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Letters from Downunder

The whole world in chains

Submitted by Lindsay, Melbourne Australia!

"Why should a man be in love with his fetters, though of gold?"
Bacon, Essay of Death, 1648

(4/12) One of the best Wizard of Id cartoons ever done was when the King of Id was asked by the priest if he believed in the golden rule. He replied that he did indeed. "He who has the gold makes the rules.''

And he was so right. This has never been more true than today, especially in America, your amazing country that is reported to hold, in variously located secure vaults, some 90% of all the gold that has ever been mined. It's not all yours, of course - some belongs to the U.K., Germany and other fortunate nations, but it's still a hell of a lot of lucre, a lot of history, and has an almost mythic power. Gold has been the touchstone of society for thousands of years, and until 1951 gave surety to the American dollar. The dollar supreme, the one every county used for trade; you couldn't go wrong if you had greenbacks in your portfolio. The gold standard was, of course, based on all that gold - at about $200 per ounce.

Ah, but was it enough? Could it ever be enough? Tricky Dicky thought not. At least not enough to pay for one of the most expensive undertakings in history, the latest essay against the spread of that most pernicious anti-capitalist scourge, communism. That is, the Vietnam war. More expensive bombs were rained down on that small country than in any previous war, and the cost of getting them there was enormous. More than treasury had, more than any defence budget allowed for. So he did what all presidents do, he took advice. Lots of it from the masters of economic science, but it boiled down to one thing. Cut the dollar loose from gold, float it on the ocean of American power, productivity, and invincibility. He could pay for that war and more - and keep the change.

Not so momentous, was it? After all, it would solve the problem, ensure America's pre-eminence for decades to come, and everyone would be better off. At first all those prognostications were so true, so right, that such a horn of plenty should never have too much regulation, too much public scrutiny, or too many controls - and it was overseen by the Federal Exchange, so it had to be kosher, didn't it? But the dollar is not created by the Fed, that's the provenance of the banks - and boy, did they create!

And what a strange creature emerged forty years later - a beast with the ultimate power - an alliance between financiers and the military that was invincible. A beast of many heads and rapacious needs. A beast that sent American debt soaring, a beast that hid it's flames behind a smiling face as it invited every American to join it. And a beast that gave the hawks, those that believe might is right, the power to impose their will on not just their perceived enemies, but on anyone, any nation that might think of opposing them.

Sometime later, up steps friend and ally Saddam Hussein. This guy is no fool, and he's been happy to support American interests while making his regime rich beyond dreams, but he's become disillusioned with the power of the dollar and decides he can do something about it. He has the oil, he will dictate the terms. So he goes ahead and does the unthinkable - he talks to the Germans, he talks to Brussels.

Why not price his oil in Euros, eh?

Consternation at the White House. Dismay, anger and then decision. He could not be allowed to get away with that, he must not, no one must be allowed to challenge the power of the greenback. So - he was suddenly a tyrant, producing Weapons of Mass Destruction, he was anti-democracy, and he had to be stopped. Friends and sycophants - including Australia - rally to the cause. Roll up to the Gulf Wars! Make the world safe! Establish democracy! Don't forget, he kills his fellow citizens. Funny, that, because he'd always been a tyrant and non-democratic- that's how the country worked - he really had no WMD, and he was not the only one killing citizens - but the power of the hawk is mighty, and is vested in the banks, the media, and uses smoke, lies and deception as its first line of attack.

Some people wondered why the war was really begun, and were allowed to assume that underneath the lies lay nothing but ensuring continuity of the oil supply; but no, it was the reputation and power of something far more important: the American Dollar. No matter that many, many allied troops would die, that myriads of civilians would be killed, that enormous quantities of oil were would be destroyed, or even that the debt levels would reach new heights, the aim was just. The dollar had to remain floating on its sea of unbridled power.

For what also happened was that the mountain of American debt was reaching so high that it was was becoming greater than all the money in the world. But no matter, the treasury notes - the IOU's in effect - were guarantee of ultimate repayment, weren't they?

No, not really. The truth was that the debt could never be repaid. But those country suckers who had borrowed from Uncle Sam had to repay everything, including interest, or else. Yes, down Saddam's path. And who better to enforce the demands than the bailiff, also known as the IMF? Those in charge might keep the borrowings for themselves, but as repayment had to be made, it would be the people who shouldered the burden. Again.

Not just foreigners, but Americans of less than substantial means. Here's a pretty picture: Borrow money to buy shares that have to increase in value because the dollar is invincible. You'll be rich for the rest of your lives. Rich, that is relative to the dead, because if you want to play with the tiger you need a very long pole. It really is a form of madness and self-delusion. But the shackles still closed around the masses at home and abroad.

So here we have a world in chains to the dollar. Oh, it's collapsed in value, has it? Never mind, it'll be all right soon. Not. So we live in a world in terror of being annihilated by an unreasoning and angry war monger dropping destruction form the skies, the one area of the world America has controlled ever since the second world war and is never loath to use? Not to worry, look at all that gold.

As Francis Bacon said long ago, why admire your shackles, even if they are made of gold? The world is going to be a very different place in a fairly short while, so will you join me in the fight for individual liberty, for lives that can be lived without terror, for a world in which love may be shown and simple acts of kindness and charity are not punished?

I'm indebted in part to Debt: The first 5,000 years by David Graeber, for some of the information and ideas above. It is a book that needs to be read by everyone, everywhere.

Lindsay, From Down Under

Read Past Down Under Columns by Lindsay Coker