Since its beginnings in the markets for American mortgages, the great financial crisis has gone on for over three years now, and for the moment, those in charge are rather satisfied with themselves. A number of bankruptcies have been wound down or prevented by the state. Masses of worthless financial assets have been stowed away in bad banks or carefully written off, with state license and assistance. The ultimate powers have boldly intervened, preventing a massive financial meltdown by having their central banks provide liquidity and by granting loans from special government funds. Speculation against particularly heavily indebted eurozone countries and their common currency has been averted. After the deep recession of 2009, good money is being made again in the financial industry and the real economy — at least as far as German exports are concerned.
On the other hand, that mustn’t fool anybody into thinking that the crisis is “already” over. Experts are warning against announcing prematurely that all is clear and interpret “market signals” this way: from the money markets, which speculate on and then against the dollar and the euro; from the capital markets, which spurred on Greek bankruptcy while at the same time buying low-yield German bonds; from the global commodity markets, on which German firms are enjoying unexpected export success while America is failing as an “economic locomotive”; from the Chinese market, too, whose welcome boom is now suspected of crumbling soon. These are all reasons to worry — but about what exactly? Is inflation looming because of the masses of state-created liquidity? Or is deflation to be feared instead because of the weak U.S. economy, a lack of economic growth in Japan, and austerity policies in Europe? Will the crisis be followed by another bubble inflated by state credit, cheap money, and dyed-in-the-wool speculators? Or should one brace for longer-term stagnation and, at best, a dual-speed world economy? What kind of a risk does rapidly rising government debt pose? Or is there still too little of it to promote a sustained economic upturn? Is the speculation against Greece and the euro a scandal? Or do the speculators only bring up a painful subject, exposing the common currency as a misconstruction that cannot cope with the crisis? Is the credit guarantee for over-indebted eurozone countries a step toward regaining fiscal stability — or toward abandoning it once and for all? And so on, and so forth.