Archive for April 6th, 2010

Final Solution For Banks.

April 6, 2010



(Warning: some sections in the middle are mathematically complex, and readers ought to jump over them in a first reading.)


Abstract: Many argue that Too-Big-To-Fail banks caused the financial crisis of 2008-2009. However the crisis had mostly to do with leverage in a shadowy private universe. For centuries, starting in the Middle Ages, financial leverage was the main weapon of aggressive states, republics with a big appetites expanding fiercely with, within, and against, the largest empires. Leverage was about states. It was never big enough, and it never failed. In particular it financed the Italian republics (Venice, Genoa, Florence, Milan, etc.), expanding successfully their might and economy.

What went wrong recently was that basic public safeguards of state finance were privatized. Putting greed on the throne, while forgetting law and order, does not keep leverage sustainable.

Creating money historically was, and ought to stay, a regalian privilege. Giving that regalian privilege to the few, the unelected, the unsupervised, the evanescent, the bankers, with their invisible hands, is not just plutocracy, it’s a kleptocratic anarchy. This very recent development, should it be allowed to persist, will crash civilization.

I propose a drastic remedy, namely the re-establishment of democracy’s reach in leveraged finance.

Kleptocracy is what we have: the five top guys at Lehman Brothers retired with 2.5 billion US dollars. Their business went down, nearly bringing the entire world financial system with it, among other reasons, because it was entangled with the US government bonds’ market.

That private-public thievery system was made possible by getting money from a plutocratic outfit masquerading as part of the US government, the Federal Reserve (truly an emanation from private banks). More similar secret arrangements have been revealed in 2010, between the Fed and the largest private financial oligopolies (AIG, Goldman, etc.) This problem of secretly supporting some private outfits with public money, is not confined to the USA.

The entire philosophy of the financial system is wrong.

Confronted to this civilization threatening situation, Barack Obama decided to do what he was told was the bare minimum course: write a blank check to Wall Street, trust in the genius and common sense of his fat cat banker "friends". Obama was misled: the banks which were helped with trillions of US dollars of direct, and indirect, US tax money, ought to have been nationalized. Be it only for fairness’ sake: if you pay for it, you own it. The people paid for the banks, so the People ought to own the banks.

But there was an even more important reason for nationalization: changing the managements of the banks, and their entire investment policy, which is centered on Shadow Banking (as it is called!) and derivatives, and which deprives the economy of capital, by diverting it to the Shadow.

It is hard to blame Obama for not seeing all of this: he had been focused on his health care Machiavellian plan, for years. And nobody foresaw the financial hurricane coming. Why? Because the banks lied on a cosmic scale. Moreover, nobody was remotely conceptually ready to handle the incompetence and organized crime aspect of what finance had become. Even Marx would have been out of his depth (the problem existed in his time, in inchoating form, and he did not really see it). Genuine philosophical perspectives are involved in the kleptocratic mess that finance has become. This essay tries to fill some of them in.

For accidental historical reasons, debt, private oligarchies and government, became entangled during the European Middle Ages.

The smaller European powers, the republics, became highly successful by financially leveraging themselves, with the help of private individual networks. This worked splendidly against Spain, or against and with France, or to leverage Britain, or France, and other European powers into world empires.

But these wars are over now. It is time to rein in the dogs of war, the bankers. We don’t need these mercenaries anymore. Now that Mr. Obama has allowed the health plutocrats to swallow his health plan, hook, line, sinker, and soon, the boat itself, he will be able to concentrate on the financial plutocrats, and how to conceptually hammer them when the next crisis come. Because that next crisis will certainly happen. Verily, looked at it the right way, the crisis is already here: the way it goes, many economic indicators will look worse, over a 15 year period, than they ever did on any 15 year period around the Great Depression. The fundamental cause of this is exposed below.



Socrates thought competence was not guaranteed by elections. Bankers think neither competence, nor elections are needed.

The banking problem gets very complicated, when we try to tinker with it, working inside the existing plutocratic labyrinth. But it’s actually very simple, when we look at it with civilizational class, from a millennial perspective.

We ought to act like Alexander, and cut the Gordian knot. This does not mean the end of capitalism, or free markets, quite the opposite: both have been captured, together with the political system, by private banks, making Mafiosi look like dilettantes.

In his times, Socrates insisted that it was not enough to be elected democratically to be able to serve the democracy adequately. When one’s shoes are ruined, one goes to a shoemaker, a professional long trained in this skill, Socrates observed. One does not get elected shoemaker, one trains for the job.

