Off the keyboard of RE
Published originally on the Doomstead Diner
Discuss this article at the Epicurean Delights Table inside the Diner
My good friend and Cross Posting Blogger here on the Diner Steve from Virginia published an article this week called Watch the Banks…. on his Blog Economic Undertow. It’s one of Steve’s trademarks to title many posts with three Periods after them….LOL. I cross posted the article here on the Diner yesterday. It touches on many themes explored here on the Diner with respect to the Creation of Money, and how Biznesses function in this economy, both Large & Small.
Indeed, watching the Banks is the KEY element in following the progress of the collapse. The “System of the World” as Neal Stephenson put it, the Monetary system we all depend on is run by a few Large Banking Houses, JP Morgan Chase, Bank of America, Goldman Sachs et al, and the Central Banks they control like the ECB, the BoJ, the BoE, the PBoC and of course Da Fed as well. All coordinated through the Bank for International Settlements Headquartered in Basel, Switzerland. The BEST way to follow the Collapse in Progress is to watch the machinations and currency manipulations being undertaken to keep this very large and complex stucture floating another day.
One of the Key Points Steve touches on in his article relates to the primacy of “Small Bizness” as an Economic Driver, in a sense making the postulate that Small Biz preceeds Big Biz in the development of an Economy. Does it REALLY though? As I see it, perhaps in the Dawn of History for Homo Sapiens Small Biz preceeded Big Biz, but since the development of large scale Agiculture around 8000 years ago, the opposite has been true, and the main economic drivers for this period were the large scale generally Slave Driven Ag enterprises and the War Machine they support and which supports it in a synergistic relationship.
Steve and I have already gone a few rounds in debating how this economy develops on Economic Undertow, I will include these posts as a preface to better grasp the global issues.
I don’t think any “small bizness” earns any “organic returns”, at least not while all biznesses operate under a failing currency structure.
Small Biz is essentially Parasitical off of Big Biz. If Big Biz borrows Capital to put up say a GM Auto Plant in Janesville, Doctors, Dentists, Property Sellers, Retailers and Restaraunters all open up small biz that sieve off the central source of money.
When the Big Factory shuts down, all the Small Bizmen go Broke too, even if they took out no Loans to grow the Biz. Customers with MONEY are no longer in the neighborhood buying their goods or bidding up the price of housing. Just the monthly overhead of the Restaraunt makes them insolvent.
Without Large Public Works feeding money at great scale out into the economy, the ancillary small biz all goes broke too. I wrote about this on the Diner in the Large Public Works Project series.
For the recent Generation in the Age of Oil, the BIG LPWP was the Interstate, and then the Shopping Malls and McMansions that built up around the Ring Roads.
Without such LPWPs, there is no way to distribute out centrally created “money” which has any value. There is nothing for Small Biz to sieve off.
It is unlikely we will create any new LPWP to replace the one built courtesy of the thermodynamic energy of fossil fuels over the last 3 centuries or so. In the absence, Money on the Grand Scale of International Finance will irretrievably FAIL.
Whether any more Local forms of Money can be substituted remains an Open Question.
RE, there is a big information gap before industrialization.
The Middle Ages were as prosperous as Roman period and succeeding modern periods, not for all at all times but the same can be said of the present. Americans live better than Kenyans, Venetians lived better than Saxons in England after William arrived. What mattered most in Europe was tide of war.
Post-Constantine, the wealth of the Western Roman Empire was directed toward the church and away from government and the private sector: this was a big reason for the decline then collapse of the empire. The church made itself the beneficiary of all estates without heirs or issue, over centuries it absorbed vast amounts of property from extinct estates. It became property recorder and mediator of disputes great and small, which gained it fees. The Western Roman government became unable to compete with the church as a business enterprise.
The militaristic Franks eventually absorbed and reorganzed Roman activities in Western Europe, trade was continuous from Asia to Spain, trade centers such as Genoa, Siena, Venice, Constantinople became rich.
The traders in the 8th century were wealthy and successful … as any number of ‘entrepreneurs’ today. They borrowed their fortunes and hived to costs onto their trading partners!
