Money Magic - How Bankers Pull Money Out Of Thin Air And Entrepreneurs Perform Three Card Tricks
by Ian R Thorpe and John de Roe
CREATIVE COMMONS: Attribute, non commercial, no derivs.
KEYWORDS: economy, crisis, finance, debt, interest, currecny, inflation, gold, markets, government, politics, bank, nations
Politicians when in government have had a long running love affair with "entrepreneurs." The politicos hold to a delusional belief that these fabled creatures create wealth, jobs and happiness. When Margaret Thatcher,spoke of entrepreneurs, her eyes would take on a glazed look and he face the beatific expression of somebody who has just had a spontaneous orgasm. Well forget entrepreneurs, only banks can create money and only workers can create wealth.
Throughout the years 'New Labour', the "people's"(so long as those people were lawyers, academics or were stinking rich), were in power, (1997 - 2010) entrepreneurs were talked of in the reverential terms normally used when evangelical Christians discuss Jesus. Our present government, the coalition of Conservatives and Liberal Democrats government is sitting around, waiting with bated breath for entrepreneurs in shining armour to ride by on their white horses and magically restore the economy. But there are no signs that a great boom in business activity is on its way.
The problem is politicians are not very bright. I have always been honest enough to admit I was a lazy and disinterested student and French, as taught in English schools never engaged me. Even so I know that an entrepreneur enter and takes, they are opportunists, quick buck merchants, nothing more.
The idea politicians and the media are so fond of then, that Entrepreneurs create wealth is a fallacy, as much a fallacy as the other crackpot idea that has been foisted on the public in developed nations, that advances in science are always beneficial to humanity. Science does not solve problems, it creates them, but that is dealt with in another article) and entrepreneurs do not create wealth, they collect it. It is more correct to say Banks create wealth, but really they only facilitate the creation of wealth. True wealth can only be created by the great mass of people in a society. Still, if you have wanted to know why politicians are so powerless to control the bankers, the answer is relatively simple. Banks have a monopoly on the creation of money.
Be careful not to misunderstand. Do not confuse creation of money with the stuff governments do, minting coins, printing bank notes and selling bonds to investors. That is not creating money, it is only revaluing the money in circulation. And don't write off the entrepreneurs, as businessmen have been wrongly dubbed. Bankers need business to do the vulgar stuff, the growing and harvesting, mining and smelting, metal bashing, chemical mixing, shipping, building and all the activities we describe as trade and commerce. It is trade that links the surreal world of banking to the real economy of bread and potatoes, bricks and mortar, shirts and SUVs. Bankers could sit in front of their trading screens creating electronic money all day and all night if they wished and they do wish. It is exactly what they did during the last "boom". But without a solid outlet into transactional reality (such as an sack of grain or potatoes, a machine or a garment, or the existence of a real asset, a building or even an unreal asset such as a certificate proving ownership of bonds, stocks or shares, their electronic money is worthless, just figures on a screen, no more meaningful than if you or typed a manuscript declared it worth ten million dollars and said: "Hey I'm rich"
To make it real money, like Tinkerbell needs people to believe in it. Similarly banks need depositors to put the surplus tokens they have earned for their time, effort, skills or produce to establish a pool of assets from which to lend and a pool of borrowers who believe in the real worth of the banks pool of assets.
Now that is basically how the banking system worked from the beginning of civilisation until the late twentieth century. So where did it all go wrong?
What happened was that an era of growth that had spanned three thousand years because it was fuelled by increasing population came to an end. The way that growth economy had been sustained was there were more people thus more work was needed to feed them, build houses and provide those things that make life good. More work meant more wages and more good produced. This meant more assets to underwrite the value of the money banks created.
There is an idea, another fallacy, that there once was a bit of gold to back up every bronze coin, every bill of currency, token, negotiable item, ledger entry and bead on a usurer's abacus. There never was. The bulk of money was always money owed. There was only ever a token amount of gold, which is how we came to be able to borrow using property deeds, bonds, or valuable artefacts as collateral.
The banks always knew this of course just as priests (apart from American evangelicals) always knew God did not exist in any physical, tangible sense.
