The Money and Debt Monster – Man-Made and therefore Tamable

Published on Current Concerns, by ts, June 12, 2010.

ts. Now and then it is worthwhile to read a book a second time, in particular if it contains texts, whose basis are real historical events placed in an unusual context. Precisely in times like these, when the media are full of comments on the vast financial and economic crises, when trillions of money supplies for major bank bailouts are blithely printed and then saddled on the taxpayer; when states face bankruptcy, because they cannot master their debts any longer; when an immense inflation is imminent and it is again the population that will suffer as a result of it; in times in which, under the cover of “freedom” to transfer capital funds, money must be regarded as a new weapon of mass destruction, in which the greed seems boundless, in which newspapers are full of the problem of interest and compound interest, in which even the “Neue Zürcher Zeitung” – usually not averse to banks – uses the term “monster” to describe the financial markets and the debt problem; in times like these books can sharpen the senses and enable a view on the general context, which might get lost in the daily routine.

The mainstream media report on the “debt monster” or on the “markets”, which will not appreciate this and that, or they talk about anonymous “investors”, who withdraw from markets, or about “fund streams which could flow off”, or even about “hedge funds that bet against currencies” etc. If they do so, the reader of such formulations is left behind feeling powerless, resigning to an apparently inevitable fate. What can the common man do about that?

It is exactly this purposeful degrading of the citizen’s position that one of the above mentioned books turns to. It is the thriller “Die blaue Liste” (The Blue List) by Wolfgang Schorlau.* The author takes his readers back into the time of the German reunification, when – after Detlev Carsten Rohwedder’s death – the transitional privatization agency sold off the complete national wealth of the GDR citizens to west companies at dumping prices. It was the time, when the co-operatives’ principle and the Catholic social teachings with its combination and reconciliation of work and capital were trampled on. It is most exciting to read, how the author succeeds in presenting the “third way” between planned economy and mere capitalism: it is the co-operative principle which implements the Catholic social teachings and thus forms a counterpart to the TINA ideology (There Is No Alternative). According to this ideology, there is no alternative to privatization and globalization, to deregulation and the homo oeconomicus. The co-operative beginnings will be reported on in further articles; in order to illuminate today’s situation, a “small colloquium in monetary theory” is given in the book. In it we learn, how absurd, abstract and inhuman the ideology of freedom of capital transfer is … //

… Obviously, we are again in a phase of the “intensified business activity” today, a phase of revived greed. The “lump of meat”, which lies before the “money monster’s” nose, is even larger, it is no less than the financial subjugation of entire countries, entire continents.

We know today that money is in fact not a creature, an independent entity that eludes control. Behind the monetary system there are people, even if they seek to hide. They are well known, also by their names. And as they are people, who want to live in human communities, they must submit to the rules. Just like any other person, because in the civilized West, at least, we live in a enlightened age, beyond racist or feudalist legislation. That which is happening to the Palestinians in Palestine is another story, or perhaps the other side of the same medal. There is no alive money monster; there are only monsters with human faces, just like the banker in Schorlau’s thriller.

It cannot be so difficult for the enlightened citizens of the 21st century to do what would seem natural. Just as they successfully contain and fight harmful impacts on the environment, on their own households or on their jobs, be it asbestos, household poisons or diseases, people may succeed in sorting things out in the economy – in Greek this is “regulation/standardization of our ‘oikos’”, our house. First of all, this includes the restitution of the monetary system into the hands of the citizens, the ascription of money into the service to the people. The first step is simple: back into the times, when there was no freedom of unlimited capital transfer. In consequence the ghastly business of casino capitalism will stop, the hocus-pocus of all the incomprehensible financial products, the race of a small oligarchy for mega-profits. Next  we will discuss in detail, how money could reassume its task to serve the economy that is directed to fulfill people’s needs. This is what the catholic social teachings and the system of co-operatives – then monopolized by the socialists – have worded in the tradition of direct democracy in Switzerland and Wilhelm Raiffeisen. (full text).

*Wolfgang Schorlau, Die blaue Liste. Cologne 2005, ISBN 3-462-03479-0.

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