Saturday, June 18, 2011

Steve Keen on Monetary Reform and Economic Stability


As much as I believe he is right about causes and the macro theory, I do not concur with Prof. Keen's first policy prescription.  

Partly because I do not believe that converting secondary market equity shares into instruments with a 50-year life is politically feasible, particularly in the US.  The howling alone from the libertarians, Tea Partiers, Austrians and other private property rights demagogues would be enough to ignite a new American Revolution/Civil War.  

Moreover, if his policies were not adopted globally, capitalists - and their capital - would flee to countries with markets that upheld the traditional indefinite/potentially infinite life term of equity shares.  Wouldn't they?  [Barring switching costs that even remotely approach the impact of shrinking share life duration by a potentially infinite amount.]  And wouldn't [mightn't] that permanently damage the adopting country(ies)'s economy to the point of, say, multi-generational Depression?  Maybe not; I don't know how to model that, either mathematically or praexologically.  But, without a reasonable, convincing analysis to tell me otherwise, that would be a concern, n'est-ce pas?

But, you COULD [possibly, after a long socio-political debate countering the free market fundamentalist consensus of the last 30 years of American movement conservatism] reform the tax system such that:
  • Capital gains on sale of secondary market equity shares are taxed at substantially higher rates than gains on sale of IPOs...
    • ... the former of which which ought to be slightly higher than the taxpayer's marginal rates for ordinary wage/salary income?
  • Make dividends tax deductible for corporations... yet still taxable to the recipients [perhaps at some modest discount to individual marginal tax rates... 
    • ... which, while we're at it, ought to be more progressive, particularly at the very upper incomes (e.g., top 10%, 5%, 2%, 1% & 0.5%), which means more tax brackets, not fewer!].
  • Impose both a financial transactions tax (to discourage excessive speculative trading) and a progressive financial services tax (based on whether the product/industry is used for productive investment, hedging or speculation, which would further discourage speculative trading).
  • Provide targeted tax credits & penalties aimed at domestic job creation (credits for each domestic job created for a US citizen; a penalty for each US job lost while the company [consolidated] increases foreign employment -or- offshoring contract) and/or obvious areas of under-investment (clean/renewable energies, public infrastructure, post-secondary education, advanced battery technologies, yadda, yadda, yadda).
 As for Prof. Keen's second policy recommendation?  I concur: solid underwriting standards are always a good idea.  I should know... I used to be a banker, and [later] I used to do loan workouts & problem loan recovery.  If banks cannot be expert enough to judiciously underwrite credit risk - that is their job, after all - then perhaps it needs to be mandated legislatively (or at least via regulation by a non-captive).  Ten times the annual rental rate is about right, too (maybe a bit too restrictive?. Off the top of my head, I would have said12.5x).

I am a little surprised, however, that Steve Keen did not advocate for some other things... but, it's getting late, and I will have to save that for later.

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