The reason the banks became so cavalier about ordinary customers and their savings, and even ordinary business people and their modest profits. Was that the era of population driven growth came to an end. Science and technology got so good at public relations they managed to convince bankers and politicians and business owners that machines could do most jobs more efficiently and cheaply than people. It was stated above that politicians are not very bright. Business people aren't either, they did not realise that their need of the proletariat was twofold. They needed people to work on their land or in their factories and offices but saw and were willing to grab onto the promised benefits of employing machines that do not talk back, take sick leave, demand pay rises or go on strike. Unfortunately they did not think things through properly, they forgot that they needed that great mass of people to buy their goods and services too.
As unemployment rose, partly because the population continued to grow as people continued to do what comes naturally and even did it more often because they had more free time, governments faced bigger bills for unemployment benefits, it being unacceptable in civilised societies to let people starve. In an attempt to solve rising unemployment the governments took to appointing armies of tax eaters to administer the unemployment, administer pollution, administer health, education, transport, industry, food, you name it the government administered it. And all this administration cost money. The difference between what governments took in through taxes, duties and fees and what they spent on administering things became known as the "structural deficit" and by the time of the financial crash in 2008 it ran into billions of dollars, pounds, Euros and whatever every month.
The banks were not interested in borrowers who wanted a few thousand for a new car or a conservatory, they craved borrowers who needed shitloads on money on a regular basis because they had invented an accounting trick that turned money loaned out from a debt outstanding into an asset which they could add to their pool and use to attract lots more money. That was the only link the money they created had to actual stuff that has actual worth, such as solid investments, belongings that hold or increase their own value, labour and skills. The marriage of notional assets and structural deficits was made in heaven.
Banks lent money that did no exist, underwritten by assets the value of which was inflated to surreal levels, to governments that had reached the stage of having to borrow money every month simply to pay the interest on the money they already owed.
Meanwhile real business was struggling. Entrepreneurs create not wealth, but new paths around which money moves. Thus money can be distributed through a long chain of people, preferably nice and fast, picking up more value as it travels through. Essentially, it's like money laundering, except that instead of turning illegal cash into legal cash, the money-circuit turns abstract cash into real money, then delivers it back to the banks. Starved of the loan needed to finance new ventures, the entrepreneurs and businessmen retrenched and made ready to ride out the financial storms that were yet to come.
Clearly then there are two kinds of money, real money which is underwritten by objects that have worth, for which people will trade the products of their labour or more often in this era, their time and practical or intellectual skills. The real money we talk of then is simply a system of tokens designed to make it easier to exchange goods and services and enable people to build a reserve from their surplus in good times to help see them through the lean times.
Then there is 'fiat money' to use the technical term of the finance markets. This is manufactured money, created by putting a false value on objects and pretending that is their worth, the price people would be prepared to pay for them in the real world. How does that work? I have a piece of software developed a long time ago that would at a stroke nullify all internet threats, rid us of the nuisance of viruses, Trojans, browser hijackers, key loggers and all the other web shite, making the internet for browsing and business and freeing computers from the CPU and memory hogging processes that force us to buy a new PC every year. I say it is worth a billion dollars so I'm a billionaire. I could say ten billion but I'm not greedy.
So why have I not sold this brilliant program or formed a company to market it?
Quite simply because it addresses the basic flaw in the IBM Intel Microsoft motherboard architecture PC that has made each succeeding generation of these wretched machines more unfit for purpose than the last. So my security technique would render every PC on the market obsolete. Thus I will continue to be asset rich, cashflow comfortable so long as I live quite modestly. But the method of creating wealth I describe is exactly how the banks made money.
By selling mortgages secured on the property to high risk customers and then using financial sleight of hand to convert monies owed to securitized assets then bundling those assets into packages of collateralised debt obligations that could be traded in the markets they produced money that only existed as numbers in a spreadsheet's data out of things that had no value in the real world. But that money boosted their balance sheets sufficiently to make people believe perpetual economic growth was a sustainable goal. And because people believed in the sustainable bubble the banks were able to lend imaginary money along with the real money until nobody knew which was which.
One way or another however, the real money tends to end up in the banks bottomless pockets along with the imaginary money. There are lots of banks, in lots of countries, able to create wealth as long as they have borrowers, all of whose debts are counted as assets ( see above ). Even though the banks appear compete with each other for business, they are actually working together, because their monopoly on money creation makes them an international cartel.