Socrates extended that criticism to other positions one could get elected to in Athens, such as general, or judge. He, rightly, considered that the elective approach to important positions made the democracy incompetent.

The solution to Socrates’ critique was found in the Middle Ages, as an extension of, and inspiration from, the very efficient Roman administration at the apex of the Greco-Roman empire (which everybody still had in mind, in the Middle Ages; the Merovingian and Carolingian Frankish governments, after 486 CE, saw themselves as Roman governments, and they used elaborated Latin language and Roman concepts, and that of public institution was central).

Europeans in the high Middle Ages learned to build institutions, which were democratic, and based on merit, inside, while delivering competence, outside. To some extent, after centuries of heavy meddling by the Franks, and before its take-over by the plutocrats, and theocratic fanatics, the Catholic Church (monasteries and cathedrals) was such an institution. In turn, it gave rise to the nascent universities, while the guilds grew with the cities (which were independent of local potentates).



OK, so Socrates’ big problem with democracy got solved. in the Middle Ages. So how come we have now private, unelected, completely incompetent individuals, the bankers, who overlord above the world’s financial and economic system? How did we get there, down below, at their feet?

For millennia, a state was first an army, and, second, the controller of a currency. The state was many other things, true, but those things were not besides, but below, these prior two. (The state of law appeared 37 centuries ago, at one of the apexes of the Babylonian empire, which means millennia after the organization of powerful states, characterized with army, and currency.)

Long distance trade has been central to human evolution for several dozen thousands years (we have the archeological proofs in Australia, thanks to its dry climate), and probably much more than that. A means of exchange was necessary to motivate people to transport irreplaceable goods over gigantic distances. Thus currencies appeared early.

OK, the gigantic Inca empire did not have a traditional currency, and instead traded in energy credits, directly.

The Incas used a direct "barter" of goods against work, and reciprocally. Thus it would appear that they had no currency. However, it is the exact opposite: the Inca state used the very essence of a currency, namely the energy based system for currency (I personally advocate it as the ground for valuation of everything).

The powerful Inca state did not need bankers, but instead let the economy be guided by the value of work, and, one may even speculate, by the value of goods according to how much work was needed to provide them. Energy as currency is beyond the purpose of this essay, so I will leave the advanced Incas behind, and proceed with my broadside against so called modern banking (which is actually back to primitive chieftain mentality). But let the bankers impale themselves volubly on their own hubris:



Says Mayer Amschel Rothschild, founder of that plutocratic family: "Give me control of a nation’s money and I care not who makes the laws." Says Baron Nathan Mayer Rothschild: "I care not what puppet is placed on the throne of England to rule the Empire, …The man that controls Britain’s money supply controls the British Empire. And I control the money supply."

Where does this plutocratic arrogance come from? In the Imperium Francorum, the empire of the Franks, also known as "The West", private individuals who created their own money, without the authorization of the government, were, according to the law, slowly boiled in a variety of fluids, after being confined, alive, in special cages made just for this purpose. Not just great entertainment, Middle Age style, but also an efficient way to insure that arrivistes kleptocrats did not threaten the established order.

The reason for this ferocity was that the Frankish states used Fiat Money: the face value, also known as the nominal value, of the coins was much greater than the value the coins’ material was made of. Such a system worked reasonably well under Rome, and extremely well in the Imperium Francorum, after the boilers were activated.

One of the advantage of conquering Europe was that the Franks got silver from mines in Eastern Europe. Deep silver mines, with pumps and slaves, had perhaps been Athens’ main economic prop. Thirteen centuries later, silver mines helped the much more powerful empire of the Franks. Having silver allowed to create a lot of money in Europe, and thus, a lot of trade. (About at the same time, paper money was introduced in part of China; but tradable promissory notes, in clay, existed since Babylon, 25 centuries earlier.)

An empire needs enough money to optimize trade. Too much money, though, and nobody works, or, rather, too many people work inefficiently, if at all. This happened to the Spanish empire after it brought back from the Americas huge quantities of gold and silver. Thus Spaniards got plenty of goods from the rest of Europe, in exchange for all this gold and silver… and progressively lost the ability to make goods themselves (having thrown Muslims and Jews out, and the fascist Inquisition in, also lowered the civilizational level considerably, making Spain into a mental retard).



