Wednesday at 6:30 pm at the VUB in the Promotie Hall, building D, 2 Pleinlaan, 1050 Brussels.
The Financial World and its Regulators
The panel discussion which took place after my lecture. Participants were Mathias Dewatripont (BNB-ULB), Jean Bellemans (Vesalius), Thierry Philipponnat (Finance Watch) and Guy Roelandt (Belfius Ins). The moderator was Steven Rombaut, from vrt, the Flemish Belgian radio and television.
The Vrije Universiteit Brussel invites you to participate in an Invited Talk and a Panel Discussion, both steered by Paul Jorion, on October 24th and October 25th, 2012. Law, Ethics and the Business World
– The Invited Talk and the Panel Discussion are part of the Academic Chair ‘Stewardship of Finance’ founded by Vrije Universiteit Brussel and sponsored by six major insurance companies. The chairman of this new chair is Professor of economic and financial law, Michel Flamée. The holder of the chair is the famous Belgian anthropologist, Paul Jorion. Both events are English spoken.
On Wednesday, October 24th, Luc Coene, the Governor of the National Bank of Belgium will give the first Invited Talk in a series of six. The Invited Talk will take place at 19:30 in the VUB Promotion Hall (Building D) at the Campus Etterbeek, Pleinlaan 2, 1050 Brussels.
The next day, on Thursday, October 25th, a Panel Discussion with Ivan Van der Cloot (Itinera), Geert Noels (Econopolis), Benoît Frydman (ULB) and Marc Beaujean (P&V Group) will tackle the same issue from different stakeholders’ perspectives. The event will be held at 16:30 in the VUB, AULA QD (Building Q), Campus Etterbeek, Pleinlaan 2, 1050 Brussels. The discussion will be moderated by Steven Rombaut, VRT Radio 1.
Don’t miss the opportunity to listen to and to interact with these key role players on the roots, drivers and objectives of the current economic developments and its future-oriented challenges. Entrance is free but registration is mandatory.
If you wish to attend the Invited Talk by Luc Coene on October 24th, 2012, please register here.
If you wish to attend the Panel Discussion with Ivan Van der Cloot (Itinera), Geert Noels (Econopolis), Benoît Frydman (ULB) and Marc Beaujean (P&V Group) on October 25th, 2012, please register here.
For more information on the Academic Chair, see hère.
Brussel, woensdag 12 september 2012
Stewardship of Finance, dat is de naam van een nieuwe leerstoel die de Vrije Universiteit Brussel en zes grote verzekeringsmaatschappijen hebben opgericht. De leerstoel moet ethische financiële dienstverlening bevorderen.VUB-rector Paul De Knop vindt het uitermate belangrijk dat de financiële sector vanuit een ethisch perspectief onder de loep wordt genomen. ‘De huidige financiële crisis toont aan dat morele reflectie meer dan noodzakelijk is.’ De bekende Belgische antropoloog Paul Jorion start in oktober de 15 gastcolleges die in het academiejaar 2012-2013 over het thema worden gedoceerd.
De leerstoel Stewardship of Finance loopt vijf jaar en is zowel een onderzoeks- als een onderwijsleerstoel. Voor de leerstoel heeft de Vrije Universiteit Brussel de financiële steun gekregen van zes verzekeringsmaatschappijen die ernaar streven om hun activiteiten op een duurzame en een verantwoorde manier te ontplooien. De leerstoel gaat donderdag 4 oktober van start en heeft in eerste instantie een looptijd van vijf academiejaren. Doctorandi zullen de thematiek van ethische financiële dienstverleningonderzoeken vanuit diverse wetenschappelijke disciplines zoals economie, rechten, filosofie, wiskunde en actuariaat. Het onderzoek moet tot nieuwe inzichten leiden over de ethiek en moraal van financiële activiteiten, in het bijzonder van verzekeringen en financieel beheer.
