CRASH 2008-09 -- first wave

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Robber Barons

Neoliberalism and neoliberals have various other labels:  globalization, corporatism, flat worlders, neocons, neoconservatives and the one I prefer, the new Robber Barons.  They stand for a form of laissez-faire capitalism,* which only they, like members of a church, tout as the way and path—reason and evidence are damned.  The phrase, robber baron, was used to describe the situation that existed in many parts of the world where the principle governments were small fifes.   The local young men under the head of a chief would exact from a group of travels a fee for passing through their territory.  Robber baron was adopted was the U.S. applied to railroad magnates.  It appears in an 1880 anti-monopoly pamphlet sold to farmers in the Kansas region.  It soon was extended to the powerful U.S. capitalists of the late 19th century who in the pursuit of wealth exploited labor, formed alliances with legislators and judges, manipulated financial and trade markets, polluted the environment, and eliminated competition.  This usage fell gradually as the corporate media extended its control over the production of ideas.


Much like the written history of a war that devotes considerable space to the generals, the history of U.S. industrialization following the Civil War was about the Robber Barons.  The ruthless tactics of these barons of trade were described by the economist and sociologist Thorstein Veblen in The Theory of the Leisure Class (1899).   Veblen compared the powerful industrialists and bankers to the barbaric barons, for they lived off the spoils of conquest.  Their care of and for their workers, Veblen compared to that of farmers to their farm animals.  He also devoted considerable space to the conspicuous consumption of the leisure class.   Wit and insight made his book a best seller; and it became required reading for several generations of college students. 


American journalist Matthew Josephson in 1934 wrote the Robber Barons, a bestseller (still in print) that exposed their world.   He stressed their business practices and in the last chapters their conspicuous consumption.  I borrowed this book from my elementary-school library, and 40 years later from a local library. 

Should the bankers run the Fed Reserve?

The robber barons have organized


As Bernard Shaw said:  Every professional organization is a conspiracy against the people


Major issues:  Having the wolf run the henhouse doesn’t work


The failure of the Federal Reserve has been demonstrated by their track record which includes the causing of 2 depressions caused by their loose monetary policies that have produced speculative bubbles.  We are currently in one,


The treatment of a problem depends upon whom is selected.  To have our financial markets run by those who profit by their manipulations is the corruption.  I would propose that a panel of university economic professors be set up to guide our economy, and that their selection should be through a vote of professors of economics at the leading 100 universities.

Economic depression:  a sustained economic recession in which a nation's Gross National Product (GNP) is falling and marked by low production and sales and a high rate of business failures and unemployment—Webster’s New Millennium Dictionary



As Congressman Louis T. McFadden, Chairman of the House Committee on Banking and Currency from 1920–31, accused the Federal Reserve of deliberately causing the Great Depression. In several speeches made shortly after he lost the chairmanship of the committee, McFadden claimed that the Federal Reserve was run by Wall Street banks and their affiliated European banking houses.  On June 10, 1932, McFadden said:

Mr. Chairman, we have in this country one of the most corrupt institutions the world has ever known. I refer to the Federal Reserve Board and the Federal Reserve Banks. The Federal Reserve Board, a Government board, has cheated the Government of the United States and the people of the United States out of enough money to pay the national debt. These twelve private credit monopolies were deceitfully and disloyally foisted upon this country by the bankers who came here from Europe and repaid us for our hospitality by undermining our American institutions...The people have a valid claim against the Federal Reserve Board and the Federal Reserve banks.

Currently, Congressman Ron Paul, the ranking member of the Monetary Policy Subcommittee, is a staunch opponent of the Federal Reserve System. During each Congress Paul introduces a bill to abolish the Federal Reserve System (H.R. 2755—110th Congress, H.R. 2778—108th Congress, H.R. 5356—107th Congress, H.R. 1148—106th Congress).  However, without campaign funding reform, neither party will incur the raft of those who fund their elections. 


Congress has given away the power to print money to the bankers.  They have also given away accountability and reporting.  There is no direct control of the Federal Reserve Board’s actions--the transcripts of their meeting are kept from Congress for 5 years. 

The United States had set up the First Bank of the United States (1791-1811), Second Bank of the United States (1816-1836).  Both based on their conduct did not have their charters renewed.  From 1862 to 1913 a system of national banks was instituted by the 1853 National Banking act; however, a series of bank panics (1873, 1893, 1893, and 1907) demonstrated the need for to regulate banking (a thing proven again twice by deregulation under Reagan that led to the S&L failures, and today by the market crash and financial institutions being bailed out).  The third attempt, 1913 to present, was essentially written by the industry it was to control. 

Aldrich set up two commissions — one to study the American monetary system in depth and the other, headed by Aldrich himself, to study the European central-banking systems and report on them.  Centralized banking was met with much opposition from politicians, who were suspicious of a central bank and who charged that Aldrich was biased due to his close ties to wealthy bankers such as J.P. Morgan and his daughter's marriage to John D. Rockefeller, Jr.