Another civilization which went astray, although it looked splendid for centuries, for the very reason that made it astray, was Britain.

Britain had been at war with its alter ego, France, for somber succession reasons. After being confined in England, the English monarchy with a population and resources which were tiny in comparison to France, had to leverage itself financially.

So Britain used money changers, and first of all, German Jews, the Rothschild. This allowed it to build a great fleet, and pay various German warriors, as England fought France, by all means, fair and foul.

(The war with France was an extremely complex war, 5 centuries long. An example relevant to the financial context here: Louis XIV, asked by the king of England to save his throne, and send his army over, refused, arguing that it was an English internal affair. But those Dutch he had refused to attack, having conquered England, attacked France nevertheless, using Dutch style financial leveraging to pay for the war. Then they persuaded others, such as the Duke of Savoy, to attack France too… And it was then, circa 1694, that the Bank of England was created, showing the mighty connection between war and finance… The French were a bit slow to understand, and founded the Banque de France only in 1800…This war caused enormous destructions and deaths in the Alps and Northern Italy, among other parts.)



Money changers, starting in the Middle Ages, received people’s valuables, such as gold, and gave "promissory notes’ in return. People learned to trade the promissory notes, and money changers learned to give more notes than they had reserves for.

The fractional reserve system was born thus, with the complicity of thoroughly broke, war making governments such as the one of King Francois Premier. Francois’ eternal adversary born a few miles away, Emperor of Spain and the Holy Roman empire, his fellow Francois speaking Charles Quint, was using German bankers, and Francois I, used the Medicis, as bankers.



After helping considerably the rise of the "Anglo-Saxons" in the last 300 years, PRIVATE fractional reserve banking has become the backbone of "Anglo-Saxon" like capitalism.

But it rose as comparative advantage to France and other European competitors. Thus there is nothing intrinsically "Anglo-Saxon" about it. For a while, powerful private fractional reserve was kicked out of the USA, or let’s say strongly attenuated by USA presidents such as Madison and Jackson, who detested bankers in general, and the Rothschilds in particular. Twice, the Bank of the United States bit the dust, pushed by the presidents into it. Instead they replaced it by the same, but made of much smaller banks. So trying to solve bankers’ powers by making them small enough to fail, has been tried before, and, it failed. Big time.

The rise of enormously powerful private fractional reserve was consecutive to Reagan’s, Clinton’s, and Bush’s reigns, with the powerful plutocratic influence of Larry Summers, who advised the first two, before returning in his glory with Obama, a real life Jesus of derivatives, and leveraged finance, on his third coming.

Enormous leverage insured for a while an apparent prosperity in the USA, so the private fractional reserve system was welcomed everywhere, and this plutocracy generating mechanism was viewed as the best government for the planet.

For example, American plutocrats advised president Yeltsin to constitute a plutocracy in Russia, ASAP. The richest billionaires in Russia came from that period, they were typically young communist knowing a bit of finance, and given national banks to manage privately, with the full backing of the state (this became again the 2008-2009 "solution" to the problem, in the USA and other parts).

Thus the private fractional reserve, and its generated plutocracy generalized to the entire planet. It has become hubristic, and here we are. It was made more complicated by the rise of derivatives, and, more generally Shadow Banking. These allow the plutocrats to arrange with each other fake profits, and then reward themselves for their considerable "talents". Meanwhile, the real economy is starved of capital.

Marx used to complain about capitalists exploiting the workers, but now we have banks having confiscated capital from (what Marx called) the capitalists themselves, and exploiting everybody.

What’s the way out? Well the confiscation of the world financial system by an oligarchy, namely plutocracy, is a metastatic cancer, it needs a drastic treatment.



"Derivatives" are related to interesting subjects such as insurance, risk management, probabilities.

As with many things, the subject started with Rome. Rome was by far the world’s largest city that ever had been, at the time. More than a million inhabitants. The survival of Rome, and the largest cities of the Greco-Roman empire, depended upon an extensive trade system. Wheat and other foods were produced in distant places, and then brought swiftly to the giant cities by boat, thanks to the "Mare Nostrum". (This worldwide unique possibility for fast and major trade is why and how the Mediterranean sea, and the extensive fluvial networks flowing into it, gave birth to the most advanced civilization, and why civilization concentrated on Egypt, Sumer, Babylon, Tyr, Crete, Greece, the Etruscans, before reaching the Roman peasants, and why the Greco-Roman empire united later all these places in a coherent whole, before the fasco-theocratic degeneracy overwhelmed it.)

