The gathering of the world’s economic elites in Davos, Switzerland is a reflection of the reigning power dynamic of the modern world. Officially titled, the World Economic Forum, Davos is sponsored by the world’s most powerful and wealthy corporations and presents itself as a “not-for-profit” entity.
However, if you believe the annual gathering in Davos is not-for-profit, you probably also believe that JFK died of natural causes while sightseeing in Dallas. Those who attend Davos—the Davo’tees of Mammon—are the winners in the game of capitalism, a game based on debt controlled by bankers through their issuance of credit.
Investment bankers by virtue of their privileged position at the spigots of credit haveover the years garnered for themselves a disproportionate slice of the world’s wealth. The best description of their wealth is from a banker himself, Sir Josiah Stamp, at the time in1927 the 2nd richest man in England and former head of The Bank of England:
Banking was conceived in iniquity and was born in sin. The bankers own the earth. Take it away from them, but leave them the power to create money, and with the flick of the pen they will create enough deposits to buy it back again. However, take it away from them, and all the great fortunes like mine will disappear and they ought to disappear, for this would be a happier and better world to live in. But, if you wish to remain the slaves of bankers and pay the cost of your own slavery, let them continue to create money.
The fact that in 2008 bankers became victims in the game they created has profound implications for capitalism itself. Capitalism, which began in 1694 with the issuance of debt-based money from The Bank of England, has now over three hundred years later reached its last and final stage.
Capitalism is not ending because those enslaved by bankers revolted. Capitalism is ending because the bankers’ insatiable greed destroyed the mechanism by which bankers indebt others. The sad truth is that those enslaved by debt still wish to remain the slaves of bankers and pay the cost of [their] own slavery [and] let them [the bankers] continue to create money.
Although debtors fervently hope the bankers’ system of debt will continue, they will not have a say in the matter. Neither will the bankers. Davos will never again be the same.
The World Economic Forum in Davos was founded in 1971, the same year in which all currencies became fiat, sic not backed by gold or silver. Perhaps this is coincidence. Perhaps not.
Nonetheless, Davos will be always associated with the end of capitalism where the charade of the banker’s paper money was revealed to be what it was, a confidence game where in the end everyone would lose everything—including the bankers.
The charade/con-game actually began in 1694 when the Bank of England was granted the right to issue England’s coinage in the form of paper money. This paper money was declared to be as good as gold or silver coins. Of course, it wasn’t; but in the beginning it was much better than it was to be later.
Previous to 1694 the bankers were known as goldsmiths who profited by charging interest on the loaning of gold and silver coins. After 1694, the goldsmiths, now called bankers, profited by charging interest on the loaning of paper money, and thus the true alchemy of modern finance was born.
The substitution of paper “money” for gold and the charging of interest on such “money” is the secret of the banker’s wealth. It is also the secret of capitalism as it is the process whereby bankers’ indebt others (businesses, consumers, governments, etc.) through the loaning of paper “money” created by central banks resulting in paper IOUs, IOUs which are then resold as investments to savers, savers being all who need to protect the value of their paper “money” from eroding because of the constant inflation of the paper money supply by bankers.
That such a system has lasted over three hundred years is extraordinary; but it was not until the 20th century when the linkage between paper money and gold began to fail that the problems inherent in paper money systems became more apparent.
England, the major recipient and beneficiary of the banker’s paper money for the previous two hundred years, had been very careful to maintain the fiction that paper money was as good as gold or silver. But in the next century, the 20th, the US the surrogate successor to England, was to be far less considerate of the considerable and questionable “gift” bequeathed to it by England’s bankers.
In 1933, the US government by executive order confiscated the gold of all Americans thus ending the belief that paper money was interchangeable with gold and silver and was therefore a trustworthy medium of exchange.
This confiscation of gold by the US was to be later repeated on an international level. But instead of only forcing Americans to abandon gold as it had in 1933, in 1971 the US would force the entire world to do so.
By the end of WWII, the US had accumulated the largest amount of monetary gold reserves in history; and under the 1944 Bretton-Woods Agreement, the US dollar was to be convertible upon demand to gold and all currencies were to be tied to the US dollar. Thus, through the gold-convertible US dollar, the international monetary system was stable and anchored to gold.
But by 1971, the US had overspent its entire hoard of gold. In 1958 alone, US gold reserves fell by 10 %. The reason is between 1949 and 1971 US overseas military expenditures and US overseas corporate expansion had left far more dollars in the hands of foreign nations than the US had gold to exchange.
