Sunday, October 26, 2008

The Gordian Knot and other Impossible Riddles

It seems I am the expert on things economic. Ha ha ha. Actually I'm the furthest thing from it. I never understood economics. Curiously enough, I did it in high-school as a major and did quite well at it. I even momentarily considered studying it at uni. But the truth is, I never got it. It was like I knew how to use a sextant to find a true midday, but I didn't care what time it was, nor knew why it mattered. It's a less than brilliant analogy, but whatever.

And whatever! Here we are on the edge of the economic armageddon I cleverly predicted years ago and obviously I must know the ins and outs of it. So a friend who didn't care for any of my ideas then, is now emailing me with questions like, 'Why is the Australian dollar falling?' Ha! Hell if I know! Instead I told her about Alexander and the Gordian knot.

This is a myth, sure, with various versions and various meanings. But since we're here, this is my version. And my version is less interested in what the knot looked like, say, than in whose knot it was and what purpose it served. Apparently the knot was tied on the brace of the first king of Gordia's ox-cart. Or was it a chariot? Who knows? Who cares? The main thing was that the cart was in the temple and it belonged to the priests. The knot was their impossible riddle to ensure that no one else took the reins of power (ahem).

And sure enough, everyone fell for it. 'I want to have a go at the puzzle!' 'No, me!' People came from far and wide to see if they were smart enough to solve the priests' genius puzzle. But truth be known, it wasn't a genius puzzle. It was a con. The only genius in its making was in ensuring that it couldn't be solved and that no one would be any the wiser. The trick with impossible riddles is that they're hard to solve but easy to make.

Does anyone remember that old sitcom 'WKRP in Cincinnati'? I used to like that show. I recall an episode where, in a desperate attempt to boost ratings, the staff decided to host a competition with an absurdly large cash prize. They didn't have the cash natch, so they made a name-that-tune competition that no one would ever be able to solve. There were ten songs jammed into one second and all you got was pi,ca,fa,mb,pe,ho,ip,un,ca,gr. Nuts. But where would a sitcom be without a situation? The comedy situation was that the listeners unbelievably solved the puzzle and the team had to flail about looking for the money. Thank you ball-boy, thank you scriptwriters.

In the real world however, with no writers pulling the deus-ex-machina strings, the puzzle would never have been solved. Just like the Gordian knot. For those who don't know, the fellow to 'unsolve' the Gordian knot was Alexander the Great. Whilst uttering the famous words 'Fuck this shit!', he cut the knot in two with his sword. And sure enough went on to win whatever it was the solver of the riddle was promised - the keys to Asia or something. Mind you, I expect having a big army helped somewhat.

If it hadn't been for Alexander's involvement this story would have been a very minor footnote. It's Alexander's action that counts here. The conventional wisdom on the Gordian knot is that it represented 'an intractable problem' and Alexander's cutting of it was a 'bold stroke'. God forbid we should discuss it in terms of who made the knot and why, nor should we view Alexander's actions as an emphatic rejection of an impossible riddle and the bullshit artists who made it. We may not have that discussion because where would the priest class be then? Impossible riddles is all they have. And God forbid they should be called bullshit on it.

'Hmm... is he having a go at religions now?' Sure, why not? The logic works and the argument is sustainable. But let's do a quick double-pike-with-twist and say that between God and money, money wins. The old religions ain't a patch on the new one. The religious might pray and go to church but the other ninety five percent of their waking lives are devoted to things economic. Bankers comprise our priest class now.

And in the last couple of years they've really topped themselves haven't they? Their impossible riddles have reached impossible heights. Take derivatives. Please! No one understands them. Except for Warren Buffet who famously called them 'Weapons of Financial Mass Destruction'. And what - we think that the people who invented derivatives don't know that? Ha ha ha, of course they do. In fact, it's why they invented them. And you'll note that Buffet isn't explaining derivatives so much as calling them out as bullshit. Well almost anyway. He's Alexander without a sword and without wishing to cause offence. These be powerful priests.

Mind you, derivatives are just the piece-of-resistance, the final curlicue, on the insanely busy Gordian knot that is control-of-the-money-supply and usury. This impossible riddle isn't sitting harmlessly on an ox-cart in a temple. It has each and every one of us tied up. And how we labour looking for the end of the snarl! We tug and we pull and spend our entire lives labouring to free ourselves. And all we want is what we see on TV. We want big houses, cars, nice clothes, and a life that doesn't seem to involve much work.

