....Back to Wang: “In the era of fictitious capitalism, a fictitious capital transaction itself can increase the ‘book value’ of monetary capital; therefore monetary capital no longer has to go through material goods production before it returns to more monetary capital. Capitalists no longer need to do the 'painful' thing - material goods production.”
Real-life owners of stocks, bonds, foreign currency and real estate have increasingly taken advantage of historically low interest rates and applied for mortgages backed by the value of these financial assets. Especially since the rally began 8 months ago, they then turn around and trade the new capital on the markets. “During this process,” writes Wang, “the demand of money no longer comes from the expansion of material goods production, instead it comes from the inflation of capital price. The process repeats itself.”
Derivatives instruments, themselves a form of fictitious capital, help investors bet on the direction of capital prices. And central banks, unfettered by the tedious foundation set by the gold standard, can print as much money as is required by the demands of the fictitious economy.
But Wang sees a darker side to the equation. “Fictitious capital is no more than a piece of paper, or an electric signal in a computer disk. Theoretically, such capital cannot feed anyone no matter how much its value increases in the marketplace. So why is it so enthusiastically pursued by the major capitalist countries?”
The reason, at least until recently, is that the "major capitalist countries" have been using their fictitious capital to finance consumption of “other countries'” material goods. Thus far, the most major of the capitalist countries, the U.S., has been able to profit from the system because since the establishment of the Bretton Woods system, and increasingly since its demise, the world has balanced its accounts in dollars.
“Until now,” writes Wang, “U.S. dollars [have counted] for 60-70% in settlement transactions and currency reserves. However, before the ‘fictitious capital’ era, more exactly, before the fictitious economy began inflating insanely in the 1990s, America could not possibly capture surplus products from other countries on such a large scale simply by taking advantage of the dollar’s special status in the world...Lured by the concept of the ‘new economy’, international capital flew into the American securities market and purchased American capital, thus resulting in the great performance of U.S. dollar and abnormal exuberance in the American security market.”
And here we arrive at the crux of Wang’s argument that a war is brewing. “While [fictitious capital] has been bringing to America economic prosperity and hegemonic power over money,” he suggests, “it has its own inborn weakness. In order to sustain such prosperity and hegemonic power, America has to keep unilateral inflow of international capital to the American market...If America loses its hegemonic power over money, its domestic consumption level will plunge 30-40%. Such an outcome would be devastating for the U.S. economy. It could be more harmful to the economy than the Great Depression of 1929 to 1933.”
Japan’s example suggests, as your editors have oft reminded you, that a collapse in asset values in a fictitious economy can adversely affect the real economy for a long time.
In the era of fictitious capital, Wang surmises, America must keep its hegemonic power over money in order to keep feeding the enormous yaw in its consumerist belly. Hegemonic power over money requires that international capital keep flowing into the market from all participating economies. Should the financial market collapse, the economy would sink into depression.
America’s reigning financial monopolies, he believes, (whoever they may be), would not stand for it.
Wang writes that he was disturbed to draw these conclusions. And as noted above, he recommends that the Chinese government plan accordingly.
He could not be any more disturbed than we are. We’ve grown to like the perspective we’ve developed while enjoying carafes at the Paradis and watching passersby pass by. Trouble is, if Wang’s conclusions are correct, then the currency most suited to challenge the hegemony of the U.S. dollar has just this week closed at a historic high of $1.20. ....Complete Article
Thursday, December 11, 2003
Here's a completely new way of describing our new capital world. I have used the term fictitious wealth before, but fictitious capitalism is even new to me - I like it. It well fits the drastic imbalances we and others have piled to the moon. The article has a few numbers out, but not far enough out to throw the article. It's really worth the read. Mises also has a complementary article about Richard Duncan's book - worth a read.