IEET > Rights > Economic > Vision > Affiliate Scholar > Hank Pellissier > Technoprogressivism
Divest From Big Banks Now!
Hank Pellissier   Oct 21, 2011   Ethical Technology  

Occupy Wall Street’ is furious that the nation’s largest banks grossly mismanaged the citizenry’s funds but were rewarded anyway with a bail-out by the government. Today many of those frivolous financiers are thriving with obscene salaries while millions of their victimized clientele have lost their homes to foreclosure and are under-or-unemployed.

How can we attain justice from these big bankers, these moguls of money machinations? Yes, we can insult them—I fondly recall how they were derided as “Moloch” in Allen Ginsberg’s Howl that condemned the greed and alienation of capitalism:

What sphinx of cement and aluminum bashed open their skulls and ate up their brains and imagination?
… Moloch! Moloch! Nightmare of Moloch!
… Moloch whose blood is running money!
… Moloch whose breast is a cannibal dynamo!

Words aren’t enough, though. We want retributive action. Have you seen the ecstatic footage in the recent film Rise of the Planet of the Apes that depicts savage, empowered simians exploding angrily through the glass skyscraper windows of an urban Financial District? It’s a cathartic scene that expresses in primate physicality what many of us would like to do… Later, the great apes storm across the bridge, defeating police forces in a way that the 700 jailed New York activists must envy…


Okay, I’m digressing… back in the real world…

Insistent advice is now emanating from Occupy Wall Street that would obviously damage the banking culprits: DIVEST!

Daniel Mintz from—who emails me at least once a day—is also urging me to “take money out of the banks that crashed our economy.” His plan, our plan, the plan of the “99%” is this: let’s take our dollars out of the vaults of big banks, especially Bank of America, Wells Fargo, JPMorgan Chase, and CitiGroup—the banks that consumer advice blogger “mole333” at categorizes as the worst-of-the-worst financial institutions. 

mole333 convicts those four banks for the following reasons: 1) they have the worst customer service; 2) they have racist, predatory lending policies, for example, they charge blacks and Hispanics higher interest rates than whites; and 3) they took bailout money for themselves, but they hypocritically advocate cuts in serves to the poor and middle class.

Are you outraged yet? Take action—we don’t have to leave our coins in the big banks; we can withdraw our funds, and invest, instead, in smaller, responsible institutions. There are green banks where our cash can bloom in ways that enrich the world. There are small community banks and local credit unions that assist struggling and start-up business neighbors. There are state banks—in North Dakota, for example—and municipal “city banks” also might be rolling out the carpet soon; John Avalos, San Francisco mayoral candidate, has promised to create one if he is elected.

Many community and religious leaders in Oakland have already disinvested from Bank of America and Chase, and in Minneapolis there’s a movement to get the public school district to remove its money from Wells Fargo.

Readers, do you wonder, where exactly, to put your own savings? Numerous ethical banking choices are posted at Move Your Money, and mole333 also offers substantial advice on his blog. There’s a plethora of options advising places to stash our cash where we won’t get our stomachs turned with nausea. 

cuWhere do I personally bank? Timely question… I’m currently looking for a new vault, because my funds are ensconced in one of the above-mentioned “evil four.” I’ve hesitated, like other Occupy Wall Street sympathizers, I suppose, because I dread the transition work, re-setting up all the online services that my big bank provides. Plus I don’t like to pay ATM fees, and I fear the “little banks” won’t have many free outlets; this last concern has faded though, since my current big bank just announced it’s going to charge $5 monthly to use their debit cards.

What should I do? I opened up my phone book’s Yellow Pages where I found 23 credit unions (in my mid-sized city) with seven within walking distance. I’m not eligible for all of them because I’m not a policeman or a railway employee or a member of the Chinese “Lee” family, but I have found a perfect one—just 1.32 miles away—that is a co-operative, not-for-profit, with online and VISA services and 28,000 ATMs worldwide.  Plus, its website says that it “truly cares about the people who do business with us” and they offer step-by-step advice on how to close other accounts, for an easy transition.

