mfioretti: money* + banks*

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  1. finance should, in an ideal world, be creating debt in order to finance growth of activity in the real economy. Instead, what has happened since the 1970s de-regulation of global finance, has been that finance has, over time, been increasingly financing…finance. That is, it has been financing itself. Indeed, in most of the western world, the growth of financial intermediation as a percentage of gross value added, has over the last two decades outpaced the growth of the real economy. That is until the bubble burst in 2007. Finding ways to redirect finance towards productive activity in the real economy is thus crucial.

    Third, in Italy, the effect of financialization has been made even worse by the presence of entrenched interests and “clientelismo” governing Italy’s economic system. Projects receiving loans are often not judged objectively, with criteria that are based on viable potential returns and the productive nature of an investment. Rather, they are often judged by clientilistic and nepotistic relations – as was made evident with the bank Monte Paschi di Siena (although this is really just the tip of the iceberg). Indeed, lets remember that the term “clientelismo” comes from the Latin clientes which means not modern day clients, but parasites feeding on presents (regalias) from the rich and powerful who, as described by the latin writer Giovenale, every day would visit their patronus for the morning salutatio. Italy’s sick banks are thus both a cause and a symptom of its never ending clientalist culture.

    Fourth, when growth is low—as it has been in Italy for the last two decades where both GDP and productivity have hardly grown at all—the above dynamic by which finance finances itself (or lends based on dodgy criteria in the real economy) becomes even worse. If finance has fewer good opportunities for investment in good companies and good projects in the real economy, then finding those opportunities in the speculative world of finance becomes even more appetizing. Indeed, research conducted in a large EC project on finance and innovation I coordinated some years ago showed that in many countries the problem is often not one of the supply of finance for firms, but the lack of good firms demanding finance. For example, most small medium enterprises that are innovative and productive, DO find the finance that they require. There are simply too few of those types of companies. Why? High growth innovative firms tend to prosper more in countries with dynamic innovation eco-systems, with strong links between science and industry, with high public investment in education and vocational training, high private spending on training programs for workers, strong R&D, and patient strategic long-term finance. When these are lacking growth will not follow – no matter how much emphasis a government puts on reducing red tape, or making labor markets less rigid (e.g. the Jobs Act). And when the real economy does not grow, finance becomes a betting casino.
    http://marianamazzucato.com/2016/08/1...ve-key-points-for-italys-banking-woes
    Tags: , , , , by M. Fioretti (2016-08-11)
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  2. Imagine a bank that pays negative interest. Depositors are actually charged to keep their money in an account. Crazy as it sounds, several of Europe’s central banks have cut key interest rates below zero and kept them there for more than a year. Now Japan is trying it, too. For some, it’s a bid to reinvigorate an economy with other options exhausted. Others want to push foreigners to move their money somewhere else. Either way, it’s an unorthodox choice that has distorted financial markets and triggered warnings that the strategy could backfire. If negative interest rates work, however, they may mark the start of a new era for the world’s central banks.
    http://www.bloombergview.com/quicktake/negative-interest-rates
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  3. I'm going to assume you know what Apple Pay is: you use your iPhone, iPad, or Watch as a trusted, authenticated identity token in a shop to pay for stuff. It ties into your bank account and basically your phone swallows your debit and credit card.

    Ultimately the banks are going to discover—the hard way—that getting into bed with Apple was a bad idea, about the same way that getting into bed with Amazon over ebooks was a bad idea for the Big Five publishers. Apple is de facto an investment bank, right now: all it needs is a banking license and the right back end and regulatory oversight and risk management and it will be able to go toe-to-toe with the likes of Chase or Barclays or HSBC as a consumer bank, too. And Apple has a very good idea of how risky their customers' behavior is because unlike the banks and the credit card settlement network they're not running on incrementally upgraded legacy infrastructure designed in the 1950s. Note those two words a couple of sentences ago: "risk management". Banks are not in the business of holding your money or making loans; they live or die by how well they manage risk. Apple, like Google, has a much richer relationship with their customers than any bank. They can (for example), with a customer's position, know roughly where the customer's phone or watch is moving, and thereby spot faked payment credentials if someone clones the device and tries to use it to buy something a thousand miles away. The CC networks have velocity checking but it's a really crude metric for spotting fraud: Apple can massively improve on it.