The financial products or "investment vehicles" that created the banking crisis of 2008 were specifically designed to take the smallest possible amount of value in the real world and transform it into the largest amount of value possible in the bank world. They allowed the abstract values held by banks to become so distantly from real-world values, that no one within the cartel had the least idea what relationship the debt-assets of individual banks, even their own, had to real income, revenue and profits.
The banks are still doing plenty of business business. But they know that a lot of things, such as houses, say, have the vast value that accrued to them in recent years only because they made it happen. The abstract wealth, the spreadsheet money of banks escaped into the real world, upsetting the balance of their game, and now the bankers have no more idea than you and I about what's real and what's not.
In the real world actually actuality should be easily distinguishable from virtual reality and there should be no such problems. People deal with real money all the time and know that a house is worth what the highest bidder is willing to pay for it and a car or a loaf of bread are worth what the market will stand. If we think a thing is too expensive all we need do is decline to buy it. When most people agree, the price will fall, if most people do not agree we must decide to revise our opinion or do without. "Simples," as Aleksander the Meerkat says.
Most of us however rely on entrepreneurs, or at least on business people, to steer the stuff we need or want towards us so that we can trade for it in exchange for tokens that represent things we produce or our labour or skills. In the process or course they make a bit of our money disappear into their own pockets. Nothing wrong with that of course, everyone has to make a living. As well as being charged for the privilege of obtaining the stuff we need or desire we are also charged for the privilege of taking part in the process of making abstract money real. That's tax.
What do governments spend out tax money on? The official line is that revenue from taxes is spent on just one thing, ensuring that our potential for taking part in money-go-round is maximised, by educating us, keeping us healthy, managing civic structures, providing some civilised amenities as incentives to make us feel that life is worthwhile and enriching for its own sake, and generally maintaining civil order so we can get out to work and play in order to earn and spend our small portion and be part of the process of giving the abstract wealth of the banks a place to go, so that it can rumble along collecting real and phoney value, like a avalanche collects snow. In that respect, government spending is itself an investment in banking.
Tax is also used to provide subsistence for those who for some reason or another are unable to extract cash from the money-circuits that are the sole creators of wealth. This category of people includes the old, sick, mentally and physically disabled and the children who we hope will one day take their place in the system. It also includes the idle, the terminally stupid, political rebels, arseholes, dickheads, wankers, wasters, drunks and drug addicts (did you know that alcohol and drug addiction are not recognised as disabilities) and the deadlegs.
The presence of many of these categories on the list of people who are excused work and qualify for the taxpayers largesse naturally creates some resentment, not only from the people closest to the pinnacle of the system but also people close to the bottom who work bloody hard for little reward only to find some idle, drunken, dysfunctional loser actually has a better standard of living than they do simply through having spent time studying techniques for playing the system. So the deserving poor, the low paid workers, have to have their income raised in recognition of the good work they do. Then the rich want more money to preserve their status. Then because raising the income of the bosses, investors and workers leads to price inflation the underclass, bottom feeders, have to get more money to preserve the illusion of fairness and inclusiveness. And they all depend on the banks ability to create more money.
Even the entrepreneurs are dependent on banks, contrary to what the government seems to think (although with a really successful entrepreneur the relationship becomes symbiotic). Upset the banks, and everything gets upset.
The banks seem untouchable, because they are. No matter how many weasel words are read from an autocue by Barack Hussein Obama or spoken from the heart by Manoman Singh or off the top of the head by David Cameron about reining in the banks and imposing tougher regulation, the bankers are holding all the aces. Ironically, the current weakness of the banks makes them untouchable, just as in the past they were protected by their strength. The banks are sick, their corporate bodies corrupted by the lax regulation and easy money of recent decades. But all we can do nothing except wait, hoping that sooner rather than later they come to the realisation that to save themselves they must save everyone, not just their investors and bond holders.
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CREATIVE COMMONS: Attribute, non commercial, no derivs.
KEYWORDS: money, finance, economy, wealth, cash, tax, revenue, market, magic, bankers, entrepreneurs, business, trade, work, jobs, happness, politics, politicians, conservative, liberal, labour, nations, ian r thorpe, john de roe, daily stirrer, opinion, analysis