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Strange Happenings on a Bridge

on Sunday, 01 November 1959. Posted in Diverse Articles

Finance, a linking function

The linking function of finance is so important that it is worth getting as clear a picture of it as possible. A conception at once graphic and true is that of a bridge spanning a ravine, and let the ravine be wide and deep so that nothing can cross it, except by the bridge, without courting disaster.

Some of the characteristics of such a bridge are as follows. (We assume it to be well built and well managed.

  1. The bridge is simply and solely a device by which traffic can pass across the ravine, and the best bridge enables this to be done with maximum speed and safety and minimum inconvenience. It is not built nor managed for its own sake, and apart from the service it renders it is so much steel and stone...!
  2. The bridge is man-made, therefore, it can be remade at man's will or altered to meet fresh traffic conditions. It is not God-made and therefore to be reverenced either for its own sake or because it was good enough for our grandfathers; it is not a natural phenomenon exercising "inexorable natural" laws".
  3. The bridge belongs to the people who need it and use it, whose traffic caused it to be built and whose collective genius built it. It does not belong to the staff of bridge officials any more than the cars passing through a tollgate belong to the toll collector or than the property on his beat belongs to a policeman.
  4. It is the business of the owner-users to say how they wish the business of the bridge to be conducted, and to appoint the best staff procurable to carry those wishes out; which officials are naturally paid for their work by the owner-users and are responsible to them. It is not part of the officials' business to run the bridge for their own pleasure, power or profit; and their salaries like those of British judges should be large enough to enable them to withstand the temptation to stage hold-ups on the bridge in order to get money.

Are these ramifications and elaborations of the simile fantastic? We shall see. First, however, let us identify our material.

The two sides of the ravine are of course Production and Consumption, the bridge, Finance; the traffic, goods; and the few unfortunates who try to jump across, thieves and the like. This completes the picture, though in one respect it needs qualification. In economies, John Smith lives two lives, one in the land of Production and the other in the land of Consumption. This only means, of course, that a farmer not only produces wheat but also consumes tractors; etc., and that a pillmaker, not only produces pills but also consumes bread etc., including perhaps even some of his own pills. John Smith, in short has an office in Production and a Home in Consumption.

So if we can visualize millions of people in the land of consumption all thronging towards the bridge with arms outstretched and crying out. "We want.", and in the land of Production those same millions shouting across the ravine (through their Advertising Departments): "It's all right — we've got the very things you want?" and pouring goods to the bridgehead, then we shall have some idea of the basic relations between the members of the great economic trinity.

Now for a few of the curious, not to say alarming, things that are happening on the bridge of Finance. We can compare them paragraph by paragraph with what we have just seen should not be done on any properly conducted bridge.

  1. This bridge is treated as though it had been built for its own sake and was an end in itself.

Money has itself become a commodity traded in like any other.

2. The bridge is assumed to be, if not God built, at least so beyond our powers of comprehension or alteration that instead of widening it to meet an increase in traffic the latter is deliberately and even with pride curtailed to fit the existing width.

The amount of money varies, not with the amount of producible and wanted goods, though what else, we may ask, should money represent? — but with the amount of gold in bank vaults.

The bridge is regarded as an immovable natural phenomenon, sacrosanct and inexorable.

A Cabinet Minister, no exception to his kind, explaining why promises made at a general election had not been kept; said: "The grim goddess of Finance exercised as she always must, an inexorable power."

3. The bridge does not belong to its users.

The Bank of England and the "Big Five" Joint Stock Banks (Barclays, Lloyds, Midland, National Provincial, Westminster) are privately owned institutions.

4. The bridge's officials are not appointed. by the users, therefore and consequently, are neither paid by them nor responsible to them.

The officials achieve power and profit through administering the bridge as their own perquisite.

∗ ∗ ∗

Finally, when the general maladministration very naturally throws the traffic into turmoil, the people on either side of the ravines are told that only by taking steps which will confirm the officials in their usurped powers can the bridge be saved from falling in utter collapse into the torrent below. In other words, any discussion of Finance itself (apart from its present creaking machinery), any affirmation of its true function, or any search for a possible basic flaw — these things are taboo.

Yet, who can blame the officials for regarding the bridge as a 'pons asinorum' (a bridge of asses) when the asses on it appear to have forgotten even how to bray? The patience of asses, when it is derived from ignorance, is not a virtue, nor their silence brave.

Maurice COLBOURNE

(The above is an abridgement of a section of chapter 4 of Maurice Colbourne's book: The Meaning of Social Credit, a book heartily to be recommanded to all beginning a study of Social Credit.

Earl Massecar

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