A new survey carried out by Judicial Watch in conjunction with polling firm Zogby International has found that over 80 per cent of Americans think that political corruption is partly to blame for the current financial crisis. What began over a year ago in the US sub-prime mortgage market and has spread since, freezing credit markets, bankrupting storied financial institutions and now threatening the global economy.
A 24 October article in The New York Times, “West in Talks on Credit to Aid Poorer Nations”, makes clear that the crisis does not just threaten Wall Street and major financial centres, but also threatens to unravel the recent strides made by emerging markets from Iceland and Hungary to South Africa and Argentina, who are now starved of credit for capital improvements and whose devalued currencies have made it difficult for them to repay the foreign debts they have accrued.
Is all this the result of political corruption inside the Washington beltway? This is a provocative theory. What is certain, though, is that the crisis is one of governance and accountability more broadly, from the regulation of mortgage markets and the financial transparency of banks to the prescriptions of intergovernmental institutions embodied by the Washington Consensus of the 1990s.
But despite the human suffering that the current financial crunch brings with it, it bears opportunities as well. Domestic and international financial regulation, and corporate governance will be reinvented in its wake. The 13th IACC in Athens will be an opportunity to strategise about how the frustration and anxiety of the current crisis can be channelled into greater accountability and sensible oversight.