De leerstoel heeft twee pijlers: onderzoek en onderwijs. Via een reeks colleges leren studenten uit verschillende disciplines nadenken over stewardship of finance; kennis die ze later kunnen gebruiken als ze zelf in de financiële sector aan de slag gaan. Ook hoogleraren van de ULB participeren in het project en zullen hun studenten aansporen tot deelname aan de cursussen.
Voor de colleges doet de leerstoel een beroep op Paul Jorion. De bekende sociale antropoloog Paul Jorion heeft jarenlang in de Amerikaanse financiële sector gewerkt. Hij woont nu in Frankrijk en schrijft o.m. columns voor de economiebijlage van de gezaghebbende krant Le Monde. Ook zijn recente boek Le Capitalisme à l’Agonie kreeg wereldwijd veel aandacht. Jorion heeft onder meer gedoceerd aan universiteiten van Brussel, Cambridge en Paris VIII. Tijdens het academiejaar 2012-2013 zal hij zestig uurgastcolleges geven. De lessen vinden telkens plaats aan de Vrije Universiteit Brussel, op donderdag om 15 uur. In de loop van het academiejaar 2012-2013 vindt er vijf keeraansluitend een ronde tafel plaats, met Belgische en internationale panelleden. Naar aanleiding van de leerstoel zullen ook tal van andere conferenties plaatsvinden.
De voorzitter van de leerstoel is professor in economisch en financieel recht Michel Flamée, die tevens actief is als bijzonder mandataris voor verzekeringstoezicht enauditeur bij de Nationale Bank van België. Prof. Koen Byttebier van de faculteit Recht en Criminologie staat in voor de algemene coördinatie met alle betrokken partners en faculteiten. Het project mag zich tevens verheugen in een actieve bijdrage van de ULB.
De zes verzekeringsmaatschappijen die de leerstoel ondersteunen zijn AG Insurance, Allianz, Baloise Insurance, Belfius Insurance, Ethias en P&V Groep.
Paul Jorion geeft op donderdag 4 oktober om 15 uur zijn inaugurale les voor de leerstoel. De wetenschapper gaat het dan hebben over “Why Stewardship of Finance?” Deze lezing vindt plaats op de campus Etterbeek van de Vrije Universiteit Brussel in Aula Q. (Over deze lokatie:http://www.vub.ac.be/infoover/campussen) Journalisten en anderegeïnteresseerden zijn van harte welkom.
Informatie over leerstoel
Persrelaties Vrije Universiteit Brussel
Guest post. Translated from the French by Tim Gupwell
Here is a summary of the situation. Newly named Prime Minister, Antonis Samaras is continuing to put together a government which was voted in on the basis that it would renegotiate a bail-out plan which is falling apart anyway. In supporting him without sending in any of their big names, Pasok and Dima are doing the strict minimum, which augurs badly for the outcome of the experience. In Brussels the new Greek finance minister is awaited resolutely, with, at best, extensions to the time frame likely to be granted. “Renegotiating the Greek bailout would be a very dangerous strategy. It would harm those countries that are quietly implementing reforms”, warned Jens Weidmann of the Bundesbank.
Guest post. Translated from the French by Tim Gupwell
Financiers loathe risk, though they don’t mind so much if it is others bearing it. When they refer to it they juxtapose terms of risk aversion or, its opposite, appetite for risk, but this is only another of their manners of speaking (of which they have so many). In reality they cannot stand others making them take risks and when this is required, they make their feelings known about it in the strongest possible terms.
For having played with fire to an excessive degree, the Spanish government is paying the price on the markets, as indeed are the European authorities, due to repeated prevarications. One has lost count of the number of videoconferences on the subject of the Greek elections, but nothing has come along to relieve the incertitude hovering on the horizon. Italy is also caught in the storm, Mario Monti obliged to deny the necessity for a rescue plan for his country, feeling the need to add an “even in the future” in his desire to be convincing. Three crises are in the process of coming together at the same time and the authorities are still discussing whether the EFSF or the ESM is going to be used to bail out the banks…
Guest post. Translated from the French by Tim Gupwell.