And yet madly, we imagine that this can be done with debt. We imagine that interest is natural and right. We imagine that those who've accumulated heaping great sums of money should be rewarded with yet more money for letting people use their piles of otherwise inedible paper. At a really fundamental level there's no logic to this. Like there was no logic to a knot on the brace of an ox-cart in a temple in Gordia.

The only answer to the Gordian knot was Alexander's anti-bullshit sword. The only answer to the current impossible economic riddle is to likewise call bullshit to the whole caper. Monetarism is bullshit. Interest is bullshit. Banks are bullshit. Throw them all down. And the priests? They can all fuck off.

Governments may print money. People with an excess of money may put it in a safe place - say, a non-profit publically-owned bank. Those with more money than others may consider themselves fortunate. But that's it. Their money doesn't then go on to earn more money by way of some imagined gravitional pull. All debt is reconsidered with interest viewed in a new (and unflattering) light. Any interest paid to date is counted against the principal. This consideration is only extended to real humans. Debts to banks, the IMF, and other supranational entities - wiped off the board. Tabula Rasa Time.

And that is how you cut a Gordian knot.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

wondering through google

People arrive at this blog through various means. In what is effectively both a blessing and a curse, I am able to see how people come here via statcounter. This is simultaneously fascinating and frustrating. It's a bit like getting a snippet of a conversation but failing to grasp what it's about.

The majority of people come here as 'no referring link'. This means they've bookmarked me. And it's nice that people bookmark me. If you're one of those people I salute you and compliment you on your good taste, ha ha. But you'll have to forgive me for saying that this is not what fascinates me. What has me spellbound are the people who've searched for a topic and had one of my pieces come up in google.

Following on from the last piece and its discussion of the net as a place for those who seek, being privy to what people are looking for (at least when they arrive here) is an enthralling process. Were one higher in the food-chain, like Sergei Brin the owner of Google, I could well imagine it to be intoxicating. Unsurprisingly Google has dreams of creating some kind of Artificial Intelligence. If Ladbrokes were taking bets on it, I'd put my money on that particular venture not ending well. Not for us, anyway. (This and a thousand other things...). In the meantime there's merely me and my glimpse into what people are searching for.

People search for the strangest things. One individual arrived at my recent piece about Curt Maynard and the Apple Onion by searching for 'shat myself'. Um, okay... why not? But other search subjects are real head-scratchers. For these, I will click the google address they came from and see the same page they were looking at that prompted them to click the link to here. I'm just guessing but I expect that a lot of these searchers will be disappointed at what they find, ha ha. Someone searching for 'barber's stool' almost certainly did not want a discussion about fear and repression (or the lack thereof) in China. Never mind, they should feel free to dismiss me.

And then there are the disappearing google pages. I often go to the google page which someone used to arrive here, and I see the terms they searched for and the results they got, and yet this blog is not amongst them. Nor on the next page, nor the next, nor any of them. And yet I know they came to me via that search a few hours earlier. So where did I go in between times? If I re-enter their precise terms and add the word 'nobody', I still don't get me. How does that work? Does it mean anything? Obviously I did turn up in their results and now I don't. Me, I shrug my shoulders.

These are curiosities, sure. But in amongst them are obvious trends. I shall get the biggest and most obvious out of the way first. As such, it is my melancholy duty to inform you that easily the greatest number of people arriving at this blog via google (with daylight second) consists of brain-dead gamers looking for news on when they might re-indulge themselves in more mindless killing - which is to say they search for hitman 5. Hitman is an assassination game, for those who don't know. It's the kind of game that, if it didn't exist, the CIA would have invented it anyway. If the people who did make Hitman weren't funded by the CIA, then they missed out on free money.

Me, I find this ever-increasing avalanche of would-be assassins unfailingly depressing. To be honest it's my own fault. I wrote the piece deliberately to be found in this fashion. I intended to screw with the heads of both the gamers and the people who wrote the game, by way of a mock interview. As best I can make out, I failed. I doubt I made a dent on a single one of their rock-hard skulls. But my timing was something else! I'm guessing that hitman 5 is due out shortly and the gamers are working themselves into a lathered frenzy of anticipation. A whole new world of people to be shot, stabbed, and poisoned! Fantastic!

