An Examination of Critical Theories of Finance from Adam Smith to the Present Day
Chapter 15: Conclusion: The Disturbance of Economists by Finance
Capitalism in the twentieth century was dominated by finance, with the exception of that half of the century that was taken up by its world wars, the Great Depression and its Keynesian aftermath. Even before, in the nineteenth century, finance seduced industrial capitalism by offering a vision of capitalist reproduction expanded by the resources generated by financial inflation, ostensibly held in check by controls on the issue of paper money. The extensive and negative reaction of English political economy to Adam Smith’s views on usury was symptomatic of the expansion of financial markets and their growing confidence in their ability to contribute to commerce and industry. From Veblen through Keynes to Minsky, a series of critics of finance argued that economies do not operate in the benign way in which it appears in equilibrium economics. These critics can be divided into those like Veblen, Hawtrey, Kalecki, Steindl and Minsky, who took a general view of finance; those like Smith, Fisher and Breit, who saw the financial system as essentially a banking system; and those like Keynes, Kindleberger and Galbraith, who have identified the pathology of modern capitalism in its capital markets. The institutional forms through which the capitalist system has evolved have been crucial factors in the development of critical views of finance. The more conspicuously has the brilliance with which financial institutions have flourished stood out from its environment, the more finance has put itself forward as the remedy for the poverty of that environment. In part this is...
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