Welcome to European Tribune. It's gone a bit quiet around here these days, but it's still going.
It is getting increasingly difficult not to stumble upon conspiracy references while browsing the internet.

When it comes to money - the modern source of power - we must surely expect to meet the forces that historians most often fail to discuss -- [the] precise means by which the dominant class and those who serve it go about accomplishing their goals.

Here is a rather long story of "natural" economic powers - please try to enjoy:

by Webster G. Tarpley
December, 1996

The thesis of this paper is that the great economic and financial cataclysm of the first half of the twentieth century, which we have come to know as the Great Depression, was caused by the Bank of England, the British government, and the City of London. The potential for the Great Depression derived from the economic and human destruction wrought by World War I, which was itself a product of British geopolitics and especially of the British policy, exemplified by King Edward VII, of creating an encircling anti-German alliance in order to wage war. The economic destruction of Europe was continued after 1918 by the Peace of Paris (Versailles, St. Germain, Trianon, Neuilly, Sevres) imposed by the Allies on the defeated Central Powers. Especially important here were the 55 billion gold dollars in reparations inflicted on defeated Germany, along with the war debt burden of the supposedly victorious powers themselves. Never during the 1920's did world trade surpass the levels of 1913. Reparations and war debt were a recipe for economic stagnation.

The ravaged post-war, post-Versailles world of the 1920's provides the main backdrop for the following considerations:

    1. The events leading to the Great Depression are all related to British economic warfare against the rest of the world, which mainly took the form of the attempt to restore a London- centered world monetary system incorporating the gold standard. The efforts of the British oligarchy in this regard were carried out by a clique of international central bankers dominated by Lord Montagu Norman of the Bank of England, assisted by his tools Benjamin Strong of the New York Federal Reserve Bank and Hjalmar Schacht of the German Reichsbank. This British-controlled gold standard proved to be a straightjacket for world economic development, somewhat along the lines of the deflationary Maastricht "convergence criteria" of the late 1990's.

    2. The New York stock exchange speculation of the Coolidge-Hoover era was not a spontaneous phenomenon, but was rather deliberately encouraged by Norman and Strong under the pretext of relieving pressure on the overvalued British pound sterling after its gold convertibility had been restored in 1925. In practice, the pro-speculation policies of the US Federal Reserve were promoted by Montagu Norman and his satellites for the express purpose of fomenting a Bubble Economy in the United States, just as later central bankers fostered a Bubble Economy in Japan after 1986. When this Wall Street Bubble had reached gargantuan proportions in the autumn of 1929, Montagu Norman sharply cut the British bank rate, repatriating British hot money, and pulling the rug out from under the Wall Street speculators, thus deliberately and consciously imploding the US markets. This caused a violent depression in the United States and some other countries, with the collapse of financial markets and the contraction of production and employment. In 1929, Norman engineered a collapse by puncturing the bubble.

    3. This depression was rendered far more severe and, most importantly, permanent, by the British default on gold payment in September, 1931. This British default, including all details of its timing and modalities, and also the subsequent British gambit of competitive devaluations, were deliberate measures of economic warfare on the part of the Bank of England. British actions amounted to the deliberate destruction of the pound sterling system, which was the only world monetary system in existence at that time. The collapse of world trade became irreversible. With deliberate prompting from the British, currency blocs emerged, with the clear implication that currency blocs like the German Reichsmark and the Japanese yen would soon have to go to war to obtain the oil and other natural resources that orderly world trade could no longer provide. In 1931, Norman engineered a disintegration by detonating the gold backing of the pound sterling.

    4. In the United States, the deliberate British default of September 1931 led, given the do-nothing Hoover Administration policies, directly to the banking crisis of 1932-33, which closed down or severely restricted virtually every bank in the country by the morning of Franklin D. Roosevelt's inauguration. If Roosevelt had not broken decisively with Hoover's impotent refusal to fight the depression, constitutional government might have collapsed. As it was, FDR was able to roll back the disintegration, but economic depression and mass unemployment were not overcome until 1940 and the passage of Lend-Lease.

by das monde on Tue Mar 4th, 2008 at 10:14:50 PM EST
Fascinating thesis.
I'm not enough of an economic historian to critique it, but a couple questions come to mind.

  1. Motive. Could you or someone better versed than I discuss possible motives for such a draconian plan? Why do this?

  2. Opportunity. This attributes a huge amount of power to Norman personally, and many attempts to describe collusion fall apart on the rocks of complexity--could this really, practically, be done?