    COMMENT:

    you and I aren't really their target market. Rather those people currently sitting in desks listen to teachers drone on are. In a few years there will be consumers who simply do not know a world without smartphones and apps. Who grew up using a phone or tablet before they touched a PC or laptop. These people are going to see their phone (or its successor) as the center point of their technological lives, everything else is an accessory. They're more likely to be without their keys, wallet, ID than they are to be without their phone.

    So to this group, not making payments, unlocking their car/house, or or proving their identity with their phone will seem risky and cumbersome.

    Why would you trust something so insecure as cash or a credit card or a physical key?
    http://www.antipope.org/charlie/blog-...3/follow-the-money-apple-vs-the-.html
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  4. The euro zone is to benefit German industrial output.

    ECB turned off the money supply to Greece to force Greece to its knees. Once there was unconditional surrender, a choice between suicide or execution, ECB turned back on the money supply to Greek banks. The money that was lent, flowed back out to pay off international creditors, a point Germans should note when they keep referring to bailing out Greece.

    The Fourth Reich showed they would happily destroy a country if that country did not give in to its demands. They forced onto Greece, not only a surrender, but an unconditional surrender, part of which is rape and pillage of the country, enclosure of the commons, sell off of Greek assets on the cheap. But at least we all now know what the Fourth Reich is capable of, Its brutality was exposed for all the world to see. At least Podemos in Spain now know exactly what they are dealing with.

    It was meant to set an example to Podemos, do not dare oppose the Fourth Reich this too will be your fate.

    But it has had had the opposite effect, for pro-democracy activists across Europe to double their efforts to defeat the Fourth Reich.

    What we have learnt, we have to work from the grass roots upwards. Syriza has grass roots support that most parties would die for, the NO vote showed that. But it was not enough. We have to restructure society from the bottom up.

    Greece may have lost a battle, but not the war, the fight continues.

    John Cassidy, writing in The New Yorker:

    Syriza’s surrender wasn’t necessarily an ignominious one. As Lenin commented of the failed 1905 revolution in Russia, it was a retreat for a new attack, which ultimately proved successful. “I’m not going to sugarcoat this and pass it off as a success story,” Tsipras said to parliament on Wednesday, prior to the vote, acknowledging that the spending cuts and tax increases contained in the agreement would deal another blow to the Greek economy. However, that wasn’t the full story, Tsipras insisted. “We have left a heritage of dignity and democracy to Europe,” he said. “This fight will bear fruit.”

    The euro zone is to benefit German industrial output.

    The problem Greece has is many idle hands, work that needs doing, and no money to connect the two. What connects the two is money.

    In the Great Depression there was no money, in US banks were closed, because they were bust.

    They created scrips, alternative currencies, across Europe and in the States. They were successful, incredibly successful. The reason they do not exist today is because they were too successful, the Central Banks closed them down.

    In 1931, a German coal mine operator decided to open his closed mine by paying his workers in wara. It was backed by coal. Because it was backed by coal, which everyone could use, local merchants and wholesalers were persuaded to accept it. The mining town flourished, and within the year at least a thousand stores across Germany were accepting wara, and banks began accepting wara-denominated deposits. Feeling threatened, the German government tried to have the wara declared illegal by the courts; when that failed, it simply banned it by emergency decree.

    The following year, the depressed town of Wörgl, Austria, issued its own stamp scrip inspired by the success of the wara. The Wörgl currency was by all accounts a huge success. Roads were paved, bridges built, and back taxes were paid. The unemployment rate plummeted and the economy thrived, attracting the attention of nearby towns. Mayors and officials from all over the world began to visit Wörgl until, as in Germany, the central government abolished the Wörgl currency and the town slipped back into depression.
    https://keithpp.wordpress.com/2015/07/27/an-alternative-greek-currency
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  5. The Obama administration, to its embarrassment, has been spurned by Western allies flocking to a China-led Asian development bank, defying White House pleas to stand back. In a surprise announcement last week, Britain said it would become the first Western nation to join the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, a potential rival to the American-led World Bank.

    In significant ways, this is a problem of America’s own making. The United States has urged China to exercise more leadership, but the top posts at the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank have been restricted to Europeans, Americans and the Japanese. Congress bears considerable blame for refusing to pass legislation to shift voting power more fairly among I.M.F. member states, including China. China’s move to create the new development bank is part of the price being paid for that obstruction.