Is moving my money to a credit union a powerful action, or is transferring my meager amount just silly, piddling and ineffective? Because even if every disgruntled individual withdrew their life savings, the big bank troughs would still be burbling over with billions of dollars from government and corporate entities, wouldn’t they? 

Hey, listen—apparently, via democracy, we can also re-locate governmental money. Sarah Ackerman, organizer at, outlined tactics to me via email:

Citizens can pressure their state legislature to introduce bills that would move state operating budgets out of the big banks, or they can urge representatives to begin pursuing a state public bank. Bills [proposing this] were introduced in Maryland and New Mexico this past year but unfortunately, both bills failed. There are many restrictions on moving large amounts of public money, where small banks are required to guarantee public deposits at 100%. This requirement has made the venture unprofitable for many small banks. A movement based on the Bank of North Dakota has emerged that would essentially… allow small community banks to accept larger deposits. Contact the Public Banking Institute if you’re interested in more information.

pbSo, first we take our private money out of the big banks, then we transfer all the public institutional billions into responsible pockets as well—Let’s do it!

On October 15, I attended the Occupy Oakland march and I was pleased to see that representatives of the above-mentioned Public Banking Institute were there, handing out brochures that had the headline” “How States Can Solve Their Budget Crises: Own A Bank.” The brochures claimed that “state-owned banks are a win-win for everyone” and they buttressed this assertion with 12 detailed points. As I read through them, I remembered that Iceland—which suffered a bank meltdown beginning in 2008—dealt with its financial crises by nationalizing all the banks. Many other European nations are currently nationalizing or are considering nationalizing their banks, and there are calls to do this in Canada as well.

But… I’m not thinking about that pencil-crunching, political process as I march through Oakland’s downtown with 2,500 other occupistas. I’m thinking about primitive, poetic remedies. I’m thinking, again, about Rise of the Planet of the Apes and Howl.

I gaze up at the big banks looming imposingly around me, and I think about all the other marchers marching today, on Occupy Everywhere day, tens of thousands marching in 150 U.S. cities, and millions more marching around the world, especially in Madrid, Rome, Seoul, and Barcelona, all of us marching past skyscrapers of financial institutions that have fleeced the 99%. I am wishing we were all hyper-enhanced trans-monkeys who could scamper up the walls, crash through the glass, and go ape-shit in bank offices, ravaging files and furniture. After our decimation and conquest, we would throw confiscated greenbacks out the windows to flutter into the fingers of those waiting below, and together we would scrawl the jeremiad squall of Ginsberg on the walls:

… Moloch whose eyes are a thousand blind windows!
… Moloch whose love is endless oil…
… Moloch whose fate is a cloud of sexless hydrogen!
… Moloch who frightened me out of my natural ecstasy!
… Moloch whom I abandon!

Hank Pellissier serves as IEET Managing Director and is an IEET Affiliate Scholar.


Hi Hank,
Ok, we dinvest, and then we invest into ethical banks. And those ethical banks uses our money to fund ethical enterprises. And those ethical enterprises… put the money in the usual bank and we are back to square 1. The banking system is a closed system. And unless we can create a subsystem of ethical banks and funds from which the money will not go out we are not really changing the game. So we would have to go to a bank that only lends money to investors that sign that they will put this money in (banks that are ethical and that only lend money to investors that they will put their money in (banks that are ethical and that only lend money to investors that they will put their money in (banks that are ethical and that only lend money to investors that they will put their money in (banks that are ethical and that only lend money to investors that they will put their money in (... )))).

It’s unsustainable even to print such contract!

Beside I have recently been convinced that
(a) money is created by banks in the process of lending more money that they have.
(b) because banks -any bank, also ethical banks- charge an interest there is always more debt that money available.
(c) To pay this debt the economy needs to run faster and faster, thus debt grows in an exponential way. While the world resources end in an ever exponential rate.

There is no solution unless we change how the monetary system works. And then we still need to redistribute.

@ Pietro - sorry to hear about your situation in Italy—I will try to get “our man on the ground there - Giulio Prisco - to offer you some advice.

Small banks and credit unions in the USA generally invest locally.  Plus credit unions are non-profit and don’t have the same greedy financial goals as the large banks, nor can they offer their CEOS the same obscene salaries.

thanks, keep in touch!  You had a big rally in Rome, huh?

