Friday, September 4, 2015

Various Geopolitical Financial Systems

On my page, I usually discuss or develop various models to understand geopolitical financial aspects in various different ways. In this blog post, I'll be doing something somewhat similar. Instead of developing or discussing various factors going on across the world right now or possible risks in the future, I'll be talking about different kinds of geopolitical financial systems used by governments.

I'll begin by talking about what some of the various forms are. It's important to keep in mind that most geopolitical financial systems are usually a mix of different forms, but the forms can be (roughly) split up into:
  1. Liberal Empire
  2. Old Crony/State Capitalist Empire
  3. Democratic Nationalist
  4. Democratic Socialist
  5. National Socialist
  6. Liberal Nationalistic
Note: Any time I use the word liberal, I mean classical liberal (not the American use of the term).

1. Liberal Empire
The basic idea of liberal empire is pretty straightforward: an empire operated by liberal institutions. When I say empire, I basically mean a political structure that composes of a multiethnic polity that derives its power from various autonomous regions subject to its control. The basic idea of empire, the way I see it, is to simply impose peace and collect taxes. By liberal institutions, I mean a Constitution, a rule of law, a free press, an independent judiciary, and free elections to throw out bad leaders. The classic example of a liberal empire today would be the United States.
Note #2: Anyone who wants to claim the US is closer to a nation-state over an empire needs only a half-baked understanding of US history to get rid of such nonsense. The ethnic structure of Miami and South California is not the same as West Virginia or Eastern North Carolina. If you take a typical person in Miami and put them in a small town in the South, they'd be actively discriminated against. To say the US has a single ethnic structure is a joke. I can go into the historical details if you'd like, but the claim of the American nation-state is pretty much a joke. The US is obviously imperial and it always has been imperial (ex. the US has been at war for >80-85% of its existence with constantly shifting frontiers until it established military bases, which it has in virtually every country).

Anyways, the geopolitical financial structure of Liberal Empire is obviously imperial where you have lots of ethnically diverse communities operating autonomously wherein the different communities fight for power on a federal scale. Due to the diversity of regions and peoples in such an empire, the basic idea is to split the people apart into various factions among different issues, and then use a liberal elite to buy out the people on the sidelines by either giving them kickbacks or giving them a separate degree of autonomy--like an empire.

It's the elite that run the show in a Liberal Empire, but there is a catch. The catch is that the elite are not a stable group. Due to the existence of liberal institutions, virtually anyone can become elite (often including foreigners). There's a Constitution to provide a set of basic principles for governance, a rule of law to protect basic rights, an independent judiciary to ensure the principle of equality in front of the law, and free elections to prevent crooks from maintaining power via crony methods. What the liberal ideas basically ensure from a social perspective is CLASS MOBILITY. Due to the nature of a liberal empire, there are clear class structures and hierarchies across the system, but those class structures and hierarchies are constantly shifting.

In a Liberal Imperial geopolitical financial structure, the goal is to keep maintain institutional flexibility and institutional credibility which leads to minimum constraints on finance. In general, the kind of financial structures remain very flexible while equity and capital-assets end up becoming the primary mode of financing. Loans usually become securitized to make it easier for risk-takers to pool together and acquire capital while equity becomes common-place. Traditional banking often takes a third place while financial structures place an emphasis on flexibility due to the incentive structures.

2. Old Crony/State Capitalist Empire
In an Old Crony Imperial system (or State Capitalist empire), the basic idea of empire still exists. You have a multiethnic polity with the power of the imperial authority deriving from the states in the level of the hierarchy below it while the basic idea is still to impose peace and collect taxes. However, in the Old Crony Imperial system, we do not have any form of liberal institutions. There may be either an explicit Constitution or some other statement of general principles, but that's about as far as it goes. There are usually no free elections (there may be bogus elections), there's no free press, no independent judiciary, and no rule of law or if there is a rule of law, it's not enforced. Classic examples of this kind of a system today would be China and Russia.

