Heeft het kapitalisme gefaald?

NEW YORK – Tot zes dagen vóór de val van Lehman Brothers vijf jaar geleden hield kredietbeoordelaar Standard & Poor’s vast aan de allerhoogste kredietstatus voor de firma. Moody's wachtte zelfs nog langer en heeft Lehman pas één werkdag voor het faillissement afgewaardeerd. Hoe konden goed aangeschreven kredietbeoordelaars – en zakenbanken – de zaken zó slecht inschatten?

Een groot deel van de blaam voor de crisis komt toezichthouders, bankiers en kredietbeoordelaars toe. Maar de bijna-meltdown was niet zozeer te wijten aan een tekortkoming van het kapitalisme als wel het gevolg van het tekortschieten van het inzicht dat contemporaine economische modellen bieden in de rol en het functioneren van financiële markten – en, in bredere zin, van instabiliteit – in kapitalistische economieën.

Deze modellen hebben de vermeend wetenschappelijke fundamenten gelegd voor beleidsbeslissingen en financiële innovaties die de ergste crisis sinds de Grote Depressie veel waarschijnlijker hebben gemaakt, zo niet onvermijdelijk. Na de val van Lehman heeft de vroegere voorzitter van de Federal Reserve (de Fed, het federale stelsel van Amerikaanse centrale banken) Alan Greenspan voor het Amerikaanse Congres getuigd dat hij “een zwakke plek had gevonden” in de ideologie dat eigenbelang de maatschappij zou beschermen tegen de excessen van het financiële stelsel. Maar de schade was toen al aangericht.

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