Monday, March 18, 2013

It's Just Like Money in the Bank

the View from the Podium

It's Just Like Money in the Bank

Have you heard the most disgusting news yet from the already disgusting, on-going story of fiscal and financial mismanagement?  The country of Cypress (Motto: Cypress- we can't decide if we're Greek or Turkish.  Or maybe Albanian) is reeling under the news that banks will be taking money from the savings accounts of its depositors in order to bail themselves (the banks) out for making bad loans to that shady, flash-in-the-pan, broke-on-its-ass country of Greece (Motto: Greece- we're not as slippery as we sound).  That's right, banks are stealing from their depositors to cover their financially over-extended asses.

Where's my free calendar?
All of these bankers-behaving-badly have prompted Adjunct Proff to peer into the mists of history to reveal the slightly sleazy origins of what suckers around the world still call banks (instead of, I don't know, casinos with ATM's instead of slots?) so that you, my loyal, constant, got-way-too-much-free-time-on-your-hands reader, can steer clear of their shenanigans and keep your hard won coin safe.

Way back before there were CD's paying a paltry 1.3% interest for a 10-year term, there was the town of Jericho (the one with Joshua and the walls that came a-tumblin' down, not the fake Ohio town on that SyFy Channel post-apocalyptic series).  The people there were perfectly happy --or as happy as people just 5 hours removed from a hunter-gathering economy could be --because they had no money.  At all.  And no banks.  Anywhere.  If a Jerichoan (Jerichoite?) wanted to store a little of his excess grain in town, he just brought it to the granary and trusted that the fearsome cats of Jericho would do their job in eating any and all mice that tried to steal it.  Oh, and in case the next harvest was crap, our thrifty Jerichoian (???) could schlep to the granary and withdraw enough grain to keep him in pita-bread for the duration.

Mouse: I kan haz teeney nom of wheeete?
Cat: No; I kan haz moussie, nom-nom-nom!
The Sumerians altered the above transaction slightly by inventing a religion of gods and goddesses who had wings, bird-like feet, and owned all of the extra food in the whole town because they had, and this is where it gets really funny, allowed the poor farmer to sow and reap in peace.  This in no way took into account that the rest of our Sumerian farmer's time was taken up digging irrigation ditches to bring the water to his thirsty crops because the great-and-birdy Sumerian deities couldn't be bothered to make it rain.  Pleeeeeze, every decent civilization had at least one god in charge of rain!  So, the Sumerian farmers were the first to be robbed of their excess labor, although to be fair, it was the priests and not the bankers who were doing the dirty work.
Rain would ruin my pretty feathers

However, the Sumerians do have some blame in this whole scandalous history of banking because they came up with the first ever medium of exchange, the token (a fake coin that drivers used to throw in toll-collection bins before there were electric transponders that tracked their every move for the fascist imperialist usurper governments of the Running Dogs of Capitalism)

*** Adjunct Proff has just regained control of his blog from the Chinese Army's Cyber-Attack unit.  Disregard any weird stuff that you may have just read***

These tokens were little animal or grain-shaped clay figurines that represented a certain amount of the commodity.  This was so the temple "priests" could remember just how many sheep Sumerian-so-and-so gave back to the gods from their herd in thanksgiving for... whatever the "priests" said the "gods" did for the farmer-husband and his little family farm.  This wasn't quite yet money because you couldn't trade, say, sheep for grain (the sheep-tokens would eat the grain-tokens, duuh!), so it wasn't a true medium of exchange.  THAT invention would be left to the Lydians.
No, that's Lydia the Tattooed Lady,
not the Lydians!

The Lydians were a bunch of sea-going salesmen who predated the Phoenicians, although they were later driven out of business in the eastern Mediterranean by the aggressive (read "deadly") business practices of said Phoenicians.  It was the Lydians who invented the world's very first coins in order to have a way for their customers pay for the stuff they were selling.  They took a disc of silver or gold, stamped it with the image of a fearsome lion, and just like magic, folks all over the eastern Mediterranean were practically throwing their food, cloth, dye, timber and olive oil at the nearest Lydian they could find, in the hopes that he had some coins on him they could have in exchange.  In their over-eagerness, the peoples of the eastern Med forgot that they couldn't exactly eat the coins in times of famine, but hey, coins were shiny and everybody else was using them, so the only thing they wanted more of were those cool Lydian coins.

Which brings up a small problem.  Sure, coins as a medium of exchange were a great convenience --people didn't have to pay in sheep any more, though you still had the odd rube who wanted to.  The problem was this: if someone tried to steal your sheep, you or your dog, or certainly your sheep, would notice it and stop the thief in their tracks.  But coins were smaller --an enterprising thief could quite literally pocket an entire year's work of farm production and blow it on... well, an entire year's worth of farm production.  Or hookers --they had been doing a booming business ever since the discovery of sex.  What to do?
Sure, but will she work for coins?

