Wednesday, June 21, 2017

tragedy and hope: top lives off the yield of the bottom.., REDUX (Originally Posted 1/4/13)

The Money Power Controlled by International Investment Bankers Dominates Business and Government
In the various actions which increase or decrease the supply of money, governments, bankers, and industrialists have not always seen eye to eye. On the whole, in the period up to 1931, bankers, especially the Money Power controlled by the international investment bankers, were able to dominate both business and government. They could dominate business, especially in activities and in areas where industry could not finance its own needs for capital, because investment bankers had the ability to supply or refuse to supply such capital. Thus, Rothschild interests came to dominate many of the railroads of Europe, while Morgan dominated at least 26,000 miles of American railroads. Such bankers went further than this. In return for flotations of securities of industry, they took seats on the boards of directors of industrial firms, as they had already done on commercial banks, savings banks, insurance firms, and finance companies. From these lesser institutions they funneled capital to enterprises which yielded control and away from those who resisted. These firms were controlled through interlocking directorships, holding companies, and lesser banks. They engineered amalgamations and generally reduced competition, until by the early twentieth century many activities were so monopolized that they could raise their noncompetitive prices above costs to obtain sufficient profits to become self-financing and were thus able to eliminate the control of bankers. But before that stage was reached a relatively small number of bankers were in positions of immense influence in European and American economic life. As early as 1909, Walter Rathenau, who was in a position to know (since he had inherited from his father control of the German General Electric Company and held scores of directorships himself), said, "Three hundred men, all of whom know one another, direct the economic destiny of Europe and choose their successors from among themselves."

The Power of Investment Bankers Over Governments
The power of investment bankers over governments rests on a number of factors, of which the most significant, perhaps, is the need of governments to issue short-term treasury bills as well as long-term government bonds. Just as businessmen go to commercial banks for current capital advances to smooth over the discrepancies between their irregular and intermittent incomes and their periodic and persistent outgoes (such as monthly rents, annual mortgage payments, and weekly wages), so a government has to go to merchant bankers (or institutions controlled by them) to tide over the shallow places caused by irregular tax receipts. As experts in government bonds, the international bankers not only handled the necessary advances but provided advice to government officials and, on many occasions, placed their own members in official posts for varied periods to deal with special problems. This is so widely accepted even today that in 1961 a Republican investment banker became Secretary of the Treasury in a Democratic Administration in Washington without significant comment from any direction.

The Money Power Reigns Supreme and Unquestioned
Naturally, the influence of bankers over governments during the age of financial capitalism (roughly 1850-1931) was not something about which anyone talked freely, but it has been admitted frequently enough by those on the inside, especially in England. In 1852 Gladstone, chancellor of the Exchequer, declared, "The hinge of the whole situation was this: the government itself was not to be a substantive power in matters of Finance, but was to leave the Money Power supreme and unquestioned." On September 26, 1921, The Financial Times wrote, "Half a dozen men at the top of the Big Five Banks could upset the whole fabric of government finance by refraining from renewing Treasury Bills." In 1924 Sir Drummond Fraser, vice-president of the Institute of Bankers, stated, "The Governor of the Bank of England must be the autocrat who dictates the terms upon which alone the Government can obtain borrowed money."

Secrecy Is One of the Elements of the English Business and Financial Life
This element of secrecy is one of the outstanding features of English business and financial life. The weakest "right" an Englishman has is the "right to know," which is about as narrow as it is in American nuclear operations. Most duties, powers, and actions in business are controlled by customary procedures and conventions, not by explicit rules and regulations, and are often carried out by casual remarks between old friends. No record perpetuates such remarks, and they are generally regarded as private affairs which are no concern of others, even when they involve millions of pounds of the public's money. Although this situation is changing slowly, the inner circle of English financial life remains a matter of "whom one knows," rather than "what one knows." Jobs are still obtained by family, marriage, or school connections; character is considered far more important than knowledge or skill; and important positions, on this basis, are given to men who have no training, experience, or knowledge to qualify them.