Absurdly, if you put any variation of 'hitman-latest-news' into google, my imagined interview is top of the page, more or less on it's own. It's also been linked to by two gamer sites, one in Holland and one in Finland. I have no idea what they make of it all, since it's all Greek to me (there's babelfish of course, but it provides information in inverse proportion to comedy). Amongst this brouhaha, I'm vaguely astounded that the creators of the game haven't sent me a cease-and-desist or somesuch. Perhaps they think I'm not worth it. To be honest I don't know what I'd do if they did. Frankly I'm sick of the whole fucking thing. My brain fills with tedious images of cockroaches taking over the earth. For now I leave the article there as an act of bloody-mindedness. If those addicted to assassination games gain nothing from my piece apart from confusion, then fine, long may it continue.

But there are glimpses of hope. I see other trends in searches. Curiously, many are transient. I wonder at these 'waves of interest'. I suspect that google features 'that-which-is-new' and with the passing of time older articles are less likely to pop up - ie. people are constantly interested in a given topic but only found me whilst the article was new. Or it could be that people search in a faddish pattern - ie. google hasn't changed but the people have. I have no idea.

But some topics are perennial. In what I view as a good and useful thing, people continue to be curious about the holocaust. I figure if anyone is going to read about the holocaust they may as well read my take on it. At least it's funny. The other topic that perpetually pops up is that of Amalekites. Me, I'm pleased, because I liked that piece and it seemed that other people grooved on it too. Three cheers. I have no idea if these searchers are religious froot-loops or the right-thinking curious. For me, it's all good.

But by far my favourite searchers, the people I love, are those who come here seeking to know more about selflessness. If this blog was a zombie movie (ha ha), the gamers would be the zombies and those seeking selflessness would be our plucky heroes. Silly cinematic metaphors are the first thing to pop out of my brain, sure, as I roll around what these searches mean. But other thoughts occur too. Firstly, there are people out there who put 'selflessness' into google. They exist. This augurs well and makes me happy. But this happiness is something of a mixed feeling. I wonder if it isn't a variation of Groucho Marx's line about not wanting to be a member of any club who'd have him.

Which is to say that when people search for selflessness, why am I so front and centre? Oughtn't there to be a zillion articles on this? Shouldn't this little blog be 'selflessness' search-page #47? Seems not. Best I can tell is that selflessness is a word that doesn't get much coinage. If they're coming to me, then there ain't much out there, if you can dig it. And then there's the awful thought - They come to me? What the hell would I know? I'm an ex-advertising bullshit-artist who spent a week in a monastery. God spare us. It's sad really. So - I'm happy and I'm sad. Three cheers and commiserations. Still, in amongst the zombified army of the undead it's nice to know that humans live still.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

this thing

I grew up as a variant of soft right-winger. I started reading Time magazine when I was ten and went on subscribe for decades. To a greater or lesser degree its world view was mine - Vietnam was lost because of the protest movement; Palestinians were wicked troublemakers; WWII was a good war; coloured people couldn't organise a shitfight in a brewery and were responsible for their own woes; white people were good and made the world a better place, etc etc.

But I've come a long way since then. As have we all. If you are here, you have travelled this path. This was not by some random series of footfalls. You were drawn. Once we were weary, beset by confusion, and wishing merely for some honesty. It's this honesty that drew us. That it exists at all comes as something of a surprise. As we slough off the crust and filth of the lies we've been told for our whole lives, we find new energy. We find ourselves anew. And we do this by means of nothing more than the written word.

Forget me and this blog. I am merely a body drawn by a gravity. The gravity belongs to Les Visible. But I don't want to talk about Les. I, like most of us, have never met him. Were I to jabber away I'd be giving voice to my imagination as much as anything. And I ain't much given to hagiography regardless. (Hey Les, how you doing?) For the purpose of this exercise let's view Les' blogs, and those circling it (like this one) as a collective, a meeting of minds, a thing comprised of all who participate in it.

In addressing this we must acknowledge the medium in which it takes place. There has never been a thing quite like it, this internet thing. It's so singular, one struggles for metaphors to describe it. Words like 'web', or 'net' are the merest of thumbnails barely hinting at the possibilities of what it means. But regardless of its potential, it is a cacophony, a white noise, an everything all at once.

But mayhem aside, it is a place in which one may seek. In my own attempts at this, I participated in various forums having 'discussions' with people who lied like they blinked. It was not uncommon to find single individuals who would pretend to be a dozen people. A given individual would attack someone 'en masse' each voice in agreement. Invariably they'd compliment each other on what great thinkers they were. What the hell is that? What sort of a sick freak would do that? Why should I participate in such idiocy? These were not discussions, they were the opposite. And I'm not here to play a part in some self-obsessed individual's bullshit charade. I just want to know where the grown-ups were at.