    President Obama has also mishandled the issue. The American position of opposing the new bank until China accepts certain principles of governance and lending would have been more effective if the administration had worked with its allies to produce a set of common principles that could then be negotiated with the Chinese.

    On Tuesday, Germany, France and Italy announced that they would also join the bank, and Australia and South Korea are expected to follow.

    Their decisions were proof that even Europe’s biggest economies, founders with the United States of the postwar global economic order, cannot resist the newest gold rush — into China, the world’s second-largest economy and a major export and investment market.

    Funding the new bank is another effort by China to become an even more dominant influence in the region. The Americans worry that China could establish a parallel economic order that could weaken the World Bank and its affiliates and erode already strained international lending standards of transparency, creditworthiness, environmental sustainability, and concern for labor and human rights that took decades to put in place.
    http://www.nytimes.com/2015/03/20/opi...allies-lured-by-chinas-bank.html?_r=1
    Tags: , , , , , , by M. Fioretti (2015-03-22)
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  6. Bitcoin sometimes appears akin to an illegal immigrant, trying to decide whether to seek out a rebellious existence in the black-market economy, or whether to don the slick clothes of the Silicon Valley establishment. The latter position – involving publicly accepting regulation and tax whilst privately lobbying against it – is obviously more acceptable and familiar to authorities.

    to many onlookers Bitcoin is just a passing curiosity, a damp squib that will eventually suffer an ignoble death by media boredom. It is a mistake to believe that, though. The core innovation of Bitcoin is not going away, and it is deeper than currency.

    What has been introduced to the world is a method to create decentralised peer-validated time-stamped ledgers. That is a fancy way of saying it is a method for bypassing the use of centralised officials in recording stuff. Such officials are pervasive in society, from a bank that records electronic transactions between me and my landlord, to patent officers that record the date of new innovations, to parliamentary registers noting the passing of new legislative acts.

    commercial banks collectively act as a cartel controlling the recording of transaction data, and it is via this process that they keep score of ‘how much money’ we have. To create a secure electronic currency system that does not rely on these banks thus requires three interacting elements. Firstly, one needs to replace the private databases that are controlled by them. Secondly, one needs to provide a way for people to change the information on that database (‘move money around’). Thirdly, one needs to convince people that the units being moved around are worth something.

    To solve the first element, Bitcoin provides a public database, or ledger, that is referred to reverently as the blockchain. There is a way for people to submit information for recording in the ledger, but once it gets recorded, it cannot be edited in hindsight. If you’ve heard about bitcoin ‘mining’ (using ‘hashing algorithms’), that is what that is all about. A scattered collective of mercenary clerks essentially hire their computers out to collectively maintain the ledger, baking (or weaving) transaction records into it.

    Within the Bitcoin system, a set of powerful central intermediaries (the cartel of commercial banks, connected together via the central bank, underwritten by government), gets replaced with a more diffuse network intermediary, apparently controlled by no-one in particular.

    What is Facebook? Isn’t it just a company that you send information to, which is then stored in their database and subsequently displayed to you and your friends? You log in with your password (proving your identity), and then can alter that database by sending them further messages (‘I’d like to delete that photo’). Likewise with Twitter, Dropbox, and countless other web services.

    we give groups like Facebook huge amounts of information. Indeed, they set themselves up as information honeytraps in order to create a profit-making platform where advertisers can sell you things based on the information. This simultaneously creates a large information repository for authorities like the NSA to browse. This interaction of corporate power and state power is inextricably tied to the profitable nature of centrally held data.

    The blockchain can record contracts between free individuals, and if enforcement mechanisms can be coded in to create self-enforcing ‘smart contracts’, we have a system for building encoded law that bypasses states.

    Bitcoin and other blockchain technologies, though, are empowering right now precisely because they are underdogs. They introduce diversity into the existing system and thereby expand our range of tools. In the minds of hardcore proponents, though, blockchain technologies are more than this. They are a replacement system, superior to existing institutions in every possible way. When amplified to this extreme, though, the apparently utopian project can begin to take on a dystopian, conservative hue.

    the ‘empowerment’ here does not stem from building community ties. Rather it is imagined to come from retreating from trust and taking refuge in a defensive individualism mediated via mathematical contractual law.