The Core of English Financial Society Consists of 17 Private International Banking Firms
As part of this system and at the core of English financial life have been seventeen private firms of "merchant bankers" who find money for established and wealthy enterprises on either a long-term (investment) or a short-term ("acceptances") basis. These merchant bankers, with a total of less than a hundred active partners, include the firms of Baring Brothers, N. M. Rothschild, J. Henry Schroder, Morgan Grenfell, Hambros, and Lazard Brothers. These merchant bankers in the period of financial capitalism had a dominant position with the Bank of England and, strangely enough, still have retained some of this, despite the nationalization of the Bank by the Labour government in 1946. As late as 1961 a Baring (Lord Cromer) was named governor of the bank, and his board of directors, called the "Court" of the bank, included representatives of Lazard, of Hambros, and of Morgan Grenfell, as well as of an industrial firm (English Electric) controlled by these.

Money Power Exercises Its Influence through Interlocking Directorates and Direct Financial Controls
From this date onward, financial capitalism grew rapidly in Britain, without ever achieving the heights it did in the United States or Germany. Domestic concerns remained small, owner-managed, and relatively unprogressive (especially in the older lines like textiles, iron, coal, shipbuilding). One chief field of exploitation for British financial capitalism continued to be in foreign countries until the crash of 1931. Only after 1920 did it spread tentatively into newer fields like machinery, electrical goods, and chemicals, and in these it was superseded almost at once by monopoly capitalism.... In addition, its rule was relatively honest (in contrast to the United States but similar to Germany). It made little use of holding companies, exercising its influence by interlocking directorates and direct financial controls. It died relatively easily, yielding control of the economic system to the new organizations of monopoly capitalism constructed by men like William H. Lever, Viscount Leverhulme (1851-1925) or Alfred M. Mond, Lord Melchett (1868-1930). The former created a great international monopoly in vegetable oils centering upon Unilever, while the latter created the British chemical monopoly known as Imperial Chemical Industries.

Banking Control of Government throughout the World
Financial capitalism in Britain, as elsewhere, was marked not only by a growing financial control of industry but also by an increasing concentration of this control and by an increasing banking control of government. As we have seen, this influence of the Bank of England over the government was an almost unmitigated disaster for Britain. The power of the bank in business circles was never as complete as it was in government, because British businesses remained self-financing to a greater extent than those of other countries. This self-financing power of business in Britain depended on the advantage which it held because of the early arrival of industrialism in England. As other countries became industrialized, reducing Britain's advantage and her extraordinary profits, British business was forced to seek outside financial aid or reduce its creation of capital plant. Both methods were used, with the result that financial capitalism grew at the same time as considerable sections of Britain's capital plant became obsolete.

The Money Trust Became Increasingly Concentrated and Powerful in the Twentieth Century
The control of the Bank of England over business was exercised indirectly through the joint-stock banks. These banks became increasingly concentrated and increasingly powerful in the twentieth century. The number of such banks decreased through amalgamation from 109 in 1866 to 35 in 1919 and to 33 in 1933. This growth of a "money trust" in Britain led to an investigation by a Treasury Committee on Bank Amalgamations. In its report (Colwyn Report, 1919) this committee admitted the danger and called for government action. A bill was drawn up to prevent further concentration but was withdrawn when the bankers made a "gentlemen's agreement" to ask Treasury permission for future amalgamations. The net result was to protect the influence of the Bank of England, since this might have been reduced by complete monopolization of joint-stock banking, and the bank was always in a position to influence the Treasury's attitude on all questions. Of the 33 joint-stock banks existing in 1933, 9 were in Ireland and 8 in Scotland, leaving only 16 for England and Wales. The 33 together had over £2,500 million in deposits in April 1933, of which £1,773 million were in the so-called "Big Five" (Midland, Lloyds, Barclays, Westminster, and National Provincial). The Big Five controlled at least 7 of the other 28 (in one case by ownership of 98 percent of the stock).

Although competition among the Big Five was usually keen, all were subject to the powerful influence of the Bank of England, as exercised through the discount rate, interlocking directorships, and above all through the intangible influences of tradition, ambition, and prestige.

The Techniques of Finance Capitalism Reach Levels of Corruption into America Higher Than Any Country in the World
By the 1880's the techniques of financial capitalism were well developed in New York and northern New Jersey, and reached levels of corruption which were never approached in any European country. This corruption sought to cheat the ordinary investor by flotations and manipulations of securities for the benefit of "insiders." Success in this was its own justification, and the practitioners of these dishonesties were as socially acceptable as their wealth entitled them to be, without any animadversions on how that wealth had been obtained. Corrupt techniques, associated with the names of Daniel Drew or Jay Gould in the wildest days of railroad financial juggling, were also practiced by Morgan and others who became respectable from longer sustained success which allowed them to build up established firms.

