This is fundraising week for Naked Capitalism. If you’ve been meaning to contribute and haven’t gotten to it yet, you can dispense with the preliminaries and do so here, right now.
I first came across Naked Capitalism when someone sent me this December 2007 post about the shadow banking system and collateralised debt obligations, right at the leading edge of the approaching global financial and economic crisis.
This was my first proper education in these things, and it was also taking to task the experts at the Financial Times, of all papers, for a relative lack of financial expertise in this area.
Who were “Naked Capitalism?” Who was this “Yves Smith?”
I nosed around the site. I soon discovered that it was two things. It was a source of, and a forum for, financial sector expertise and analysis. But it was something else too. It was radical. A troublemaker. It was confrontational, skeptical, stubborn and uncompromising. This was penetrating, expert, fighting talk. An early-warning system: a hammer to crack open the warm and fuzzy financial consensus that had enveloped the western world. I’m not sure its role is to comfort the afflicted, but it is there to afflict the comfortable.
Within hours of discovering it I’d placed NC in my browser’s top favourites. Several upgrades later, it is still there.
Its rebellious stance has not changed since its very first post in 2006, to expose the financial world’s fawning over hedge funds and their bogus claims. It has always sailed against prevailing currents of opinion, with a mission, as Yves put it in an email this morning,
“to expose, and more and more, combat, the operations of a financial and economic system that increasingly serves the interests of the top wealthy at the expense of everyone else.”
Which, of course, is one of the great battles of our age. We are stricken by a finance curse – where a growing financial sector seems to cause all kinds of ailments from rising inequality to lower health outcomes and lower growth. One of the most important aspects of that Curse is the capture of élite opinion and the media by the financial services industry and all its appendages. Naked Capitalism — thanks to your contributions — lies firmly, and deliberately, outside that consensus.
You’re probably aware that NC has produced boatloads of documents to expose the industry of lies that supports the wealth-sucking, value-destroying private equity industry: huge pension funds have recently switched their stances on investment as a result of its reporting. Heads have rolled at the SEC.
But here’s something else. While Naked Capitalism is a U.S. site, it also takes a deep interest in international financial affairs: a refreshing change from so much of the provincial navel-gazing you get in the media: whether in the U.S. or my own country the U.K., or anywhere else.
And this matters. This is an international financial outrage that’s being perpetrated (that is, if you can call it “an” outrage.) When Wall Street financial institutions have some shady and anti-social financial regulatory nonsense they’re not allowed to do at home, they just take it offshore to London or one of the Queen’s offshore satellites, and do it there – as we reported recently. It’s no coincidence that Michael Bloomberg’s and Charles Schumer’s 2007 lobbying document urging massive financial liberalisation just ahead of the financial crisis mentions London a stunning 135 times.
Yet, with a few honourable and occasional exceptions, you won’t find these systemic issues discussed in the UK media. You will on Naked Capitalism: in the writings of Bill Black, Michael Hudson and others.
A stubbornly cross-border approach is the only way to address many of these issues. Richard Smith’s dogged digging into some of the world’s muckier financial pestilence, on Naked Capitalism, has broken open all manner of offshore tax haven shenanigans, and is getting widespread attention. This is my bailiwick, and it’s top-notch stuff.
My own area of expertise – tax havens – is suffused with communities of angry trolls and blowhards peddling mostly uninformed myths about taxes, regulations, and their relationship with prosperity. But I’ve found a very different atmosphere among the commentators on NC. Despite the anger and sense of injustice that fires so many of its posts, I find that you’re generally far better behaved and more able to add real value to a discussion, than what I’m used to elsewhere. This feels like a community of “influencers” and experts who can find and support each other.
Naked Capitalism is an antidote to financialisation, élite impunity, wealth extraction and the corruption of politics and markets. This recipe appeals across the political spectrum, from left to right.
And it’s free. This is a global public good. And somebody needs to fund it.
That could be you. Please take the time to donate.