    The myth of political ‘exit’

    Back in the days of roving bands of nomadic people, the political option of ‘exit’ was a reality. If a ruler was oppressive, you could actually pack up and take to the desert in a caravan.

    but The bizarre thing about the concept of ‘exit to the internet’ is that the internet is a technology premised on massive state and corporate investment in physical infrastructure, fibre optic cables laid under seabeds, mass production of computers from low-wage workers in the East, and mass affluence in Western nations. If you are in the position to be having dreams of technological escape, you are probably not in a position to be exiting mainstream society. You are mainstream society.

    What he is really trying to do is to invoke one side of the crypto-anarchist mantra of ‘privacy for the weak, but transparency for the powerful’.

    That is a healthy radical impulse, but the conservative element kicks in when the assumption is made that somehow privacy alone is what enables social empowerment. That is when it turns into an individualistic ‘just leave me alone’ impulse fixated with negative liberty. Despite the rugged frontier appeal of the concept, the presumption that empowerment simply means being left alone to pursue your individual interests is essentially an ideology of the already-empowered, not the vulnerable.

    It is only when we think in these terms that we start to see Bitcoin not as a realm ‘lacking the rules imposed by the state’, but as a realm imposing its own rules. It offers a form of protection, but guarantees nothing like ‘empowerment’ or ‘escape’.

    Technology often seems silent and inert, a world of ‘apolitical’ objects. We are thus prone to being blind to the power dynamics built into our use of it.

    This is where the concept of becoming ‘enslaved to technology’ emerges from. If you do not buy into it, you will be marginalised, and thatis political.

    This is important. While individual instances of blockchain technology can clearly be useful, as a class of technologies designed to mediate human affairs, they contain a latent potential for encouraging technocracy. When disassociated from the programmers who design them, trustless blockchains floating above human affairs contains the specter of rule by algorithms. It is a vision (probably accidently) captured by Ethereum’s Joseph Lubin when he says “There will be ways to manipulate people to make bad decisions, but there won’t be ways to manipulate the system itself”.

    Don’t decentralised blockchains offer the ultimate prospect of protected property rights with clear rules, but without the political interference?

    This is essentially the vision of the internet techno-leviathan, a deified crypto-sovereign whose rules we can contract to. The rules being contracted to are a series of algorithms, step by step procedures for calculations which can only be overridden with great difficulty. Perhaps, at the outset, this represents, à la Rousseau, the general will of those who take part in the contractual network, but the key point is that if you get locked into a contract on that system, there is no breaking out of it.

    Contracts, in essence, resemble algorithms, coded expressions of what outcomes should happen under different circumstances. On average, they are written by technocrats and, on average, they reflect the interests of elite classes.

    The point I am trying to make is that you do not escape the world of big corporates and big government by wishing for a trustless set of technologies that collectively resemble a technocratic crypto-sovereign. Rather, you use technology as a tool within ongoing political battles, and you maintain an ongoing critical outlook towards it. The concept of the decentralised blockchain is powerful. The cold, distrustful edge of cypherpunk, though, is only empowering when it is firmly in the service of creative warm-blooded human communities situated in the physical world of dirt and grime.

    Perhaps this means de-emphasising the focus on how blockchains can be used to store digital assets or property, and focusing rather on those without assets. For example, think of the potential of blockchain voting systems that groups like Restart Democracy are experimenting with. Centralised vote-counting authorities are notorious sources of political anxiety in fragile countries. What if the ledger recording the votes cast was held by a decentralised network of citizens, with voters having a means to anonymously transmit votes to be stored on a publicly viewable database?

    We do not want a future society free from people we have to trust, or one in which the most we can hope for is privacy. Rather, we want a world in which technology is used to dilute the power of those systems that cause us to doubt trust relationships. Screw escaping to Mars.
    http://furtherfield.org/features/arti...leviathan-politics-bitcoin-blockchain
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  7. The Fed, it seems, has finally run out of other ammo. It has to taper its quantitative easing program, which is eating up the Treasuries and mortgage-backed securities needed as collateral for the repo market that is the engine of the bankers’ shell game. The Fed’s Zero Interest Rate Policy (ZIRP) has also done serious collateral damage. The banks that get the money just put it in interest-bearing Federal Reserve accounts or buy foreign debt or speculate with it; and the profits go back to the 1%, who park it offshore to avoid taxes. Worse, any increase in the money supply from increased borrowing increases the overall debt burden and compounding finance costs, which are already a major constraint on economic growth.

