THE Global Justice Movement Website

THE Global Justice Movement Website
This is the "Global Justice Movement" (dot org) we refer to in the title of this blog.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

On Usury and Other Dishonest Profit, Part II

Eons ago — a few decades, anyway — G. K. Chesterton wrote about the "Utopia of the Usurers." Chesterton, of course, was looking at the people who were, in his opinion, in charge of the financial system. These were the ones castigated by Pope Pius XI in Quadragesimo Anno in 1931,
105. In the first place, it is obvious that not only is wealth concentrated in our times but an immense power and despotic economic dictatorship is consolidated in the hands of a few, who often are not owners but only the trustees and managing directors of invested funds which they administer according to their own arbitrary will and pleasure.

106. This dictatorship is being most forcibly exercised by those who, since they hold the money and completely control it, control credit also and rule the lending of money. Hence they regulate the flow, so to speak, of the life-blood whereby the entire economic system lives, and have so firmly in their grasp the soul, as it were, of economic life that no one can breathe against their will.
The irony of yesterday's disclosure that the Pension Benefits Guaranty Corporation has accumulated a deficit of $33.5 billion — $22 billion of it in the past six months — is that the people whom Chesterton considered most oppressed by usury's utopia, the ordinary worker, is now in the position of being (next to the State itself) the chief of usurers. Like Shylock, workers have contracted for a pound of flesh, the payment of which is killing off the companies that employ them. As we noted yesterday, companies are being forced to borrow money or sell new equity just to meet the enormous burden of fixed retirement benefits instead of investing in new plant and equipment that could generate profits to meet a more just retirement arrangement.

The double irony — or perhaps a paradox of the sort in which Chesterton delighted — is that it is not the workers who are destroying the companies that employ them, thereby destabilizing their chances of continued employment and wrecking the economy. The culprits in this institutionalization of worker usury (from which, incongruously, the workers derive no real benefit) are the unions, those organizations intended to look after the best interests of the workers.

Obviously something is wrong. The problem is what to do about it.