  3. Cost-benefit. Do the potential gains surpass, by a sufficient margin, the risks to be endured if the scheme  runs amok?

  4. How many people would have to be "in the know"? Is this plausible? Are they really smart enough to make it work? Is ANYONE really able to execute a plan on this scale reliably?

  5. Imagine the decision-making process involved. Norman (or his associates) propose an incredibly audacious and risky plan to destabilize the world economy and the world banking system, to the traditionalist- conservative, highly immobile political forces that at least partly controlled great Britain at the time, ---and they say- what?
"Bloody good idea, old boy. We'll just get our bags packed for the move to Australia in case it should encounter a hiccup."

The political elite do indeed conspire to arrange things to their advantage-- but not generally stupidly. The great flaw in historical interpretations that assume widesdpread collusion to accomplish audacious crimes is that they assume either that the conspiratorws are fools--or geniuses. Or both.

Capitalism searches out the darkest corners of human potential, and mainlines them.

by geezer in Paris (risico at wanadoo(flypoop)fr) on Wed Mar 5th, 2008 at 02:41:00 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I wish to know more sources and opinions on this analysis as well.

Nevertheless, banking is an interesting industry. It has been gaining fairy-tale profits from wars right from inception on any level. The compound interest math was destabilizing civilizations from Babylon and earlier. (See the most recent audio "History of Debt and Credit" and articles on debt on this website.)    

The information that is circulating now wider is on the US banking system. You know that the US Federal Reserve is not a federal institution but a private bank, right? See Chapter 3 of the Zeitgeist movie, and Aaron Russo's film, for some shocking brain washing.

Your points are most logical, of course. I see two sources for possible determination towards totalitarian control. One source is "tradition": the model exists conceptually and in historical practice. There might be no other just as determined model for the elites to sustain their position. The model has many functional and well developed parts; by keeping the public busy with entertainment, wealth race and/or survival competition, many people can be "masterly" involved into the system without their full realization. The core "conspirators" could be just a few key shareholders of largest financial, war building and media corporations.

The second source is (in my opinion) a kind of primitive Darwinist understanding. I do imply here some fatal influence of Darwin's (and Marx's and Smith's) ideas... The existential question is: what a super-wealthy, super-influential person to do? Darwin appears to give an answer: protect and magnify your competitive advantage; use all the power you have, and use it for yourself, and do it aggressively. Smith kind of concurs, while Marx gives a scare that your wealth could be taken away. Probably, we do not appreciate enough how primacy of self-interest is re-ingrained into the 6 billion logic braincenters, regardless of how self-interest is really realized in the emotional-instinctive braincenters and the nature. Our perception of self-interest rationality may seem to be necessarily universal, but I dare to suspect that it has different quality since the 19th century. I am working on, let's call it ambitious, project here... What I can say now, is that emphatic protection and magnification of competitive advantages does not appear to be a norm in nature; neither is conspicuous control of resources, nor tragedy of commons situations.  Stretching up your own food chain is a bad idea. Competitive advantage is taken far too seriously. The "Monopoly"/"Cash Flow" set-up of modern economies and politics will not end happily neither for loosers nor the few "winners". The self-interest as we commonly see it should turn out to be a big delusion...

by das monde on Wed Mar 5th, 2008 at 04:47:12 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The self-interest as we commonly see it should turn out to be a big delusion...

understatement of the millennium!

'The history of public debt is full of irony. It rarely follows our ideas of order and justice.' Thomas Piketty

by melo (melometa4(at)gmail.com) on Wed Mar 5th, 2008 at 07:51:33 AM EST
[ Parent ]
the founding of the United States means. In the last letter he wrote before he died (on July 4 !, the same day John Adams died; something providential, mystical, and / or karmic about that!), Thomas Jefferson wrote:
May it be to the world, what I believe it will be, (to some parts sooner, to others later, but finally to all,) the signal of arousing men to burst the chains under which monkish ignorance and superstition had persuaded them to bind themselves, and to assume the blessings and security of self-government. All eyes are opened, or opening, to the rights of man. The general spread of the light of science has already laid open to every view the palpable truth, that the mass of mankind has not been born with saddles on their backs, nor a favored few booted and spurred, ready to ride them legitimately, by the grace of God.
-Thomas Jefferson, letter to Roger C. Weightman, June 24, 1826

Why did the overwhelming majority of English elites support the Confederacy in the U.S. Civil War? Was it because they desired to finally see an end to the "dangerous experiment" in self-government? Could such "feelings" (better word, I think, is "intentions") exist some nine decades after American independence was violently wrested from the oligarchs' grasp?

