Tuesday, January 27, 2004

We, The Solvent

Part II of Drunken Banker Week

Alice found Armitage sitting in the vault, with a bottle of bourbon in his hand. He was staring at the trolleys of newly minted notes which had been delivered that morning.

"You may find this hard to believe Miss Rosenbaum," he began, "But this vault used to be filled with real money. Money with value. Honest money. Money you could trust. Not government paper, but good hard gold and silver, the only money fit for a man who lives in a real world with real values. But we let them take it from us and leave us with this." He waved the bottle in a sweeping gesture that took in the all the worthless contents of the vault and left a splash of liquor falling to the floor. He took a long pull on the bottle before he went on.

"And you know what we'll do with this filth, even though we know it's worth less than the paper it's printed on Miss Rosenbaum? We'll put it into circulation, that's what we'll do. Up there on our main floor, hundreds of people come in every day to draw their savings out of this bank and we dutifully hand them a fistful of this looter paper. And what we don't hand out; what the looters make us hold back to cover our deposits, we'll turn into loans Miss Rosenbaum, loans to so-called business.

Not loans to real men - oh no. This bank would never risk it's depositor's money that way. We'll pay it out to the chiseller who'll give us twelve per cent interest for the million dollars he needs to buy up the business his neighbour created with the sweat of his brow and the work of his mind. The fraudster who hasn't even the honesty to rob others at the point of a gun.

But the producers, the men of mind, will we make loans to them? Will we lend our worthless cash to the man who knows how to create new wealth, who knows how a cyclotron can turn lead into gold in commercial quantities, or how to build an engine that will run forever and replenish its own motive forces? No, of course not, not even at twenty percent. We'll call him a crackpot and send him away to starve.

Do you wonder why I hate this place, Miss Rosenbaum?" he slurred, staggering to his feet. "I used to love being a banker, but now there's only one thing I want to do with this filthy, debased place."

Alice decided it was time to leave Armitage to his own hell. She would not throw herself away on a man who was lost to himself. Where was there a real men in the world? Where could she find one of the men of mind, Armitage still at least had dignity enough to look up to? Why had Armitage been sitting on a can of gasoline?

Part I: Filthy Lucre

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