By Sam Vaknin
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Author of "Malignant Self Love - Narcissism Revisited"
During the months of September-October 2008, governments throughout the world took a series of unprecedented steps to buttress tottering banks. In the USA, the Federal Reserve and the Treasury Department have flooded the financial system with liquidity; granted commercial banking licenses to the few investment banks left standing; lent funds against financial instruments turned toxic; and purchased non-voting equity and senior debt in a host of firms and banks. Several European countries have guaranteed all bank deposits and short-term interbank loans.
These steps served to halt the panic at least temporarily and have thus prevented runs on banks and the seizing up of the credit markets. Still, these were mere palliatives. They did not tackle the roots of the crisis, though they averted it.
Instead of eliminating risky, ill-considered investments and bad loans by allowing defaults and bankruptcies, governments have shifted debts and risks from financial institutions to taxpayers and sovereigns. The question was thus no longer: will this or that bank survive, but: will this or that country remain solvent. Iceland, for instance, essentially went belly up. Other countries, including the USA, are liable to pay for this largesse with a bout of pernicious inflation.
And even as the United States begins its long recovery, Europe and Asia are left to bear the brunt of American profligacy, avarice, regulatory dysfunction, and shortsightedness. According to a research note published by Credit Suisse, the Baltics, Bulgaria, Ukraine, Romania and Hungary "face many of the same macro-economic strains as Iceland, with deep balance of payments deficits and a high ratio of private sector credit to GDP". To these one can add South Africa.
Shifting risk from the private sector to the public one and from one locale (the USA) to others (Europe, Asia) are not long-term solutions. They only postpone the inevitable. The imbalances in the international financial system are such that unwinding them requires a prolonged and painful global recession. In economics, there is no free lunch.
Sam Vaknin ( http://samvak.tripod.com ) is the author of Malignant Self Love - Narcissism Revisited and After the Rain - How the West Lost the East.
He served as a columnist for Central Europe Review, Global Politician, PopMatters, eBookWeb , and Bellaonline, and as a United Press International (UPI) Senior Business Correspondent. He was the editor of mental health and Central East Europe categories in The Open Directory and Suite101.
Visit Sam's Web site at http://samvak.tripod.com