A Euro trading this morning at 1.2389 dollars, and sharply rising bond rates, reveal that capital continues to flow out of the Euro zone and that investors are selling Spanish and Italian bonds (both tarred with the same brush) whenever they can. They are also seeking refuge in the purchase of American, British or German debt whose rates are historically low, a phenomenon just as worrying as the rising costs of the others. German two-year bonds issued with a zero coupon, something never seen before, while the Spanish have to pay 6.7% and the Italians more than 6%. The most worrying aspect being that the fate of Italy is linked to that of Spain.
There has been no lack of hasty secret meetings, including with the Americans. Yesterday, the Spanish minister of the economy Luis De Guindos met up in Berlin with the German finance minister Wolfgang Schäuble, without any of the content of their discussions filtering out. Steffen Seibert, spokesperson for the German government declared to journalists that “the German government has faith in structural reforms pursued by the Spanish government”. In the afternoon, a telephone conference was held, involving Angela Merkel, Barack Obama, Mario Monti, and François Hollande (as at every occasion when the discussion is serious, nothing came out of it). The vice-president of the Spanish government, Soraya Saénz of Santamaría, has been dispatched to the United States, where she is due to meet Christine Lagarde and Timothy Geithner.
An English translation by Jean-Loup Komarower of the post « ÉBULLITION DU MONDE » ET PROPRIÉTÉ PRIVÉE
Two questions have to be resolved initially: is new wealth created in the production of goods and services and if it is, how can its amount and value be determined? In addition, are the opposing parties that in our contemporary world share the newly created wealth all justified in getting a share and if they do, where do they derive this right and what is the conceptual foundation of this right?
We have the first part of an answer: wealth is necessarily created in the production process since it is subsequently consumed.
So far everyone agrees. We also note that several individual human efforts combine but we cannot be sure that some of these have not been contributed in vain. Those perhaps wasteful efforts belong to a type of activity that is useless in order to obtain the observed result, but however useful for the purpose of being rewarded via remuneration.
We also note the contribution of natural resources, such as raw material or energy that can be obtained without work or with minimal work, or readily available resources as for example sunshine, rain or wind.
This capacity of the world to contribute wealth “naturally” is what Georges Bataille called world ebullition in “La part maudite” (1949), translated by Robert Hurley as “The Accursed Share” (1991).
Naturally occurring raw materials like oil or mineral ores are different from sunshine, rain or wind in that they are not renewable, as they are of fossil or purely geological origin, resulting from a lengthy sedimentation process or from the process of formation of our planet by accretion of cosmic matter.
We have however found the way to appropriate this “spontaneous” ebullition of the world by means of the institution of private property. It allows the owner to claim a share of the newly created wealth simply by virtue of a title, a declaration guaranteed by the legal instrumentalities of the community, its judiciary and police force, stating that this part of the ebullition is not simply coming from “the world” but indeed belongs to him or to her.
(to be continued…)
Mr. Alan Greenspan, who headed the Federal Reserve, the U.S. central bank, for nearly twenty years, has recently committed an article in the Financial Times entitled “Frank-Dodd Fails to Meet test of our times.” (March, the 29th).
The Dodd-Frank Act is a several thousand page long jumble of 243 separate regulations, thought of as a financial overhaul. That it is not up to the task goes without saying. A couple of basic principles such as a prohibition of wagers on price fluctuations would have done a much better job and would have filled a mere five pages. If I say that Mr. Greenspan has “committed” a text on this subject, it is precisely because when criticizing the Dodd-Frank Act he doesn’t do it for any of the possible good reasons but on account of its very few merits.
Mr. Greenspan who ruled global finance from 1987 to 2006 puts forward the following argument: “if financial activity x is banned in the US, people who practice it, will go elsewhere.” Thirty years ago politicians stopped laughing at such ludicrous argument and most recently they have started taking it very seriously indeed.