In their book, The Commanding Heights (1997 ed., pp. 60-64), Daniel Yergin and Joseph Stanislaw explain what happened next:
But the growing U.S. balance-of-payments deficit meant that foreign governments were accumulating large amounts of dollars — in aggregate volume far exceeding the U.S. government’s stock of gold. These governments, or their central banks, could show up at any time at the “gold window” of the U.S. Treasury and insist on trading in their dollars for gold, which would precipitate a run. The issue was not theoretical. In the second week of August 1971, the British ambassador turned up at the Treasury Department to request that $3 billion be converted into gold.
…The gold window was to be closed. Arthur Burns argued vociferously against it, warning, “Pravda would write that this was a sign of the collapse of capitalism.” Burns was overruled. The gold window would be closed. But this would accentuate the need to fight inflation; for shutting the gold window would weaken the dollar against other currencies, thus adding to inflation by driving up the price of imported goods. Going off the gold standard and giving up fixed exchange rates constituted a momentous step in the history of international economics.
The previous sentence bears repeating;
Going off the gold standard and giving up fixed exchange rates constituted a momentous step in the history of international economics.
Yergin and Stanislaw were right. It was to be a momentous—and ultimately fatal step—for as a result of the US default on its international gold obligations, all currencies in the world instantly became fiat.
The security that gold and silver afforded the use of paper money would be no more—and when a con game is being run, nothing, absolutely nothing is more important than confidence.
The last and most critical piece in the banker’s carefully constructed charade was eliminated by the US when it overspent it entire gold reserves leaving the international monetary system bereft of any intrinsic value. Only monetary momentum and residual confidence has allowed paper-based capitalist economies to function since the last vestige of gold was removed in 1971.
Now, the postponed but inevitable destructive consequences of 1971 are about to make the demolition of the World Trade Center Twin Towers and Building 7 look like a spring day in Paris. A collapse of world economies caused by the default on trillions of dollars of paper debts and obligations has never before happened. Soon, it will.
The consequences will be as devastating as they will be widespread as personal savings will be wiped out. Personal savings entrusted to banks have been invested in the same paper IOUs, sic bonds, owned by pension funds, investment funds, and insurance companies all over the world.
Savers forced by the constant depreciation of paper money have given their savings to banks, pension funds, insurance companies and investment funds in the hopes of salvaging the value of those savings. But those hopes will prove to be false as the escalating financial collapse reveals such investments, e.g. corporate, government and consumer IOUs, to be increasingly worthless.
Governments that allowed this crisis to occur will then be forced to indemnify such losses in order to maintain civil and social order. But, when done, the indemnification of trillions of dollars of lost savings will cause what remains of the international monetary system to collapse.
Paper “money” is but a paper tiger and when exposed to the twin disasters of economic deflation and central bank hyperinflation, fiat “money” will ultimately revert to its intrinsic value—zero.
Economies built on credit and debt are by nature unstable. Caught between cycles of expansion and contraction, they are also vulnerable to the vagaries of man and the dictates of nature, i.e. war, famine, greed, drought, etc.
When the backing of gold was finally removed from paper money, it was the final straw that was to bring down the bankers’ house of cards. But before the house of cards collapsed, capitalism was to erupt in one last display of shameless glory.
The 25 years between 1982 and 2007 was the longest expansion in capitalism’s history. It was, however, to be its last; for the expansion was built on misallocated and historically excessive amounts of credit—and Davos occupied center stage in the display of this excessive “achievement”.
It is natural that at the end of the banker’s system, bankers would have garnered the largest share of the spoils and so it was, at least for a short while. The greatest spectacle of Davos was in 2007, the momentary triumph of bankers standing atop the world of global commerce whose profits and productivity they had increasingly purloined as their own.
The triumph of the bankers, however, was to be as short as it was spectacular. The era of billion dollar bonuses paid to bankers was to occur at the apogee of their triumph, a triumph that was to be as short as it was lucrative, for soon after, both banks and the capital markets would collapse.
In January 2008 when I wrote Davos, Debt & Systemic Failure, the August credit contraction was but six months old. But that year, the escalating effects of the credit contraction were to sweep through Wall Street, the City, and the world’s financial centers with the same destructive ferocity as the recent wildfires in Melbourne, Australia.
In the previous year, 2007, it had appeared the endless liquidity provided by central banks would ensure endless profits for investment bankers. How wrong they were. But, at the time, they didn’t know it. Soon, they would.
This is an excerpt from my 2008 article Davos, Debt & Systemic Failure which explains why it would be only a matter of time before the foundations of capital markets would fail:
When West Meets East
The preferred diet of most Davos attendees is a fusion inspired composition of individual, government, and corporate debt combined with a free-market frisee of lax regulatory oversight held together by a roux of central bank credit that dissolves instantly when paired with matching counter-party risk.