This thing we have comprises that place for grown-ups. It's for people who are seeking, and wish to do so honestly. It is a place to cast off confusion. If this involves stepping beyond the artificial boundaries on what constitutes acceptable thought then so be it. We wish to view the world clearly. Sure enough, we do this with the written word. If this is not served by the usual style-less newspaper prose, then we will embrace metaphor, poetry, the metaphysical, whatever. With the aforementioned newspapers having failed us so abysmally, why not?

We are all of us in the gutter,
But some of us aren't distracted by the movie stars.
(excellent base line follows, and apologies to the Pretenders)

Leaping now - We are all of us in the labyrinth. But some of us have grasped that the labyrinth is also the library of Alexandria. We are the scenario of a movie. We're a band of the curious, separately wandering through the library pursuing lines of enquiry. We meet and swap tales, we wonder, we posit. We are men and women, young and old, rich and poor, the beset and the free, possessed of belief and not, and all here in the same spirit. We are here for the same purpose, with the same attitude of honest inquiry, and with a desire to truthfully describe this world and its possibilities.

This is the ideal in this gathering, or perhaps an idealised default position. Frequently the thing that exists here is riled with discord. These eddies in the stream can be stirred up, people baited, arguments started and egged on (I've done it myself, sure) but ultimately the stream we are in, is flowing in a direction we all agree upon. None of us knows, or can say definitively, what the precise destination of the stream is. It is enough that it leads away from confusion and towards clarity, truth, mindfulness and compassion. (We could call this 'love' but since it's me writing, I have to say I don't much care for that word. It carries too much soppy baggage. But some people really like that word and if you're one of them, don't let me stop you.)

If a place, or a meeting of people, is devoted to the truth, harmony will be that place's equilibrium, the state towards which it will naturally tend. It's my opinion that humans when not in a state of confusion will naturally seek harmony with each other. Forget Hollywood's fights for no reason. The real world is invariably much duller. And much friendlier.

Thinking about that stream - what if we were to expand the metaphor? Are other people not in the stream? Are there lots of streams? Where do they go? Is this metaphor falling apart? Maybe not. Clearly the majority of people are floundering in an ugly cross-grained ocean beset by the elements and struggling to keep their heads above water.

The stream of before is a metaphor of the micro. What is this water in the macro? Perhaps we could call it chi, or existence, or the zeitgeist, or the collective mind, or the spirit of the times - whatever suits really. You may call it anything you like. And that's the thing. You can call it. Others will attempt to call it too. They will bring wind and rain and every confusion they can think of. But here, we attempt to cast off the distractions; to know them for what they are; to name the riddle rather than dwell in its complications. We decide that we are flowing in a stream and we decide where it is flowing to.

Each of us on our own might qualify as a rivulet, a pool, a billabong, a creek, a cascade, but together we will make something bigger than ourselves, something that will flow and cannot be stopped. Think of the name of a great river. Consider the regard in which each is held and why. Let's declare, that none of us at Smoking Mirrors seek this regard. A river does not seek its worthiness. It merely is.

And truth be known, we are not a great river. We're just a stream. But for mine, we're a stream possessed of an irresistible nature. Those waking up to their confusion and grasping at each piece of truth, continue to find their way here. The frank discussions they find come as solace, a freedom, a cleansing. Where we are going and the way we're going there is a trip any right-thinking person would choose. Only those who have black holes for hearts, who would walk upon the bodies of the drowning would choose not to join. We are not them.

So, this place, these minds, this style of thought, this quest - Is it nothing? Is it something? Certainly between us and the bullshit media, it is the smallest thing imaginable. So let's think small. Perhaps we are a 19th century coffee klatsch transported in time. But just like then, it was less about the venue than it was about the conversation. Here we are geographically unbound, our societies disparate, and very few of us will ever meet. But it doesn't matter. Our conversation is not less real.

Nor does it matter that this thing is evanescent and will change and cease to be. The thing we are an alternative to is subject to the same realities. Meanwhile we are an alternative. We are not driven by ambition, desire, or fear. We shed these things as prisoners might shed their fetters. We seek truth, clarity and compassion. Nothing is simple, clear or obvious. But never mind. Each of us provides small inspirations for the others. Together we create - we create who we are. We are not owned. We are for ourselves. We are for each other. We are for all.

In this world of darkness where even the stars have been digitally blacked out, we make a flickering light, a sparkling scintilla of possibility and hope. We hold to this thing and we cherish it. It's not nothing. It's something. It's this thing that we share.

