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A way out for savage capitalism?

The role and the importance of economical journalism in this apparent butterfly-effect crisis that shakes the world structures nowadays? Investigate what’s going on in depth, let people know about it and retake the watch-dog role in economics to alert governments and citizens about the risks and potentials in the intricate happenings in this field. That seems to have been the consensus among the speakers in yesterday afternoon’s talk.


John Byrne, from Business Week online, started tracing the context of the current crisis, what happened with the sub-prime market and how we got into the chaos we are in now. The origin of the problem? “recklessness”, he summed up.  “There was no ‘skin in the game’ – risks were just passed through, and no one is accountable for it”. And then he posed a question that only time will tell: “can Obama lead the economic revival?”. Not many people doubt that the American president has the intelligence and the will to do it, but in Byrne’s opinion, his lack of political experience in the field can be a hindrance. But let’s all wait and see what will happen.


Economist and journalist Loretta Napoleoni, for her turn, agreed with Byrne and also criticized the  media coverage on the G-20 going on now in London, saying that press was rushing too much about it and that it seems “we’re waiting for a new Bretton Woods” (a meeting that happened in the end of World War II and in which the regulation of international monetary system and economical reconstruction were decided). She also called the attention to something that maybe could be the exit to this building on fire we’re all in now: the Scandinavian and Japanese economic models, applied since the 1990s. She said that “In Scandinavia, the nationalizing of banking system solved the insolvency (impossibility of paying debts) of the banks, and in Japan, the Central Bank sustains private banks”. And she also recognized that this kind of action can also be dangerous because of the risk of high inflation rates. For her, if these solutions were taken to solve the crisis, after it’s been stabilized “the money which is in excess and in circulation should be taken back by the banks and ‘destroyed’ so to avoid high inflation rates”. And a way to do it, the journalist completes, is getting a tight posture on tax evasion and offshore facilities.


Economist Prof. Antonio Calafati highlighted and stressed what he thinks to be the main issue in it all: “what system can we use to diminish the lack (and gap) of information in the field?” drawing the attention to what he called “lack of information cemetery”, a kind of  informational gap caused by excess of useless and repeated information. He agreed with Loretta Napoleoni in saying that “offshore facilities aid lack of information cemetery to keep going”.


The core concern in his opinion is the elimination and the ignoring of critical thought, because just analyzing what’s going on the right way will bring some useful help and give strategies to deal with the crisis. Prof. Calafati also called the attention to the fact that “there’s got to be rules if we want capitalism to work” and “we need to be alert and awake for that to happen”. The model of capitalism to be used? “we should turn back to what we’ve learnt in the past decades and apply what works”, he completed.


Marcelo Foa, from Il Giornale, agreed with Calafati in what concerns the “lack of information cemetery” and called attention to the fact that the press is “ignoring its role as a watchdog”. He cited a very real scandal that could have been avoided if journalists just didn’t let themselves be deprived of this role: the Madoff case and his colossal fraud. “The Wall Street Journal could have published something beforehand because they had some information on it, but Madoff was just too big for anyone to draw attention to a scandal like this and scratch his image”. He called the attention to the role of public opinion in cases like this and completed: “we have to understand the mechanisms that work under what’s visible”, and for that, journalists should investigate more and take their watchdog role back.


John Byrne also added to this affirmation what could be the cause of the “deprivement from the watchdog role” and “lack of information cemetery”: “distraction”, he stated. In his opinion scandals like Madoff’s and the lack of information on other happenings like 9/11 happen because reporters are not concentrated enough. He stressed that it’s easy to get lost amidst other things, among so many subjects to cover, and giving full coverage on a subject requires a lot of investigation and time – what journalists normally don’t have in the aftermath. Also, in his opinion, understanding how complicate these instruments work would allow journalists to write better and keep the public better informed.


Loretta Napoleoni complemented the idea, with another significant remark: “it’s hard to chase news all the time, and this 24 hour news market massifies mediatic events and make them seem much bigger than they really are”. It’s the so-called overload of information (and normally the same content just dressed differently). She also called the attention to “the incestuous relation between politicians and the media” and concluded saying that the 24-hour news market is a structural problem for journalists to try following the news and covering everything – there should be a concrete way of dealing with that so we can turn back to quality coverage.


To heighten the spirits (and close this article),  one last very interesting remark from professor Calafati about “foreseeing the future” – there’s got to be an information base so we can cast any kind of prevision. For him, creating a correct informational system could be a way to do it, but it’s quite underneath the visible in western newspapers. And he questioned, “why can’t we invest more on knowledge in the knowledge society?” – knowledge brings the basis for stability, and “to foresee the future we have to stabilize the situation”. And then he called attention to responsibility once more: “we need to build the future, not to try to foresee it”.


Meghie Rodrigues



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