If you think of it in these terms - that there are some oligarchs who despise the idea of the rabble governing themselves, a lot of things in history make sense. Consider it a simple case of colonialism versus anti-colonialism. Then consider the lengthy excerpt below  from Elliott Roosevelt's 1946 book, As He Saw It. Elliott accompanied his father to all the major conferences with Churchill, and later, Stalin. In FDR's and Churchill's face to face, the "Atlantic Conference" on board the U.S. cruiser Augusta in August, 1941, it immediately became apparent that the post-war war plans of the United States and Britain were in complete conflict. Amazingly, this conflict is glossed over or even ignored by most American historians, even though the conflict over post-war plans had global ramifications that we still live with today.

Last night, Churchill had talked without interruption, except for questions. Tonight, there were other men's thoughts being tossed into the kettle, and the kettle correspondingly began to bubble up and-once or twice--nearly over. You sensed that two men accustomed to leadership had sparred, had felt each other out, and were now readying themselves for outright challenge, each of the other. It must be remembered that at this time Churchill was the war leader. Father only the president of a state which had indicated its sympathies in a tangible fashion. Thus, Churchill still arrogated the conversational lead, still dominated the after-dinner hours. But the difference was beginning to be felt.

And it was evidenced first, sharply, over Empire.

Father started it.

"Of course," he remarked, with a sly sort of assurance, "of course, after the war, one of the preconditions of any lasting peace will have to be the greatest possible freedom of trade."

He paused. The P.M.'s head was lowered; he was watching Father steadily, from under one eyebrow.

"No artificial barriers," Father pursued. "As few favored economic agreements as possible. Opportunities for expansion. Markets open for healthy competition." His eye wandered innocently around the room.

Churchill shifted in his armchair. "The British Empire trade agreements," he began heavily, "are..."

Father broke in. "Yes. Those Empire trade agreements are a case in point. It's because of them that the people of India and Africa, of all the colonial Near East and Far East, are still as backward as they are."

Churchill's neck reddened and he crouched forward. "Mr. President, England does not propose for a moment to lose its favored position among the British Dominions. The trade that has made England great shall continue, and under conditions prescribed by England's ministers."

"You see," said Father slowly, "it is along in here somewhere that there is likely to be some disagreement between you, Winston, and me. I am firmly of the belief that if we are to arrive at a
stable peace it must involve the development of backward countries. Backward peoples. How can this be done? It can't be done, obviously, by eighteenth-century methods. Now-"

"Who's talking eighteenth-century methods?"

"Whichever of your ministers recommends a policy which takes wealth in raw materials out of a colonial country, but which returns nothing to the people of that country in consideration. Twentieth-century methods involve bringing industry to these colonies. Twentieth-century methods include increasing the wealth of a people by increasing their standard of living, by educating them, by bringing them sanitation-by making sure that they get a return for the raw wealth of their community."

Around the room, all of us were leaning forward attentively. Hopkins was grinning. Commander Thompson, Churchill's aide, was looking glum and alarmed. The P.M. himself was beginning to look apoplectic.

"You mentioned India," he growled.

"Yes. I can't believe that we can fight a war against fascist slavery, and at the same time not work to free people all over the world from a backward colonial policy.

"What about the Philippines?"

"I'm glad you mentioned them. They get their independence, you know, in 1946. And they've gotten modem sanitation, modem education; their rate of illiteracy has gone steadily down. . . ."

"There can be no tampering with the Empire's economic agreements."

"They're artificial. . . ."

"They're the foundation of our greatness."

"The peace," said Father firmly, "cannot include any continued despotism. The structure of the peace demands and will get equality of peoples. Equality of peoples involves the utmost freedom of competitive trade. Will anyone suggest that Germany's attempt to dominate trade in central Europe was not a major contributing factor to war?"