Thanks Les.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Jackson and the bankers

I spent this morning clicking links in Encyclopaedia Brittanica. I used to revere Brittanica but no longer. The complete absence of an entry for David Sassoon says all there is that needs to be said. But it's not completely worthless. In leaping about from James Madison, to the war of 1812, to Andrew Jackson, I came upon Jackson's farewell speech. Via the net, I've read a great deal about the history of banking but somehow I never came across this before. I post it here for those who, like me, have never encountered it.

It's extraordinary. And long though this post is, I've only posted about half of it. The opening paras that I've omitted concern Jackson's dealings with the Indians. I will happily admit that Jackson was no paragon of virtue. On the subject of race there's nothing good to be said for the fellow. The latter paras I've lopped off because they're dull and concern the re-arming of the navy. However the vast bulk of his address is spooky. His chief topic is tax and control of the money supply which he discusses with a perspicacity and frankness that is now impossible. On this topic the man was something near a seer.

PS. As if any further proof was needed as to who owns the media, wonder at the subsequent complete absence of any public discussion that resembles what Jackson says here. The bankers knew how to ensure that Jackson's urging of 'eternal vigilance' would come to nought. They would control the media. And sure enough, here we are today wall to wall in a media discussion of the banking 'crisis' and all we get are clueless, drivel-spouting popinjays and flibbertigibbets. Not one of them could hold a candle to Jackson.

"There is, perhaps, no one of the powers conferred on the federal government so liable to abuse as the taxing power. The most productive and convenient sources of revenue were necessarily given to it, that it might be able to perform the important duties imposed upon it; and the taxes which it lays upon commerce being concealed from the real payer in the price of the article, they do not so readily attract the attention of the people as smaller sums demanded from them directly by the tax gatherer. But the tax imposed on goods enhances by so much the price of the commodity to the consumer; and, as many of these duties are imposed on articles of necessity which are daily used by the great body of the people, the money raised by these imposts is drawn from their pockets.

Congress has no right, under the Constitution, to take money from the people unless it is required to execute some one of the specific powers entrusted to the government; and if they raise more than is necessary for such purposes, it is an abuse of the power of taxation and unjust and oppressive. It may, indeed, happen that the revenue will sometimes exceed the amount anticipated when the taxes were laid. When, however, this is ascertained, it is easy to reduce them; and, in such a case, it is unquestionably the duty of the government to reduce them, for no circumstances can justify it in assuming a power not given to it by the Constitution nor in taking away the money of the people when it is not needed for the legitimate wants of the government.

Plain as these principles appear to be, you will yet find that there is a constant effort to induce the general government to go beyond the limits of its taxing power and to impose unnecessary burdens upon the people. Many powerful interests are continually at work to procure heavy duties on commerce and to swell the revenue beyond the real necessities of the public service; and the country has already felt the injurious effects of their combined influence. They succeeded in obtaining a tariff of duties bearing most oppressively on the agricultural and laboring classes of society and producing a revenue that could not be usefully employed within the range of the powers conferred upon Congress; and, in order to fasten upon the people this unjust and unequal system of taxation, extravagant schemes of internal improvement were got up in various quarters to squander the money and to purchase support. Thus, one unconstitutional measure was intended to be upheld by another, and the abuse of the power of taxation was to be maintained by usurping the power of expending the money in internal improvements.

You cannot have forgotten the severe and doubtful struggle through which we passed when the Executive Department of the government, by its veto, endeavored to arrest this prodigal scheme of injustice and to bring back the legislation of Congress to the boundaries prescribed by the Constitution. The good sense and practical judgment of the people, when the subject was brought before them, sustained the course of the executive; and this plan of unconstitutional expenditure for the purpose of corrupt influence is, I trust, finally overthrown.

The result of this decision has been felt in the rapid extinguishment of the public debt and the large accumulation of a surplus in the treasury, notwithstanding the tariff was reduced and is now very far below the amount originally contemplated by its advocates. But, rely upon it, the design to collect an extravagant revenue and to burden you with taxes beyond the economical wants of the government is not yet abandoned. The various interests which have combined together to impose a heavy tariff and to produce an overflowing treasury are too strong and have too much at stake to surrender the contest. The corporations and wealthy individuals who are engaged in large manufacturing establishments desire a high tariff to increase their gains. Designing politicians will support it to conciliate their favor and to obtain the means of profuse expenditure for the purpose of purchasing influence in other quarters; and since the people have decided that the federal government cannot be permitted to employ its income in internal improvements, efforts will be made to seduce and mislead the citizens of the several states by holding out to them the deceitful prospect of benefits to be derived from a surplus revenue collected by the general government and annually divided among the states. And if, encouraged by these fallacious hopes, the states should disregard the principles of economy which ought to characterize every republican government and should indulge in lavish expenditures exceeding their resources, they will, before long, find themselves oppressed with debts which they are unable to pay, and the temptation will become irresistible to support high tariff in order to obtain a surplus for distribution.

