Worldlog Week 44 – 2009

30 oktober 2009

This week I made an appeal in the Netherlands’ main financial daily newspaper “Het Financieele Dagblad” to put an end to Ponzi Politics. The response was so overwhelming that I would like to share it with you here.

(Translation of Hein de Kort’s cartoon: Old Indian says to his children: “consider this carefully ‘he who has the future’ and ‘she who will inherit the earth’, one day all of this will be yours”. Child: “Is that really so, chief of the Ponzis, ‘he who talks a lot of hot air with a forked tongue?)

What links the crisis in social security, the collapse of banks and the felling of the rainforests? Ponzi politics, or living out of the pockets of future generations. We cannot wait for politics to intervene; we must intervene in politics.
The ‘Ponzi scam’ is described in Dicken’s novel Little Dorrit (1855) in which Merdle’s Bank ruins thousands of people in a fraudulent bankruptcy.

Simple and malicious: investors are promised extremely high returns. The money is not invested in any kind of profit-making production but is paid back out as “returns” to investors, which in turn attracts new investors. We know this trick from pyramid schemes. The get-rich-quick fantasy is built on attracting new believers.

In the pie-in-the-sky marketing practiced by failed banks, bankers offered high interest on savings and low mortgage rates that were out of line with the market. The loses were made up for by saddling customers (who were often unable to shop around because of their relatively weak financial status) with insurance products with usurious conditions in the form of single premium policies against a backdrop of rising house prices and salaries and with commissions equalling 80% of the deposit that found their way straight into the pockets of the bankers. The Dutch Prime Minister Balkenende recently referred to one of the failed banks just before it collapsed as “an example to us all”. He continued: “You play a major role in the financial sector, you support sport and culture. I think it’s fantastic. We are proud of you!”. With these words, the Dutch prime minister demonstrated his naive belief in the concept of self-reproducing money. And a man who holds this belief may remain prime minister of the Netherlands or even become Europe’s first president, as is currently widely suggested, because virtually all politicians believe in trees that grow up to heaven, the same trees that are being felled at an alarming rate.
The extravagant bankers so devoted to self-enrichment are now being compensated from public funds, making the citizenry the eternal victims of a failed political system.

Take, for example, the cost allocation system used for pension provision in this country. Under this system in the Netherlands (and in many other countries), payments are made from current premium revenues. Ponzi fraud dressed up as solidarity. If there had been sufficient reserves in the first place, there would be no problem. The Dutch government established a pension trust fund in 1990 that matures in 2020 as way a countering the effects of an ageing population. It turned out to be a virtual fund in which billions were being saved on paper while nothing was actually being deposited. This is the reason why Dutch residents – as was recently proposed by the government – will have to work until they are 67 as opposed to 65.

But this is child’s play compared to the Ponzi politics that threatens to wreak irreparable havoc to the future of our children and grandchildren, of which I gave a few examples in last week’s Worldlog.

This week I received a number of photos of my visit to Surinam. I particularly appreciated meeting animal rights activist and environmental campaigner Monique Pool of Green Heritage Fund Suriname. She looks after sloths and anteaters that are the victims of human ignorance when people try to keep them as pets or simply mistreat them. Being able to hold and care for animals like these is very special indeed. The sloth especially seemed to me to be a very primeval creature.

There are plans to set up a professional asylum as Monique currently looks after the animals in her backyard. In addition, Monique protects the special estuary of the Surinam River that is the home to dolphins. I had the luck to see 15 of them!! For more information and to donate, click here.

Until next week!

Marianne Thieme