Dreaming of another recession

Alessio Rastani, an American independent trader based in London, made a confession yesterday on BBC: He dreams of another recession to make good big money. Mr. Rastani makes the point in his blog:

I go to bed every night and I pray for another recession.  In fact, if indeed we are heading for another global recession, which I believe we are, then I have been dreaming of this moment for 3 years!

The Euro is going to crash, investors are drowning in fear, current rescue plans are useless… and, worst of all, there is nothing governments can do to take us out of this mess. And that is because governments don´t rule the world anymore. Goldman Sachs does. Actually, the idea is not at all new. Arthur Jensen brilliantly exposed it in the film Network back in 1976:

We could spend some time discussing Mr. Rastani’s words, criticising his empty way of life, his insulting arrogance… We could digress about what would happen if somebody openly applauded a terrorist attack that caused 100 deaths, certainly less than the number of victims of the recession Mr. Rastani long dreamed of. We could even try to find him in violation of codes of ethics and standards of professional conduct. But I prefer not to waste my time doing that. (If you are interested in this kind of issues, here you have CFA’s code and standards or the market abuse library of the UK Financial Services Authority). I’d rather think about where human rights and human rights advocates stand in the world depicted by Mr. Rastani.

Some months ago, I asked myself in this blog if there is room for economic and social rights in a neoliberal world (part I and part II). In the tip of the current crisis, the human rights community has a heavy duty addressing this fundamental question:

The human rights system was built upon a state-centric international order that does not exist anymore. Unless the interrelation between neoliberalism and socioeconomic rights is examined carefully, human rights will be at stake. Similarly, democracy will also suffer if hegemonic economic interests keep trespassing borders with almost total liberty.

Human rights are built upon the basic assumption that the State must be held accountable for the well-being of the population. Yet, what is the future of human rights if States simply don´t matter anymore and politics and economy comes down to the whimsical business of a bunch of market traders like Alessio Rastani? The financial meltdown led to a social crisis that coexists with States that are  more powerful but less responsible. The power of States is now measured in terms of social control and punitive criminality (see here). Governments assert that public spending must be cut down (‘reordered’ or ‘rationalised’, they like to say). Apparently there is no alternative if we want to calm investors down. However, Mr. Rastani has been frank with us: Nothing will work; there is nothing we can do for them to believe in austerity plans. They take risks to get more money. Period. And if recessions are a fruitful sea, no question they´ll fish in there. Paraphrasing Barack Obama and David Cameron, let me be clear on this: Alessio Rastani is not the problem; the problem is the system. The question is: What are we going to do about it?

Koldo Casla



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