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Manifesto of French Economists: Why We Are Shocked

by Philippe Askenazy, Thomas Coutrot and others Thursday, Oct. 14, 2010 at 9:20 AM

On October 11 three million French workers were on strike against President Sarkozy's authoritarian attacks on social security and pensions. "Despite its obvious debacle, the neoliberal dogma is still regarded as the only correct economic system."


By Philippe Askenazy, CNRS (Research Institute), Thomas Coutrot, member of advisory council of Attac France, Andre Orlean, CNRS and Henri Sterdymak, OFCE (Research Institute)

[This manifesto of French economists published in the French daily Le Monde on September 16, 2010 is translated from the German on the Internet. Original title: “Pourquoi nous sommes des economistes alterres”]

The worldwide economic crisis of 2008 did not weaken the working models of economic- and financial policy dominant for 30 years. The hegemony of the financial sector was not broken. Quite the contrary! States in Europe were under the pressure of European and international institutions to greater reforms and structural adjustments. In the past, these reforms and adjustments increased economic instability and brought massive social inequality.

Under the pressure of conditions, states in the crisis resolved Keynesian-inspired stimulus programs and even nationalized banks now and then. This chapter (globally-guided anti-cyclical economic policy) should now be closed as quickly as possible. Despite its obvious debacle, the neoliberal dogma is still regarded as the only correct economic system. This dogma is based on the paradigm of functioning markets (particularly financial markets) and urges reducing public spending, privatizing public services, flexibility of the labor market, complete liberalization of commodity markets, financial services and capital markets and – always and everywhere – more competition.

The EU states fell into an institutional trap with the conversion of these political prescriptions. Because of the financial crisis, their budget deficits exploded. To balance these deficits, these states had to procure money from private financial institutions that refinance with lower interest rates from the European Central Bank. Through this financing framework, European state budgets were dependent on the financial markets.

Lacking state guarantees of the European Central Bank and deficient solidarity of EU states promoted financial speculation against individual countries that was intensified by private rating agencies sowing mistrust.

To calm the financial markets, a Euro stability fund was quickly improvised. Drastic reduction of public spending was planned all over Europe. From the Netherlands to France and Portugal, social benefits were cut and cancelled in debilitating ways while unemployment and poverty spread.

At the same time the efficiency of public services, especially in the educational- and health systems, decreased EU-wide by thinning the number of employees. These packages of measures are irresponsible both from a political-social and a purely economic perspective since they intensify the recession in European countries. Cooperative European life is put in question with this policy… A Europe of the dictatorship of markets now establishes itself instead of the future vision of a democratic peaceful and united Europe.

Amid social crisis, anti-foreigner moods spread in Europe that are often unscrupulously instrumentalized by powerless politicians for their own political goals. A subjugation of Europeans under the dictatorship of markets without public debate is completely unacceptable whether the diversion maneuver of politicians is a means for “calming the markets” or a pretext for enforcing supposed economic “truths.” It is high time for a real open debate about the elective economic-political possibilities and problematic.

As economists, we are shocked that a failed economic and financial policy is followed without correction and that theoretical presuppositions and basic hypothetical assumptions of this policy are not publically questioned and discussed.

The crisis profoundly shattered the “truths” proclaimed incessantly by political decision-makers and their advisors. The obviously false dogmas of current policy not backed by research must be questioned. Economists must finally do justice to their social responsibility.

Most “experts” enter in public debate with the goal of declaring the pursued policy of subjugation under the dictatorship of the financial markets as justified. However this current policy – the same as before the crisis – provokes a fresh start in economic thinking.

Starting from different theoretical approaches, we signers of the Manifesto want to publically voice our opinion and hope to stimulate reflection and discussion about alternatives to current policy.


Susan George, Trannational Institute and Attac France, author of numerous books including “The Debt Boomerang” and “Faith and Credit”

Le Monde diplomatique, English edition


William Engdahl: US fights to maintain dollar hegemony at expense of economy

When did the gods of money ever care about their indigenous people? This is a dysfunctional pathological system. “We’re simply doing God’s work,” said Goldman Sach’s Lloyd Blankfein. “After us the flood” is not a viable system in the long run.

"Ways Out of the Crisis" by Jean-Paul Fitoussi and Joseph Stiglitz, 2009

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