The Romans understood steam power but not plate glass or railroads. Franks understood printing but not moveable type or firearms. The Chinese understood rocketry but not airfoils. Information was hard to come by, in the West the church had a monopoly on education as well as on books. It took moveable type — and a series of bloody wars — to break the church’s information cartel.
The war periods inform the public imagination of European life, up until the rise of publicly available information in 15th century.
This is also when looted gold from the Western Hemisphere began to arrive on European shores by the shipload:
– It financed the renaissance,
– it triggered the largest, longest-duration bout of hyperinflation in history, over 100 years, over America, Europe and Asia,
– it financed the industrial revolution,
– it financed the rise of Netherlands and UK as naval powers to rival Spain,
– it also financed the 13 British colonies,
– it financed 2 centuries of religious wars in Europe which ended with the collapse of the papacy’s temporal power.
Spain ended up bankrupt, Portugal and Netherlands were severed from Spain, both France and Italy expelled entrenched foreign influences to become powerful nation-states, the Holy Roman Empire dissipated to reformulate itself over time as modern Germany … Ireland became a slave state of England, which itself endured a violent revolution and civil war to become a military power … the English civil war extended overseas to North America ending with the American Revolution, then a revolution against the French monarchy. Afterwards came Bonaparte. All of this and much more besides was paid for with Peruvian and Mexican gold (some Eastern European silver, too).
Between wars and recoveries there was a lot of room for enterprise. Both Europe, China and South Asia were wealthy, during the Middle Ages there was strong demand for consumer goods such as sumptuous clothing, carriages, villas and town houses, exotic foods, private botanical gardens and arboretums, paintings and sculpture, illuminated books, lavish public entertainments, theater productions, permanent installations such as public parks, fountains, bridges, stone-paved roads, elaborate structures such as enclosed markets and forums for public gatherings, gigantic cathedrals (filled in places with Roman articles), private galleys, teams of horses, livestock, etc. A common complaint was that people could not determine who was wealthy or a noble and who was not because the commoners wore the same or better clothing. All of these things were made by more or less small-scale craft level workshops, lots of them.
Any town would have stone-and brick masons, a quarry, a brick maker, a foundry, a tannery, a carpenter, a blacksmith, a tinker (make pots and pans), silver- and gold smiths, embroidery shops, tapestry weavers, yarn spinners, shoe-and boot makers, stable hands, street pavers, armorers, arborists, vintners and brewers, gardeners, window makers, musical instrument makers, cabinet makers, roofers, livestock tenders, butchers, barbers, etc. Regardless of ones’ station there was always something to do. Most did not have to toil incessantly, there were many holidays and feasts. The grim peasants in rags … Monty Python or Lord of the Rings.
Most towns in America or Europe do not have any of these things at all: we are dependent upon welfare and television … the poorest medieval town was more prosperous than any of our towns today!
Steve, you won’t get an argument from me that Medieval Towns were more self-sufficient than modern cities, of course they were. From an economic standpoint though, all those Craftsmen you revere so much STILL were parasites off the Big Biz of the era, which was mainly Ag and Warfare.
First off, the fact most goods and services were produced locally meant that commoners used little money at all, they bartered. If you needed the services of the local Quack to Bleed you due to contacting Plague, you paid him 2 chickens. If you Tanned nice skins, you traded them for a bushel of potatoes. etc.
The main way money got into the economy was from Soldiering and Plundering. The local Lord would conscript up promising to Pay in Silver, after they got back from stealing the silver from the next county over. Eventually of course they consolidated up to Kingships and incipient Nation-States of course, then went about ripping off Gold wholesale from the New World, leading to the inflationary period you spoke of. VERY Big Bizness there!
The other way money got distributed out was through the Holy Roman Catholic Chuch (the Mega-Corp of the Era) in the building of Cathedrals, the Large Public Works Projects of the era. This of course provided lots of work for Stone Masons, Carpenters, Stain Glass Window artists, etc. If your Community could get the HRCC to build a Cathedral in your nabe, it was a thriving little Metropolis. No Cathedral, you were a dirt poor backwater town.
As it further evolved, the Big Biz of Plundering via Tall Ships equipped with Cannon led to those next Massive Corps, the Brit and Dutch East India Companies. Said Big Biz of course provided tons of work for Shipwrights, Carpenters, Sail Makers, yadda yadda not to mention the guys forging the 20 pounder Cannon, which was NOT done in a small Blacksmith’s shop.
