Loretta Lynch and the Department of Justice just have their tinfoil hats on a little too tight, I guess. Or could it be that yes, there really was a conspiracy? The Attorney General used that word multiple times in her press conference:
They finally got the banks to admit that they’re criminals and that they really do rig markets (“Rigging of Foreign Exchange Market Makes Felons of Top Banks,” New York Times, 5/20/2015):
“On Wednesday, four large global banks — Citigroup, JPMorgan Chase, Barclays and Royal Bank of Scotland — pleaded guilty to a series of federal crimes over a scheme to manipulate the value of the world’s currencies. The Justice Department accused the banks of collusion in one of the largest and yet least regulated markets, noting that at one bank one trader remarked ‘the less competition the better.’
That lack of oversight, coupled with the pressure to squeeze profits from a relatively middling business, set the stage for this scandal, one that unfolded nearly every day for five years. The crimes described on Wednesday also painted the portrait of something more systemic: a Wall Street culture that enabled many big banks to break the law even after years of regulatory black marks after the crisis.
‘If you aint cheating, you aint trying,’ one trader at Barclays wrote in an online chat room where prosecutors say the price-fixing scheme was hatched.”
Did this affect you and me personally, here in the U.S.? One might wonder because the nature of the banks’ crime is often described in such vaguely non-aspersion-casting terms as “illegally distorting foreign exchange markets.” That certainly is one way—albeit the least damning as well as the least interesting—to describe what happened.
But yes, it did affect you and me personally, here in the U.S. In short, we were robbed—the banks robbed us. Here’s how the Attorney General put it:
“For more than five years, traders in ‘The Cartel’ used a private electronic chatroom to manipulate the spot market’s exchange rate between euros and dollars using coded language to conceal their collusion. They acted as partners – rather than competitors – in an effort to push the exchange rate in directions favorable to their banks but detrimental to many others. The prices the market sets for those currencies influence virtually every sector of every economy in the world, and their actions inflated the banks’ profits while harming countless consumers, investors and institutions around the globe – from pension funds to major corporations, and including the banks’ own customers – who placed their faith in the market and relied on it to produce a competitive exchange rate.”
So how did they rob us, exactly? By rigging the price of currencies, including the dollar, resulting in you and me paying more for goods and services than we would have had to pay in the absence of such rigging. In other words, the so-called “free market” that is supposed to set prices fairly does not exist. If the price of the currency itself is rigged, then the prices of the things that the currency is used to buy will necessarily be rigged.
Most of the stories I’ve seen on this topic focus more on the fact that these banks did something bad and got caught and that the government really is looking out for us. They tend not to focus on how what the banks did actually affected you and me. And quite frankly, if the government really were looking after us, why did they not use their supposedly awesome and all-pervading surveillance powers to root this out a long time ago? After all, this scheme was carried out using online chat rooms.
The real conspiracy
This is all well and good of course, as far as it goes. But the real conspiracy is that while we the people actually create our own currency, we are forced by law to treat it as though it was borrowed from a bank. This is of course so the banks and the governments owned by said banks can control us. It’s really quite nasty business and needs to be changed, but not by banning cash (as is now being suggested again and even more loudly than before) or by some other bank-driven, top-down, superficial tweak to the current system.
The simplest and best change is legal recognition of the fact that all currency is issued by people and not by banks, meaning that banks do not loan to people and that banks should therefore have no legal right to control people by limiting their access to funds or by stealing their physical assets because of supposed “default” on “repayment” of money that was created by the person, not “loaned” by a bank. The shorthand term I have used for this principle is “self-issued currency” and/or “the Air Standard”:
The solution to these problems, then, is self-issued currency. That is, every citizen in a fiat system ought to have the ability to issue his or her own money, up to any amount needed. This will solve both of the problems above, because when self-issued currency becomes the norm, paying money will be as easy and as painless and as much as an afterthought as saying “Thank you” is now. Problem one solved. And obviously problem two is solved because there would be no monopoly on the issuance of currency, hence no unnecessary control over anyone or anything, either by the state or by the issuer of the state’s currency.
For those that might recoil in horror at such an idea, keep in mind that all money is fictional. In fact, all money is already self-issued, as will be shown below. Money must be created by someone, somewhere, because money does not exist in nature–except to the extent that a natural item like gold or salt might be assigned the properties of money. Despite what the typical Western economics professor might say, money does not just naturally come into being as a consequence of people needing to exchange things. Indeed, as Bartolome de las Casas observed of the native Cubans in the 16th century:
“…[the natives] put no value on gold and other precious things. They lack all manner of commerce, neither buying nor selling, and rely exclusively on their natural environment for maintenance. They are extremely generous with their possessions and by the same token covet the possessions of their friends and expect the same degree of liberality.”
That is to say, money is a creation of man, and as such, it should serve man, not enslave him. Can it be that the “uneducated,” “pagan,” and “savage” natives of Cuba from centuries ago were more civilized and wiser about economics than we are today? It certainly would seem so.
The sheer volume of boot-pissing detailed in the article is depressing and exhausting. Sample just the headings of the sections, all with numerous links to drive the points home:
“Currency Markets Are Rigged
Gold and Silver Are Manipulated
Derivatives Are Manipulated
Interest Rates Are Manipulated
Energy Prices Manipulated
Oil Prices Are Manipulated
Commodities Are Manipulated
Everything Can Be Manipulated Through High-Frequency Trading”
The beautiful thing is that in a self-issued currency system, there would be no point in rigging prices because everyone would have the exact same access to the currency. So whether the price of something is $1 or $1 billion it doesn’t matter, because anyone–from a kindergartner to an oil tycoon–could pay it.