Debt: The First 5,000 Years by David Graeber is a recent book challenging us to shake out of the way we regard debt. He says the notion of money arising from barter systems taught by most economists is a fairy tale. The book reveals what a horror story financing is over history. It’s a broad support for this post’s title.
Now, I’m basically a simple guy who doesn’t think the bank should lend me money because ‘Harry the Horse’ has given me a hot tip. But I also live sickened by the kind of things the International Monetary Fund do, which is broadly kill children through ‘banking’. If Aristotle was alive today he would consider most Americans and Europeans slaves. My own view is that most of the world does live in slavery or serfdom. I can see the difference between life in most of the West than under Saddam, Gaddafi or the piss poor dictators of the Third World or the Sino-Soviet ‘experiments’. Lamp-posts and piano wire is about what they deserve – yet bodies like the World Bank and IMF have also brought about terror and death. This isn’t ‘left-wing piss’ – I’ve seen it first hand. Graeber describes the IMF as the international finance equivalent of the guys sent round to break your legs.
The book is conversational in style and and an easy read in academic terms. Most of us think debts should be repaid, but Graeber gives us some room to doubt such homily by looking at what debt has meant through history. Teaching economics more or less means breaking people from the ideas they have about ‘housekeeping’ – sadly politicians, who presumably know this, pander to the public through homily. Hence austerity is sold to us as pulling our belts in. The political trance relies on us being uneducated (schools clearly don’t educate in this area). The book is on Amazon and quite a lot of it can be read there. Enough to demonstrate there have been debt Jubilees throughout history and even that ‘forgiveness of sins’ might have been closely related to forgiveness of debt. Modern religion seems to have forgotten this. Islam is a notable exception but also proof that there is a massive gap between preaching and practice – it’s poor remain poor.
My own interest is the extent to which we are lending money to insolvent banks instead of investing in ourselves and the extent to which the economy is maintained to promote organised crime. There are dark episodes of Miami Vice in which Crockett and Tubbs discover banks are behind the drugs’ trade as a means of recovering the crap loans made to South American despots. I’m more cynical than this, believing banksters must have known that loans into kleptocracies went straight to Swiss bank accounts and taken some kind of cut, with poor people footing the bill. If I had a tame bank manager he could ‘lend’ me money until my horse came in, we could draw the winnings and ‘elope’ with the cash to run that lay beach-bar we dream about. The key issue is hiding losses and bunking off with ‘legitimate’ cash. What kind of banker agrees to lend Mugabe a wad of cash?
In Third World lending banks invested our money (given to them by governments closely linked to banksterism) well away from anything we would have invested in like new technology engineering and energy, by giving it to dictators we wouldn’t have given spit, they stole it and their people got to pay it back without gaining any investment.
Banks are now allowed, as other companies, fantastic accounting that I can understand only in that I can’t check it. Bank of America is valued on the market at less than a fifth of what it is allowed to claim it’s worth on its books. My mate got an Ebay purchase of a cheap car investigated as potential money laundering, but banks are doing billions in such trade – the penalties for getting caught are so low as to ‘encourage’ it.
My own feeling is that cops – and I mean cops not regulators – should be set into international finance as forcibly as I’d like them to deal with Bill the Burglar and miscreant scrote. I found low-level commercial fraud mind-blowing – just imagine working a beat where governments legitimate what was crime overnight just as their mates look like going down and get cops to shred evidence. A bit like the IPCC who turn up in cases after legitimate shredding!
The current situation is not as though we have all been drinking Chinese beer and run up a bar tab. It’s more like the rich have been dipping our wallets to do this and run up the tab on our credit cards. The essential anti-democratic move is the idea that the better qualified and wealthy can run off abroad if we try to bring about something more equal – and of course this is true. What isn’t true is that this has to be and is the best we can manage. What it makes true is Nietzsche’s presumably ironic claim that bourgeois society rests on the ability to enforce debt through violence – not much of a moral base and something in a democratic society we might expect to be policed. In this sense, policing by consent would require a social contract that is transparent. Currently, we can’t even work out what money is, or where the hole it disappears into is. We are reduced to Third World status, paying debts on money never in our hands. I pay my bar bill but can see no reason to pay austerity a single bean. We should put police on the case. The big lie is that banks have a liquidity crisis – they don’t – they’ve been false-accounting big time and have few assets that they are lying about in ‘mark to model’ accounting that amounts to me being a bank on the basis of my toothbrush mug as capital. I value that at $335 billion though it’s real price is what it would fetch on Ebay. Though if I was a bank, the mug would also form the basis of securitised transactions of a $ trillion or so. We should sack the banksters, set up a new National Giro, and send in the boys in blue after telling judges to apply riot multipliers to their sentencing. What we need to discover is that all banksterism is make-believe.
If I was still a cop, I’d take my blue hat off to Libya and pretend to be a war correspondent working for Sky – though a couple have beaten me to it. Safer out there …