In the background of all of this of course were the Financiers, floating Stock Issues in Amsterdam and London, and in fact in 1692 when the BoE was chartered, they were pretty much Fresh Out of Gold, as the Spanish had nailed down the best Gold Theft locations and they got stuck with North America, which until the Railoads got built into the interior did not offer up much gold. They got their money for financing up their colonial adventures courtesy of Master of the Mint Sir Isaac Newton, and began to do well providing Letters of Marque to Pirates who would hit on the Spanish Cargo ships on the High Seas. Their Big Biz controlling the Sea Lanes with the Brit Navy brought in the money that all those local craftsmen used fo commerce.
In all cases going right back to Ancient Egypt and Mesopotamia, It was the Big Biz of Ag centrally controlled which got the Money going, and the Big Biz of Warfare which brought in the PMs to use for coinage. Large Public Works projects such as the Great Wall(s) of China, the Pyramids, Cathedrals et al were symbols of successful cultures running the Ag-War Economy. All the small craftsmen and small biz expanded to sieve off this economy. They don’t exist independent of it.
Various non-industrial employments in the 18th century:
A Treatise On Indigence: Exhibiting A General View Of The National Resources …
By Patrick Colquhoun
Professional soldiery was a tremendous burden to the state prior to Spanish gold which meant most militaries fielded militias, irregulars or mercenaries. Governments offered letters of marque to privateers to augment their navies.
Another list of medieval (pre-industrial) employments which saves me the effort of making one:
There was another list over on Guy McPherson’s web site but I can’t find it …
To the east of Bethnal Green (London) lies Globe Town, established from 1800 to provide for the expanding population of weavers around Bethnal Green attracted by improving prospects in silk weaving. The population of Bethnal Green trebled between 1801 and 1831, operating 20,000 looms in their own homes. By 1824, with restrictions on importation of French silks relaxed, up to half these looms became idle and prices were driven down. With many importing warehouses already established in the district, the abundance of cheap labor was turned to boot, furniture and clothing manufacture. Globe Town continued its expansion into the 1860s, long after the decline of the silk industry.
The 20,000 looms supported 20,000 households and employed at least that many along with suppliers to the trade, the makers of looms and the houses, the merchants and peddlers of silk goods. This was during periods when population in England was relatively small. Beside Bethnal Green there were other districts in London and in other cities and countries weaving all kinds of cloths … this took place over long periods of time … the citizens always require things to wear. The customers of a country’s goods were often overseas and there was a money trade in even the old Byzantine, Frankish and Roman issues. Before 1520 funds flowed from the East as the Venetians and other Italians traded with the Chinese, the Caliphates, the Turks and Mongols. Afterward the flow was from the West and there was no outbound trade: there was quickly too much money and nothing flowing out to balance it.
The customers of distributed production were pilfered by manufacturers with credit and steam-driven machines, ‘low prices’ and uniformity, the distributed producers working in their houses became little more than serfs.
“Professional soldiery was a tremendous burden to the state prior to Spanish gold which meant most militaries fielded militias, irregulars or mercenaries. Governments offered letters of marque to privateers to augment their navies. “-Steve
The great expense of the non-stop warfare in Europe didn’t prevent it from occurring and driving big bizness. It certainly bankrupted a few treasuries and indebted these Kings to the Banksters also.
The Medieval towns you talk about all grew up around Feudal Estates owned by the Nobility, the Pigmen of their time. Ag was the Energy Driver of this economy, and was Big Monopolized Bizness. War was the other Big Bizness, and there is a good reason those medieval castles had 5 foot thick stone walls around them with Moats, Drawbridges and Porticullises. The townees hadda run there every time some neighboring warlord needed to replenish the Treasury. They didn’t build those castles just for show.
“To the east of Bethnal Green (London) lies Globe Town, established from 1800 to provide for the expanding population of weavers around Bethnal Green attracted by improving prospects in silk weaving. The population of Bethnal Green trebled between 1801 and 1831, operating 20,000 looms in their own homes. ”
Steve,from 1803-1815 the Brits were fighting the Frogs in the Napoleonic Wars!! I’m sure the women were doing fine at home on the loom, but a whole lotta poor limeys were being Bayonetted in the French countryside.