Close Alliance of Wall Street with Two Major Parties
Any reform of Wall Street practices came from pressure from the hinterlands, especially from the farming West, and was long delayed by the close alliance of Wall Street with the two major political parties, which grew up in 1880-1900. In this alliance, by 1900, the influence of Morgan in the Republican Party was dominant, his chief rivalry coming from the influence of a monopoly capitalist, Rockefeller of Ohio. By 1900 Wall Street had largely abandoned the Democratic Party, a shift indicated by the passage of the Whitney family from the Democrats to the Republican inner circles, shortly after they established a family alliance with Morgan. In the same period, the Rockefeller family reversed the ordinary direction of development by shifting from the monopoly fields of petroleum to New York banking circles by way of the Chase National Bank. Soon family as well as financial alliances grew up among the Morgans, Whitneys, and Rockefellers, chiefly through Payne and Aldrich family connections.

Finance Capitalism in New York Resembles a Feudal Structure
For almost fifty years, from 1880 to 1930, financial capitalism approximated a feudal structure in which two great powers, centered in New York, dominated a number of lesser powers, both in New York and in provincial cities. No description of this structure as it existed in the 1920's can be given in a brief compass, since it infiltrated all aspects of American life and especially all branches of economic life. At the center were a group of less than a dozen investment banks, which were, at the height of their powers, still unincorporated private partnerships. These included J. P. Morgan; the Rockefeller family; Kuhn, Loeb and Company; Dillon, Read and Company; Brown Brothers and Harriman; and others. Each of these was linked in organizational or personal relationships with various banks, insurance companies, railroads, utilities, and industrial firms. The result was to form a number of webs of economic power of which the more important centered in New York, while other provincial groups allied with these were to be found in Pittsburgh, Cleveland, Chicago, and Boston.

J. P. Morgan Dominates Corporate America (Now known as JP Morgan Chase - Morgan-Rockefeller alliance)
J. P. Morgan worked in close relationship to a group of banks and insurance companies, including the First National Bank of New York, the Guaranty Trust Company, the Bankers Trust, the New York Trust Company, and the Metropolitan Life Insurance Company. The whole nexus dominated a network of business firms which included at least one-sixth of the two hundred largest nonfinancial corporations in American business. Among these were twelve utility companies, five or more railroad systems, thirteen industrial firms, and at least five of the fifty largest banks in the country. The combined assets of these firms were more than $30 billion. They included American Telephone and Telegraph Company, International Telephone and Telegraph, Consolidated Gas of New York, the groups of electrical utilities known as Electric Bond and Share and as the United Corporation Group (which included Commonwealth and Southern, Public Service of New Jersey, and Columbia Gas and Electric), the New York Central railway system, the Van Sweringen railway system (Allegheny) of nine lines (including Chesapeake and Ohio; Erie; Missouri Pacific; the Nickel Plate; and Pere Marquette); the Santa Fe; the Northern system of five great lines (Great Northern; Northern Pacific; Burlington; and others); the Southern Railway; General Electric Company; United States Steel; Phelps Dodge; Montgomery Ward; National Biscuit; Kennecott Copper; American Radiator and Standard Sanitary; Continental Oil; Reading Coal and Iron; Baldwin Locomotive; and others.

The Economic Power of the Money Trust in America Is Almost Beyond Imagination
The economic power represented by these figures is almost beyond imagination to grasp, and was increased by the active role which these financial titans took in politics. Morgan and Rockefeller together frequently dominated the national Republican Party, while Morgan occasionally had extensive influence in the national Democratic Party (three of the Morgan partners were usually Democrats). These two were also powerful on the state level, especially Morgan in New York and Rockefeller in Ohio. Mellon was a power in Pennsylvania and du Pont was obviously a political power in Delaware.

The Morgan Hierarchy
In the 1920's this system of economic and political power formed a hierarchy headed by the Morgan interests and played a principal role both in political and business life. Morgan, operating on the international level in cooperation with his allies abroad, especially in England, influenced the events of history to a degree which cannot be specified in detail but which certainly was tremendous....