I like this idea, but it’s also going to have some very wide spread consequences.

It appears it may happen regardless of what we individually think of it (we’ll see - Nov. 5th is almost here).

World finances are interconnected. If the large banks fail, will this not also have an effect on the credit unions?

What will happen to our currency? You can move your money into a credit union, but if this devalues the dollar into worthlessness through the failure of the big banks, then does it matter?

What we are witnessing is massive decentralization enabled by the internet.

It is going to be chaotic, no matter what happens.

Can we make this transition smoothly?

For one, I think that the financial sector needs to take a serious look at what’s going on and change course.

If they were in this with us together, they could survive and we could all make the transition to a more decentralized, egalitarian world together.

However, my feeling is that these entities will dig their heels in, because they don’t understand they’ve lost yet. They believe that they will find another way to deceive the public and continue to operate as they have in the past.

In other words, they don’t see the writing on the wall, and they will not make any concessions.

How do we get through to them that things have to change?

It might have to get worse before it can get better.

Boycotting big banks would be a very effective way to kick them where it hurts. Let’s start something like #boycottbigbanks indeed.

Of course it will not hurt much until it achieves critical mass and exponential growth, and initially the result will probably be similar to Pietro’s scenario.

But what the hell, let’s just do it.

Now that I think of it perhaps #boycottbigbanks is not such a good idea. Their buddies in big governments would bail them out with (what little is left of) our money. Perhaps we should get rid of corrupted big governments first.


Do you think a bailout would work during a run on the banks?

I think we are looking at a crash of the currency itself.

So, they are going to bail themselves out using money that is worthless?

People are going to have to come up with some citizen/peer to peer currencies pretty quick.

@iPan re citizen/peer to peer currencies.

One word: Bitcoin.

Investing with unregulated pseudo currencies like Bitcoin is a path to poverty and disaster! If the Eurozone is on its knees what makes you think that supplanting your own unregulated currency will solve “any” problems at all?


I assume you’re talking about the recent massive drop in value of Bitcoin.

We can examine what made Bitcoin fail, and improve upon it.

We don’t necessarily have to get it right the first time.

The run-on-the-banks issue is a serious one. Clearly if enough people do this at once then we’re going to have major problems. I don’t think it would necessarily cause a collapse of any currency - worst case scenario might be that bank accounts would be frozen by law until the situation calmed down.

“Too big to fail” is both a problem and a source of security. It’s a problem because it’s precisely what allows the people who created the problem to get away with their large bonuses. Essentially they have a gun to our heads. It’s a source of security because I know that if I have my money in a bank that’s too big to fail I can be reasonably sure I won’t lose it. Put your money in a small bank, and if that bank goes bankrupt (e.g. because other people withdraw money) you might lose it. (Think Icesave.)

iPan asks, “Can we make this transition smoothly?” It’s a good question. Another one is: “How committed are we to making the transition, and if so how committed are we to making it smoothly?” Whether we can or not depends in part on how committed we are.

And what can be said for the financial system can also be said for our whole geopolitical, economic and natural eco- and climate system. It’s clear that major crises are on their way, but where to set our ambition level? Should we aspire to smooth transitions to a better world (which of course needs to be defined), or is that just denial and a way of prolonging the agony? Our intuition on this wider question may determine the stance we take on the more limited issue of too-big-to-fail banks.

Finally a word on empathy: I do believe there’s a culture of amoral, borderline autistic greed on Wall Street and amongst the “1%” élite generally. But it’s important not to descend into caricature and witchhunt. Bankers are in a rat-race, just like politicians and other businessmen. We are only just beginning to find the keys to being ethical and competitive (in particular short-term competitiveness, which is what counts since it is in the short term that you risk being eaten by competitors). And some of the best thinkers and leaders showing the way forward are part of the 1%.

At some point we need to look beyond anger and revenge and remember that these are people too.

worst case scenario might be that bank accounts would be frozen by law until the situation calmed down

Do you think freezing everyone’s bank account is going to calm them down?

iPan asks, “Can we make this transition smoothly?” It’s a good question. Another one is: “How committed are we to making the transition, and if so how committed are we to making it smoothly?” Whether we can or not depends in part on how committed we are.

