JULY 1 2010 09:29h
“Franz Bread the good bread, flavor beyond compare…Franz bread the good bread, the good bread flavor is there, for sandwiches and toast, flavor you’ll enjoy the most…”….this was a phrase every kid knew when I was growing up, because we heard it incessantly on the TV and radio, and the Franz trucks, which could be seen traveling all over town, day and night, to deliver fresh bread and pastries to the local grocery stores, had the phrase painted on the side as well. I never much liked Franz bread, though. It was white, spongy, and insubstantial, and if you squeezed a piece in your fist, it would shrink in seconds to a small, hard ball, which you could then throw at a younger brother and sister and make them cry. But what I did like was that my best friend was Kris Franz, the daughter of the bread magnate, and that she loved to barter her expensive, fancy dresses for my less fancy, much cheaper dresses. This came in handy on numerous occasions; for example, when she returned from Hawaii with a pair of hand-painted flowered summer frocks, which she then proceeded to trade to me, over her mother’s objections, for a dress I’d inherited from another neighbor years before. “I like it better because it has horses on it”, Kris explained quite logically. “Mine have weird, tropical flowers that look like slugs”. She was happy and so was I. Who needed money?
Later, in college, we had a yearly event called the Renaissance Fair, which was a version of the Franz trading system, but on a much larger scale. It was held in a big open field every spring, and everybody who wanted to trade and barter would set up a stand and start doing business. I never knew how to make anything artsy, such as braided leather jewelry or tie-dyed clothes, so I decided on a lemonade stand. That I could make, the real kind with real lemons, not the packaged powder mix most people used. So I made lemonade for the hippie guy with the leather jewelry and he gave me a bracelet in return. The woman with the tie-dyed T-shirts needed someone to babysit her kids while she took a break, so I took them, and got a T-shirt in payment. What a wonderful world! I thought back then. Why did we have the need to accumulate money, which only complicated one’s life and relationships, plunged people into debt, created jealousies and unnecessary competition, and corrupted the soul, when everything could be done so pleasantly without it?
In fact, accumulation of wealth was considered such a danger to society and the human soul that Plato, centuries ago in his classic “Laws”, decreed that nobody should be allowed to have any more than four times the amount of money or wealth held by the average citizen. In the case of surplus, for whatever reason, the holder of the surplus should “dedicate it to the city”; that is, use it for the betterment of society – education, defense, culture, and so forth ”Thus he would attain a good name and avoid all penalty.” Should somebody violate the law, “anyone who wishes can denounce him and take half the surplus, while the guilty party will pay an equal amount from his own property”. The other half would again go to the city. In an act of amazing prescience, it was also decreed that no money should be loaned with interest, and that “anyone who has received a loan will be permitted to refuse to pay it back, both interest and principal.” In this way, immediate punishment was meted out to anyone who accumulated money from any occupation that could be characterized as “gross vulgarity”, which “can distort the character of a free man.”
The lack of just such laws, more timely now than long ago in Plato’s time, has created today’s nightmare: lone speculators and corrupt hedge fund managers, a la Soros or Madoff, who become instant multi-billionaires with delusions of grandeur, and are then able, almost singlehandedly, to manipulate foreign governments and resources through massive takeovers of media, banks, and national resources, enabling them to charge cripplingly high interest loans which lead to massive bankruptcy, both financial and spiritual. Only in light of this, can the economic and monetary crises, wherever they may be - in Greece, Spain, or Croatia - be understood and perhaps repaired. Austerity measures proposed by the Croatian government or the unions can be compared to prescribing aspirin for a brain tumor, as long as our workers lack jobs due to import-export imbalances, high interest rates, and so forth, all of which emanate from these very speculators. Not surprising the power they wield, since, according to a groundbreaking study by the World Institute for Development Economics Research of the United Nations University (UNU-WIDER) in 2006:
As Hamlet so succinctly stated: “Something is rotten in the state of Denmark.”
But a recent move by the so-called BRIC countries (Brazil, Russia, India, and China), which has been given surprisingly little media attention here, aims to halt the stench. In a conference held recently in Yekaterinburg, the partipants announced their intentions to promote a new and improved stone age bartering system, which would bypass the need for reserve currency, as well as a new reserve currency to free them from the dominance of the U.S. dollar. And because (more statistics here) the BRIC countries comprise 15 per cent of the world economy, 40 per cent of global currency reserves, half the world’s population, and have also weathered the financial crisis better than the world as a whole, the announcement has caused a lot of waves. And a lot of hysteria as well, as the global speculators see their money and influence under serious attack.
So fasten your seat belts, readers. We’re in for a rocky ride