William Krehm

Systems theory would have taught economics reformers as well as those who live happily under other banners that social solutions cannot be chosen for their simplicity achieved by running on an already set-up monorail. What should have shocked us into a realization of this is that the technologies of military repression have long since hopelessly outstripped the persuasiveness of peaceful democratic process. On the blackboard of my mind written in screeching white chalk is Pere Lachaise cemetery in Paris where one of the most brutal repressions of the day – the Communards were executed with simple gunfire at barricades thrown up across much of Europe in 1848. Or newspaper photos of the Nazi army entering Paris in 1940 with horse-drawn artillery.

Let no one then talk glibly about "the great tangle of bad debts should simply be allowed to collapse, unpaid." It will be the unemployed across the world that would be the first to suffer. And the ultimate recourse of those in power will be still more of the military option than we have been regaled with for a very bad decade.

We need systems theory to match the intertwining of the world’s problems with a balancing interweft of solutions.

Historically, accountancy – notably doubly-entry booking that is said to have been brought back from the Holy Land by the Crusaders, was mangled to play a huge part in privileged groups’ avoiding even-handed accountancy.

In this way while certain Crusaders – supposedly the Templars – brought back the notion of even-handed accountancy that entered in the ledgers the cost of a merchant’s investment and at the same time the asset value of what the monetary indebtedness or cash had obtained for the investor. From there on, the two items plied their independent courses, open to inspection by the tax-collectors of whatever other authority, In the marvel of medieval Venice it served as a the basis for friendly accommodation between the Christian and Muslim worlds, and made of aristocratic mercantile Venice a uniquely tolerant society where Christians and Muslims traded in peace, and nobody, Jew, Christian, or Muslim was burned for his faith.

In more recent times, double-entry accountancy, also known as "accrual accountancy" though rigorously applied in private or corporate ledgers, has been unknown in the ledgers of governments themselves. This introduced another dimension of deceptive pseudo-information that led to accountancy fraud in the areas of taxation and privatization. Wilde writes, "A debt write-down provides a path of least resistance for classical tax reform that would prevent recurrence of a debt bubble." How is that when the dogs of war have been far from inactive over a very bad decade? This is far too late in the night to be naive on such matters.

On the other hand accrual accountancy was the only way by which our governments could wiggle out of a gross credit scam in 1996 in the United States and 2002 in Canada. But that still leaves unaccounted what was recognized in the 1960s as the most productive investment a government can make – in human capital.

That is the big-bass drum that should be pounded. For undoubtedly – we have here prepaid enormous assets that should be recognized and used – not to "bail out" our banks but to have them in return surrender the right to engage one by one in the "other financial pillars" from which they were banned by the Glass-Steagall legislation, and get back to simple banking. That can be arranged to increase this "most productive of all government investments" – supported by the massive prepaid investment that is still ignored on our government books. We will on several accounts moving in the desired directions, without gambling on a write-down of bad debts doing the trick.

I had hoped to meet Michael Hudson at a recent conference in Virginia, but did not have the pleasure. I invite him to join in a discussion of COMER’s proposal in the columns of Economic Reform. We hold that at this very late date relying on everything on its own turning out for the best, is underestimating the death-grip that speculative finance has on society’s jugular.

William Krehm

– from Economic Reform, December 2008