The financial enigma resolved — A debt-money system
by Louis Even
“The Money Myth Exploded” was one of the first articles of Louis Even, and remains one of the most popular to explain how money is created as a debt by private banks. It is available in the form of an 8-page leaflet (tabloid format) that you can order from the “Michael” office, in several languages: English, French, Spanish, Italian, German, Polish, Portuguese.
1. Shipwreck survivors
explosion had blown their ship apart. Each one grasped the first bit of
wreckage that came to hand. And when it was over, there were five left,
five huddled on a raft which the waves carried along at their will. As
for the other victims of the disaster, there was no sign of them.
after long hour their eyes searched the horizon. Would some passing ship
sight them? Would their make-shift raft finds its way to some friendly
a cry rang out: “Land! Look! Over there, in the direction the
waves are carrying us!”
as the vague silhouette proved itself to be, in fact, the outline of a
shore, the figures on the raft danced with joy.
were five. There was Frank, the carpenter, big and energetic. It was he
who had first cried, “Land!”.
Paul, a farmer. You can see him, front and left in the picture, on his
knees, one hand against the floor, the other gripping the mast of the
is Jim, an animal breeder; he's the one in the striped pants, kneeling
and gazing in the direction of land.
there is Harry, an agriculturist, a little on the stout side, seated on
a trunk salvaged from the wreck.
And finally Tom, a prospector and a mineralogist; he is the merry fellow standing in the rear of the picture with his hand on the carpenter's shoulder.
2. A providential island
five men, setting foot on land was like returning to life from the
they had dried and warmed themselves their first impulse was to explore
this little island on to which they had been cast, far from civilization.
quick survey was sufficient to raise their spirit. The island was not a
barren rock. True enough, they were the only men on it at the moment.
But judging from the herds of semi-domesticated animals they encountered,
there must have been men here at some time before them. Jim, the animal
breeder, was sure he could completely domesticate them and put them to
found the island's soil, for the most part, to be quite suitable for
discovered some fruit trees which, if properly tended, would give good
important were the large stands of timber embracing many types of wood.
Frank, without too much difficulty, would be able to build houses for
the little community.
for Tom, the prospector, well, the rock formations of the island showed
signs of rich mineral deposits. Lacking the tools, Tom still felt his
ingenuity and initiative could produce metals from the ores.
each could serve the common good with his special talent. All agreed to
call the place Salvation Island. All gave thanks to Providence for the
reasonably happy ending to what could have been stark tragedy.
3. True wealth
are the men at work.
carpenter builds houses and makes furniture. At first they find their
food where they can. But soon the fields are tilled and seeded, and the
farmer has his crops.
season followed season this island, this heritage of the five men,
Salvation Island, became richer and richer.
wealth was not that of gold or of paper bank notes, but one of true
value; a wealth of food and clothing and shelter, of all the things to
meet human needs.
man worked at his own trade. Whatever surpluses he might have of his own
produce, he exchanged for the surplus products of the others.
wasn't always as smooth and complete as they could have wished it to be.
They lacked many of the things to which they had been accustomed in
civilization. But their lot could have been a great deal worse.
all had experienced the depression in Canada. They still remembered the
empty bellies side by side with stores crammed with food.
least, on Salvation Island, they weren't forced to see the things they
needed rot before their eyes. Taxes were unknown here. Nor did they go
in constant fear of seizure by the bailiff. They worked hard but at
least they could enjoy the fruits of their toil.
So they developed the island, thanking God and hoping for the day of reunion with their families, still in possession of life and health, those two greatest of blessings.
4. A serious inconvenience
men often got together to talk over their affairs.
the simple economic system which had developed, one thing was beginning
to bother then more and more; they had no form of money. Barter, the
direct exchange of goods for goods, had its drawbacks. The products to
be exchanged were not always at hand when a trade was discussed. For
example, wood delivered to the farmer in winter could not be paid for in
potatoes until six months later.
one man might have an article of considerable size which he wished to
exchange for a number of smaller articles produced by different men at
this complicated business and laid a heavy burden on the memory. With a
monetary system, however, each one could sell his products to the others
for money. With this money he could buy from the others the things he
wanted, when he wished and when they were available.
was agreed that a system of money would indeed be very convenient. But
none of them knew how to set up such a system. They knew how to produce
true wealth - goods. But how to produce money, the symbol of this wealth,
was something quite beyond them. They were ignorant of the origin of
money, and needing it they didn't know how to produce it. Certainly,
many men of education would have been in the same boat; all our
governments were in that predicament during the ten years prior to the
war. The only thing the country lacked at that time was money, and the
governments apparently didn't know what to do to get it.
5. Arrival of a refugee
One evening, when our boys were sitting on the beach going over their problem for the hundredth time, they suddenly saw approaching a small boat with a solitary man at the oars.
They learned that he was the only survivor of a wreck. His name: Oliver.
Delighted to have a new companion, they provided him with the best that they had, and they took him on an inspection tour of the colony.
“Even though we're lost and cut off from the rest of the world,” they told him, “we haven't too much to complain about. The earth and the forest are good to us. We lack only one thing — money. That would make it easier for us to exchange our products.”