In the old crony imperial system, the basic idea is to use the financial system for geopolitical goals whether they be to control payments or to transfer power among elites or whatever else the goals may be. In these kinds of systems, the financial systems are usually tightly controlled for a myriad of reasons. Usually, it's to prevent class mobility and to sustain existing power structures and to maintain the power of the elites. Unlike in a Liberal Empire, there are no liberal institutions that can check the power of the ruling elites--although there can  sometimes be other types of institutions including traditional institutions that may check their power.

One of the reasons that the financial system might be tightly controlled is to make sure that financial or economic dislocations don't occur and end up causing civil unrest or even rebellion. Another reason could be to control natural resources or supply lines of natural resources for geopolitical goals. Either way, there's little class mobility in these types of systems and Old Crony Imperial systems can be very repressive on certain issues. These types of systems are heavily reliant on a tightly controlled banking system so that the elites can transfer power in a simple, cost-effective manner as we currently see with China. Capital-assets or equity play a minor role in this kind of a system.

3. Democratic Nationalist
In a Democratic Nationalist geopolitical financial system, we basically have a democratic electoral base built around a common cultural or ethnic identity combined with the view of capital as a nationa asset leading to tight financial controls. These types of geopolitical financial systems tend to be somewhat tightly controlled with a critical emphasis on national unity. Although there are some semblance of liberal institutions in these regions, they often go well beyond purely liberal institutions. The press, in many cases, isn't completely free (like bans on associations or certain parties or speaking a certain way about certain people, etc.); a Constitution and a rule of law often takes a backseat to the will of the people or "democracy"; and even though the judiciary may be "independent", there's often very little emphasis on the ability of people to really get whatever they desire. A typical example of such a system would be Germany.

The most important aspect of this kind of a geopolitical financial system is that it's built around a nation-state. Due to a nationalist geopolitical structure, the types of financial structures in these countries tend to be very rigid. The banking systems are usually very tightly controlled in these kinds of systems and almost all of the financing, including private financing, occurs via the banking system.

Why do we get such rigid financial structures? Even though the elite are less powerful in these kinds of regimes, they still do hold disproportionate power like in any other regime. However, the Democratic Nationalist structure basically creates a situation where foreign elites buying into the system creates incentive structures to disrupt and change the system. Either the system adapts or it prevents foreigners from gaining influence, but nationalist structures introduce an institutional rigidity that prevents adaptation. The easiest way to prevent foreigners from gaining influence is to control who can hold deposits in your banking system and to what degree they hold such deposits. Such a system necessarily requires the banking system to be the primary source of financing.

A Democratic Nationalist geopolitical financial structure obviously implies the principle of equal representation in government, which means that these types of institutions often end up being socialist due to the nationalist structures in place, but they don't have to be socialist. Either way, the financial systems are tightly controlled because capital is viewed as a national asset. Thus, financial institutions are often stable, but inflexible, where capital gets thrown towards anything deemed in the national interest while risk-taking is usually discouraged.

4. Democratic Socialist
In a Democratic Socialist geopolitical financial structure, there isn't necessarily a nationalist element. Instead, the idea is the principle of equal representation combined with a tight grip on financial and economic structures. The principle idea underlying Democratic Socialist regimes is the principle of "social democratic equality". A typical example of such a system would be India before the liberalization reforms starting at ~1991 and would include much of Latin America today such as Brazil and Argentina--although there may be strong nationalist sentiment in these countries.

Often times, these types of systems turn to despotic styles of government (Indira Gandhi in India or similar structures in Venezuela and Argentina currently) due to the lack of liberality in the financial systems. The tight control required over these systems mean that any sort of liberality has to be checked stringently, which automatically means that liberal institutions cannot really exist in any real sense over any particular period.

