Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Capitalism in Crisis

The following is the transcript of a talk delivered on this subject recently.

مَثَلُ الَّذِينَ اتَّخَذُوا مِنْ دُونِ اللَّهِ أَوْلِيَاءَ كَمَثَلِ الْعَنْكَبُوتِ اتَّخَذَتْ بَيْتًا وَإِنَّ أَوْهَنَ الْبُيُوتِ لَبَيْتُ الْعَنْكَبُوتِ لَوْ كَانُوا يَعْلَمُونَ
“The likeness of those who take (false deities as) Auliyâ' (protectors, helpers) other than Allâh is the likeness of a spider who builds (for itself) a house; but verily, the frailest (weakest) of houses is the spider's house – if they but knew” [TMQ 029:041]

Allah speaks about the home of the spider and says that the weakest of the homes is that of the spiders. Although in reality the capitalist system looks sophisticated and complex but it is the weakest of the systems as Allah (swt) said in the ayah.

The last few weeks saw the collapse of many of the largest and oldest banks in the western world. First it was AIG which declared bankruptcy and then the government bought it over and after that it was the Lehman Brothers and then Meryl Lynch and Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. These banks could not find someone to buy them out or invest in them and eventually they collapsed which led to an economic slowdown in the world and increased prices of goods and the loss of employment.

Although we are in India and we think we are a couple of thousand kilometers away from the western nations but we are not insulated from these Global events. Today’s papers showed how the Bombay stock exchange and the NSE has been falling down. BSE has fallen down by 16% in the past one week and has reached its lowest since 3 years. The rupee has fallen down to 49.5 per dollar which is the worst ever.

The collapse of the banks and other investments institutions in the Americas and the Europe has created a domino effect all over the world.
Be it the BSE which has been falling for the past few days or be it the Saudi KSE which has declined by a 43% in the past weeks.

The Indonesian Stock exchange has not opened for the past three days. Indonesian index has fallen down 47% in the past one year and 20% in the past week.

The Question arises. What is the key factor behind this decline?
The main factor behind this entire problem is the Credit Crunch. The credit crunch crisis threatens a worldwide economic slowdown and a recession, potentially eliminating a decade of economic growth & unemployment & prosperity for the western economies and wiping almost 1trillion dollars off the economy.

What is the credit crunch & what actually happened?

To make things simpler, in the capitalist model of economics if someone wants to buy a house and he doesn’t has money then the banks or lenders will buy a house for this person and give it to him. This person will have to pay the principal amount and the interest on it to the bank. This is a easy way for the public to buy houses of their choice and as well for the banks since they receive more money than what the invest. This system of buying houses is called mortgaging.

The borrower has to pay dividends over a period of time before he can actually own the house and in the event of not paying the dividend on time it is called defaulting which if someone does then the real estate is repossessed by the owner which is called foreclosure or (repossession)

In 1940 42% Americans owned their houses and in 1960 62% owned their own houses and now almost 70% people own their own houses. When we say owning it means that they are not on rent.

There were many people who were unable to buy houses because they did not have enough money and also because they did have the capability to pay back the money if the banks lent them the money. This population constituted almost 25% of the population.

In 1980 the government of America came with a new policy which removed many of the restrictions on the lending of money which led to loans reaching higher levels which eventually led to the saturation of the mortgage market and the peak of profitability.

This type of mortgaging is called as the Subprime mortgage. A subprime mortgage is a type of loan granted to individuals who normally would not be able to receive the loans. These mortgages obviously because they were risky hence they were charged higher interest rates.

The subprime mortgage was created for this 25% people of the American population and this market came to constituted 1.3 trillion dollars by 2007 January.

The housing sector continued to inflate due to the appetite of the American for housing and the subprime mortgage also continued to grow. The first sign that the housing bubble was in trouble was in 2007 April when the New Century Inc the largest Subprime mortgage lender declared bankruptcy due to the increased number of defaults from borrowers.

The Americans in confidence of their economic system had forgotten to think about the scenarios and consequences if a large number of borrowers defaulted.
Due to their want of more and more they destroyed themselves and the world as well.

Allah (swt) speaks about such people in Surah Attakathur.