Do not allow yourselves, my fellow citizens, to be misled on this subject. The federal government cannot collect a surplus for such purposes without violating the principles of the Constitution and assuming powers which have not been granted. It is, moreover, a system of injustice, and, if persisted in, will inevitably lead to corruption and must end in ruin. The surplus revenue will be drawn from the pockets of the people, from the farmer, the mechanic, and the laboring classes of society; but who will receive it when distributed among the states, where it is to be disposed of by leading state politicians who have friends to favor and political partisans to gratify? It will certainly not be returned to those who paid it and who have most need of it and are honestly entitled to it. There is but one safe rule, and that is to confine the general government rigidly within the sphere of its appropriate duties. It has no power to raise a revenue or impose taxes except for the purposes enumerated in the Constitution; and if its income is found to exceed these wants, it should be forthwith reduced, and the burdens of the people so far lightened.

In reviewing the conflicts which have taken place between different interests in the United States and the policy pursued since the adoption of our present form of government, we find nothing that has produced such deep-seated evil as the course of legislation in relation to the currency. The Constitution of the United States unquestionably intended to secure to the people a circulating medium of gold and silver. But the establishment of a national bank by Congress with the privilege of issuing paper money receivable in the payment of the public dues, and the unfortunate course of legislation in the several states upon the same subject, drove from general circulation the constitutional currency and substituted one of paper in its place.

It was not easy for men engaged in the ordinary pursuits of business, whose attention had not been particularly drawn to the subject, to foresee all the consequences of a currency exclusively of paper; and we ought not, on that account, to be surprised at the facility with which laws were obtained to carry into effect the paper system. Honest and even enlightened men are sometimes misled by the specious and plausible statements of the designing. But experience has now proved the mischiefs and dangers of a paper currency, and it rests with you to determine whether the proper remedy shall be applied.

The paper system being founded on public confidence and having of itself no intrinsic value, it is liable to great and sudden fluctuations, thereby rendering property insecure and the wages of labor unsteady and uncertain. The corporations which create the paper money cannot be relied upon to keep the circulating medium uniform in amount. In times of prosperity, when confidence is high, they are tempted by the prospect of gain or by the influence of those who hope to profit by it to extend their issues of paper beyond the bounds of discretion and the reasonable demands of business. And when these issues have been pushed on from day to day until the public confidence is at length shaken, then a reaction takes place, and they immediately withdraw the credits they have given; suddenly curtail their issues; and produce an unexpected and ruinous contraction of the circulating medium which is felt by the whole community.

The banks, by this means, save themselves, and the mischievous consequences of their imprudence or cupidity are visited upon the public. Nor does the evil stop here. These ebbs and flows in the currency and these indiscreet extensions of credit naturally engender a spirit of speculation injurious to the habits and character of the people. We have already seen its effects in the wild spirit of speculation in the public lands and various kinds of stock which, within the last year or two, seized upon such a multitude of our citizens and threatened to pervade all classes of society and to withdraw their attention from the sober pursuits of honest industry. It is not by encouraging this spirit that we shall best preserve public virtue and promote the true interests of our country.

But if your currency continues as exclusively paper as it now is, it will foster this eager desire to amass wealth without labor; it will multiply the number of dependents on bank accommodations and bank favors; the temptation to obtain money at any sacrifice will become stronger and stronger, and inevitably lead to corruption which will find its way into your public councils and destroy, at no distant day, the purity of your government. Some of the evils which arise from this system of paper press, with peculiar hardship, upon the class of society least able to bear it. A portion of this currency frequently becomes depreciated or worthless, and all of it is easily counterfeited in such a manner as to require peculiar skill and much experience to distinguish the counterfeit from the genuine note. These frauds are most generally perpetrated in the smaller notes, which are used in the daily transactions of ordinary business; and the losses occasioned by them are commonly thrown upon the laboring classes of society whose situation and pursuits put it out of their power to guard themselves from these impositions and whose daily wages are necessary for their subsistence.

