The Source of the Economic Crisis: A Chicago State of Mind

Worried about the global economic crisis? It’s all in your head, says a leading financial expert.

And that’s the problem, according to Jeff Gates, author of the highly-regarded Democracy at Risk: Rescuing Main Street from Wall Street, a sequel to The Ownership Solution: Toward a Shared Capitalism for the 21st Century. The latter book was described by one reviewer as “the best book on economics for a generation,”1 and praised by Ralph Nader as “a Capitalist Manifesto, a blueprint for spreading the benefits of capitalism more equitably.”

Gates, a former counsel to the U.S. Senate Committee on Finance (1980-87), identifies the source of the current economic crisis as a “shared mindset” into which we have been induced to put our faith, to the grave detriment of the majority but to the immense benefit of a very few.

While the events of September 2008 on Wall Street may have come as a shock to many – not least those who suddenly found themselves out of work or on the streets – they were “perfectly predictable” to a close-knit group of “financial sophisticates,” Jeff Gates maintains.

But is there any evidence that this was a deliberate fraud?

“Systems analysts offer an acronym (“POSIWID”) to identify systemic flaws: the purpose of a system is what it does,” Gates says.

“In financial systems, results are downstream of the ‘Chicago model’ – a shared mindset from which today’s results flow. Over the past half-century, this market-fundamentalist perspective evolved into the ‘Washington’ consensus to emerge as the guiding principle of the World Trade Organization (WTO) now taking this model to global scale.”

What exactly does he mean by the “Chicago model”?

“At the core of this worldview lies a premise whose purpose is easily stated: ‘maximize financial returns and – trust us – all else will be fine.’ Faith in that perspective ensured today’s results,” Gates explains.

“As this ‘Chicago’ frame of mind gained the force of law through the ‘law and economics’ movement, the result became a globalized operating system best described as ‘money-on-autopilot.’ There lies the blame for this collapse – in that narrow ‘consensus’ perspective.”

The “law and economics” movement referred to by Gates also traces its origins to the University of Chicago. As key opponents of financial regulation, this movement was heavily funded by the same Olin Foundation that also supported neoconservatism through its funding of neocon think tanks such as the American Enterprise Institute.

This “Chicago” state of mind, Gates argues, had far-reaching consequences that could have been easily foreseen by its advocates.

“The results of this purpose-driven ‘operating system’ were guaranteed to concentrate wealth and income and thereby undermine both democracies and markets. By equating personal freedom with financial freedom, we were induced to freely embrace the very forces that now jeopardize freedom,” Gates says.

“Nowhere in this operating system is there any provision for the values essential to the long-term health of communities: fiscal foresight, civil cohesion and environmental sustainability. Money is the only value granted a voice.”

Jeff Gates’ latest book, Guilt By Association: How Deception and Self-Deceit Took America to War, traces the corruption that plagues American politics to a network who “share an ideological bias sympathetic to Israel.” It should be read by concerned citizens everywhere, but especially in the United States, where the “Chicago” mindset has been most deeply embedded in its economic and foreign policy-making.

Endorsed by former U.S. Ambassador Edward Peck and Illinois Congressman Paul Findley (1961–1983),2 Guilt By Association identifies those who have promoted aggressive economic and foreign policies that have been “ruinous” not only to America’s reputation but also to “moderate and secular Jews.” The latter, Gates points out, are often unfairly portrayed as “guilty by association” with the behaviour of these “elites and extremists.”

Who are these “elites and extremists,” and how do they make America appear “guilty by association”?

“When waging unconventional warfare, Defense Secretary Robert Gates points to the perilous role of ‘the people in between.’ Thus, for instance, while pro-Israelis induced the U.S. to wage war in Iraq with false and flawed intelligence, ‘the people in between’ created, promoted and reported intelligence ‘fixed’ around that pre-determined goal,” Gates explains.

“In the financial domain, ‘the people in between’ are securities bundlers, rating agencies and, most fundamentally, those who induce “the mark” (the public) to put their faith in the financial premise that enables this ongoing fraud.

“All flows downstream from a ‘consensus’ perspective – regardless whether the deception is a shared belief in Iraqi weapons of mass destruction or a consensus faith in the infallibility of unfettered financial markets. The modus operandi is identical – the displacement of facts with beliefs.”

Perhaps not coincidentally, the intellectual roots of neoconservatism can also be traced to Chicago, where University of Chicago Professor Albert Wohlstetter’s cadre of students included Richard Perle and Paul Wolfowitz. Wohlstetter himself had been a protégé of another University of Chicago Professor, Leo Strauss. Considered to be the “intellectual godfather” of the neocons, Strauss significantly advocated a “philosophy of deception.”3

Through their failure to identify the source of the problem, government responses to the ongoing economic crisis will only make matters worse, maintains Gates.

