Tuesday, 16 December 2008

More on Merton and the “Collapse of the Whole Intellectual Edifice”

A couple of readers wrote to ask how I could blame one man for a such a large-scale financial collapse. Had I not said many times that the subject of finance is capital in circulation and not people? How could that assertion be reconciled with the claim that Merton single-handedly – whether consciously or not – brought about the downfall of the so-called Anglo-American financial system?

Merton’s idea about riskless portfolio earning riskless rate pertained to a definite point in the historical development of finance capital in which, thanks to its continuous growth and eventual dominance of financial markets, it claimed “recognition” on par with the full faith and credit of the U.S. government. Merton was simply the vessel for that expression. He was, you could say, chosen by fate. Like Oedipus, his deed was inflicted upon him rather than committed by him.

(In saying that finance capital claimed recognition on par with the full faith and credit of the U.S. government, I am not creating mysteries. I am talking about the functional form of equality that finance capital had won organizationally almost a century ago in the form of the establishment of the Federal Reserve. University professors perennially point to the appointment of the chairman of the Federal Reserve by the U.S. president as the proof of the “regulation” of the banking by the government. The opposite is true. The process is about elevation of private finance to the inner sanctum of the government. I will have more on this in Vol. 4.)