The real question is whether the elite realize that their hides are at stake and they want to survive.

I can hear the wheels of the guillotines squeaking right now :D

A run on the banks may or may not happen. I know that many people have already begun to draw their money out, so in some senses it has already started.

Will there be a mass withdrawal on Nov. 5th? We’ll find out shortly. Will the government freeze or shut down all these banks? Maybe, but then we have to contend with massive riots everywhere.

Someone suggested earlier today that Obama was bringing the troops in Iraq home because of this issue. There might be something to that notion.

People are also talking about starting a publicly held national bank.

Problem I see with that is we still have the Federal Reserve, and fractional reserve banking, and while a publicly owned bank would probably be better than what we got, the poison in the well is still the Fed (and all other central privately owned banks in the world).

We are in the middle of a radical restructuring of all our institutions, and there’s no telling which way it will go.

@ Peter—I think rage against the big banks is absolutely justified.
My article just mentions four banks that I - and other observers - regard as nefarious, and we recommend that people divest from those banks.  There is no danger of the world collapsing if people decide that they’d rather sequester their funds in all the other banks that are more compassionate towards their customers. 

I have some of my funds still one of the bad four banks, and they just announced quarterly earnings of several billion dollars.  But still, this same bank has foreclosed on thousands of mortgages, more than any other bank, and they have a reputation for being the least willing to re-negotiate mortgage payments.  In short, they are greedy, avaricious, cruel, etc.

It is insensible to advocate kindness in dealing with them since they have not spared homeowners, but instead, thrown them out.  My POV isn’t even radical, I have read similar irate assessments from elected officials, like the San Francisco County Assessor, who realizes that property tax income collected by the city is plummeting, due to foreclosed homes. When property tax income plummets, so does the education budget of the local public schools.

I wonder if nationalizing the banks and a moratorium on foreclosures would be wiser.

Of course, that would require the aid of our lawmakers.

Fat chance, amirite?

@ iPan - I have carefully researched this, but off the top of my head, I think nationalizing banks is an excellent idea. North Dakota has had a state bank for about 90 years that has functioned very well. 

In general, I think the combination of banking + capitalism is just terrible

We might not have a choice Hank

We’ll find out in two weeks :D

Yeah, I read an article about N. Dakota’s State owned bank - seems like a damn good idea now, doesn’t it? heh

“The real question is whether the elite realize that their hides are at stake and they want to survive.”

Yep, they do. Just read in the iht (international edition of the New York Times) that they’ve massively increased their spending on personal security. Can’t say I blame them, particularly with people talking about guillotines. I thought we liberals were opposed to the death penalty?

“It is insensible to advocate kindness in dealing with them since they have not spared homeowners, but instead, thrown them out.”

I’m not quite advocating kindness. I *am* advocating empathy (which is not the same thing, google it), and also prudence, restraint and clarity about what we want and expect to come out of all this.

On nationalising banks, to an extent that’s already been happening, even in the US: government has been buying shares.

“I have read similar irate assessments from elected officials,”

That’s what elected officials do, Hank. That’s how they get elected. Doesn’t mean it’s a sound basis for policy.

@ Peter - you are a very nice person, but your request for “empathy” is directed at the wrong group here. Here’s a link that discusses “Improper Foreclosures” - banks yanking homes away from people when they shouldn’t have -

Bankers don’t need our compassion - !
I cancelled my Chase credit card yesterday.  What a pleasant feeling. Their customer service was rude and useless - plus, when I left, they retracted my frequent flier miles. My feeling about my relationship with them is that they are completely parasitical.  I am sure that’s how many people regard bankers in general. 


@iPan re “what made Bitcoin fail”

It has not failed yet, and I am optimist for the future.

What happened was that some users started to consider it not as a currency to buy and sell things, but as a make-money-fast scheme. This caused a massive surge in value (from 1 to above 30$ in a few weeks), which of course was followed by a massive crash (basic economics).

Sounds familiar?

Yes, right. Exactly the same thing happened to our financial system at large.