“Lawmakers seek to solve a systemic problem well downstream of its source. By piling on more interest-bearing debt without addressing the underlying problem, they are unleashing long-term financial forces destined to make a bad situation worse – at a staggering cost,” he says.

“We can anticipate stagnation and inflation while ‘the people in between’ continue to amass more assets (at distressed prices) and collect more interest on more taxpayer-secured debt. The pace is poised to quicken in this policy-enabled redistribution of wealth – from the bottom to the top.”

  1. Denis MacShane, “The new tasks of Soros,” Independent, 12 December, 1998. []
  2. See reviews of Guilt By Association at the Criminal State website. []
  3. Jim Lobe, “Leo Strauss’ Philosophy of Deception,” Alternet, 19 May, 2003. []
Maidhc Ó Cathail writes extensively on U.S. foreign policy and the Middle East. Read other articles by Maidhc, or visit Maidhc's website.

11 comments on this article so far ...

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  1. kanomi said on February 5th, 2010 at 11:44am #

    We shouldn’t call it the Chicago School of Economics, that makes it sound innocuous, like the Chicago Cubs or some elevator music band.

    Let’s call it the Cannibal School of Economics, because it essentially espouses dispossessing others of their resources, even the masses of people in their own countries, effectually killing many of them and impoverishing many more.

    This is in, a moral sense, the equivalent of simply eating them. Or as Jonathan Swift once said:

    ”I have been assured by a very knowing American of my acquaintance in [Chicago], that a young healthy child well nursed is at a year old a most delicious, nourishing, and wholesome food, whether stewed, roasted, baked, or boiled …”

  2. Deadbeat said on February 5th, 2010 at 12:13pm #

    I respect Jeff Gates and his exposure of Zionism affecting the body politic of the United States. However ESOPs as a solution to the Capitalist crisis will only go so far. First you have to work in a major corporation whose stock is on the rise in order to really benefit thus the very nature of ESOPs promotes an inequality among the masses. Second it does nothing to address the profit motive whereby the function of the company is to increase the value of shares rather than the betterment of society as a whole.

    The problem once again is Capitalism and these “ideas” are really only constructed to maintain this awful economic system.

  3. jeff gates said on February 5th, 2010 at 8:29pm #

    Thanks for your comment. However, the review says nothing about ESOPs which are derived from what the writer calls a “Chicago state of mind.” I urge that you read Chapter Six of Guilt By Association titled “Money, Democracy and the Great Divide.” And please follow the commentaries on the Criminal State website where you will also find excerpts from this first release in the Criminal State series.

  4. octo said on February 6th, 2010 at 3:47am #

    @Kanomi
    http://andromeda.rutgers.edu/~jlynch/Texts/modest.html
    A Modest Proposal
    For Preventing the Children of Poor People in Ireland, from Being a Burden on Their Parents or Country, and for Making Them Beneficial to the Publick
    By Jonathan Swift

  5. bozh said on February 6th, 2010 at 12:58pm #

    I need more clarification of the meanings of the “financial system”. Meanwhile, these questions arise in my brain: does this system exist in total isolation from the system of US governance.
    Or is not banking part of the same structure; thus, as much self-regulating, as cia, army, fbi, congress, media, schooling, judiciary, WH?

    Cia can and does deceive congress. Only, i aver, because, both are mere structural members of the system. This analysis is valid for all other members of one structure but only if each works for the final goal: perm rule by a minority of people and who solely or largely decide on basic actions.

    There is an assigned role for each part. Judiciary, eg, inteprets a passages of constitution so that every other segment cannot evr be prosecuted no matter what it does to ‘aliens’.

    Media role is to obnubilate, lie; accuse, blame, but only individuals or even any part of the structure but not the system. We all know what the role of cia is:terrorism. Ok enough for now! tnx

  6. Deadbeat said on February 8th, 2010 at 3:10am #

    Jeff Gates writes …

    Thanks for your comment. However, the review says nothing about ESOPs which are derived from what the writer calls a “Chicago state of mind.”

    Mr. Cathail wrote …


    a leading financial expert…Jeff Gates, author of the highly-regarded Democracy at Risk: Rescuing Main Street from Wall Street, a sequel to The Ownership Solution: Toward a Shared Capitalism for the 21st Century. The latter book was described by one reviewer as “the best book on economics for a generation,”1 and praised by Ralph Nader as “a Capitalist Manifesto, a blueprint for spreading the benefits of capitalism more equitably.”

