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|From: Church & State: Editorials|
|Date: January, 2011|
The Usury Crisis
|The financial crisis threatening to engulf Europe is a usury crisis. Usury is the making of money out of money at several removes from the production of things. An element of usury has always been present in capitalist economy, but it is only in the last twenty or thirty years that it became the controlling element of capitalism as a world system.
Shortly before the usury crisis struck us, the Politics Professor at the National University, Tom Garvin, wrote a very popular book called Preventing The Future. He said that De Valera and the Catholic Church had cheated us out of the future we ought to have had, a future of all-out capitalism. Well, we achieved that future just in time to experience its inevitable crisis, which might be described as the second general usury crisis. The first was 80 years ago.
An Irish Times opinion columnist now offers the thought that nationalist Ireland has been overwhelmed by this crisis because it is Catholic and that Protestantism might have saved it:
"The Irish people who know how to run banks are on the wrong side of the Border… Just 100 miles away, in Belfast, sits a whole culture of caution and conformity and conservative rectitude… Is it not possible that the whole economic meltdown which the Republic has brought upon itself is a direct result of partition. The late Charles Haughey once said that Northern Ireland was a failed political entity—which was true but offensive. Our neighbours in the North have kindly refrained in recent months from making similar, and similarly justified remarks. But the fact is that we need Presbyterians, and we need them now…
Old stereotypes die hard: The Presbyterians are attached to the half-crown rather than the Crown, so why don't we let them run after our half-crowns for us?
There is a passing mention of the "Presbyterian Mutual Society". If the stereotype was sound, there should be no sounder financial body on earth than the Presbyterian Mutual. Unfortunately, the Presbyterian Mutual went in for the good-time culture big time, and the feckless Fenian, Martin McGuinness, is doing his best to save something from the wreckage for these Calvinists.
The Ascendancy Protestantism of the South never had any understanding of, or sympathy with, the vigorous popular Protestantism of the North, so it would be unreasonable to expect Catholic proteges of the Irish Times to have much understanding of them.
Northern Ireland is a failed political entity. Is that a truth which should not be uttered, lest it give offence?
Northern Ireland is a political entity that should never have been set up. It is a pseudo-state within the British state, cut off from the political life of the British state. Its function was to maintain British leverage on 26 County affairs. If there had to be Partition, and if good government of the Six Counties was the object, there would have been simple Partition without a 'Northern Ireland state'.
It's now a bit late to sentimentalise about the Presbyterian middle class. It has been undermined by the vigorous Catholic economic development that accompanied the war—as economic development often does. A generation ago we campaigned against the Fair Employment chicanery directed against the Protestant middle class in the North. The Irish Times maintained a determined silence. And we retrieved elements of Presbyterian culture that we thought should not be lost. The Irish Times preferred the stereotypes.
We did not know about the views of George V revealed here. We wonder what he could have meant by 'corruption'. The City of London, an engine of British prosperity, was strictly corrupt. Its affairs were efficiently controlled by informal relations by financial oligarchs.
And the more capitalism progresses from competition between a multitude of independent producers who use banks as a place to keep real money in, and the use of bank notes as a convenient means of taking money from place to place, towards global competition between multi-national enterprises, the less tangible money becomes, and the more it is distanced from the visible activity of producing actual goods, and the more need there is for competent cronyism.
The opportunity for making money out of money, at many removes from the physical production process, increases—and the financial devices by which this is done get more esoteric every year. And access to this kind of money-making is made easier year by year, until any individual with a computer can engage in it directly, by-passing the stockbroker. The money-market becomes wild. But, within this wild money-market, the importance of informal groupings increases.
A Secretive Banking Elite Rules Trading In Derivatives was a headline in the New York Times on December 11th. Crony capitalism rules, OK! And it would be a poor show if it didn't: if there was total individualist competition of each against all on a world scale. But that seems to be the ideal of capitalism postulated by Irish Times opinion-formers for the purpose of condemning as corruption any forms of collective activity in the market on the part of the new native capitalism that has been emerging in recent decades and displacing the old Anglo-Irish elite. We do not recall that the Anglo-Irish economic elite was ever mentioned, let alone subjected to such criticism.
Whether there is a special relationship between Protestantism and money-making is a question that has long been mulled over without any definite conclusion being reached. The predominant view has been that there is. And certainly the fundamentalist Protestant view, in the great religious war between free-ranging Biblicalism and Anglican elitism in mid-17th century England, was that commercial profit was a sign of grace. And the great money-making centres in Europe are on the sites of fundamentalist Protestant developments—Geneva, Zurich, Holland. And the City of London was at the heart of the English fundamentalist upsurge connected with Cromwell.
Jonathan Swift was a Tory Jacobite. He wrote a pamphlet which is credited with cutting short England's first Great War in the early 18th century. His opposition to the war was on the ground that it was being financed by National Debt, and that the increase in National Debt was bringing about a situation in which money would be the only value. Half a century later Edmund Burke had a similar view. Swift and Burke, English pamphleteers, have in recent decades been hailed as Irish, but those who hailed them took little heed of what they said.
The ideals of Swift and Burke were unrealisable in England. Their magnificent statements were only protests against a course of events that had become inevitable in England. But that ideal came close to realisation in Christian Democratic Germany after 1945. Christian Democracy was inspired by Papal Encyclicals but was not exclusively Catholic. German Protestantism, in recoil from its love affair with Nazism, was happy to find refuge in it, and the main body of Protestants was separated off in East Germany. The Papal injunction against usury was put into effect by binding the banks into local industrial developments. By that means the making of money out of money was curtailed.
This restriction on money manipulation was ended when Christian Democracy was undermined by spurious corruption scandals after the end of the Cold War, when Anglo-American capital demanded free access to every corner of the world. German Social Democracy, always subject to British influence, set about breaking up the local banking-industrial arrangements. Then the European Court under British influence destabilised the banking arrangements of the socialised banking sector, declaring them to be illegal obstacles to globalist competition. Angela Merkel, a half-baked Christian Democrat from the Former East, has continued the work.
The German banks, prevented from doing what they did well, were forced onto the international money markets and helped to bring about the financial crisis.
If there is a religious element to the crisis, as the Irish Times columnist declares, it is not quite as she suggests. It is the destruction of Catholic curbs on usury by Protestant free market globalist imperialism.
But it should be noted that this is primarily an Anglo-American phenomenon. The Swiss, for example, who undertook long ago to be the shepherds of money, maintain tight communal curbs on their own lives, by which the devaluing of all other values by money as "universal equivalent" is held in check.
Ireland, bedevilled by the ghosts of Anglo-Ireland, has been singularly open, innocent, naive, unprotected, and malleable by outside forces.