It is the duty of every government so to regulate its currency as to protect this numerous class as far as practicable from the impositions of avarice and fraud. It is more especially the duty of the United States where the government is emphatically the government of the people, and where this respectable portion of our citizens are so proudly distinguished from the laboring classes of all other nations by their independent spirit, their love of liberty, their intelligence, and their high tone of moral character. Their industry in peace is the source of our wealth, and their bravery in war has covered us with glory; and the government of the United States will but ill discharge its duties if it leaves them a prey to such dishonest impositions. Yet it is evident that their interests cannot be effectually protected unless silver and gold are restored to circulation.

These views alone of the paper currency are sufficient to call for immediate reform; but there is another consideration which should still more strongly press it upon your attention.

Recent events have proved that the paper money system of this country may be used as an engine to undermine your free institutions; and that those who desire to engross all power in the hands of the few and to govern by corruption or force are aware of its power and prepared to employ it. Your banks now furnish your only circulating medium, and money is plenty or scarce according to the quantity of notes issued by them. While they have capitals not greatly disproportioned to each other, they are competitors in business, and no one of them can exercise dominion over the rest. And although, in the present state of the currency, these banks may and do operate injuriously upon the habits of business, the pecuniary concerns, and the moral tone of society, yet, from their number and dispersed situation, they cannot combine for the purpose of political influence; and whatever may be the dispositions of some of them their power of mischief must necessarily be confined to a narrow space and felt only in their immediate neighborhoods.

But when the charter of the Bank of the United States was obtained from Congress, it perfected the schemes of the paper system and gave its advocates the position they have struggled to obtain from the commencement of the federal government down to the present hour. The immense capital and peculiar privileges bestowed upon it enabled it to exercise despotic sway over the other banks in every part of the country. From its superior strength it could seriously injure, if not destroy, the business of any one of them which might incur its resentment; and it openly claimed for itself the power of regulating the currency throughout the United States. In other words, it asserted (and it undoubtedly possessed) the power to make money plenty or scarce, at its pleasure, at any time, and in any quarter of the Union, by controlling the issues of other banks and permitting an expansion or compelling a general contraction of the circulating medium according to its own will.

The other banking institutions were sensible of its strength, and they soon generally became its obedient instruments, ready at all times to execute its mandates; and with the banks necessarily went, also, that numerous class of persons in our commercial cities who depend altogether on bank credits for their solvency and means of business; and who are, therefore, obliged for their own safety to propitiate the favor of the money power by distinguished zeal and devotion in its service.

The result of the ill-advised legislation which established this great monopoly was to concentrate the whole money power of the Union, with its boundless means of corruption and its numerous dependents, under the direction and command of one acknowledged head; thus organizing this particular interest as one body and securing to it unity and concert of action throughout the United States and enabling it to bring forward, upon any occasion, its entire and undivided strength to support or defeat any measure of the government. In the hands of this formidable power, thus perfectly organized, was also placed unlimited dominion over the amount of the circulating medium, giving it the power to regulate the value of property and the fruits of labor in every quarter of the Union and to bestow prosperity or bring ruin upon any city or section of the country as might best comport with its own interest or policy.

We are not left to conjecture how the moneyed power, thus organized and with such a weapon in its hands, would be likely to use it. The distress and alarm which pervaded and agitated the whole country when the Bank of the United States waged war upon the people in order to compel them to submit to its demands cannot yet be forgotten. The ruthless and unsparing temper with which whole cities and communities were oppressed, individuals impoverished and ruined, and a scene of cheerful prosperity suddenly changed into one of gloom and despondency ought to be indelibly impressed on the memory of the people of the United States.

If such was its power in a time of peace, what would it not have been in a season of war with an enemy at your doors? No nation but the freemen of the United States could have come out victorious from such a contest; yet, if you had not conquered, the government would have passed from the hands of the many to the hands of the few; and this organized money power, from its secret conclave, would have directed the choice of your highest officers and compelled you to make peace or war as best suited their own wishes. The forms of your government might, for a time, have remained; but its living spirit would have departed from it.

The distress and sufferings inflicted on the people by the Bank are some of the fruits of that system of policy which is continually striving to enlarge the authority of the federal government beyond the limits fixed by the Constitution. The powers enumerated in that instrument do not confer on Congress the right to establish such a corporation as the Bank of the United States; and the evil consequences which followed may warn us of the danger of departing from the true rule of construction and of permitting temporary circumstances or the hope of better promoting the public welfare to influence, in any degree, our decisions upon the extent of the authority of the general government. Let us abide by the Constitution as it is written or amend it in the constitutional mode if it is found defective.