أَلْهَاكُمُ التَّكَاثُرُ
“The mutual rivalry (for piling up of worldly things) diverts you”

Investment giants such as Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae which have declared bankruptcy and have been closed down started selling houses to all people irrespective of their credit histories and unmindful of whether their credit history was weak. They sold homes at “teaser rates“of 7% for the first year which rose to 9.5 % two years later. This resulted in the doubling of the monthly installments payable by the buyer who had purchased the house and naturally was unable to pay back his loans. Under the capitalist real estate laws the buyer is not allowed to sell his property before repaying his loan which by now has doubled. Under this law, even if the debtor has sufficient funds to pay for the loan amount, he is not allowed to pay. On the contrary he is bound to pay the installments including the interest for the entire loan period! If for instance his loan was for a period of ten years, he is expected to wait for this period and continue to pay the monthly installments including the interest which results in doubling the loan amount. Thus for every one thousand dollar loan amount, he ends up paying 350 dollars extra. Hence the debtors were unable to repay their installments and the number of such defaulters reached millions, even 3 million according to some estimates.

Bush had previously proposed to freeze interest rates for a period of five years in order to enable the defaulters to pay their installments. In the meantime, the number of houses for sale increased with no buyers for them and the real estate prices plummeted sharply. The number of such houses for sale increased by 75% in 2006 and yet one could not find a buyer. All these factors compounded the problem for these two and other real estate firms like the Lehman Brothers who had ventured into this market.

Why could it be that they kept on lending?

Weren’t they afraid that people wouldn’t pay them back? It was out of over confidence and arrogance that they did not think about it and they were only bothered to get more and more profit out of the interest money they were going to make. It was like making a building without any foundations. They kept on laying bricks and bricks until the building lost balance and everything came down.

Allah (swt) says about such greedy people.

الَّذِينَ يَأْكُلُونَ الرِّبَا لَا يَقُومُونَ إِلَّا كَمَا يَقُومُ الَّذِي يَتَخَبَّطُهُ الشَّيْطَانُ مِنَ الْمَسِّ
“Those who eat Ribâ will not stand (on the Day of Resurrection) except like the standing of a person beaten by Shaitân (Satan) leading him to insanity”

Allah (swt) speaks about the people who eat riba that they are similar to the ones beaten by shaitân to insanity and this is what the west has become. They have become insane and they don’t know what they are doing. They always keep on coming back to the source of the problem to find the solution only to find more trouble.

It is like the fire which is burning high and you keep on sprinkling water on it forgetting that you have to close the gas supply before you can stop the fire.
As I said earlier almost 20% of the American populations have more debt than assets. The individual debt stands at 6 trillion dollars and there is only 1.3 trillion dollars in circulation in the American economy.

Almost 3 million people defaulted on their debts and the result is what, the result was the that the consequences of which the investments giants had not thought of occurred and led to their demise and financial crisis embroiling the whole world. Big giants such Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac lost almost 2 trillion dollars combined.

American economy stands at the footholds of obliteration and suicide. It has lost almost 1 Trillion dollars and America has incurred large debts although its history. Its debt stands at 34 Trillion $ combined all together. And the total money even in circulation in America is only 1.3 trillion $.

Now why am I talking about the Credit Crunch and what does it has to do with us? May be the Americans might be in serious problems but Alhamdulilla we are still ok.

Let me make it clearer. When the investment giants started collapsing their shares collapsed and therefore the people started selling their shares.
Stock markets are financial markets where people buy and sell shares of companies. But these markets are completely different to real markets in which people may sell fruit or clothes

When a Company floats on the stock market or becomes a Public Limited Company (PLC), basically this means that they issue shares. The reason that they issue shares is to gain revenue (money) for them to use, e.g. Company X worth $10million, if it going floats on the stock exchange shares in the company will be issued for public to buy. The valuation of the company could become $50 million over night even though the ground reality of the company has not changed.

The reason that people buy shares is basically to make money because the shares market goes up and down. So people buy shares when they think prices will go up and sell shares when prices go down. It is all based on greed and confidence in the companies; therefore it is similar to gambling in a casino.
When the prices of the big banks started to go down the people started losing confidence in the market and more and more people started selling their shares which led to the price of the share going down and down and eventually the collapse of some of the giants. Share values of some investment banks went down by 92%.

To solve the crisis which is not the first the capitalists look back to Capitalism. Time and again it has been proved that Capitalism is a failed system and is moving towards its demise as did communism but the capitalists fail to realize and understand as did the Qaum of Aad who were arrogant and haughty and thought themselves to be the most powerful. Allah (swt) says in the Quran about them.

