Abstract: We examine the effects that revenue windfalls from international commodity price booms have on external debt in a panel of 93 countries during the period 1970-2007. Our main finding is that increases in the international prices of exported commodity goods lead to a significant reduction in the level of external debt in democracies, but to no significant reduction in the level of external debt in autocracies. To explain this result, we show that in autocracies commodity windfalls lead to a statistically significant and quantitatively large increase in government expenditures. In democracies on the other hand government expenditures did not increase significantly. We also document that following commodity windfalls the risk of default on external debt decreased in democracies, but increased significantly in autocracies.
Elaborating on PAsinetti (1998), the 'Geometry of Debt Sustainability' - GDS - represents a simple analytical tool for the analysis of the long run sustainability of foreign debt. GDS provides a simple analysis of three aspects of debt sustainability. It points up how the 'structural' aspect - NICA, the non-interest current account - is closely interlinked with the purely 'financial' aspect. The paper focuses on low income countries, LICs, which face several daunting tasks at once: economic growth, human development and regular debt service. Therefore GDS is also used to analyse the 'human development' aspect of debt sustainability. By considering the three aspects together it emerges that there might be a very stringent trade-off between regular debt service and human development expenditures. All the more so because mosto LICs suffer from structural NICA deficits and GDS highlights the fact its improvement is a anecessary condition to achieve long-run debt sustainability. However, export diversification and the building of stronger trading capacities take time. GDS shows why both debt cancellation and additional aid are necessary to give indebted low income economies a chance to improve both human development and long-run economic viability.
What is called 'capitalism' is best understood as a series of stages. Industrial capitalism has given way to finance capitalism, which has passed through pension fund capitalism since the 1950s and a US-centered monetary imperialism since 1971, when the fiat dollar (created mainly to finance US global military spending) became the world’s monetary base. Fiat dollar credit made possible the bubble economy after 1980, and its substage of casino capitalism. These economically radioactive decay stages resolved into debt deflation after 2008, and are now settling into a leaden debt peonage and the austerity of neo-serfdom. The end product of today’s Western capitalism is a neo-rentier economy - precisely what industrial capitalism and classical economists set out to replace during the Progressive Era from the late 19th to early 20th century. A financial class has usurped the role that landlords used to play - a class living off special privilege. Most economic rent is now paid out as interest. This rake-off interrupts the circular flow between production and consumption, causing economic shrinkage - a dynamic that is the opposite of industrial capitalism’s original impulse. The 'miracle of compound interest', reinforced now by fiat credit creation, is cannibalizing industrial capital as well as the returns to labor. The political thrust of industrial capitalism was toward democratic parliamentary reform to break the stranglehold of landlords on national tax systems. But today’s finance capital is inherently oligarchic. It seeks to capture the government - first and foremost the treasury, central bank, and courts - to enrich (indeed, to bail out) and untax the banking and financial sector and its major clients: real estate and monopolies. This is why financial 'technocrats' (proxies and factotums for high finance) were imposed in Greece, and why Germany opposed a public referendum on the European Central Bank’s austerity program.
"Debt as power is a timely and innovative contribution to our understanding of one of the most prescient issues of our time: the explosion of debt across the global economy and related requirement of political leaders to pursue exponential growth to meet the demands of creditors and investors. The book is distinctive in offering a historically sensitive and comprehensive analysis of debt as an interconnected and global phenomenon. Rather than focusing on the historical emergence of debt as a moral obligation, the authors argue that debt under capitalism can be conceived of as a technology of power, intimately tied up with the requirement for perpetual growth and the differential capitalization that benefits ‘the 1%’. Their account begins with the recognition that the histories of human communities and their natural environment are interconnected in complex spatial and hierarchical relations of power and to understand their development we need to not only examine the particularities of a given case, but more importantly their interconnected, interdependent and international relations. Since debt under capitalism is increasingly ubiquitous at all levels of society and economic growth is now the sole mantra of dominant political parties around the world, the authors argue that tracing the evolution and transformation of debt as a technology of power is crucial for understanding the ‘present as history’ and possible alternatives to our current trajectory."