Someone asked me to elaborate on the links between banks, government, the economy and society, and this was well illustrated by the video I shared the other day of James Pierpont Morgan, who founded the JPMorgan empire (see end of this blog entry).
That all began with learning the banking ropes in Europe; then enabling Europeans to invest in the American economic growth; then taking a controlling interest in the American railway networks; followed by a controlling interest in the energy grid; bailing out the government during economic crisis (twice), but using his own personal controls; and more. The result of his activity led to the creation of the Federal Reserve, so that governments would never again be ruled by a private interest (even though the Fed is not run or owned by the US government), and the creation of the new structures of society and the economy linked to banks that link to central banks who link to the government and vice versa.
This structure has been pivotal to economic order for almost a millennium, if you go back to the Medici’s, and is as true today as it was a century or more ago.
Governments are controlled by banks’ interests – they can destroy the economy which, in turn, would destroy the government. Society is controlled by banks’ interest, as the issuance of credit keeps most citizens in subservience. Overall, the economic links between citizens and politicians is dictated by banks’ interests.
Then what is interesting is Jamie Dimon’s comment that he is “scared shitless” by FinTech and so he should be. Why? Because we are going through a total democratisation of finance and society through the network. The struggles governments are having to maintain societal order when fake news and global communications are rife, is exactly the same struggles that banks are having as young visionaries are democratising the financial system through the internet.
Nowhere better is this illustrated than with bitcoin and decentralised finance, defi for short. Almost every banker for a decade, including Jamie Dimon, has accused bitcoin as being a Ponzi scheme used primarily by criminals and money launderers. Then, as they see it never goes away, it suddenly becomes an investable asset held by treasurers as part of their core reserves and assets.
This is part of the scramble for banks to retain control but, equally, it’s part of making bitcoin work as an investable asset. This is well illustrated by the headlines the other day of the poor young chap – Stefan Thomas – who’s forgotten his digital wallet password and has only two attempts left to get access to his $240 million worth of bitcoins, before he loses them.
Thomas said the experience has understandably put him off cryptocurrencies. “This whole idea of being your own bank – let me put it this way, do you make your own shoes?” he said. “The reason we have banks is that we don’t want to deal with all those things that banks do.”
I could cite many other similar stories, but Nathaniel Popper makes the point well in The New York Times.
Of the existing 18.5 million Bitcoin, around 20 percent — currently worth around $140 billion — appear to be in lost or otherwise stranded wallets, according to the cryptocurrency data firm Chainalysis.
In other words, there is a reason why banks exist as trusted intermediaries and stores of value, their arrogance of dictatorship over markets, commerce, the economy and governments are tenuous and broken or, rather, needs to be broken.
That’s what the internet, FinTech and Big Tech is really focused upon: to rebuild the financial system so that it can be trusted, but far more democratic, inclusive, equal and objective.
No wonder Jamie Dimon is worried, as should all bankers be, as the stranglehold they’ve enjoyed over governments and citizens for a millennium is changing fast. What will it become? I have no idea, but I do think it will be different. More on that later.
Chris M Skinner
Chris Skinner is best known as an independent commentator on the financial markets through his blog, TheFinanser.com, as author of the bestselling book Digital Bank, and Chair of the European networking forum the Financial Services Club. He has been voted one of the most influential people in banking by The Financial Brand (as well as one of the best blogs), a FinTech Titan (Next Bank), one of the Fintech Leaders you need to follow (City AM, Deluxe and Jax Finance), as well as one of the Top 40 most influential people in financial technology by the Wall Street Journal's Financial News. To learn more click here...