Nýtt bréf til Alþingismanna—Gunnar Tómasson

11. ágúst 2009 | Gunnar Tómasson

Ágætu alþingismenn:

I. Í bréfi Árna Mathiesen, fjármálaráðherra, til Christine Lagarde, President of the ECOFIN Council, dags. 7. nóvember 2008 er ákvörðun stjórnvalda að taka ekki þátt í umfjöllun lögfræðingahóps um skuldbindingar Íslands samkvæmt tilskipun 94/19/EC m.a. útskýrð sem hér segir:

The context surrounding this decision is that there is considerable doubt as to the exact scope of a State's obligations under Directive 94/19 in a situation where there is a complete meltdown of the financial system of that State. As a matter of principle, Iceland considers that legal issues should be resolved in accordance with the procedures created to that effect and which provide the guarantees which the rule of law imposes.

II. Í áliti lögfræðingahópsins, dags. sama dag, segir svo um lykilþátt málsins:

5. The 24th recital to the preamble of the Directive does not exonerate Iceland from the consequences of any failure to implement the Directive properly. The Directive does not make an exception for times of financial distress.

6. Consequently, Iceland has to make sure that its deposit-guarantee scheme has adequate means and is in a position to indemnify depositors.

III. Lokahluti 5. gr. er villandi. Tilskipunin segir ekkert um „times of financial distress” og lögfræðingahópurinn útskýrir ekki hvers vegna þögn hennar er túlkuð Íslandi í óhag.

Í aðfararorðum tilskipunarinnar er rætt um „an insolvent credit institution” og „a credit institution in difficulties”—í síðari tilfellinu er vikið að keðjuverkandi áhrifum á aðrar innlánsstofnanir sem ætla má að séu tímabundnar og jafngilda ekki kerfishruni.

IV. Túlkun hópsins á tilskipun 94/19/EC gagnvart „complete meltdown of the financial system” er í mótsögn við ríkjandi hugmyndir innan og utan Alþjóðagjaldeyrissjóðsins á sviði peningahagfræði 1994, sem Alan Greenspan, fyrrv. seðlabankastjóri Bandaríkjanna, vék að í vitnisburði fyrir bandarískri þingnefnd 23. október sl.

Í yfirlitsgrein minni ‘Mainstream economics and Iceland's economic collapse’, sem bíður birtingar í næsta hefti veftímaritsins Real-World Economics Review (11000 áskrifendur), er farið í saumana á umsögn Greenspans. Hér er um að ræða kjarna málsins að því er varðar álit lögfræðingahópsins og læt ég því fyrsta hluta greinarinnar fylgja með hér að neðan.

V. Í stuttu máli er niðurstaða mín þessi: Túlkun lögfræðingahópsins á þögn tilskipunar 94/19/EC um „complete meltdown of the financial system” er fullkomlega ómarktæk því slíkt kerfishrun í þróuðu vestur-evrópsku hagkerfi var einfaldlega útilokað á þeim forsendum ríkjandi peningahagfræði sem Evrópusambandið tileinkaði sér árið 1994.


Gunnar Tómasson, hagfræðingur

Mainstream economics and Iceland's economic collapse

The disaster which befell Iceland’s economy in early October had long been foreseeable. It reflected the collapse of the business model of the Icelandic commercial banks following their privatization, on the one hand, and the inadequacy of the concurrent economic policies of the government, on the other hand. However, the business and economic policy practices involved were not specifically Icelandic but reflected deep-rooted and long-standing presuppositions of mainstream economics, both methodological and analytical. These include Paul A. Samuelson’s hypothesis in his Ph. D. thesis at Harvard in the early 1940s that a real-world market economy is a “system in 'stable’ equilibrium or motion” and the notion that money is a factor of production. Neither of these presuppositions have any foundation in reason and logic.

The market economy as equilibrium system

Embedded in Samuelson’s hypothesis is the idea that any incipient displacement of the conditions of market equilibrium triggers offsetting corrective reactions by the forces which drive the market system along its dynamic equilibrium path. This concept is borrowed from Newtonian mechanics in which gravity is held to steer the path of all material particles in the universe, but no a priori or empirical grounds exist for assuming it to be applicable to market economies. In fact, it had been resoundingly falsified by the Great Depression. Instead, the sole "argument" in its favor was that it paved the way for economic analysis by calculus. Still, the stable-equilibrium hypothesis is no worse than some other things which would-be economic scholars can imagine and it was benign while ensconsed within academe's ivory tower. Moreover, it is fair surmise that it would not have passed muster had it occurred to Harvard’s economics faculty that the hypothesis might be taken seriously after 1970. For it implies that monetary equilibrium will be ensured if governments and central banks step aside to make way for the equilibrium which is held to reside in market forces. Now that market forces have driven national monetary systems and that of the world as a whole to the brink of disaster, the obvious can no longer be denied: the hypothesis is counter-factual.

A fact acknowledged by Alan Greenspan, former Chairman of the US Federal Reserve Board, in testimony before a congressional committee on October 23, 2008. "Those of us who have looked to the self-interest of lending institutions to protect shareholders' equity, myself included, are in a state of shocked disbelief,” he said. A long-time believer in Samuelson’s hypothesis, Greenspan confessed: “The whole intellectual edifice collapsed in the summer of last year.”

“I made a mistake in presuming that the self-interests of organizations, specifically banks and others, were such as that they were best capable of protecting their own shareholders and their equity in the firms,” Greenspan continued. “I have found a flaw. I don’t know how significant or permanent it is. But I have been very distressed by that fact.” The committee chairman sought clarification of the matter: “In other words, you found that your view of the world, your ideology, was not right, it was not working,” “Absolutely, precisely,” Greenspan replied. “You know, that’s precisely the reason I was shocked, because I have been going for 40 years or more with very considerable evidence that it was working exceptionally well.”

Alan Greenspan’s ideology, known as The Washington Consensus, has shaped the policy views of key financial and economic agencies in Washington D.C., including the Federal Reserve Board, the Treasury, the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank. Following privatization of Iceland’s state banks in 2003, the Central Bank, the Ministry of Finance, and the Financial Supervisory Authority were guided by The Washington Consensus, for as John Maynard Keynes famously observed, “The ideas of economists and political philosophers, both when they are right and when they are wrong, are more powerful than is commonly understood. Indeed the world is ruled by little else. Practical men ... are usually the slaves of some defunct economist.”