The first bank was probably a strongbox inside somebody's house guarded by a dog and a guy named Joey-Two-Times or Benny-the-Knuckle-Crusher.  And it probably just contained the owner's pile of coins, unless they were a person one could rely on to give one's coins back on demand.  Rich people were already making loans during Greek and Roman times.  We know this for a fact, because debtors who defaulted on their loans were enslaved by the debt holder.  This was usually only done in cases of complete, utter inability to pay, because Greek and Roman moneylenders also employed the above-mentioned Joey and Benny to "lean-on" debtors who were slow in their repayments.

It was during Greek and Roman times that temples (note the continued connection between religion and money?  Shysters know their own kind.) added the big innovation of accepting deposits and "changing" money.  This was a big deal, because temples had by then gotten out of the grain-and-livestock trade and were on an all-cash basis by the time Jesus took a nutty and drove the money-changers out of the Temple in Jerusalem.

"Get out and STAY out!  Wall Street is over there.  Jesus Chr..."
But to really, really have a bank in the modern sense of the term, we have to turn to that crazy crowd that gave the world pizza, pasta and the Maffia --and I don't mean the Americans, the Chinese or the Sicilians.  I'm talking about those paisanos, the Renaissance Italians of Florence, Genoa and Venice.  And Jews.  This is because Jews were allowed to do something Christians were not: charge interest on loans.  The Church called this practice a sin (hear THAT, B of A?!?) and since Jews were already going to Hell for being Jewish, why not use them to do the dirty work of getting rich off of loans.  

This is also where the term "bankrupt" enters into financial nomenclature. A banco was the little bench our Jewish friend would set up to do his business in the piazza of the town.  Rupto  happened when our Jewish friend's banco was smashed up-side his head when he couldn't pay his investors the promised return on their investment.  Said banco could also be smashed just for shits-and-grins around Easter, Christmas, the Feast of Our Lady of Padua, or any other Christian holiday that  reminded good Christians to beat-up on the Jews for not believing in Jesus.
Everybody but cartoonists hated the
Jews during the Renaissance

Once the Houses of De Medici and Rothschild got started, nothing besides the odd panic, bank-run, "bubble," recession or Great Depression could stop those bankers.  They added a ton of services, including paper money, bills of lading, bills of exchange, double-entry bookkeeping, letters of credit, cheques, travelers  cheques, credit cards, stock margin-purchases, commodity trading, sub-prime mortgage bundling and hedge funds, just to name the top dozen money-makers --for the banks.  

Because that's exactly what banks do: make money --for their owners, which these days include a lot of non-human entities.  No, aliens haven't invaded Wall Street and the City of London (or have they?).  I'm talking about corporations, yet another creature of this viper's brood spawned by human greed.  A corporation is an artificial "person" who can own property, buy and sell property, sue and be sued in court, and rape young maidens with impunity (ok, rape is never funny, I get it, I'm sorry, won't do it again).  Actually corporations were invented in order to protect investors from those rapacious (not the same thing as rapists :-P) bankers!  How ironic is it that the banks that are "too big to fail" are all owned in whole or part by corporations?  Cosimo de Medicci is having a big laugh about that in his grave right now.

Yes, I have a huge honker,
but I'm not Jewish, you racist
Don't get me wrong: overall, I like banks.  Hell, I used to work for one in my younger days.  I especially like community credit unions, who loan money to local people and businesses with an eye more towards community betterment than towards shareholder dividends.  Remember George Bailey in It's a Wonderful Life and his building & loan society?  He's MY kind of banker.

Even the big commercial banks have their uses.  Without adequate financial resources, the U.S.A. couldn't maintain its totally kick-ass, nuclear missile-loaded armed forces, which makes it suicide for a respectable country to attack us --in fact, the only successful attackers as of late were suicide-minded asshole hijackers.  Without the dough-re-mi, there wouldn't have been a man on the moon or a robot leaving the solar system.  Money, and lots of it, is needed for everything from our road infrastructure to our gas, electric and sewer networks.  Money is being used to turn nuclear energy into electricity (and toxic waste.  Don't forget the toxic waste), wind into electricity, falling water into electricity, coal into electricity, natural gas and oil into electricity so that the whole world can watch commercials on their flat-screen T.V.'s.  For banks.  Starring has-been celebs.

They pay us tons to do their commercials,
which keeps us famous.  Win-Win.
So my friendly reader, give-it-up for banks.  Maybe Jefferson was wrong when he called large concentrations of capital inherently inconsistent with individual liberty.  Maybe, just maybe, Adam Smith's Invisible Hand is doing much more than just giving us an Invisible Hand-job.  Maybe money IS good for people.  But have you ever noticed that the people who lust after money the most are the poor? --rich people treat it like a burden that needs to be locked up.  In a bank.  Where only they can fondle it.  Wow, what would Freud say about the psychosis behind today's banking industry?

Sometimes it really IS a
dick up your ass.  What?

1 comment:

  1. Loved this!! (like a few of your tags too ;-) )

    In this area, we have a chapter of the Life Currency Coop Exchange . It's pretty cool and is an exchange of goods and services. I've even seen that local people such as therapists will take so many life exchange credits for payment, instead of dollars.