One thing you might overlook is that the word "capitalism" does not appear in the remarks of either Mr. Wen or Mr. Putin. Nor does it appear in the text of the article itself. The application of the word to the title of the article was no doubt the figment of the imagination of the Wall Street Journal's editorial staff. The word no doubt was selected as a headline shorthand for the U.S. economic system but it is a misnomer. The U.S. economic system is not capitalism. It is "state corporatism," economic fascism or a "mixed economy." They are all a mixture of government ownership of enterprise and privately owned enterprise that is government controlled. Capitalism, by contrast, is an economic system in which private enterprise is neither owned nor controlled by government -- i.e., laissez faire. See The Myth That Laissez Faire is Responsible for Our Financial Crisis . Also see The Credit Crisis and Moral Hazards.
The main stream press, yes even the Wall Street Journal, wittingly or not, continue to poison the public mind by corrupting definitions and equating the concepts of freedom with the concepts of slavery. George Orwell is spinning in his grave.
The remarks by the two world leaders exhibit a deeper understanding of the current worldwide economic crisis than most leaders in the U.S. exhibit, and possibly have a some decent advice to offer. Consider the following remarks of Mr. Putin --
There is a certain concept, called the perfect storm, which denotes a situation when Nature's forces converge in one point of the ocean and increase their destructive potential many times over. It appears that the present-day crisis resembles such a perfect storm.Clearly, Mr. Putin is no capitalist. But having read that, ask yourself, who is closer to being a capitalist - the people who presume to be controlling the U.S. economy, or Mr. Putin?
Responsible and knowledgeable people must prepare for it. Nevertheless, it always flares up unexpectedly.
The current situation is no exception either. Although the crisis was simply hanging in the air, the majority strove to get their share of the pie, be it one dollar or a billion, and did not want to notice the rising wave.
In the last few months, virtually every speech on this subject started with criticism of the United States. But I will do nothing of the kind.
I just want to remind you that, just a year ago, American delegates speaking from this rostrum emphasised the US economy's fundamental stability and its cloudless prospects. Today, investment banks, the pride of Wall Street, have virtually ceased to exist. In just 12 months, they have posted losses exceeding the profits they made in the last 25 years. This example alone reflects the real situation better than any criticism.
The time for enlightenment has come. We must calmly, and without gloating, assess the root causes of this situation and try to peek into the future.
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Esteemed colleagues, one is sorely tempted to make simple and popular decisions in times of crisis. However, we could face far greater complications if we merely treat the symptoms of the disease.
Naturally, all national governments and business leaders must take resolute actions. Nevertheless, it is important to avoid making decisions, even in such force majeure circumstances, that we will regret in the future.
This is why I would first like to mention specific measures which should be avoided and which will not be implemented by Russia.
We must not revert to isolationism and unrestrained economic egotism. The leaders of the world's largest economies agreed during the November 2008 G20 summit not to create barriers hindering global trade and capital flows. Russia shares these principles.
Although additional protectionism will prove inevitable during the crisis, all of us must display a sense of proportion.
Excessive intervention in economic activity and blind faith in the state's omnipotence is another possible mistake.
True, the state's increased role in times of crisis is a natural reaction to market setbacks. Instead of streamlining market mechanisms, some are tempted to expand state economic intervention to the greatest possible extent.
The concentration of surplus assets in the hands of the state is a negative aspect of anti-crisis measures in virtually every nation.
In the 20th century, the Soviet Union made the state's role absolute. In the long run, this made the Soviet economy totally uncompetitive. This lesson cost us dearly. I am sure nobody wants to see it repeated.
Nor should we turn a blind eye to the fact that the spirit of free enterprise, including the principle of personal responsibility of businesspeople, investors and shareholders for their decisions, is being eroded in the last few months. There is no reason to believe that we can achieve better results by shifting responsibility onto the state.
And one more point: anti-crisis measures should not escalate into financial populism and a refusal to implement responsible macroeconomic policies. The unjustified swelling of the budgetary deficit and the accumulation of public debts are just as destructive as adventurous stock-jobbing.
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Ladies and gentlemen, unfortunately, we have so far failed to comprehend the true scale of the ongoing crisis. But one thing is obvious: the extent of the recession and its scale will largely depend on specific high-precision measures, due to be charted by governments and business communities and on our coordinated and professional efforts.
In our opinion, we must first atone for the past and open our cards, so to speak.
This means we must assess the real situation and write off all hopeless debts and "bad" assets.
True, this will be an extremely painful and unpleasant process. Far from everyone can accept such measures, fearing for their capitalisation, bonuses or reputation. However, we would "conserve" and prolong the crisis, unless we clean up our balance sheets. I believe financial authorities must work out the required mechanism for writing off debts that corresponds to today's needs.
Second. Apart from cleaning up our balance sheets, it is high time we got rid of virtual money, exaggerated reports and dubious ratings. We must not harbour any illusions while assessing the state of the global economy and the real corporate standing, even if such assessments are made by major auditors and analysts.
In effect, our proposal implies that the audit, accounting and ratings system reform must be based on a reversion to the fundamental asset value concept. In other words, assessments of each individual business must be based on its ability to generate added value, rather than on subjective concepts. In our opinion, the economy of the future must become an economy of real values. How to achieve this is not so clear-cut. Let us think about it together.
Third. Excessive dependence on a single reserve currency is dangerous for the global economy. Consequently, it would be sensible to encourage the objective process of creating several strong reserve currencies in the future. It is high time we launched a detailed discussion of methods to facilitate a smooth and irreversible switchover to the new model.
Fourth. Most nations convert their international reserves into foreign currencies and must therefore be convinced that they are reliable. Those issuing reserve and accounting currencies are objectively interested in their use by other states.
This highlights mutual interests and interdependence.
Consequently, it is important that reserve currency issuers must implement more open monetary policies. Moreover, these nations must pledge to abide by internationally recognised rules of macroeconomic and financial discipline. In our opinion, this demand is not excessive.