Monday, November 17, 2008


A new world order? Not likely. What? You’re confused as to what and who makes up this new “Group” of countries now supposedly in charge of straightening out the world's economic recession? The politically loaded international photo-op was principally aimed at instilling confidence in the folks back home with two blunt instruments. One, “Watch me as I fly off to the U.S. because I’m really concerned about your plight, and I’m going to do something about it with these 19 other leaders.” Two, “… are you still watching? I’m shaking my finger at America. It is responsible for this mess, and we’re not going to take it anymore. How do I look?” Then home they all went, back to Paris, London, Canberra, Berlin, Tokyo, etc., back to their constituencies, having achieved nothing, but having left behind them in the American capital an odorous agglomeration of blame.

Countries around the world are relishing the misfortunes befalling America a little too enthusiastically. Their own balance sheets seem not to have cowed them into embarrassment. Sarkozi started the finger pointing process, quickly followed by Brown from Britain. The more powerful presences, China and Japan, were somewhat more polite, but the gloating from all members was evident, and its obnoxious cacophony has stained the cover pages of the world’s media.

It is also evident that most member countries believe it is now time to pounce, while the U.S. version of capitalism , and the country itself, appears vulnerable in their eyes. They feel that now is the time to create new international bodies intended to redistribute the economic clout from Wall Street to somewhere else. To where? Who knows? Perhaps to somewhere between Paris and Beijing, like the North Pole, or Geneva, or Moscow perhaps, … just anywhere but Wall Street. Anywhere but in the U.S. Dmitry Medvedev completely overlooked the fact that America held an election only days ago, and the largest economy’s electorate articulated its renewal by deciding to send Obama to the White House. He and his boss Putin felt it gratifying to assert that the United States had poor market oversight. Evidently Russia has not quite been brought up to date on the full translation or meaning of such terms as oversight, transparency, or even democracy, but accuse, they did. It read well back in Moscow.

Some humorous non-decisions by the 20 leaders were worth noting. The leaders indicated they would look into executive pay scales. That should be supremely comforting to most Russians and Chinese, whose leaders and friends are pilfering the treasuries of every business they can possibly find that produces any cash. How can an international body possibly dream of overseeing or regulating corporate entities? More likely, this is an arrow, that while directed at the U.S. banking institutions involved in much of the mortgage crisis, it will land in the middle of the Atlantic somewhere just North of Bermuda.

Another by-product of this historic conference was a call for the creation of new financial market watchdogs wonderfully identified as a “college of supervisors.” This group of experts would monitor major financial institutions dealing with transactions that crisscross member country borders. Actually, this was more than a call, it was a “pledge.” Pledges have more conviction. Such earnest commitment to oversight over financial markets would bring warmth to taxpayers from New York to Vancouver, as they settle in for the winter. The most heartening element in the pledge was its inclusion of hedge funds and derivatives under the oversight umbrella. This must read well in Caracas, but surely no one in North America is taking this seriously.

Granted, the $60 trillion in credit default swaps market is an aggregate of transactions floating in the ether of the electronic digital age, but we have not reached an age where civilization has advanced enough for international bodies to take oversight positions on the financial corporate firmament. National sovereignty will not allow it. Weak countries succumb to demands of organizations like the IMF. It is foolish to expect that any one of the 20 countries representing 90% of the world’s GDP would deign capitulating to such supervision or surveillance, particularly the United States.

It is understandable that a “plan” might be difficult to fashion in so short a time, however this financial calamity did not develop yesterday, and with the thousands of insiders and experts floating through the hallways and byways of 20 governments, it might not have been too much to expect the emergence of some creative ideas or concepts.

Calls for “financial stimulus” efforts are not a “plan,” and are definitely not creative. Oversight on the existing structures, even at a national parochial level, simply acknowledge that there is a problem, but will prevent nothing, and safeguard nothing of value since the organizations under scrutiny will be in no position to execute any abusive or dangerous transactions.

The world of tomorrow, which is no more than a year away, will have new structures, new frameworks of varying complexities, new inventive manners of exploitation that will create new financial bubbles around products not yet conceived. During the Dutch Golden Age, the spectacular, and scarce Semper Augustus tulip, with its blood-red flares and flakes streaking a white background, became a symbol of the 1637 tulip bubble. A single bulb of the rarity supposedly reached a value equal to a mansion in Holland. Delusions, illusions and herds create momentum. There always exists a human being or two, being human, taking advantage of that momentum. International bodies will never have the foresight to effectively provide oversight on behalf of their constituents. We now look forward to the musings of the next G20 meeting.

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