That’s me. And you. Nearly all of us, except for a few very rich people.
Imagine a village in mediaeval Europe. One day, Sir Roger rides into the village with his men-at-arms and demands that the village funds his long-term family feud with his neighbour, Sir William. He wants 40% of the harvest. He doesn’t give a reason other than to say the villagers have been living too high on the hog for too long.
The real reason is that he’s just returned from a foreign war instigated by the King and he’s short of cash. Incidentally, the King only became involved in the war because his cousin, due to marry the King’s sister, invaded a neighbouring country to steal land and gold.
The village has two alternatives. One is to be killed. The other is to give Sir Roger 40% of the harvest. They choose the latter because it’s better for a few to die of starvation than all of them and they are not totally stupid.
So, they give him the harvest, a few of them starve and the rest lead a miserable existence. The following year Sir Roger’s back. The war has gone badly, so this time he wants 75% of the harvest. The villagers give in. One brave soul suggests a revolution and Sir Roger has him hung drawn and quartered ‘pour encourager les autres’ as he says, being ever so slightly French. No one else protests, because they are not totally stupid, but lots of them die and there are fewer people to work the land, so the harvest is miserable and next year Sir Roger has to have 100% of the harvest.
The village is dead. Until more cheap labour arrives from France or Ireland, the land lies fallow.
But Sir Roger still needs money as his cousin has started another war.
Not a problem. He invades a neighbour’s land and picks up one or two fat villages. Of course, he needs more money to fund the invasion, so he takes a few more villages from another neighbour and starts another war.
Fast forward to 2013.
Sir Roger has a bank. He is very greedy and wants to make more money than he could ever spend. He needs ten houses, five Ferraris and enough gold to choke a brontosaurus. His wife needs sufficient diamonds (sod cheap crystals) to fully populate a vajazzle for the same, by now choking, but intrinsically wealthy dinosaur.
He asks the King – now called The Government – for money. The Government has no money of its own so it gets some from the peasants by taxing the poor and people who save their money under the bed. There is no point in taxing the rich because they are all friends with or related to members of the Government and wouldn’t like it at all. That money is then given to Sir Roger.
But, it’s not enough.
He asks the Government for more and they tax the peasants again and borrow money from rich people and other banks to give to the rich people who are investors in Sir Roger’s bank. Sir Roger gets a big cash gift for getting them the money so they can buy more houses and Ferraris, which is their right and duty, as it is the right and duty of the peasants to provide such necessities.
Because the Government has borrowed so much money it has to make the money worth less so that it doesn’t have as much to pay back. Printing more paper money without any gold, or even a secret hoard of Cornish Pasties, to back it up is one way. It’s always better to call this ‘quantitative easing’ so that people don’t get worried that their paper money is not worth the value of the paper. If they found out that it wasn’t, then they might take their money out of the banks and the whole system of making money for very rich people called ‘banking’ would collapse and then where would we be?
Anyway, because money is worth less, the peasants find that food and utilities are becoming awfully expensive.
The hardest hit are the stupid ones who saved all their lives for retirement and now find their paper money is worthless. A few of the older ones die because it’s winter and they have foolishly chosen to buy food instead of fuel. The Government is happy about this because the less old people the less the pension bill and the more available to give to Sir Roger and his friends – who coincidentally happen to be members of the Government.
The Government reduces the value of their currency – often called by quaint names like the Pound, the Dollar or the Euro – so much that they have to borrow a lot more from very rich people to keep the basic services running in order to avoid revolution. The thing they most fear is revolution, because in a revolution new people become Sir Roger, new people become the Government and the old Sir Rogers and old Government are forced to have only one or two houses and Ferraris. Occasionally, they are hung from lamp posts or beheaded as well, which is almost as bad.
As time goes by, the very rich people need to make more money from the money they are loaning since it is worth so much less. They all go to their club, called the International Monetary Fund or the EU or the Federal Reserve and decide that the peasants have had it too good for too long and need to be taught a lesson.
In Europe, lots of countries find that their peasants had had it too good for too long and have to borrow more money that isn’t worth anything to pay back the very rich people for the money they borrowed when nobody realised that paper money wasn’t worth anything at all. Of course, this newly printed money is worth even less than the old money, so the very rich people quite naturally need to make sure they are going to get some of it back before they have even lent it.
Of course, somebody has to pay.
Quite obviously, it wasn’t the banks that made disastrous investments or lent money they didn’t have to people who could never pay it back. It was the fault of the peasants for wanting a life that was too good for them.
The fair and just solution is to take any money the peasants are hoarding, from their private savings and give it to the very rich people. After all, the peasants were stupid enough to save money in banks, so deserve to be deprived of it for the greater good. Of the very rich people.
Cyprus is the first such attempted repatriation. The peasants call it theft when The EU – another club for rich people – wants to forcibly deduct 40% of their life savings from everyone with a bank account on one particular day of the year. They fail to realise – because they are not terribly bright – that the money was never theirs but was always on loan from the very rich people and anyway wasn’t worth anything unless the very rich people said it was.
The peasants get a little uppity at the idea of donating their savings and start protesting and mumbling darkly about lamp posts, so the Cypriot government bravely votes not to steal their money, but instead to filch it from the life savings of another class of peasants called ‘pensioners’, who are not mobile enough to protest and will probably die quite soon so won’t need any money. This idea is disguised by having a few rich people leave some money in their accounts so that it looks as if only the rich are being stolen from. The very rich have already moved their money, of course.
Eventually, lots of governments think, ‘what a good idea, as long as we don’t steal the money from people who can walk or have the strength to lift someone to lamp post level’. They find many creative ways of ensuring that private savings and other assets built up over a lifetime of poorly paid and health-wrecking work are not squandered on the foolish aspirations of peasants or pensioners.
The moral of this story is that if you have a very large amount of money you can keep it and the peasants will give you more. But if you have savings or a pension, you don’t deserve to keep them since you are, by definition, stupid and should donate them to those who know how to spend them wisely on Italian cars and genital ornamentation.
It’s your way of thanking the very rich people for ham (sorry, horse) burgers, fizzy drinks, pornography, TV game shows, GM foods, democracy (an opportunity to vote for people who aspire to be rich people) and all the other fine things provided by them to keep you happy, in your bovine way.
And remember, the so-called ‘economic crisis’ is entirely your fault in the first place, so be grateful.