Say, We, the People’s Representatives, vote a law prohibiting unsafe financial practices, or in current parlance: “practices inducing systemic risk”, i.e. increasing the probability that the whole economic system collapses. Now Mr. Greenspan comes along, saying: “Hey, there was money to be made there, and you’re suggesting in earnest someone else should be making it, instead of us?” and they then all exclaim: ” Oh Fiddledeesticks! Now that you mention it, it may not be such a great idea after all! ”
Aristotle had already noted that gold fever is a merchant’ professional disease – excusable as far as those of his kind are concerned – but against which ordinary citizens should be immunized. Yet, Greenspan’s irresponsible street corner grocer’s mentality has now become the thought of the day – in Brussels as well as in Washington.
The Dodd-Frank Act aims at making rating agencies accountable, which is, according to Mr. Greenspan, one of its further weaknesses because of its unexpected negative implications. In the past, rating agencies were content with issuing “opinions” like “AAA”, that is to say ” risk of default close to nil”, while the new law requires that they commit themselves a bit more: when they assign a credit risk score, they are now expected to “truly believe it”. Alas! Mr. Greenspan exclaims, see the negative consequences:
Shortly after the act’s passage in July 2010, Ford Motor Credit pulled its plans to issue a reported billion-dollar asset-backed security. It required a credit rating, which Ford could not obtain. One of the law’s provisions had made credit-rating organizations legally liable for their opinions about risks. To ensure the issuance of the ABS, the Securities and Exchange Commission in effect suspended the need for a credit rating.”
Time for a pause. Ford Motor Credit assembles a pool of auto loans up to one billion dollars in value. The raters, who by now engage their own responsibility, refuse to assess this security’s credit risk. This can only mean one thing: the pool is unadulterated junk. Following this, the SEC states that, well after all, rating is not that much of a necessity, and the security gets issued nevertheless.
What does this all mean? This means that as the Dodd-Frank Act withdrew crass unaccountability from the rating agencies, the regulator of financial markets has gleefully stepped in and volunteers to carry the torch of crass unaccountability, saying: “What’s all that fuss about credit risk rating? Here’s our seal of approval!
Is this foolish laxity due to the new act, as Mr. Greenspan seems to imply? In other words, what has led the SEC to condone Ford Motor Credit for issuing that junk – as this is indeed the rating agencies’ implicit opinion? I am not privy to it, but it is not difficult to imagine: some sort of blackmail at employment by the Ford Motor Company.
Blackmail at employment is an attempt at infusing the street corner grocer’s mentality among employees or even cajoling them into gold fever. “It would be a heartbreak to close down the landmine plant,” they say… “Some others will only be to happy to make them if we don’t! ” This is one of the sacrosanct rules that Mr. Greenspan puts forward.
For nearly twenty years at the helm of the Fed, Mr. Greenspan has been the most influential person in global finance. He ruled it or – more often – abstained from regulating it. He tells us now, succumbing to his street corner grocer mentality: “Don’t let others make money that we could make”- and this, regardless of how harmful the activity in question, regardless of the degree of “systemic risk” that is injected into the economy by allowing it.
A few days ago I mentioned a letter calling for the ban on wagers on price fluctuations jointly sent by a coalition of organizations to the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC), the U.S. regulator of commodity futures markets, and I drew the attention on the massive presence of religious orders among the signatories of this letter. The merchants have returned to the temple as soon as we stopped paying attention and they’re now clogging the corridors in New York, Chicago, London and Brussels. Because of them Moses hit the roof, Aristotle screamed daredevil, Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God, turned into a rioting demonstrator. As noted, the Union of Sisters of the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary have taken over the frontline. We can’t allow them to be there on their own.
(translation by Bénédicte Kibler)
… to say the least. And the reason wasn’t laziness, it was just simply the success of the French version of it which has taken all my energy, plus that of François when he joined me, plus that of Julien, when he joined the team.
But this blog is about to be revived and the reason is not that there is less to do on the French version of the blog but that Bénédicte is about to join the team with a special assignment and dedication to this piece.
More to come. Very soon!
We will ponder: “Might the financial crisis be followed by national crises?”
Alessandro Giraudo – Chief Economist, Tradition Viel (in the studio like myself)
Ondine Smulders – The Economist (calling in from Athens)
A (to be determined) Reuters Breakingviews’ journalist (calling in from London)