The financial structures in these countries yet again involve a tightly controlled banking system because any sort of capital based system undermines the socialist aspects that restrict the use of capital for private ends. However, these types of structures can be very diverse from a political perspective as it is in Brazil or how it was in India pre-liberalization.
Note #3: Those who argue that India is highly nationalist and lacks diversity need to go to India. The idea of India being a single nation is something I find to be kinda stupid. There are many Indian nations including Tamils (old Madras region), Teluglu (modern Telanagana and parts of Andhra Pradesh), Gujurati, Hindustani (Hindi-speaking), and many others.

5. National Socialist
Historically, national socialist geopolitical financial structures have often been fascist and it usually devolves into something similar. Anyways, the basic idea is a tightly controlled economic system driven for the goals of a particular national identity for the good of the nation-state. Obviously, this entails a tightly controlled financial system that, yet again, has to operate almost entirely via the banking system.

In this kind of a financial system, there are "private" firms, but the firms' profits, production processes, use of labor, wages, etc are tightly controlled by the government. Liberal institutions are completely non-existent and everyone is basically told what they can and can't do, particularly from an economic/financial perspective.

Culturally and socially, these countries are obviously rather intolerant. In these kinds of systems, there's very little institutional flexibility which makes such geopolitical financial systems EXTREMELY fragile. The typical example would be Nazi Germany or modern-day Venezuela. Due to the tight control necessary to maintain the system, excessive repression makes such kinds of systems impossible to maintain over any extended period of time.

Usually, National Socialist geopolitical financial structures get stuck in situations where they're forced to become geared completely toward war and end up with massive blow-ups when things go wrong. There's no institutional flexibility and they almost always turn despotic. They can often stem from democratic institutions (Hitler and Mussolini were democratically elected and were, by and large, supported by the populace).

6. Liberal Nationalistic (or Social Democratic)
A Liberal Nationalistic geopolitical financial structure is basically a relatively liberal structure that's usually combined with some nationalistic element, even though this element may not be particularly strong. In these kinds of geopolitical financial structures, financial structures are relatively liberal and free of restrictions, but there is a strong democratic element that brings in some socialistic elements into liberal financial and economic structures. Countries with such current structures would be the Scandinavian countries and Japan.

The socialistic elements often come in to remove the antagonistic class divides that can occur with truly liberal structures. In the case of a Liberal Empire, the idea is to have lots of diverse (in many different ways) autonomous regions so that you can pit the autonomous regions against one another and if the class divides do begin to show, an simple institutional shift in either power or resources again turns the autonomous regions against each other and class divides usually take a backseat. However, Liberal Nationalistic geopolitical financial structures don't have that kind of diversity so they incorporate socialistic elements to prevent class divides from getting too out of control.

Due to the nature of these regimes, the financial systems are debt-based while still having some relatively strong equity or capital-asset base. However, unions can also be strong while existing within certain social hierarchies. The social hierarchies have both dynamic and static elements. There's some institutional flexibility introduced by the liberal institutions with regards to new ideas, an independent judiciary, a free press, a rule of law, and a Constitution. However, there are limitations on liberal institutions due to the lack of diversity among the polity whether that be unions, somewhat controlled wages, somewhat controlled profits/wages, and other aspects that require some control over financial institutions.

Usually, these types of countries can have difficulty in assimilating different populations because they don't have the diversity or institutional flexibility to pit the populations against each other while maintaining a constantly shifting elite. The downward mobility of the elite in a Liberal Empire can lead to social instability among certain autonomous populaces. However, a Liberal Nationalistic geopolitical financial structure means that the autonomous populaces facing social instability creates an entire population facing social instability so it usually leads to some rigidity in social hierarchies and class/power structures.
Note #4: Notice how I used Liberal Nationalistic instead of Liberal Nationalist to imply that there may not be fully fledged structures to impose the nationality on the polity. This implies there may be some imperial aspects to the diversity of the population or to adapt to a shift in the polity, but those aspects are limited due to the nationalistic aspects.

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