National laws for global capital markets - A contradiction?
Through globalisation of capital markets the linkage between countries respectively governments has increased. But not only countries are affected. The rise of interchange of deposit money affects every participant of the globalised world. This phenomenon is no innovation of the 21st century. It was mentioned in literature before: ‘… the financial system has been changing rapidly in recent years and has now become a truly global market-place’ (Gowland, D. (1990) The Regulation of Financial Markets in the 1990s, p.80). For Alan Greenspan, former chairman of the FED, this development is a result of technization and availability of information at any time and place. (The Cato Journal, Vol. 17 No. 3 in 1998, Globalisation of Finance, p.243 ff. from http://www.cato.org/pubs/journal/cj17n3/cj17n3-1.pdf).
Especially companies and governments have an enormous influence on capital flows. However they can also be the mourner of this development. Particularly the capital markets of the developing countries are suffering of the ‘globalisation of currency’. In Southeast Asia sundry capital markets collapsed in the 1990s while those of Europe did not. (cf. Meltzer, A. H. (1998) Asian Problems and the IMF, from: http://www.cato.org/pubs/journal/cj17n3-10.html). In the following will be shown how capital markets work, what their weak points are and which role governments, companies and institutional investors are playing.
The influence of governments on capital markets can be described as donor of framework conditions. They govern economical conditions like corporate taxes, environmental regulations for companies, specific subsidies, minimum wages and economical restrictions. Briefly worded this can be pooled in the term commercial policy. (cf. Khan, H. (2004) Global Markets and Financial Crisis in Asia: Towards a Theory for the 21st Century, p.11ff.). Capital markets can also be regulated by monetary policy. Central banks fulfill this task e.g. by changing the interest rate. (cf. Howells, P./Bain, K. (1990) Financial Markets and Institutions p.174f.). Hereby the economy can by controlled in a macroeconomic way. The regularities within the economical system aren’t influenced by monetary policy.
Framework conditions which are set by governments are crucial for specific decisions of companies like locating a new factory. A company will probably choose a location which delivers the best premises. This means in fact the countries are courting the companies by economical means, because they want to gain taxes as well as provide and maintain jobs. This process is no longer controlled by politics. It’s steered by multicorporate enterprises targeting to maximize their earnings.
A result of globalisation on capital markets is the rising quantity of financial instruments. (cf. The Economist, Edition November 21st - 27th, p.18). Besides classic instruments like shares and bonds or loans and receivables there are many different ways to invest money. Above all speculative instruments like swaps, forwards or commodity futures are gaining in importance and . These instruments are often used by institutional investors as funds to gain smallest spreads. The consequent earnings are very high because of the large sum of money invested. As long as the rate of the underlying assets develops as expected the system works. In periods of crisis a panic can paralyze markets. Enormous sums of money are deprived of the affected region and a chain reaction can lead to a collapse of whole economies. (cf. White, E. N. (1988) Crashes and Panics, p.75ff.).
In history were several attempts to regulate the financial market. After World War II was a conference in Bretton Woods were a new financial system was decided. John Maynard Keynes wanted to set more strict conditions for the financial market. But finally he could not prevail his beliefs. (cf. Flaschel, P. (2009) The Macrodynamics of Capitalism – Elements for a Synthesis of Marx, Keynes and Schumpeter, p.34ff.). In 1972 James Tobin wanted to launch a tax on currency transactions. The spreads on currency transactions are so small that speculative investors spend masses of money in forex to gain yields. This ‘Tobin tax’ should prevent speculation. (Tobin, J. (1987) Essays in Economics – Macroeconomics, p.16).
It is still to be clarified whether globalised capital markets can be regulated. National laws are just restricted valid and suitable. A supranational institution is required. Existing institutions like the IMF haven’t fulfilled this task because they aren’t provided with appropriate responsibilities. To solve this problem and to achieve stabile markets a reform of institutions is necessary. Besides that another cause of financial crisis is the greed of people and companies in a world of shareholder value.