Sunday, June 29, 2014

Sermon on a mountain of cash

And Jesus brake the loaves and fishes and gave them to his disciples and the disciples to the multitude and they all did eat and were filled. And Jesus saith unto the multitude:
"Your consumption of this subsistence capital constitutes a legally binding contract between you (the party of the parted from their rights) and JHC Co. Ltd. at the accepted market value of two denarii per loaf and three per fish, to be remunerated at an interest rate of a quarter denarius per half-loaf or quarter-fish, compounded weekly over the course of no longer than five wage slaveries or two indentured servitudes. Now as for collateral I see you're all living in some lovely little adobe huts over that hill.
They're mine now."

I've got no use for primitive superstitions in general and I'm always glad for any sign that humanity is moving away from supernatural doctrine, but in one respect at least I guess I'm pretty old-school; in one way I'd like to push us back toward the middle ages.
We need societal condemnation of (and much more stringent legal restrictions on) usury.

Increasingly since they almost brought on the collapse of civilization in 2007-2008 and especially in the last year or two, banks and investment firms have inundated the airways with face-saving ads. You've seen them. They're very upbeat. They always run something like "Bob the baker wanted to expand his business and create jobs - and with help from our kind family at Fatcat Inc. he can!"
See Bob smiling? Bob is happy that Fatcat Inc. will henceforth be grabbing the bulk of his profits. Bob is happy to be owned.
Don't you want to smile like Bob the baker?

As with many issues, this is one of unspoken, underlying assumptions. You are made to feel as though the rich are doing you a favor, as though they are mitigating or even solving a problem, removing an obstacle, by allowing you access to a small bit of the symbolic representation of wealth that is currency. It's as though they're pulling loaves and fishes out of thin air (and quite a few have been trying to pretend to do just that, as became obvious a few years ago.)

In reality they are the obstacle. Human society as a whole (and it is so inteconnected through various pyramid schemes these days that we can consider it a global whole) has access to various natural resources and exploits them, resulting in usable products. Money is just the representation of that value, not the value in itself. Carbon and silicon and their transformation into usable forms are value. Chickens and yams are value. Newtons and joules are value. Words, sounds and images, inasmuch as we agree on the value of their effect on our minds, have value.
The rich are choking the market by sitting on an insanely disproportionate share of the total, by not allowing those creating value, making it usable, access to the symbol of their work and worth. You complain about "the government" taxing you but what about the taxes you pay without even acknowledging? What about your boss taking the lion's share of the symbolic representation of your work?

And then when you're desperate enough to beg for more, you take it as a great kindness that for the privilege of being given access to a slightly larger slice of the representation for your value, you're expected to devalue yourself even further, paying interest on what you're already owed, paying the fatcats for their obstructionism.

You can't eliminate interest altogether. You have to compensate for inflation, you have to ensure the poor don't end up keeping their nest eggs under their mattresses by offering interest on bank deposits, and I'm sure there's a whole host of more or less valid concerns any first-year economics student could rattle off. But Goldman Sachs and Merryl Lynch and Wells Fargo and every other nest of usurers are not doing you a favor by charging you for the oh-so-productive service of not sitting on your money.

Stop smiling, Bob. You're the one who baked those loaves and fished those fishes in the first place.

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