    This is from Who Pays for ESOP Shares?:ESOP Analysis and Evaluation by David Ellerman, World Bank


    In the circles of ESOP promoters, Kelso’s “two-factor theory” and “binary economics” is all very politely ignored, and treated only as the idiosyncratic indulgence of the founding father of the ESOP concept. Senator Russell Long and other ESOP advocates such as Jeffrey Gates use a populist or redistributive approach. ESOPs cut workers in on a “piece of the action.” ESOPs help correct the obscene maldistribution of income and wealth in America. When people get rich, it is usually through the appreciation of equity capital, not through wages and salaries. When profits are made and reinvested in companies, that accrues to the existing equity holders, and does not create any new equity owners. The ESOP changes that. Some of the reinvested profits flows to the workers through their ESOP. The workers can thus cut into the otherwise “closed-loop” financing system; some of the flow of new value is redirected to them. Since the closed-loop system exemplifies the logic of capitalism—to those who have capital, the profits shall be given—ESOPs must initially violate that logic in order to cut into the loop. This non-capitalist feature of ESOPs will be considered in the next section on the labor-based aspects of ESOPs.

    As I stated I respect Jeff Gates’ position on Zionism. However I disagree with ESOP and the “Liberal” notion that Capitalism can be constructed fairly. It cannot because none of the Liberal solutions addresses the fundamental contradiction of Capitalism which is its drive for profits and growth which is the polar opposite to maintain equality. Capitalism requires the exploitation labor and the environment to derive those profits. It was when that conflict came to a head that the capitalist class decided to jettison labor and increase its exploitation of labor to derive the wealth that culminated into 35 years of bubble economics.

    ESOPs where used by Reagan and his cronies to help do away with defined pension plan. ESOPs only exacerbate the drive for profit and “growth” where some members of the working class are winners and many are loser especially if their companies share price do not achieve high growth or heaven forbids — tanks. Meaning that ESOPs exacerbates INEQUALITY and give a false illusion of inclusion and fairness. The fact that Mr. Gates was an architect in a scheme that been used to benefit capital at the EXPENSE of the working class demands scrutiny.

    The fact that Nader believes the works of Mr. Gates can be described as a “Capitalist Manifesto” requires discussion IMO. At this stage in the development of capitalism and the crisis ensuing form 80 years of Liberal attempts to manage the system which has utter failed it is time for dissidents to have a discussion that goes beyond trying “re-regulate” capitalism and toward its complete abolition. And that was the main point of my previous comment.

  7. dan e said on February 8th, 2010 at 5:19pm #

    Yes, let’s do discuss what Nader thinks about the idea that capitalism can be humanized, “reformed”. It would be useful IMO to have some relevant Nader quotes posted on here, or maybe DV could publish one of Nader’s articles on the subject? With a disclaimer of course:)

  8. dan e said on February 8th, 2010 at 6:31pm #

    duh, here’s the Nader quote again from the top of this article ““a Capitalist Manifesto, a blueprint for spreading the benefits of capitalism more equitably.”
    Sorry, I passed over it too quickly the first time around. It does serve to confirm my assessment of The Great Ralph: his whole trip is Part of the Scam, a functional component of the Zio-Capitalist State which runs this polity we happen to live in — or maybe just find it important to talk about?

    A factor which to many lends plausibility to the possibility of finding a “halfway solution” or compromise on the problem posed by US Imperialism is the fact that ruling classes in countries like Venezuela find themselves in conflict with the Imperialist metropole, and in order to mobilize maximum popular domestic support for their efforts to maintain some independence as capitalists from the US-controlled global system, they adopt a policy of instituting reforms benefitting the popular classes. Yes many of the steps taken by Chavez et al are pretty drastic, even socialist in character. It could be that Venezuela could emerge from the struggle now ongoing with a fullfledged socialist society. Or not, but that’s not the point that concerns me in this discussion.
    What does concern me is that the conditions allowing for major, even structural reforms in a country like Venezuela do not exist in the US (nor in any of the “Western Democracies” (sic) but that’s another discussion).