“Well, you can thank Providence,” replied Oliver, “because I am a banker, and in no time at all, I'll set up a system of money guaranteed to satisfy you. Then you'll have everything that people in civilization have.”
A banker!... A BANKER!... An angel coming down out of the clouds couldn't have inspired more reverence and respect in our men. For, after all, are we not accustomed, we people in civilization, to genuflect before bankers, those men who control the lifeblood of finance?
6. Civilization's god
“Mr. Oliver, as our banker, your only occupation on this island will be to look after our money; no manual labour.”
“I shall, like every other banker, carry out to complete satisfaction my task of forging the community's prosperity.”
“Mr. Oliver, we're going to build you a house that will be in keeping with your dignity as a banker. But in the meantime, do you mind if we lodge you in the building that we use for our get-togethers?”
“That will suit me, my friends. But first of all, unload the boat. There's paper and a printing press, complete with ink and type, and there's a little barrel which I exhort you to treat with the greatest care.”
They unloaded everything. The small barrel aroused intense curiosity in our good fellows.
“This barrel,” Oliver announced, “contains a treasure beyond dreams. It is full of... gold!”
Full of gold! The five all but swooned. The god of civilization here on Salvation Island! The yellow god, always hidden, yet terrible in its power, whose presence or absence or slightest caprice could decide the very fate of all the civilized nations!
“Gold! Mr. Oliver, you are indeed a great banker!”
“Oh august majesty! Oh honorable Oliver! Great high priest of the god, gold! Accept our humble homage, and receive our oaths of fidelity!”
“Yes, my friends, gold enough for a continent. But gold is not for circulation. Gold must be hidden. Gold is the soul of healthy money, and the soul is always invisible. But I'll explain all that when you receive your first supply of money.”
7. The secret burial
Before they went their separate ways for the night, Oliver asked them one last question.
“How much money will you need to begin with in order to facilitate trading?”
They looked at one another, then deferentially towards the banker. After a bit of calculation, and with the advice of the kindly financier, they decided that $200 each would do.
The men parted, exchanging enthusiastic comments. And in spite of the late hour, they spent most of the night lying awake, their imaginations excited by the picture of gold. It was morning before they slept.
As for Oliver, he wasted not a moment. Fatigue was forgotten in the interests of his future as a banker. By dawn's first light, he dug a pit into which he rolled the barrel. He then filled it in, transplanting a small shrub to the spot about which he carefully arranged sod. It was well hidden.
Then he went to work with his little press to turn out a thousand $1 bills. Watching the clean new banknotes come from his press, the refugee turned banker thought to himself:
“My! How simple it is to make money. All its value comes from the products it will buy. Without produce, these bills are worthless. My five naive customers don't realize that. They actually think that this new money derives its value from gold! Their very ignorance makes me their master.”
And as evening drew on, the five came to Oliver — on the run.
8. Who owns the new money?
Five bundles of new banknotes were sitting on the table.
“Before distributing the money,” said the banker, “I would like your attention.
“Now, the basis of all money is gold. And the gold stored away in the vault of my bank is my gold. Consequently, the money is my money. Oh! Don't look so discouraged. I'm going to lend you this money, and you're going to use it as you see fit. However, you'll have to pay interest. Considering that money is scarce here, I don't think 8% is unreasonable.”
“Oh, that's quite reasonable, Mr. Oliver.”
“One last point, my friends. Business is business, even between pals. Before you get the money, each of you is going to sign a paper. By it you will bind yourselves to pay both interest and capital under penalty of confiscation of property by me. Oh! This is a mere formality. Your property is of no interest to me. I'm satisfied with money. And I feel sure that I'll get my money, and that you'll keep your property.”
“That makes sense, Mr. Oliver. We're going to work harder than ever in order to pay you back.”
“That's the spirit. And any time you have a problem, you come and see me. Your banker is your best friend. Now here's two hundred dollars for each one of you.”
And our five brave fellows went away, their hands full of dollar bills, their heads swimming with the ecstasy of having money.
9. A problem in arithmetic
And so Oliver's money went into circulation on the island. Trade, simplified by money, doubled. Everybody was happy.
And the banker was always greeted with unfailing respect and gratitude.
But now, let's see... Why does Tom, the prospector, look so grave as he sits busily figuring with a pencil and paper? It is because Tom, like the others, has signed an agreement to repay Oliver, in one year's time, the $200 plus $16 interest. But Tom has only a few dollars in his pocket, and the date of payment is near.
For a long time he had wrestled with this problem from his own personal point of view, without success. Finally, he looked at it from the angle of the little community as a whole.
“Taking into consideration everyone on the island as a whole,” he mused, “are we capable of meeting our obligations? Oliver turned out a total of $1000. He's asking in return $1080. But even if we bring him every dollar bill on the island, we'll still be $80 short. Nobody made the extra $80. We turn out produce, not dollar bills. So Oliver can take over the entire island, since all the inhabitants together can't pay him back the total amount of the capital and the interest.
“Even if a few, without any thought for the others, were able to do so, those others would fall. And the turn of the first spared would come eventually. The banker will have everything. We'd better hold a meeting right away and decide what to do about it.”
Tom, with his figures in his hand, had no difficulty in proving the situation. All agreed that they had been duped by the kindly banker. They decided upon a meeting at Oliver's.