It was tempting to make as sure as possible that the grain would come in. So Romans invented Forward Contracts. Those insured that so much grain at such and such a price would get in, in a timely manner. This was not new: earlier forward contracts are on clay tablets from Babylon, in the second millennium BCE.

Roman law, though, assimilated forward contracting to betting.

Fast forward to the European Middle Ages. Republics sprouted all over Europe. The republics rose from cities, which were independent of the aristocratic hierarchy set-up under the Carolingians; one precedent for such an independence of cities was the powerful Venetian republic, which Charlemagne protected, but otherwise left alone… instead of seizing its enormous fleet, which would have been very convenient for the Carolingians, which had none.

Republics, rising from these rich cities, were juicy targets, so they had to be defended, so they needed a lot of money, and they got it by becoming, in part, money center banks. From Antwerp to Florence, financial innovation flourished. It was successful, in part because the rest of Europe, aristocratic Europe, did not have it, so was a natural, wealthy clientele… for the republics’ financial sector.

Republican finance was promoted by the republican STATES, first of all. The republics used bonds, again and again, to finance their wars (The republics could exist only because of these wars; for example, the Venetian fleet depended upon naval construction, which depended in turn upon strong oak for the limbs of vessels, coming from protected forests far away, in various mountain ranges.)

The republic in the Northern Netherlands was at war with Spain, which depended upon Antwerp financial engineering.

The Dutch started a full-fledged derivative market in some shares.



The author has a background in mathematics, and is perfectly able to make its own, even in financial mathematics. So what is a "derivative"?

In pure mathematics, the derivative of a function is a function made from the values of the slopes of the tangent to said function. It all generalizes to higher dimensions and fancier settings.

The informal sense of derivative, used in common language, is much more general, though, and it is readily definable with mathematical precision. So, in that sense, the traditional meaning of "derivative" in mathematics is too restrictive, and therefore unfortunate: one should have stuck with "tangent" (which is a better description of the computation made to obtain it).

I will try to make the meaning of "derivative" precise mathematically, in the sense general enough to cover derivatives in finance. Let me define a derivative of a function f, in finance, to be any function g one can get from f. So: g = h(f), where h is some operator. (The so called "first derivative" in the usual mathematical sense, which I prefer to call the "tangent", is the most obvious example; the differentiation operator, d, is such an h.)

In general, some information contained in f will be lost.

The financial idea was to insure against noxious fluctuations of f by taking positions in a (financial) derivative of f.

"Taking positions" means trading: buying, selling, borrowing, etc. This is what traders started to do in the Netherlands in the 17 C: they traded derivatives of stock values.

An example of derivatives was forward contracts. When traded those are called "futures". Then one can introduce a further level of abstraction by introducing options, which are the right to buy (or sell) some traded "security" if some conditions are met ("security" = function, as used in normal math).

It all became very confusing, and this led Penso de la Vega to write a best seller, "Confusion des Confusiones" (1688). This confusion of confusions is now supposed to be the beating heart of the world’s financial system. Dumber than that, you die.



But why to use derivatives? Well, first, the bankers set them up, and thus understood them better, allowing them to fleece more easily their naïve clientele. The clientele had no choice, because, if they wanted to use bankers, that was the way it was.

Secondly, mathematically, let’s go back to the simplest example of derivative, differentiation. When a function f varies a lot, its differentiated function (that tangent as I call it above) varies less. Reciprocally, a small variation of the differentiated function leads to much larger variation of the function itself. In other words, differentiation offers a huge natural leverage. This sort of leverage is how derivatives offer insurance.

Verily, one wants to insure against a nasty fluctuation of f, so one buys a much smaller amount of the derivative of f; if f varies a lot, the derivative of f will vary, much less.



The danger is that, if one buys and trades too much derivatives, they will fluctuate all over the place, as markets tend to do. But, because a small variation of the derivative of a security corresponds to a huge variation of the security itself, varying the former significantly, one will guess, corresponds to enormous variations of the later.

When the value of crude oil rocketed towards $150 per barrel, there was a controversy about whether the futures (of oil) dragged the value of oil itself with them. Nobel laureate Krugman claimed he did not see the relationship. But it exists. In two ways. First, the futures indicate what the price will be, so, if the price of the future of f goes up, people who trade f will expect f to go up, so they will hold back, making f go up more (from "less offer, same demand, higher price").

