Friday, October 10, 2008

Knowing the players in the G7 meeting

The G7 meeting could not come at a more momentous moment than the present. Yes, this is obvious and it is a grand understatement. (The G7 finance ministers are meeting at the White House, hosted by United States President George Bush, today.)

(Let me give you the spoiler of this article: the G7 is Conservative leaning.)
That said, let's get to business. In the current situation of the stock markets and finance sector, we would hope that governments would act toward lessening the deleterious impact upon their populaces, and that they would act to draw the benefits of state intervention in the direction of the state. In plain English, let's hope that finance reforms include government interventions in the banking system that channel profits toward the government, and thence to the taxpayers/populace, either in the form of rebates or in social spending.
This latter direction is one that the Democratic leadership in the United States Congress has undertaken. Among G7 members, this direction would be more likely pursued by Social Democratic Parties. As we see below, the tilt of the G7, in political party, is toward the Conservative direction. So, the implementation of a Social-Democratic direction, of a populist minded finance policy, is not likely to happen.

I have just taken an inventory of the finance ministers of the G7 member states and their partisan orientations. And the tally is as follows:
Canada: Conservative
France: Conservative
Germany: Social Democratic
Great Britain: [de facto Social Democratic]
Italy: Conservative
Japan: Conservative
Russia: ?
The United States: Conservative

(I have taken the liberty of changing formal party names to the kind of ideological and policy-oriented direction that they lean- Conservative or Social Democratic. In European (+ Israeli + Japanese) understanding of political lexicon, Social Democratic would apply to Great Britain's governing Labour Party, even though it is distinct from the "Social-Democratic Party" of Great Britain/United Kingdom.
As to Russia, it is difficult to place the finance minister. Their government is a de facto presidential government --regardless of his title of prime minister, and as such we would extrapolate the philosophies of the finance minister as following the prerogatives of Vladmir Putin. Despite Putin's CCCP roots, his government has not acted to stanch trends of increasing cost of living or an unstable financial sector, as this reading --by Edward Hugh, October 3-- of the financial scene indicates. I put very little stock in his moving to steer financial policy in an economic populist direction.)
Germany provides the sole left of center minister of finance (Peer Steinbrück-SPD), aside from Great Britain (Alistair Darling-Labour).

Translation: I am anticipating "changes" or "reforms" that serve banks interests, without a mind toward socially-minded channeling of profits or government-directed oversight. Thus, in the long term, I am pessimistic that G7 reforms will improve the current crisis.

On the other hand, this is a fluid time. It appears that free-market oriented political party-led governments are now contemplating or enacting state takeover of banks. Let's hope that the G7 ministers act toward charting financial markets in a stable direction. But let's also hope that they consider the ordinary depositors and taxpayers, not simply the major banks. I'm holding my breath on the latter point.

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