How about the foreclosure crisis that has emptied out entire neighborhoods? Well, it’s emptied out entire neighborhoods that probably shouldn’t have been built in the first place. But the toll, the human cost, of these kinds of crises is huge. I mean, houses lost, savings lost, people destitute.
YOUR GLOSSARY’S DEFINITION OF ‘MORALITY’ MENTIONS THAT FORECLOSURE CRISIS. “IN BANKING MORALITY APPEARS TO BE DEFINED THIS WAY,” YOU WRITE. “CUSTOMERS ARE BAD PEOPLE IF THEY DON’T PAY BACK THEIR LOANS, AND BANKERS ARE BAD PEOPLE IF THEY DON’T TAKE EVERY AVAILABLE ADVANTAGE TO MAKE MONEY. FROM THEIR CUSTOMERS, OF COURSE. HOW ELSE TO EXPLAIN THE LIONIZATION OF BANK PRESIDENTS WHOSE BANKS HAVE BEEN REPEATEDLY FINED FOR BREAKING LAWS AND THE CONDEMNATION OF PEOPLE WHOSE HOMES HAVE BEEN FORECLOSED UPON?” SO, HOW SHOULD FOLKS REACT TO THE SIGHT OF A SWATH OF FORECLOSED HOMES IN A NEIGHBORHOOD? They should understand that, behind that devastation, somebody made a lot of money. And it was somebody who didn’t care about the devastation that was being caused. It was somebody hundreds, thousands of miles away. . . [who] lives in a really nice house and doesn’t care that the woods were leveled for development that nobody’s going to live in.
A LOT OF THIS BOOK IS ABOUT BUILDING A BETTER SYSTEM. DO YOU HAVE A PITCH FOR A DIFFERENT WAY TO DO BANKING? The thing about banking, the thing about finance in general, is that what it’s there for is to facilitate the real economy. It’s there to serve manufacturing and agriculture and service industries that actually do stuff for people. I mean, that’s what finance is for.
Finance ought to be like a utility. It’s there to make it easier for you to do what needs to be done. It’s when finance becomes an end in itself, that’s when it becomes destructive and toxic. And that’s when you get the excesses that we have. I believe that finance should just be. . . a dependable and unremarkable part of everyday business.
CAN WE EVER GET BACK THERE? We will never get back there if nobody thinks that we can.
Yes, of course I think that we can. Or else I’d be sulking in a corner instead of trying to teach and inspire other people to try to join me in this kind of effort.
The hurdles are large. Because we do have these banks. They have a ton of political power. They have a lot of money. They can make all kinds of things happen. So pushing back against them is hard.
But, ultimately, the money they use is ours. And so if we choose to do something different with it, that can have a big impact. If, for example, the city that I’m working with [as a hired consultant] manages to move their money from the big banks into little ones, there’s nothing about that city that’s special. It’s the city of Reading, Pennsylvania. There’s nothing unique about Reading.
If they can do it, 3000 other cities in America can do it, too. And that’s trillions of dollars.
For more info on Checking the Banks, go to lightpublications.com/checkingbanks.