    In order for a section of the capitalist class to break ranks with the currently totally dominant, totally Ideologically Hegemonic Militarist-Zionist-Financial Skullduggery Complex, such a “section” would have to have some basis of an independent existence. No such potentially heretical section of the US capitalist class exists.
    So there is really no one of any significance for our petit bourgeois Libertarians to ally themselves with, except of course the lower tier of the workingclass, the Poor and the Working Poor, who are at this point still paralyzed by Obamism. So it seems the Naderites are up a creek. There aren’t enough of them, & between them they don’t have enough money to really mount a challenge to the status quo.
    They need a Class Ally. One is being offered of course, in the form of Teapartyism. Which is so corny, so intellectually and commonsense bankrupt that it would be a fine occasion for humor, except that it is so dangerous.
    Teapartyism is 21st Century Nazism:) To paraphrase a popular CPUSA slogan of the WWII era:)
    But it’s true: that terse phrase expresses exactly what this Tea Party business is all about: SCAPEGOATING.
    More and more US citizens/residents can’t miss what’s in front of their faces: all is not well in “America”. Local and state governments can’t even afford to keep felons locked up. The “bailout” ripoffery was so blatant large masses of people couldn’t help getting a clue.
    So the solution to the problem of all these dissatisfied citizens? Misdirection. Find a scapegoat.
    It’s perfectly obvious that Obama did anything within the powers of his office to facilitate the bailout ripoff, and as a Black Democrat the presumption is that he’s some kind of a “Liberal”, right? So presto chango, The Liberals Did It!
    It’s all so reminiscent of the rise of Hitler and his “German Socialist Worker’s Party”, except in this case the role played by “the Jews” in Hitler’s scenario is now being played by “Liberals”, “Welfare Queens”, “Environmentalists” etc. And Muslims of course.
    Well I’m trying to keep the door open to any of these disenchanted “antiwar environmentalists”, Libertarians, Truthers etc that may want to really get down and examine premises. But I’m not holding my breath.

  9. Deadbeat said on February 8th, 2010 at 7:00pm #

    Absolutely Dan, this false notion of an anti-Semitic backlash in the USA that is keeping the Left from confronting Zionism is total crap. The backlash will be against primarily Blacks, Latino, Muslim and other scapegoats of color. Since Blacks especially are closely associated as “Liberals” then so-called “Liberals” will be scapegoated as well.

  10. Mulga Mumblebrain said on February 10th, 2010 at 2:46am #

    To imagine that the ruling psychopaths are driven by ‘false beliefs’ implies that they are idiots who learn nothing from experience and make the same mistakes over and over, due to some mysterious compulsion. I think that a far more cogent explanation is that they know exactly what they are doing, that, as psychopaths, they despise other human beings, including their own parasitic class and themselves, and that they are driven to destroy people’s livelihoods and lives out of sheer malignancy and wickedness. I have seen nothing in my life to make me think that the Right can ever ‘see the error of their ways’ and cease harming other people and the natural world. On the contrary over the years the pathology of Rightists, now universally in power in politics, business and the mass media, has become more and more marked, more and more destructive, hate-filled and murderous. I am almost daily amazed by the sheer viciousness, the deranged hate-driven outpourings and the audacious lying that one can read in sewers like Rupert Moloch’s ‘The Australian’ or ‘The Wall Street Journal’. The Global Financial Crisis has been, I believe, from the start and in all the preparatory years when market fundamentalist agit-prop was relentlessly rammed into people’s consciousnesses by incessant propaganda, a deliberate scheme to destroy societies, reduce governments to hollow shells, destroy decades of social progress and raise the financial interest yet higher in power and dominance over the other 99.99% of humanity, and to establish a global neo-feudal, neo-imperial and neo-colonial order over humanity. And I further see 1989 as the year when this process of the villeinisation of humanity went into overdrive, when the only force the capitalist overlords really feared, socialism, even in its imperfect Soviet form, disappeared from the world. With the fear of revolution and resistance forever banished, or so they intended to ensure, the psychopaths who are both advantaged by market capitalism’s inherent anti-human nature, and who, in turn, ensure its absolute dominance and pitiless, worldwide,imposition, were free to treat the rest of humanity in the manner they had always wished to be free to do. Hence the last decades of growing inequality, burgeoning elite wealth, social regression and constant, savage, murderous and pitiless war against the weak.

  11. Don Hawkins said on February 10th, 2010 at 3:38am #

    in sewers like Rupert Moloch’s ‘The Australian’ or ‘The Wall Street Journal’. And what a sewer it is we need to drink more tea there kind of tea better known as snake oil made from stardust when the Universe was first formed 10,000 years ago.

    Snake oil step right up ladies and gentleman have I got a deal for you. Don’t be shy come a little closer that’s good. Eight thousand years ago when the Earth was first formed a miracle happened and for the low low price of 19.95 and your soul right here right now we have bottled that miracle don’t push don’t shove plenty for all it’s made in China. This is 100% snake oil/tea no preservatives no antibiotics no heavy metal yes this is the real thing 100% snake oil/tea made from stardust when the Universe was first formed 10,000 years ago a miracle I tell you and can be yours today.