Let’s bring currency, all currencies, back to their original and intended nature. You sell something (goods or services), receive money in return, and use the money to buy other goods or services. If you are wise and hard working you can buy (reasonably) low and sell (reasonably) high to build a reserve for lean times. If you are successful you can employ some workers and make a (reasonable) profit on their work too. The keyword is reasonable. This is real economy, the other kind is fake and always leads to a crash that benefits only the 1%.

I thought we liberals were opposed to the death penalty?

Perhaps. I imagine most of them are. I’m not a liberal though.

And, I’m not advocating violence, I am talking about the persistent pattern of history where the abusive oligarchs have this tendency to get their heads lopped off when they start talking about cake.

The ideal solution would be for the elite to actually pitch in and solve these problems instead of becoming further entrenched and digging their heels in.

The way Hank’s bank treated him is a perfect example.

Looking at the course of history, I can’t imagine right now that the elite will reverse course and actually become a cooperative element in society that works for the greater good.

It would be awesome if it were to happen, and I always wish I could somehow get their damn attention and get them to listen to me. I have a plan for how they can save their hides.

I want them to make it through this transition as well.

However, realistically speaking, I don’t see it happening. They will further entrench themselves - aggravating the situation until the guillotines start rolling out.

Too bad for them. I won’t feel too bad about it, because they have a serious listening problem. All they need to do is listen to the smart people here, and we could figure out a plan that helps everyone.

My bet is they won’t do that. So history goes.

Ghadaffi is dead now.

Hegemons all over the world should think about that.

David Brin posted this on Facebook a couple of hours ago:

The deep rationale behind Occupy Wall Street? Researchers studied 43,000 transnational corporations and found a central core of just 147 financial institutions, tightly linked through shareholding networks and interlocking directorates, has disproportionate control over nearly 40% of global revenues. Perhaps the most important article you’ll read in 2011. Hugely important. Read it all.—the-capitalist-network-that-runs-the-world.html

The first comment says all: “It’s interesting that only ONE of the top 50 appears to have any connection with real production - China Petrochem. All the rest are, as far as one can tell, just a bunch of money launderers.”

@iPan re “we could figure out a plan that helps everyone”

Difficult, but doable. A global open bank, built and managed by the people for the people, structured as local authorized franchises, with very strict open-source ISO-like quality and ethical requirements.

@ Giulio - thanks for the David Brin link! 
yes - “money launderers” seems like the appropriate definition

I like your global bank idea!

@Hank You’re right, bankers don’t need our compassion. They don’t need our empathy either. But perhaps we need our empathy? At least we need to be able to look beyond our anger and come to a view about what we want that goes beyond mere revenge.

Like iPan, I want them to make it through this transition as well. It will be better for all of us. And like Giulio I think this is difficult but doable. Empathy will help with this.

@Peter - it is not about persons, it is about the system.

I think most persons are smart and learn very quick how to take advantage of systems to make money as fast as they can.

In today’s financial system, the best way to make money fast is to do money laundering and financial scams (the good old Ponzi scam decorated with contemporary buzzwords).

You cannot do it yourself because it takes a lot of money to start, and that’s why you end up working for criminals. I don’t blame the persons who do this, because I might have done the same in their place, but I do blame the system that makes such scams not only possible but very rewarding.

The economy must recover the link to production that it has lost. Make as much money as you wish, but it must be linked to offering useful products and services.

@Giulio - I think it needs to be about people as well. In fact isn’t that the whole point: the system needs to be more people-oriented? I don’t want to insist ad nauseam on this empathy thing, but focusing only, and impersonally, on “the system” risks leading to take our new theories (whatever they turn to be: participism, perhaps?) too far, just as free market capitalism, Marxism-Leninism and Fascism were ideas taken too far.

(I include fascism in this list because it, too, arose out of and then distorted legitimate concerns, namely fear and disgust at the chaos and disruption caused by liberal capitalism and socialism, and despair at the failure of traditional forms of conservatism to withstand them. If we want to create a better world, we have to be able to empathise even with those with whom we disagree most profoundly.)


I switched to a Credit Union about 7 years ago, when after yet another bank buy-up, my direct-deposit paycheck got “lost” but the automatic payments against it didn’t.

