1. the political economy;
2. the financial institutions;
3. governments that failed to regulate them;
4. corrupt practices of individual bankers/investment officers;
5. multilateral financial institutions, especially the IMF;
6. central banks, especially the FED and European Central Bank.
All of this is a matter of record in my postings during the last four years for those who care to review it.
There are those who believe that the bloated public sector is to blame; other who insist that the welfare state is the problem; still others would have the public believe in the 'few rotten apples' theory, that is, individuals are the problem and not the system; other argue that this is just a normal evolution of the expanding-contracting market economy; others note that highly paid workers, especially trade unionists account for lack of competitiveness; and so it goes with varieties of theories. In short, any one and everyone is responsible but the financial structure as it operates under the existing political economy.
It seems to me that apologists for the banks lack much support these days not from critics like me that have no political or economic leverage, but from a few honest bankers on either side of the Atlantic who acknowledge that the financial structure was an accident waiting to happen and that banks made serious mistakes, if not engaged in illegal and corrupt practices, that cost the world economy's downfall.
For example, bankers at the Davos annual meeting in January 2010 accepted responsibility for youth unemployment and economic downturn after Lehman Brothers. Unlike many intellectuals who are apologists for banks, bankers had the sense not to attribute the financial meltdown to 'act of God or nature', but a deliberate act of greedy financial officers and investors.
On 27 September 2011, Bill Winters, former Chief Executive of J. P. Morgan Investment, the bank that invested credit defaults in the 1990s, has accepted responsibility for institutional malpractices that ruined the credit economy, undercut the governments' credit capabilities, and sunk society into a cycle toward downward social mobility. Winters has pledged to correct mistakes of the past, but that is just one person who has the moral rectitude to admit mistakes and promise reform. Winters told BBC news that 'there is an element of immorality in bankers keeping bonuses and staying out of jail'. Winters candidly admitted that his own banking practices under legal cover but extraordinarily corrupt led to the wrecking of economies and have led to the lost generation in which his daughter belongs.
There are EU and US officials that have similar attitude about financial institutions as J.P. Morgan banker Winters. Nor is there much support from EU and US officials for the corrupt practices of banks that refuse to accept reform and accept government to sacrifice social welfare so that banks can thrive. EU officials recently lashed out at the US, arguing that the lingering recession started in America and specifically with Lehman Brothers, not with the EU periphery debtor nations as some in the US are now trying to argue.
If there are still people who believe that the financial system is not to blame and that its ailments are not symptomatic of the structural weaknesses of the political economy, I hope that such individuals are well paid consultants by financial institutions. Because to believe in banks as innocent victims of the financial crisis after all that has taken place in the world in the last five years is a sad commentary on the apologist commentator.
In the recent German-American heated rhetoric about who is to blame for not doing enough about stabilizing the world economy, it is apparent that both sides are correct because they see the problem in terms of what is to the tangible benefit of their national economies. In fact, every one who analyzes with any degree of cohesiveness the long-term and immediate causes of the global recession, and proposes the solutions as a remedy does so from a political perspective - unless of course the analyst has descended from Mars and has no stake in earthy matters in which the rest of us dwell on a daily basis. Those who are honest with themselves and with their audience explain or at least imply that their position is based not on some abstract and universal principle of right and wrong as though political economy is religious dogma coming down to earthy sinners as commandments from the burning bush, but rather that the analysis and the solution are indeed based on the group's interests on whose behalf they advocate.
I have no problem with a paid analyst of financial institutions advocating for that segment of society, as long as there is full disclosure. I have no problem with an analyst arguing that ideological commitment drove him/her to such a position. Nor do I have a problem with the Communist trade unionist advocating socializing the means of production to benefit workers, therefore, bankers must be put in prison and banks nationalized. This is not an issue of what is right and wrong - abstract moral absolutes are for theologians and philosophers - for in the absence of social groups that have a stake in the crisis, no argument makes any sense for anyone down here on earth where people live and work and die. The reality is that billions of peoples' lives are impacted by this lingering global financial crisis, and I am amazed that J. P. Morgan investment banker Winters has been more honest and has maintained a higher moral ground on this issue than most intellectuals hiding behind vacuous rhetoric.
To the degree that the state has surrender monetary, fiscal, and economic policy to financial institutions via central banks, what is the responsibility of financial institutions to society in terms of public policy, and what does this entail for the social contract in 'democratic' societies?