Be careful what you wish for.
The Neverending Story
In the German children’s tale, Bastian enters Fantastica, a magical world of limitless possibilities. All that’s necessary for him to wish whatever he wants into existence is the ouroboros AURYN, the symbol of the two serpents standing guard at the Waters of Life.
Unfortunately for Bastian, each wish erases his memories, distancing him further and further from reality.
Be Careful What You Wish For
In 1907, a wave of financial uncertainty washed across the country. The stock market fell 50% from the previous year’s high, banks went insolvent, many businesses filed for bankruptcy, production and imports fell, unemployment more than doubled; even immigration to the Land of the Free dropped by nearly half.
To slow the contagion, legendary financier JP Morgan purchased $30 million of New York City bonds, helping it narrowly avoid insolvency. Days later, President Theodore Roosevelt approved Morgan’s controversial takeover of the Tennessee Coal, Iron & Railroad Company, in what was billed as an attempt to further sure-up the diseased financial system.
The severity of the crisis and JP Morgan’s increasing participation & intervention in national financial affairs led many to question his role in the events. Some analysts even believe the crisis was engineered by Morgan-controlled companies to damage the reputation of trusts, much to the banker’s benefit.
Citizens cried for financial reform, and the government answered their wishes, forming the National Monetary Commission to investigate the panic and propose legislation to regulate banking. Senator Nelson Aldrich convened a secret conference of the nation’s top financiers off the coast of Georgia at the now infamous Jekyll Island Club; 3 of 5 invited guests in attendance were in Morgan’s employ. Two years later, Congress gave the people what they wanted: markets and liquidity would henceforth be controlled by the Federal Reserve.
Signed into law on December 23, 1913, President Woodrow Wilson would later remark:
“I am a most unhappy man. I have unwittingly ruined my country.
A great industrial nation is controlled by its system of credit.”
A Den of Vipers
But 1913 wasn’t the first time the country would find itself firmly in the grasp of the world’s wealthy banking elite.
Alexander Hamilton, a New York banker with strong ties to Britain’s banking elite, pushed the young country into its first central bank with President George Washington’s 1791 signing of the First Bank of the United States into law. Thomas Jefferson deeply opposed the bank’s formation, and the wedge ultimately led to his resignation from Washington’s cabinet.
Not surprisingly, it wasn’t long before the new bank was deep in debt. 20 years later, Congress opted to let the charter expire and sell its shares in the bank to settle its many obligations.
Only a few years later, while struggling to finance the War of 1812, President James Madison broke from his anti-central banking stance and signed into law the Second Bank of the United States. Once again, and after the bank failed to demonstrate an ability to meet its charge, the bank’s charter was not renewed. Committed to “killing the bank”, President Andrew Jackson campaigned extensively against the “den of vipers” that he saw as dangerous to the liberties of the people. Narrowly dodging several assassination attempts, Jackson was ultimately successful in bringing the Second Bank to a close, ushering in the free banking era of the 19th century.
Making the Connection
No coin collection commemorating today’s debt & death paradigm is complete without paying respect to the Federal Reserve, an institution that serves as the economic epicenter and global model of our twisted fantasy.
Since its inception, it has grossly failed to accomplish its mandate – keep markets stable while ensuring maximum employment, low inflation & moderate long-term interest rates. Regardless, it continues to exist, overseeing dozens of financial recessions, panics & depressions.
But the Federal Reserve would be nearly powerless if not for the two intertwined snakes from which its powers are derived – CREDIT and FIAT CURRENCY. In the real world, far outside the boundaries of Fantastica, unwarranted credit and valueless fiat currency is our modern equivalent of AURYN, the baseless granter of wishes.
Fortunately, the nightmare ends when the individual sees the system for what it is and chooses to go on living as if it doesn’t exist.
In the tale, Bastian’s adventures concludes as he finds the Waters of Life, Fantastica’s exit back to reality. Upon returning to the real world…
…Bastian discovers himself not a Fantastican prince, but a fat little boy.
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