    Meanwhile, the economy continues to teeter on the edge of deflation. The Fed needs to pump up the money supply and stimulate demand in some other way. All else having failed, it is reduced to trying what money reformers have been advocating for decades — get money into the pockets of the people who actually spend it on goods and services.
    http://ellenbrown.com/2014/09/01/even...-it-time-to-rain-money-on-main-street
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  8. raising interest rates could implode the monster derivatives scheme. Michael Snyder observes that the biggest banks have written over $400 trillion in interest rate derivatives contracts, betting that interest rates will not shoot up. If they do, it will be the equivalent of an insurance company writing trillions of dollars in life insurance contracts and having all the insureds die at once. The banks would quickly become insolvent. And it will be our deposits that get confiscated to recapitalize them, under the new “bail in” scheme approved by Janet Yellen as one of the Fed’s more promising tools (called “resolution planning” in Fed-speak).

    As Max Keiser observes, “You can’t taper a Ponzi scheme.” You can only turn off the tap and let it collapse, or watch the parasite consume its food source and perish of its own accord.

    Collapse or Metamorphosis?

    The question being hotly debated in the blogosphere is, “What then?” Will economies collapse globally? Will life as we know it be a thing of the past?

    Not likely, argues John Michael Greer in a March 2014 article called “American Delusionalism, or Why History Matters.” If history is any indication, governments will simply, once again, change the rules.

    In fact, the rules of money and banking have changed every 20 or 30 years for the past three centuries, in an ongoing trial-and-error experiment in evolving a financial system, and an ongoing battle over whose interests it will serve. To present that timeline in full will take another article, but in a nutshell we have gone from precious metal coins, to government-issued paper scrip, to privately-issued banknotes, to checkbook money, to gold-backed Federal Reserve Notes, to unbacked Federal Reserve Notes, to the “near money” created by the shadow banking system. Money has evolved from being “stored” in the form of a physical commodity, to paper representations of value, to computer bits storing information about credits and debits.

    The rules have been changed before and can be changed again. Depressions, credit crises and financial collapse are not acts of God but are induced by mechanical flaws or corruption in the financial system. Credit may stop flowing, but the workers, materials and markets are still there. The system just needs a reboot.
    http://ellenbrown.com/2014/07/25/you-...t-taper-a-ponzi-scheme-time-to-reboot
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  9. Today, I'd like to point you to a documentary on YouTube and embedded below that perfectly explains how U.S. banks have set themselves up to fail. The bottom line from a business perspective is that U.S. banks are impeding growth for many companies by over-culling the pool of potential buyers and users.

    Take note that this documentary is sponsored by American Express. When the banks' bedfellows leap out of bed like this, well, let's just say that bed is no longer safe and warm.

    From the perspective of the "unbanked" and those incorrectly assigned negative or no credit ratings--which number in the millions--the motivation is strong to embrace disruptors in an immediate and very big way. That point is not lost on American Express and a long line of hungry disruptors.

    Note also the website on the movement behind this film: it contains information meant to aid and empower regular citizens to change the financial industry as a whole and their own circumstances in particular. The copy there indicates American Express is wisely driving innovation to ensure its own financial security:
    http://www.fiercebigdata.com/node/33772331
    Tags: , , by M. Fioretti (2014-06-18)
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  10. Bitcoin, however, is more than just its answers to the first three key questions of money.

    At its core is its novel payments technology — the distributed public ledger — which could just as easily be used to process payments denominated in US dollars, or British pounds, or Japanese yen as in bitcoins. So how does bitcoin’s answer to the fourth question any money must answer measure up against the historical alternatives?

    The oldest of those is cash: coins and notes that represent credit balances and transfer them from person to person when passed from hand to hand. It is in fact a very ingenious technology when one thinks about it. Settlement is instantaneous. There is the risk of counterfeiting, of course — but no need to refer to any centralized records. And the ledger recording society’s network of credit and debt at any point in time is genuinely virtual: it consists simply in the physical distribution of the information-bearing tokens. Coinage, you see, was the original internet of things.
    http://www.wired.com/2014/03/bitcoin-currency_martin
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