Forgive us our debts

Money can’t make money of itself, yet that’s just what we have come to expect of it, and to the extent that we have made it happen we have achieved the impossible – but there is a price to pay.

‘Usuary’ gives the impression that we can all be better off so long as we abide by the rules: A lends B some money and expects interest in return – because A could have spent that money on himself. But in a way that is just what A has done because he wants to see his money grow, and he starts living off the expectation of monies due. B is also living off money that is not his, so nobody is living within their means. The whole edifice of expectation is open to collapse, but our attention is diverted in the meantime by the rule of growth – as if money can increase itself indefinitely at no economic cost.

It is apparent that lending money creates growth and incentivises productivity. Industry borrows in order to further its enterprises and everyone benefits from the output. However an increasingly large proportion of that output goes to servicing the money providers and markets where everyone expects returns on their investments. The actual products of industry are the stuff of modern life, we all expect innovations and improvements in the form of cheaper and better products, but the investors want something more – they want improvements in the productivity of money. The output of industry translates into its profitability, but profit alone is no longer seen as enough – those profits need to keep growing – money profitability is now the main stay and industry can diversify into anything that makes money so long as it enables us to make money for money’s sake.

It seems that we expect two things from our labours – one is the product that we have laboured to produce for all the reasons we give to its utility and the other is a financial product expected to generate additional utility by making profit from profit – a profitability that demands of industry an ever-increasing capacity for growth because that’s what the money requires. This demand for profitability has taken a more sinister turn in the financial markets where interest rates, debt liabilities and the ups and downs of trading have become commodities that are expected to make yet more money from money – like a giant wave machine that can harness the natural resources of a financial ocean to replenish is energy.

It seems that with such natural resources waiting to be consumed that our debts will forgive themselves.

Mike Laidler

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