An example of usury

Perhaps I could be accused of Christian tendencies, or at the least of a religious frame of mind, in my view of the Oeconomy, and the “science” of Oeconomics. To start with, I don’t think it exists; for I cannot locate it in the metaphysical scheme of Aristotle the Stagyrite, where I can easily find the eternal sensible of the heavens, the perishable sensible of our sublunary sphere, or the divinely insensible. It is not a thing, in other words; just some boring talk about money. (The Metaphysics, Book Lambda; gentle reader should peruse all the chapters.)

I’m not even sure that money exists, except as printouts. It is at a level of philosophical abstraction that defeats me. It is assigned a “value” that it cannot have except by means of an illusion: a kind of con game writ large. We agree to pretend that it has real substance until the day comes when the only bits anyone could want were those minted in gold and silver. Now those are things.

All other kinds are, as it were, minted by sorcerers and magicians. Or, as we call them today, bankers and central bankers. A bank has deposits of, shall we say, one hundred dollars. This entitles it to lend out a thousand, or two thousand; three thousand might seem “excessive.” And then charge interest on the higher sum; and even collect it sometimes. Whenupon, it can lend out twenty times more. For years I’ve thought I must be missing something, but 816 moons have passed, and I still don’t get it. To my mind, if you have your grubby hands on one hundred dollars, the most you can lend is one hundred dollars; and you’ll be needing at least some of that for lunch.

I don’t mind if you charge a fee to the borrower. Neither did (nor does) the Catholic Church, by the way. You have not the use of that money while it is lent out, something should be owing for the service. Too, you are taking a risk. Maybe you have your customer over a barrel, and you are charging too much. That’s bad, but the rates are negotiable, and sometimes the law steps in.

Real usury is something more fundamental, in my view (and I have stated my qualifications frankly). It comes closer to paying for things with play money.

Once upon a time, when I participated in the imaginary oeconomy, I witnessed transactions that seemed fairly large, to me. Capitalists, using banks, were assembling huge possessions, by means of what appeared to be accounting tricks. In one case an immense (and very ugly) shopping mall emerged from the (figurative) top hats, when I was expecting a rabbit. Large numbers of persons with immortal souls were to be enslaved, building and staffing it. But the whole thing was a confidence trick: “We pretend to work and you pretend to pay us.”

Nobody really owns anything, except the things that they buy in the shopping mall, whose resale value tends to be zilch. Call me a materialist, but I whine that there’s hardly any “stuff” any more. Just “product.”

A lady I know has thrice, in the last year or two, bought a security chain for the door of her apartment — from a hardware store galaxy that enjoys a local near-monopoly, from Newfoundland to Vancouver Island. Every time, the chain breaks, from her own modest use. She is an old lady, not very strong. Even at my age (816 moons), I think I could break the bronze-painted “product” with one good pull. It looks quite dinky. I marvel at this lady’s optimism, in buying the same thing over and over, for $11.95 plus $1.55 of sales tax on her debit card, when she could get the same from a dollar store, and pay only 13 cents of tax. (They come, after all, from the same prison camp in China.)

Confidence in the oeconomy — that’s what this lady has. Or to put it another way, she is a victim of usury.