Aldrich fought for a private bank with little government influence, but conceded that the government should be represented on the Board of Directors. Most Republicans favored the Aldrich Plan,[5] but it lacked enough support in the bipartisan Congress to pass.[6] Progressive Democrats instead favored a reserve system owned and operated by the government and out of control of the "money trust", ending Wall Street's control of American currency supply.[5] Conservative Democrats fought for a privately owned, yet decentralized, reserve system, which would still be free of Wall Street's control.[5] The Federal Reserve Act passed Congress in late 1913 on a mostly partisan basis, with most Democrats in support and most Republicans against it.   (Wikipedia at





Jekyll Island Meeting


A secret meeting of financiers, and other suitable players including Assistant Secretary of the Treasury Department and Senator Nelson Aldrich (Chairman of the National Monetary Commission).  It was orchestrated by J.P. Morgan.  About one-sixth of the world’s wealth arrived at the Jekyll Island Club to discuss monetary policy and the banking system and how to organize it along the German model.  Bertrand Charles Forbes wrote in 1918 of the 1910 meeting: 


Picture a party of the nation's greatest bankers stealing out of New York on a private railroad car under cover of darkness, stealthily riding hundred of miles South, embarking on a mysterious launch, sneaking onto an island deserted by all but a few servants, living there a full week under such rigid secrecy that the names of not one of them was once mentioned, lest the servants learn the identity and disclose to the world this strangest, most secret expedition in the history of American finance. I am not romancing; I am giving to the world, for the first time, the real story of how the famous Aldrich currency report, the foundation of our new currency system, was written... The utmost secrecy was enjoined upon all. The public must not glean a hint of what was to be done. Senator Aldrich notified each one to go quietly into a private car of which the railroad had received orders to draw up on an unfrequented platform. Off the party set. New York's ubiquitous reporters had been foiled... Nelson (Aldrich) had confided to Henry, Frank, Paul and Piatt that he was to keep them locked up at Jekyll Island, out of the rest of the world, until they had evolved and compiled a scientific currency system for the United States, the real birth of the present Federal Reserve System, the plan done on Jekyll Island in the conference with Paul, Frank and Henry... Warburg is the link that binds the Aldrich system and the present system together. He, more than any one man, has made the system possible as a working reality.


The only thing worse than having an industry set up a board which regulates itself, is having no regulations at all.  Under the leadership of the Federal Reserve Board we have had numerous recessions and two depressions.  Under their leadership (along with their allies of IMF, World Bank, and WTO) they have succeeded in outsourcing our industrial base so that basic industries now account for less than 10% of all jobs.  Under their leadership our standard of living has fallen:  a blue collar male worker could in the 50s could support a family above the poverty line.  Under their leadership the largest sector of our economy consist of financialization—the shuffling of funds.  Under their leadership U.S. total dept has risen to at least $53 trillion dollars, over 4 times our GDP.  Under their leadership of the global financial community for which the U.S. is the leader, the average daily global volume of foreign exchange transactions has risen to over $3 trillion dollars by January of 2008, and credit derivative market has ballooned to $26 trillion dollars by June of 2006.    Under the leadership of our financial community along with their allies in government, our society has the greatest by far pyramid of wealth among all the developed nations. Under their leadership productive of the working class has risen over 40% since 1975, yet the worker’s share of the wealth created has shrunken.  This is what we get from a system rotten at its core.   

For a view of the ideal alternative, please read Utopian Economics. 

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*Adam Smith was not one a supporter of unrestricted capitalism, though conservatives have cast him as such. . 


Noted British Economics and Professor Lionel Robins setting the record straight: 

Popular writing in this connection is far below the zero of knowledge or common decency.  On this plain not only is any real knowledge of the classical writers nonexistent, but their place has been taken by a set of mythological figures passing by the same names, but not infrequently invested with attitudes almost the exact reverse which the originals adopted.  These dummies are very malignant creatures indeed.  They are the tools or lackeys of the capitalist exploiters.  I think that has the authentic stylistic flavor.  They are extremely indifferent to the well being of the working classes.  Hence when a writer today wishes to present his own point of view in a special favorable setting, he has only to point to these constructs with the attitude of these reprehensible people and the desired effect is produced.  You’d be surprised how many well-known authors who have resorted to this device.—Lionel Robins—1939, Lectures for the London School of Economics.  Found in Books on Tape Disc II, track 1, 1:30 ff., The English Classical Economists. 



The English classical economists included the 2 great Scottish philosophers David Hume and Adam Smiths, and their followers.  Among their followers were Thomas Malthus, David Ricardo, and John Stuart Mill.   Smith was a champion of the masses.  He observed that whenever government interfered with free trade it was at the behest of a special interest group, and the burden of such legislation fell heavily upon the laboring poor through higher prices.  He was deeply moved by their plight.  If government followed Jeremy Bentham’s standard of utilitarianism and thus promoted the common weal as their primary duty, Smith

Teddy Roosevelt's advice that, "We must drive the special interests out of politics. The citizens of the United States must effectively control the mighty commercial forces which they have themselves called into being. There can be no effective control of corporations while their political activity remains."

Don’t miss the collection of Pod Cast links


Nothing I have seen is better at explaining in a balanced way the development of the national-banking system (Federal Reserve, Bank of England and others).  Its quality research and pictures used to support its concise explanation set a standard for documentaries--at  The 2nd greatest item in the U.S. budget is payment on the debt.