Cui Bono


It should be apparent that most citizens did not really benefit from increases in money stock or from increases in commercial real estate loans. The evidence shows that the citizen's debt load deteriorated out of control. Government consolidated deficits, debts, and interest on the public debt, for which the citizen has ultimate responsibility (corporations can always relocate to a lower-tax jurisdiction), also deteriorated perniciously -- Canada came within a fraction of a percent from disintegration. The safety net continues to be threatened. And, if things continue as they are, Québec will separate. To sum: it appears that the economic and social misfortunes belong to the People -- not to "absurd and oppressive monopolies."1

Plato. More than 2347 years ago, Plato warned this about the possession of money and goods: "Both, in excess, produce enmity and feuds in private and public life, while a deficiency almost invariably leads to slavery."2 By the above account, powerful monopolies and para-governments fared well; but, as argued by Plato, the transfer of wealth from the citizen invariably leads to an increase in the citizen's "slavery." It is also clear that governments, and by implication the People, have become more indentured to the Money Trust. What should the citizen do? Plato's answer: act as master -- not as servant. In Plato's The Laws, the ATHENIAN argued that "'true natural life' . . . is essentially nothing but a life of conquest over others."3 What exactly can the Electorate do to mitigate the vicissitudes of "nature" and "chance"? As the absolute master, the Electorate must choose the kind of Legal Code that is most consistent with the People's economic priorities. Goodness is too important a matter to be left to financial experts.

Plato was vehemently against, if not outright hostile, to usury: "There must be no lending at interest, because it will be quite in order for the borrower to refuse absolutely to return both interest and principal."4 For Plato, our "holiest" and "most intimate possession" is not wealth, but our "soul."5 Plato recommended that we honor God first, then our soul, then our body, then our wealth. Today, economic and social data seem to indicate that our priorities have been reversed -- in the marketplace. How else can you explain the economic origin of destruction -- bankruptcies, foreclosures, abortions, misery for so many, even threats to break up the country -- in a land blessed with fabulously rich natural treasures?

In his Allegory of the Cave, Plato imagined slaves tied up in a cave. The slaves can only see "shadows cast by the fire on to the cave wall."6 The slaves are not aware that the shadows are those of puppets and artifacts. Their beliefs are shaped by the causality they derive from the motions of the shadows they identify on the cave wall. They "assign prestige and credit" on the basis of these beliefs. . .7

We can no longer escape our responsibility. The incredible regularity of the business cycle and of its dark side leave little room for Hayek's and Friedman's spontaneity. The marketplace is clearly not spontaneous: it is directed by economic interests and it is controlled through a system of biased net advantages. Like all human interests, economic interests have good and evil dimensions. The unité de plan of the business cycle can no longer be hidden from the People. To do so would be "swinish stupidity."8 The business cycle is a struggle for the good life -- a struggle between creative entrepreneurial life instincts and destructive sadistic death instincts (rapacious greed and acquisitiveness) in the marketplace. Its up and down sides are mere reflections of our virtues and vices.


1 Adam Smith's expression; see Adam Smith, The Wealth of Nations (1776), edited by Edwin Cannan, with a Preface by George J. Stigler, 1976, Vol. Two, Book IV, Chapter VIII, at 165.

2 Plato, The Laws, translated with an Introduction by Trevor J. Saunders, 1970, at 192 (Wealth).

3 Ibid., at 415-417 (Nature and Chance Versus Design), especially 417.

4 Ibid., at 211-214 (The Possession of Money), especially 211.

5 Ibid., at 189-191 (The Importance of Honoring the Soul), 191-192 (Physical Fitness), and 192 (Wealth).

6 See Plato, Republic, translated by Robin Waterfield, 1993, at 240-245 (The Allegory of the Cave), especially 241.

7 Ibid., at 243.

8 Plato's expression; see Plato, The Laws, translated with an Introduction by Trevor J. Saunders, 1970, at 313.



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