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Varieties of Liberalism

The 2008 Financial Crisis: Not So Global Afterall?

The OECD’s conclusion that the 2008 financial crisis was the result of a failure of corporate governance in the individual firms involved does not account for the ‘national blocs’ of banks appearing in the Financial Times’s comparison of the 50 largest banks globally in 2009. Compared with 1999, American and British banks as a whole had lost significant ground whilst those of other countries, notably Canada and Australia, actually gained. This strongly suggests that national factors played an important role – even in such apparently similar ‘liberal market’ economies.

For the past two years, the London Centre for Corporate Governance & Ethics (LCCGE) at Birkbeck has been conducting multidisciplinary research to identify the factors that created this sharp divergence in the relative resilience of the Anglo-Saxon financial systems during the crisis; and we are coordinating an international team of researchers, with partners in each of the six liberal market economies – the US, UK, Ireland, Canada, Australia and New Zealand.

Our findings suggest that there is ‘variety’ in economic liberalism and a clear division in the interpretation of liberal economic theory and the way it was translated into policy in the Anglo-Saxon world. We identify a sharp divide in the way that the six economies were liberalised, the subsequent effect on their systems of corporate governance and ultimately financial regulation. From this, it is hard to escape the conclusion that there is in fact no such thing as ‘Anglo-Saxon Capitalism,’ and consequently, no general failure of liberal capitalism per se. Instead, the experience of the six Anglo-Saxon countries in the 2008 crisis suggests the failing of a particular variety of economic liberalism, where the balance between the state and the private sector had become unsustainable.

Further Information

International Research Network on Varieties of Liberalism

Country Institution Principal Participants
UK: London Centre for Corporate Governance & Ethics, Birkbeck, University of London
Ireland: Centre for Regulation & Governance, University College Dublin
USA: College of Law, University of Illinois

College of Business, University of Illinois

  Centre for Banking & Finance, University of North Carolina
Canada: Critical Laboratory in Law & Society, York University
Australia: School of Business,
University of Western Sydney
New Zealand: College of Business, Massey University
London Centre for Corporate Governance and Ethics

London Centre for Corporate Governance and Ethics

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