If they weren’t conscripted to fight on French soil, they were being Press Ganged to serve as Gunners on the Frigates of Her Majesty’s Royal Navy, consisting mainly of Privateers aka Pirates, a VERY Big Bizness indeed.
Anyhow, I am all for distributed production over Industrial production, but said societies STILL were Central Control Ag-War societies, and the individual craftsmen sieved off of the surplus created by that society.
Anyhow, more tonight, I am just about done with a response article “Small Bizness in the Sea of Irredeemable Debt ” I’ll publish later tonight.
While just about everyone Loves to Hate Big Biz and Corporations, at least in the Heart of most Americans is a Reverance and Respect for the Small Bizman. The Plucky Guy who started with nothing, works for himself Independently and makes a Good Living, even if not getting Rich off of it.
There is the notion that the Small Bizman is the “Backbone of Amerika”, Small Bizmen “Built this Country” etc. Although this is a popular meme and one promulgated in the History Books and the MSM, and even on the pages of numerous Blogs, it is not the TRUTH by any stretch of the imagination.
In any country which runs a Centrally Controlled Monetary System, the plucky Small Bizman is just engaged in the process of trying to accumulate the Accepted Currency of the Nation-State. To Sell at a price higher than he buys at, to pay workers less than the total Value Added to the product so that there is some PROFIT to be made in the extant Currency, against which ALL things, both labor and resource are measured.
Where does this MONEY come from though? If you look at the Dollar for instance, prior to the end of the Revolutionay War separating the Colonies from Jolly Old England, there were ZERO Dollars in existence. War is finished, Founding Fathers get their OWN Printing Press, now Dollars EXIST!
In order to have REAL value of course, these Dollars have to Buy stuff in the real economy. The stuff is the products of the land, through farming, mining and logging to begin with. It gets more complicated as time goes by and more things are created, but even by itself this is enough to understand what goes on here in Money Creation. It is essentially coming from the total resources available to the Political Construct of the Nation-State that Rules over those resources. The Nation-State operates in Synergy with the Money Masters, Banking Houses established long ago which control all Trade and Valuation of any Currency a given Nation-State will create. This is done through Privatization of the Resource Base for any given country, as well as Privatization of the Industrial Infrastructure since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution.
The newly created dollars get valued against already extant currencies circulating in Europe, Brit “Sterling”, Frog Franks, Kraut Marks, whatever.
The main constraint any given country has in how much currency it can create depends on how the International market will value said currency. When just based on Resources it isn’t horrifically complicated, but once you factor in labor and trade of manufactured goods it gets VERY complicated.
Anyhow, what were only a few Dollars created in 1789 at the end of the Continental CONgress has morphed over the last 200+ years into TRILLIONS of them, and that is just what is listed on the Balance Sheet of Da Fed. Thing is, not JUST Da Fed can create new Dollars, anybody with a Big Enough Bank can do it too! They do it by creating Paper Contracts which have some Notional Worth attached, say a contract to pay off $1M if some company or Nation-State goes BK. These contacts are called Credit Default Swaps, or CDS. Said contract is now traded about as though it is worth $1M, or some fraction of that. It is more “Money” flowing around the notional economy of traders, though it never shows up in the real economy until somebody goes Belly Up, somebody ELSE has to Pay Off on that and then since they can’t because they don’t REALLY have enough to pay off it gets tacked onto the Taxpayer Balance Sheet. IOW, the way this shows up in the real economy in the end is as a LOSS, a BIG ONE.
To return here to our Friend & Hero the Small Bizman, the money this fellow is using to conduct Bizness is all subject to the grand pressures created in the International Money Markets. At any time if/when confidence is lost in a given currency, even the most Prudent Small Bizman can go OUTTA BIZ in an INSTANT.
Let’s take the example of our friends the Nipponese, who make their living converting Oil into Carz and Electronic Gadgets. Because the Demand is falling oveseas for their products, in order to remain “competitive” in the market the Nips want to Devalue their currency. Except if they do that, it will make the Oil Import necessary for production MORE expensive, so no matter how Efficient he is or How Low he can Go on Salaries or how many Robots he can substitute for Homo Sapiens Workers, he STILL will LOSE MONEY!