Secondly, and more importantly, suppose someone wants to invest in the "oil sector". They have the choice between three possibilities: investing in oil itself, investing in oil companies, and, finally, investing in oil derivatives.

Suppose they invest in the later. Per the nature of derivatives, they get huge leverage, so little money gives a big effect. So it is much easier to drag up the price of oil in this indirect manner, and amplify other investments they made (if any) in the sector. The devil is in the details, so, I will advocate, to cut the devil out, take the details out first, especially those hidden in the Shadow.

To make matters worse, that money they invest in the derivatives is as much money that will not be invested durably in the real economy (namely, oil companies, and oil itself). Instead it is fast, Brownian motion money, supposed to work like Maxwell’s demon.



Most of an influential bank’s balance sheet (like 97%) is made of ‘SHADOW BANKING". That is what has to be brought in the light, and then eradicated.

Indeed, what do big banks officially do? Shelter deposits, and invest in the real economy. But what do really influential banks really do, in the West? Mostly? Well, they invest, but not in the real economy. Instead, they invest in Shadow Banking.

Leverage in Shadow Banking through derivatives such as Credit Default Swaps transformed a housing correction, into the instantaneous annihilation of perhaps dozens of trillions of dollars, worldwide, dwarfing world GDP.

Why? Let’s consider an example. JP Morgan, led by (officially named thus) "co-conspirator" Jamie Dimon, has an 80 trillion dollars derivatives portfolio. His colleagues from big, influential banks were, and are, in similar positions.

These positions in the derivative universe dwarf completely the big influential banks’ real world investments. For example Citigroup claimed to have assets of 1.7 trillion dollars, or so, throughout the 2007-2009 crisis. This was part of Citigroup’s official balance sheet, in the real world. So why did Citigroup fail?

Because most of the balance sheet of Citigroup was in derivatives, and it was so by roughly two orders of magnitude, namely about 100 times more. But big influential banks use big, influential semantics made to hide their real situations, words such as off balance inventory, shadow banking, notional valuations, etc. When it is convenient to them, they incorporate these investments in describing themselves, and, when it’s not convenient, they don’t.

Big, influential banks have mostly investments in a shadow universe, which are leveraged onto the real world. They are made to allow the banks to claim great profits in the netherworld (thus justifying real bonuses, in the real world).

Hence banks, in the present system, are allowed to divert immense capital, most of existing world capital, to the netherworld (they will say, it ain’t real, except when bonus time, and the time to claim profits, come around). Thus, they starve the real economy. The netherworld investments dwarf the real world investment by a factor of ten (roughly: it’s all so secretive, we don’t know the exact quotient).

As I said before, part of the way out is just to remove the ability of private banks to use leverage insured by the State. Instead, let them just eat what they kill, without the regalian privilege of State insured leverage, and without the regalian privilege of using government money as seed capital.

Regalian leverage, and regalian capital, should be used only by the rex, the king, namely, the State. Render to Caesar what belongs to Caesar, as the other one supposedly said.



Money creation is regalian, give it back to the ultimate authority, the State.

We need a monetary authority that is focused on the best policies for our planetary economy. This cannot be a central bank such as the US Federal Reserve: this one is infeodated to the private banks, in the mental state where they think they are the kings. Federal Reserve independence means mostly INDEPENDENCE FROM DEMOCRACY (enormous secret support from the Fed to the very bad actors was revealed recently, as I said above).

Other central banks are differently constructed: the ECB is different from the Fed.

Thus solution to private banking as rulers of the world, the way we have it today: all private banks should have zero leverage, and they would be able to invest their deposits, nothing more.

The national banks would be the only one allowed to use leverage, and thus create money, through debt. Bankers would be civil servants, but investment directors, and their helpers, would get bonuses, according to the long term profitability of the projects they invest in. No more giving money to friends, politicians, and themselves.

Only derivatives with a direct commercial interest, would be preserved. Others, and all Shadow Banking, would be unlawful. National investment directors would be allowed to invest in lawful derivatives, with smaller leverage than the commercial operators themselves.


Time to cut through the plutocracy, and cut all the heads of this hydra at once. We, People of the earth, technological and scientific progress, the cause of peace and sustainability, we all need a lot of capital. That capital is in the Shadow Banking universe, let’s go get it! We need it, they don’t!

Patrice Ayme