فَأَمَّا عَادٌ فَاسْتَكْبَرُوا فِي الْأَرْضِ بِغَيْرِ الْحَقِّ وَقَالُوا مَنْ أَشَدُّ مِنَّا قُوَّةً أَوَلَمْ يَرَوْا أَنَّ اللَّهَ الَّذِي خَلَقَهُمْ هُوَ أَشَدُّ مِنْهُمْ قُوَّةً وَكَانُوا بِآَيَاتِنَا يَجْحَدُونَ
“As for 'Ad, they were arrogant in the land without right, and they said: "Who is mightier than us in strength?" See they not that Allâh Who created them was mightier in strength than them. And they used to deny Our Ayât (proofs, evidences, verses, lessons, revelations, etc.)!” [TMQ 041:015]

The capitalists in the move to salvage their economy have even contradicted their own system but still hold on to their system as sacred and mighty and call for its implementation all over the world. The American congress approved a bailout program for the American economy and provided it 700 Billion dollars for bail out.

They thought they would sprinkle some water into the fire and the fire will stop. 700 B $ is nothing when compared to the losses that have occurred all around the world.

The story does not stop at stocks

Have you ever thought what is the value of the money in your pocket? It is the value of its printing and paper only and nothing else. Everything else is the confidence you hold in you economy. It is not backed by gold as is understood by some people. In fact in 1970’s every country abandoned the gold backing of the currency.

So now when the government wants money to pay its debts it prints money. And this is what America has done and this is what the whole world does. At this point there is more money in the market to buy the products and hence the price of the commodities goes up. And also the money becomes devalued.
The people call it the decrease in the purchasing power of the money. So your money get devalued and to satisfy the poor people the government has the alternative of interest which balances the saving you have in your bank. So 100 rupees will be worth only 88 rs next year but the government gives you 14rs as interest so you are happy and you believe that it is 114 Rs.

This is what we term as inflation. To counter inflation they have interest. When there is inflation the poor man who is still earning at the original basis shells out extra money from his pocket to pay for the products. The poor man becomes poorer and the rich richer.

The Capitalists have no ethics in their race for money and have left the people to suffer . Indeed they have become the friends of shaitan and they are from the party of the shaitan.

اسْتَحْوَذَ عَلَيْهِمُ الشَّيْطَانُ فَأَنْسَاهُمْ ذِكْرَ اللَّهِ أُولَئِكَ حِزْبُ الشَّيْطَانِ أَلَا إِنَّ حِزْبَ الشَّيْطَانِ هُمُ الْخَاسِرُونَ
"Shaitân (Satan) has overpowered them. So he has made them forget the remembrance of Allâh. They are the party of Shaitân (Satan). Verily, it is the party of Shaitân (Satan) that will be the losers!" [TMQ 058:019]

But the capitalists forget as did the people of Aad and transgress in arrogance and pride and they will see a similar fate as did the people of Aad. They are arrogant as were Aad and Thamud.

وَتِلْكَ عَادٌ جَحَدُوا بِآَيَاتِ رَبِّهِمْ وَعَصَوْا رُسُلَهُ وَاتَّبَعُوا أَمْرَ كُلِّ جَبَّارٍ عَنِيدٍ
"Such were 'Aad (people). They rejected the Ayât (proofs, evidences, verses, lessons, signs, revelations, etc.) of their Lord and disobeyed His Messengers, and followed the command of every proud, obstinate (oppressor of the truth from their leaders)." [TMQ 011:059]

The Aad were arrogant as are the capitalists and they thought they are the most powerful on the earth.

The capitalists have a speculative economy which has led them to where they are. Every problem they face they believe that they will solve it with their talent and intellect. It is like the mirage which we see in the desert. From far it looks like water but when we come near it is not what we think it is. Similar are the capitalists who even after facing many problems do not realize that their system is flawed .I will end at the ayah where Allah (swt) speaks about such people in the Quran.

وَالَّذِينَ كَفَرُوا أَعْمَالُهُمْ كَسَرَابٍ بِقِيعَةٍ يَحْسَبُهُ الظَّمْآَنُ مَاءً حَتَّى إِذَا جَاءَهُ لَمْ يَجِدْهُ شَيْئًا وَوَجَدَ اللَّهَ عِنْدَهُ فَوَفَّاهُ حِسَابَهُ وَاللَّهُ سَرِيعُ الْحِسَابِ
“As for those who disbelieved, their deeds are like a mirage in a desert. The thirsty one thinks it to be water until he comes up to it, he finds it to be nothing; but he finds Allâh with him, Who will pay him his due (Hell). And Allâh is Swift in taking account.” [TMQ 024:039]