Every Small Bizman is going to be subject to the FACT that money on the Grand Scale is NOT being loaned out into the general economy. Why not? Because it no longer makes any SENSE for the folks in CONTROL of the resources to do so! The game NOW is to CUT OFF access to the resources, which occurs either by the currency not being distributed (deflation), or excessive currency being distributed (inflation). Either way, the Small Bizman is OUTTA BIZ.
The ONLY folks with access to the Money to keep on going here with this paradigm at the moment are those at the very TOP, closest to the Center of Money Creation. Since the Industrial Age began, this Center began in Venice under the Medici Banking Family, moved to Amsterdam and London, then to Wall Street and after that to Hong Kong, Singapore and Beijing. In the end of course, it will all collapse. The resources are no longer there to back it up. The debt cannot be collected anymore. It is IRREDEEMABLE Debt.
To try to simplify this, imagine the entire World Economy as the Big Island of Hawaii right after the first Catamaran rigged Sailing Canoe made it there from the Marquesa Islands around a Millenia Ago. The Island is the WHOLE ECONOMY, which the smart Navigator who piloted the Canoe claims as HIS OWN. The way he Distributes out HIS resources to everybody elso is to LOAN them Money to buy said resource. Which he does, with an Interest Charge attached of course, so that a percentage of the exploited resource he controls always flows back to him, keeping him (and his heirs) wealthy in perpetuity. The more of the resources that get exploited, the larger the population gets, the RICHER he gets!
He keeps floating out MORE credit endlessly so he can sell the resources of Hawaii to other Hawaiians and it works JUST GREAT until Hawaii is Chock FULL of People and FRESH OUT of resources. They have fished out the local waters and the Lagoons are stinking sewers filled up with Human Waste.
This of course did not occur in Hawaii because it was not a closed system, but something similar did occur on Rapa Nui (Easter Island), populated by the same extraordinary Polynesian Navigators who found the Big Island of Hawaii a good 500 years before Cook found it.
The entire Earth though IS a closed system, so no matter how much Credit you issue, if you no longer have resource to sell, the Credit is worthless. Creating more Dollars does not make more Cheap easy to pump up Oil available, and it doesn’t replenish the Ogalala aquifer either. When you are Out, you are OUT, nothing left to sell here.
In fact we are not COMPLETELY out of Oil or Water, but relative to the size of the population that ballooned up here through Rapid Exploitation of these resources, they are becoming scarce and so the Credit necessary to buy them is being Triaged off, most obviously in places like Greece and Spain, but really occuring everywhere now. It shows up here in the FSoA as 50M people on Food Stamps and an ever decreasing percentage of people participating in the Workforce, because just about ALL jobs are not productive of ANYTHING! You waste more energy getting to work each day in your SUV or even on the Subway than any “value” you add to the economy in ANY job in the Industrial Economy. All you do by participating in it is waste the energy of fossil fuels a bit faster.
In such an environment, the Small Bizman is the Individual Version of the Small Country like Greece. You get Triaged Off the Credit Bandwagon first here. You can’t make a profit, first because your customers ALSO are outta credit to buy your stuff; second because some TBTF Big Bizness still DOES have access to credit, so they can dump products on the market cheaper than it costs you the Small Bizman to make them and drive you outta biz! This of course has been the meme of Capitalism since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution at least, though it really does go back to the Dawn of Agriculture and Money.
At NO TIME in the last 8000 years or so has Small Biz been the Driver of Economics, only a Passenger in the Back Seat. The driver during the Ag Era was Big Ag utilizing Slave Labor and in the Industrial Era, Factories burning copious quantities of Fossil Fuels. Through BOTH eras, the Banksters controlling the flow of credit directed it in such a way to bring the maximum Benefits to themselves at the expense of everybody else, and Mother Earth as well.
Nothing lasts forever of course in a world of Finite Resources, and this paradigm is coming to a close. The only question remaining here is how long the Triaging of the Small Bizman and the Small Countries can go on before Billions of People with Nothing Left to Lose get very, VERY angry.