Friday, January 29, 2016

World Governance

One World Government - it's now the likely future, according to economists.
Prophets of doom and their signs of the end! 

World governance today has taken an interesting turn.  It is a bit of a surprise for those who expected governments to grow closer together and merge into the prophesied one-world government, perhaps in collaboration with the UN.  That or some similar path has been described by doom-cryers over the years.

What few expected was the subordination of governments by big business.  Regulatory changes purchased by corporate influence in recent decades have spawned multi-national corporations and banks that are bigger and politically more powerful than countries.

Businesses we remember from years ago have been purchased whole or in part by other businesses.  Brand names we thought were competitors all belong to a single parent corporation.  Banks we thought were staid and reasonably sized are now financially larger than countries and more powerful as well.  Given standing by the Supreme Court, corporations exercise more power and leverage in Washington than any other influence group.  Similarly around the world, corporations have greater influence than governments on foreign trade policies.  The extraordinarily influential oil industry comes to mind for its part in regional conflicts in Africa and the Middle East.  The war in Iraq is acknowledged to have fought for Big Oil.  This century's trade agreements serve big business almost exclusively.  Of the world's 100 largest economies, 63 are countries, and 37 are corporations.

Network Diagram of Linear Granger-causality relationships that are statistically significant at the 5% level
among the monthly returns of the 25 largest (in terms of average AUM) banks, broker/dealers, insurers, and
hedge funds over January 1994 to December 1996. The type of institution causing the relationship is
indicated by color: green for broker/dealers, red for hedge funds, black for insurers, and blue for banks.
Granger-causality relationships are estimated including autoregressive terms and filtering out 
heteroskedasticity with a GARCH(1,1) model.
Corporate goals are profit and winning.  The corporate ethic is exclusively bottom-line.  The only ethical constraints on their activities are in regulations imposed by governments, all progressively weaker over recent decades.

The financial and insurance industries are even more interconnected than the manufacturing sectors.  The degree of overlapping investment and interdependence has increased explosively.

As regulatory constraints were removed, banking morphed and merged into investment groups, hedge funds, and currency exchanges.  Risks increased exponentially, and unethical practices emerged faster than governments and oversight agencies could contain them.  They gave us the Great Recession which cost trillions from the pockets of the people.  The finance industry professionals came out rather well with mega-bonuses in the same year that investors and the economy experienced giga- and tera-losses.  We haven't recovered yet, nor will most of the citizenry except for the wealthiest 10%.

Foolish parents allow their children to play on the cliff tops. The results are predictable and in this case, probably irreversible. The question for us is perhaps how we might make our way forward individually and as a nation as the changes become more intrusive.
The banking industry has been transformed in recent years, not only with the repeal of the Glass-Steagall Act in
1999, but also through financial innovations like securitization that have blurred the distinction between loans, bank
deposits, securities, and trading strategies.  The types of business relationships between these sectors have also changed,
with banks and insurers providing credit to hedge funds and also competing against them through their own
proprietary trading desks, and hedge funds using insurers to provide principal protection for their funds
while simultaneously competing with them by offering capital-market-intermediated insurance such as
catastrophe-linked bonds.

Prophets have spoken about events at the end of the age.  We're curious what they might have been shown that provoked the descriptions they've left for us.  What did they really see?  As the years pass, it perhaps becomes a bit clearer.  What's the good response on our part?