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Letters from Downunder

The New World Economy
Money makes the world go round

Submitted by Lindsay
Melbourne Australia!

(5/12) Not every country in the world has a motto, because some of them would find it very hard to adopt something that was both descriptive and believable. Some possibles, however, are: The Maldives : 'Going under', Greece: 'Hard times', Australia, 'Time to dig', China, 'Land of happy slaves', and so on, but In fact it could be that The United States is the only country that seems to actually have adopted one at all - no doubt a heartfelt hope : 'In God We Trust.'

Okay, it's not a real motto, but it stands in for one because it is used both as a statement to everyone who uses a U. S dollar, and a declaration of a core American belief. When you consider it, it's a strange thing to have printed on every coin and banknote in this age, because as a statement it is surely no longer true, even if it once seemed to be, being as it was written at the behest of various churches after the civil war. But it still means that when you have a pseudo gold coin or a piece of green paper with pretty writing on it and pictures of those who guarantee the truth of the words, and you use it to buy something, pay taxes or fines, or trade with it, you have a promise that it's more than a bit of ordinary paper: It's a real, genuine promissory note good anywhere in the world for any monetary purpose, and always will be, because it is backed by something that might even be real.

Why is the motto still there? Because the people who issue it must trust in God. Because the operative word in that statement is "WE", and that cannot be a declaration of the American people, as many have never subscribed to the reality of that statement. So the treasury, the cabinet, the banks who have these things printed by the million are the ones who perforce declare their faith. THEY trust in God, and if they do, so can we. So I have to ask the question - WHY do they tell us that they put their trust in God? After all, if the dollar collapsed in value, will they stave off the hordes by saying, in effect, "Sorry, folks, we don't know why he's let this happen, but like us you still have to put your trust in God."

It's a bit hard to do that, as he's notoriously difficult to find, and even harder to understand: he does have a tendency to say what leaders want him to say, after all - "God is on our side" "We are waging a godly war" and, as President Lincoln said, both sides in the civil war were praying to the same God for victory. Did this mean He wasnít on the side of the Confederates? Anyway, if you were able to ask him directly, "What about my dollar?" would the answer be: "Sorry?" or "Try the banks?" The banks would then reply, "But we trusted him!" Oh yeah? Or, as the story has it, Cecil asks God what a million years is to him, and gets the reply "A second". He then asks what a million dollars means to him, and God answers, "A penny." "Then can I have a penny?" "Just a second."

Now I believe you are shortly going to have a convocation of group eight leaders close by, a group who believe they are the wealthiest and most influential in the world, and they may be right. And, although from diverse backgrounds, they have at least one thing in common: They don't question the power of money, and they do NOT trust their money to God, except as window dressing. God does not trade, condone war (well, only the ones he told the Israelites to wage) permit usury, or allow all the other things the G 8 do with it, and we can rest assured they will not be talking about God - any gods - at all.

But what will they be talking about? I'll put my money on Productivity, Trade and its barriers, Growth, the Euro crisis, China, India, and sustainability. Maybe armaments and war. But will they be talking about Human beings, Family love, Extreme poverty, Torture, Slavery, or refugees? Probably not, but they will surely reinforce the notion that small debts, those of less than say a trillion have to be repaid, that business can be still trusted to self-regulate, and that because they are the greatest they are the greatest. At least they have more money.

Well, it is said that only God can make things out of nothing, which is probably why Americans worship him. After all, they make money out of nothing, and like the sorcerer's apprentice, continue to fill the sorcerer's well. When you think about it, what exactly is money? Nothing more than what our rulers and leaders, including G 8, say it is. It can be in any form - gold, silver, printed paper, cowrie shells, salt, anything that is the currency of the day or place - including the new magic, the non-existent legal tender that electrons, flitting around the world, transfer from one computer to another in unknown amounts as they buy and sell each other. The fact that we could hardly exist without money in some form is beside the point, but allowing a relatively few people to have cornered the trade in this nebulous stuff, making profit from its nothingness, (just like God), has so skewed the balance of available sustenance and peace for the great majority that is has produced a stench - to use a biblical term - that has brought about anger and thoughts of revenge and despair in many parts of the world.

Trading money produces nothing for humanity, because it has to have taken on a substantive form for this to happen - but it is actually nothing, nebulous, and of no value in itself. So trading in it gives it a kind of life, a substance, and one that allows the token to become the reality. It might make one group or country owe or be owed lots of this 'non-stuff' for a while, but the total benefits flow to a very few. The sense that something is quite wrong with this style of 'trade' has been growing for quite some time, but it is now so big, so influential, that governments condone it and abide by it while citizens, when they become aware of it, are powerless alter or even reduce it. That we are in hock to nothing won't so stop us being marched off to the firing squad if we donít pay in the real stuff.

It is surely the future of this new economy that G 8 should truly be considering. The world will hardly survive otherwise.

Read Past Down Under Columns by Lindsay Coker