Impact investing, if pursued on a large scale, could become the next best thing to a sweeping overhaul of capitalism’s financial architecture. Nonetheless, neither socially responsible investing (in general) or impact investing (in particular) is a suitable substitute for redesigning the entire Wall Street system. Investors in the U.S.A. and abroad should pay attention to socially responsible investing, positive investing, impact investing and other financial accountability initiatives while moving forward with plans to redesign how we capitalize public ownership of business and industry.
There is a lot of untapped potential for addressing the nation’s crumbling infrastructure when 9 million Americans are picking up June unemployment checks. So what’s missing? When the financial crisis hit in 2008, Wall Street’s biggest concern was a survival plan for Wall Street bettors, not Main Street jobs. Inscrutably, when the Obama administration took power it veered toward the financial intelligentsia’s “recovery” plans, not a technologically robust infrastructure overhaul vision.
Many taxpaying Americans are understandably concerned about a congressional leader’s trial balloon proposal to hike the normal Social Security retirement age to 70. (The proposal would apply to workers at least 20 years from retirement.) Millions of Americans over age 55 cannot find suitable full-time work. A higher retirement age may mean more years of trying to get by on marginal employment.
The emerging bank reform legislation might be viewed in a singularly positive light if the reforms were not the byproduct of a skewed capital system that made several million Americans undeservedly powerful and rich while Congress slept. One could feel downright hopeful about the future of American banking if moral hazard had not contaminated the land. But too much polluted water has gone under the bridge. The good in the reforms is counteracted by the poisons that produced the need for remedial interventions.
If the truth sets people free, why is America becoming less free on the heels of twenty-five years of “free market capitalism”? Granted, banks could not do every last thing they pleased (although hedge funds pretty much could). But banks did receive enormous breadth of latitude for self-regulation. The theory was that the free market profit motive would facilitate naturally functioning checks and balances. Instead, the whole world got a taste of what happens when virtue sits on the sidelines while greed is empowered as the referee.
Free markets and their attentive politicians are always serving up something new. May’s service — an 872 point Dow Jones blowout — clearly dampens recovery hopes. Is it right that financial markets impact the underlying economy so remarkably? Could a different financial architecture help mitigate this problem — an architecture that does not shortchange honorable merit when it comes to financial rewards?
The market’s recent plunge to new closing lows complicates the recovery picture for many market bulls, including people who believe the regulatory reforms underway will eventually cure whatever ails us. Recent market action — including the May 6 ‘Flash-Crash’ — should be unsettling to individuals who think free market mechanisms are all we need.
So-called “experts” have led us into modern era minefields. If experts are ruining the world, to whom do we turn? Plutocrats? Special interests and their politicians? The uneducated masses? Organized religion run amuck? Ancient philosophers? Or something else? It’s time for America and the world to get serious about the foundations of good governance. Change is coming like a locomotive.
How much time will elapse until California becomes America’s Greece? If the EU thinks it necessary to bail out one of Europe’s most profligate state economies, will the U.S. face the same perceived necessity with one of our wayward state governments?
Is there a global debt bomb waiting to be detonated? If so, will it create rampant anarchy in America? Maybe in Great Britain, too? Does an apocalyptic world await? Is the coming world worth fighting for? Increasingly, people believe these questions are worth exploring, evidenced by the size and nature of audiences generated by writers like Marketwatch’s Paul Farrell.