The severe lessons of experience will, I doubt not, be sufficient to prevent Congress from again chartering such a monopoly, even if the Constitution did not present an insuperable objection to it. But you must remember, my fellow citizens, that eternal vigilance by the people is the price of liberty; and that you must pay the price if you wish to secure the blessing. It behooves you, therefore, to be watchful in your states as well as in the federal government. The power which the moneyed interest can exercise, when concentrated under a single head, and with our present system of currency, was sufficiently demonstrated in the struggle made by the Bank of the United States. Defeated in the general government, the same class of intriguers and politicians will now resort to the states and endeavor to obtain there the same organization which they failed to perpetuate in the Union; and with specious and deceitful plans of public advantages and state interests and state pride they will endeavor to establish, in the different states, one moneyed institution with overgrown capital and exclusive privileges sufficient to enable it to control the operations of the other banks.

Such an institution will be pregnant with the same evils produced by the Bank of the United States, although its sphere of action is more confined; and in the state in which it is chartered the money power will be able to embody its whole strength and to move together with undivided force to accomplish any object it may wish to attain. You have already had abundant evidence of its power to inflict injury upon the agricultural, mechanical, and laboring classes of society, and over whose engagements in trade or speculation render them dependent on bank facilities, the dominion of the state monopoly will be absolute, and their obedience unlimited. With such a bank and a paper currency, the money power would, in a few years, govern the state and control its measures; and if a sufficient number of states can be induced to create such establishments, the time will soon come when it will again take the field against the United States and succeed in perfecting and perpetuating its organization by a charter from Congress.

It is one of the serious evils of our present system of banking that it enables one class of society, and that by no means a numerous one, by its control over the currency to act injuriously upon the interests of all the others and to exercise more than its just proportion of influence in political affairs. The agricultural, the mechanical, and the laboring classes have little or no share in the direction of the great moneyed corporations; and from their habits and the nature of their pursuits, they are incapable of forming extensive combinations to act together with united force. Such concert of action may sometimes be produced in a single city or in a small district of country by means of personal communications with each other; but they have no regular or active correspondence with those who are engaged in similar pursuits in distant places. They have but little patronage to give the press and exercise but a small share of influence over it; they have no crowd of dependents about them who hope to grow rich without labor by their countenance and favor and who are, therefore, always ready to exercise their wishes.

The planter, the farmer, the mechanic, and the laborer all know that their success depends upon their own industry and economy and that they must not expect to become suddenly rich by the fruits of their toil. Yet these classes of society form the great body of the people of the United States; they are the bone and sinew of the country; men who love liberty and desire nothing but equal rights and equal laws and who, moreover, hold the great mass of our national wealth, although it is distributed in moderate amounts among the millions of freemen who possess it. But, with overwhelming numbers and wealth on their side, they are in constant danger of losing their fair influence in the government, and with difficulty maintain their just rights against the incessant efforts daily made to encroach upon them.

The mischief springs from the power which the moneyed interest derives from a paper currency which they are able to control; from the multitude of corporations with exclusive privileges which they have succeeded in obtaining in the different states and which are employed altogether for their benefit; and unless you become more watchful in your states and check this spirit of monopoly and thirst for exclusive privileges, you will, in the end, find that the most important powers of government have been given or bartered away, and the control over your dearest interests has passed into the hands of these corporations.

The paper money system and its natural associates, monopoly and exclusive privileges, have already struck their roots deep in the soil; and it will require all your efforts to check its further growth and to eradicate the evil. The men who profit by the abuses and desire to perpetuate them will continue to besiege the halls of legislation in the general government as well as in the states and will seek, by every artifice, to mislead and deceive the public servants. It is to yourselves that you must look for safety and the means of guarding and perpetuating your free institutions. In your hands is rightfully placed the sovereignty of the country and to you everyone placed in authority is ultimately responsible. It is always in your power to see that the wishes of the people are carried into faithful execution, and their will, when once made known, must sooner or later be obeyed. And while the people remain, as I trust they ever will, uncorrupted and incorruptible and continue watchful and jealous of their rights, the government is safe, and the cause of freedom will continue to triumph over all its enemies.

But it will require steady and persevering exertions on your part to rid yourselves of the iniquities and mischiefs of the paper system and to check the spirit of monopoly and other abuses which have sprung up with it and of which it is the main support. So many interests are united to resist all reform on this subject that you must not hope the conflict will be a short one nor success easy. My humble efforts have not been spared during my administration of the government to restore the constitutional currency of gold and silver; and something, I trust, has been done toward the accomplishment of this most desirable object. But enough yet remains to require all your energy and perseverance. The power, however, is in your hands, and the remedy must and will be applied if you determine upon it."