Debt Relief, King Lear and The Bank of Banks


With economic concerns ever present, perhaps billions are discovering new heroes, villains, experiencing extra stresses, anger, envy — and then there's nothing like electing someone to blame. Is this how an empire feels when it grows old?

Love And Politics, Debt And Jail

So to lighten our mood, let's introduce a little playfulness, perhaps with more than a pinch of the absurd thrown in for good measure.

Even today, in our busy, frazzled world, we can learn much from ... William Shakespeare.

For example, from King Lear, Act 5, Scene 3, Lear says:

... And pray, and sing, and tell old tales, and laugh
At gilded butterflies, and hear poor rogues
Talk of court news; and we'll talk with them too,
Who loses and who wins; who's in, who's out;
And take upon's the mystery of things,
As if we were God's spies ...

In Scene 3 above:

  • King Lear is pleased to have Cordelia back with him. As long as he can spend his days with her, Lear is happy to do prison time, so together they can people-watch with much "Joie de Vevre" (joy of life), take in the gossip, and mock all that is silly and non-important.
  • The phrase "gilded" refers to how something is encased in a thin coat of gold. Yet a butterfly is so delicate, vulnerable, fragile, that to gild a butterfly, would be to ruin something that is already beautiful.
  • So Lear and Cordelia laugh at those folks who believe true value, quality, richness, can be created just by wrapping the thing to be embellished in a seemingly rich outer layer. Yet by doing so, ultimately destroy that which was already charming, delightful, appealing.

Shakespeare probably wrote King Lear during his time in quarantine hiding from the plague. Today, the world is battling with COVID-19 virus, our own modern-day plague. Cycles doing their dance.

What seems certain however, is that dedicated groups of people working together in coordination toward treasured goals can indeed affect outcomes — both good and bad.

As, for a while, COVID-19 appears to be laying waste to our way of life, new debts get added to our old dues. The bottom line is going so low as to run off the page.

Even before COVID-19, the amount of world debt seems so large, that perhaps it's just not possible to repair such broken economies with the current tools, while still staying economically intact.

Unless ...

Hiding The Bank-of-Banks In Plain Sight

Here's an outrageous, highly controversial idea, even a solution — of sorts, that may hold a curious promise to help tackle global economic woes. 

Perhaps humanity needs a hidden digital bank-of-banks whose only purpose is to repay otherwise unrepayable corporate and central government debts. And then simply hide the digital balance sheets away from public eyes ... forever (otherwise, we would argue and discuss the contents ad infinitum).

Such a confidential bank-of-banks could use a private blockchain, one that is not distributed like bitcoin, including the scary prospect that every single transaction would be recorded for the rest of time, backed up using multiple concurrent storage systems. Could such a monster "live" forever?

If we put aside for a moment, the questionable morals of having a hidden bank of last resort, when the foundations of civilisation itself are under threat, do our top leaders not feel the need to get more creative?

In more optimistic times, or when the sun is shinning, or when all seems well with the world, I like to imagine something called intelligent government.

Yet, what "can of worms" would a bank-of-banks open?

Is such digital sleight-of-hand even possible?

In combination with super computers, artificial intelligence, digital currencies, and blockchain, the sheer power and possibilities of digital cash control, must now surely be almost beyond belief.

Let's remind ourselves of a scary thought: most money today only exists in digital form on an electronic screen.

Nevertheless, maybe such an intriguing move to create a bank-of-banks offers humanity a get-out-of-jail card, helping to avoid the epic financial chaos that might otherwise sooner or later take place.

However, one huge problem with open public awareness about the existence of a digital bank-of-banks, capable of creating endless wads of real digital cash, instantly, out of nothing is, not surprisingly — popularity.

  • Wouldn't everyone want one of those, thereby essentially breaking the relative stability of the normal financial world?
  • Suddenly, with a few nimble-fingered keystrokes, your home mortgage can be paid in full. Time to order a couple of cases of that intriguing wine you've been wanting perhaps.
  • That business bank loan you have, the one that is weighing you down and bleeding all the blood from your soul, drop-by-drop — clickity-click and whoosh: it's all paid off!

That's why, if such a bank-of-banks ever existed, or were to ever be created, most likely, it would remain a closely guarded secret ... off limits to most of us.

Economic Repair Strategies For Trainspotters

Every new generation seems to have to learn anew the real wisdoms hewn in blood, sweat, tears, by those who have gone before. Yet not everything can be learned. Some things can only truly be understood when felt in a visceral way.

Moreover, maybe sometimes, the only way to fix something that is failing is to break it first. Or simply allow the thing to break itself in its own good time. Then, and only then, can we rebuild — hopefully better next time around after lessons learned, tempered by pain still fresh.

Yet such perceived hands-off lack of control is rarely popular with most voters of the dominant leaders in a pack like the G20 nations.

So, in the meantime we are curious bystanders watching and waiting, standing in eyeshot of the railway line, mindful and alert for an expected train wreck that thankfully, hasn't yet happened.

Occasionally, and when our confidence is high, we can still hope for a different outcome. We even have visions of some accomplished magician pulling rabbits out of a stylish top hat. At such times, we may still ask and wonder, "Surely, isn't there a painless fix?".

While hope is very human, it's the tool of last resort. Hope is also like thick fog: you're not sure what's at the end of it, or within it. Take two more steps this way, or that, and you might be over the cliff.

A good recovery action plan applied before the main event is far far better, even at one minute to midnight!

So we try to make sense of what is known, re-evaluate what we think we know, and what ultimately accept and learn from what becomes known.

While we strive to decode economic confusions, to connect the monetary dots, the dots keep moving. Then occasionally, with much stealth, someone unseen swoops in from the side and punches our financial lights out.

It's the human story and a cycle repeats.

Wisdom Of The Gods And Another Message From The Bard

Maybe the patience of the son of Cronos and the rest of his horde, can't be bought off. Those petulant gods certainly seem to especially love inflicting surprises on high-flyers with too much confidence.

On that note, to help bring a little more wisdom from the 1600s to our brash, modern world, William Shakespeare offers one more useful tip:

... Who knows himself a braggart, let him fear this, for it will come to pass that every braggart shall be found an ass.

From "All's Well That Ends Well", Act 3, Scene 3, The Florentine Camp.

We too hope that all's well ends well.

But don't bank on it.

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