It was an argument that could have no resolution between these two men. The words went on, but the P.M. began again to get a tighter grip on the conversation. He no longer spoke sentences, he spoke paragraphs, and Commander Thompson's worried, glum look began to clear. The P.M. gathered confidence as his voice continued to fill the room, but there was a question un answered here, and it would remain unanswered through the next conference these men would join in, and the next after that. India, Burma-these were reproaches. Father, having once mentioned them aloud, would keep reminding his British hearers of them, sticking his strong finger into sore consciences, prodding, needling. And it was not from perversity, either; it was from conviction.
Churchill knew that; that was what worried him most.

Smoothly he changed the course of the conversation, smoothly he involved Harry Hopkins, my brother, me-- anyone to keep the subject away from Father and his mention of the colonial question and his nagging insistence on the inequalities of the Empire's favored trade

It was after two in the morning when finally the British party said their good nights. I helped Father into his cabin, and sat down to smoke a last cigarette with him.

Father grunted. "A real old Tory, isn't he? A real old Tory, of the old school.'

"I thought for a minute he was going to bust. Pop."

"Oh," he smiled, "I'll be able to work with him. Don't worry about that. We'll get along famously."

"So long as you keep off the subject of India."

"Mmm, I don't know. I think we'll even talk some more about India, before we're through. And Burma. And Java. And Indo-China. And Indonesia. And all the African colonies. And Egypt and Palestine. We'll talk about 'em all. Don't forget one thing. Winnie has one supreme mission in life, but only one. He's a perfect wartime prime minister. His one big job is to see that Britain
survives this war."

"I must say he sure gives the impression he's going to do Just that."

"Yes. But you notice the way he changes the subject away from anything postwar?"

"It's embarrassing, the things you were talking about. Embarrassing to him."

"There's another reason. It's because his mind is perfect for that of a war leader. But Winston Churchill lead England after the war? It'd never work."

As it turned out, the British people agreed with Pop on that one.

--Elliott Roosevelt, As He Saw It, 1946, pages 35-39.

Unfortunately, FDR did not survive the war, and U.S. foreign policies were radically altered from FDR's vision, with a proto-colonialist tilt that was firmly set in place in Indochina, with a series of disastrous results that continue to this day.

by NBBooks on Wed Mar 5th, 2008 at 10:30:33 AM EST
[ Parent ]

Churchill shifted in his armchair. "The British Empire trade agreements," he began heavily, "are..."

Father broke in. "Yes. Those Empire trade agreements are a case in point. It's because of them that the people of India and Africa, of all the colonial Near East and Far East, are still as backward as they are."

Churchill's neck reddened and he crouched forward. "Mr. President, England does not propose for a moment to lose its favored position among the British Dominions. The trade that has made England great shall continue, and under conditions prescribed by England's ministers."

This, and the reference to "eighteenth century methods" reminds me of
The difference between the genius of the British constitution which protects and governs North America, and that of the mercantile company which oppresses and domineers in the East Indies, cannot perhaps be better illustrated than by the different state of those countries. — Adam Smith in The Wealth of Nations

We have met the enemy, and he is us — Pogo
by Carrie (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Wed Mar 5th, 2008 at 10:38:59 AM EST
[ Parent ]
There is some truth to this. I just finished reading John K. Galbraith's "The Great Crash 1929" and he does blame the 1925 decision by Winston Churchill (then Chancellor of the Exchequer) to set the Pound exchange rate (on the gold standard) at pre-WWI levels.

Galbraith wastes no time calling Churchill an economic ignoramus (funny, that, appointing such a person to be Chancellor) and attributes the chosen rate (nearly $5 to the pound) to sentimental attachment to a 15-year-old figure. It may have been that the figure was suggested to him by people like Lord Montagu Norman, but Galbraith doesn't go into that.

What happened then was that the European central banks pressured the US to raise its interest rates to allow them to get rid of their surplus capital. Devaluation of the European currencies would have been the proper course of action in this case, I suppose, but the UK had just adopted the gold standard and the exchange rate was not supposed to be changed every 6 months.

The resulting rush of money into the US fuelled the speculative bubble leading up to 1929.

The rate cut by Montagu Norman in the autumn of 1929 is also not mentioned by Galbraith. In fact, he clearly states that the bull market ended on Labor Day weekend (first weekend of September, for those non-USians out there) though it took two months to crash.

It also appears that in 1929-32 Hoover actually did all that he was allowed to do by the establishment, which was intent on fiscal conservatism and keeping inflation down.

We have met the enemy, and he is us — Pogo

by Carrie (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Wed Mar 5th, 2008 at 06:40:04 AM EST
[ Parent ]


Occasional Series