I have interest-bearing checking and savings accounts (OK, not much interest, but some) with minimum balances of $25 each. The only thing I pay a fee on is the line of credit I have for overdraft protection. I pay almost all my bills online, have direct deposit of my paycheck. I can use any ATM in the worldwide SUM network for free.

And best of all: There are RealPeople(tm) who I can talk to, both on the phone and in person who have been very helpful every time I’ve needed their assistance.

I don’t miss the big banks at all!

Look, the banks use your money to create money by fiat. Their money is severely leveraged, so that if you take out one dollar, the bank loses twenty!

@Peter - if it needs to be about people as well, then I will support locking the bankers and their lackeys in jail and throwing the keys away. If I were not a nice person I would support even heavier retaliation.

I am one of those who have lost their homes, and I am literate enough in economics to understand that banks have artificially inflated real estate prices to later cash on the inability of people to pay their mortgages in the crisis that they, the bankers, had created with their scams.

You say compassion? You say empathy? You really say empathy? Fuck that, and fuck them. I see this as a structural system flaw, and I don’t think people can be blamed for doing what everybody else would have done in their place. But if I took it personally, I would be on the streets asking for very, very heavy retribution.

A quote from one of my favorite writers:

The personal, as everyone’s so fucking fond of saying, is political. So if some idiot politician, some power player, tries to execute policies that harm you or those you care about, take it personally. Get angry. The Machinery of Justice will not serve you here – it is slow and cold, and it is theirs, hardware and soft-. Only the little people suffer at the hands of Justice; the creatures of power slide from under it with a wink and a grin. If you want justice, you will have to claw it from them. Make it personal. Do as much damage as you can. Get your message across. That way, you stand a better chance of being taken seriously next time. Of being considered dangerous. And make no mistake about this: being taken seriously, being considered dangerous marks the difference - the only difference in their eyes - between players and little people. Players they will make deals with. Little people they liquidate. And time and again they cream your liquidation, your displacement, your torture and brutal execution with the ultimate insult that it’s just business, it’s politics, it’s the way of the world, it’s a tough life and that it’s nothing personal. Well, fuck them. Make it personal.
Richard K. Morgan, Altered Carbon

I prefer to blame the system. Should I take it personally instead?

@ Giulio - I am very glad that you’re expressing this POV.  I have the same POV but I’ve been restrained about mentioning it. But… YES!  ANGER is justified!  What’s happened to people is PERSONAL!

@ Readers - Here’s my forecast, let me know if you agree or disagree.
The most recent successful revolutions are Arab Spring nations, and they weren’t pretty, they were violent.  But now, there is an understanding in that part of the world that revolution can work!
And there’s been a “domino effect” in the Arab region that isn’t ending anytime soon.

It seems Europe is in a far larger state of unrest than the USA right now. If there is a successful uprising of any type in any European nation - Spain, Italy and Greece have had the largest demonstrations - it seems reasonable that that event would create the same “domino effect” - in Europe.

The USA would be after that…  Also Korea… Latin America, etc..

Readers, what do you think?  What’s your prediction?

What I’m worried about is systemic meltdown.

Between the status quo, and meltdown, I’ll take the meltdown.

Ideally, the top 1% could come on board with us and we could figure out how to leverage technology to create an abundance, rather than a scarcity, based economy within the next 5-8 years.

Realistically, I think at this point, this has the same chance of happening as a snowball in hell has of not melting.

Therefore, it would appear systemic meltdown is inevitable.

This will not slow down the Singularity.

But it might kill me.


Predictions -

I’m beginning to reach the end of my predictive ability. This is because the closer we get to the singularity, the higher the frequency of novelty.

Of course, it’s easy now to make general predictions. Novelty will increase, uncertainty will increase, technology will continue to progress exponentially. These things seem commonplace now.

But they’re not very helpful. At least to individuals.

Maybe we’ll have a prediction engine soon that will help out where human minds are failing.

America: I see America teetering on the edge. The primary inhibition to revolution here is that life is still mostly comfortable for the majority of people. Yes, we’ve taken a hit, but compared to many places in the world, day to day life for most is still not that bad. I wonder if things need to get worse before people really rise up (the turn out in America - while impressive in it’s own right - seems to pale in comparison to the ME and Europe).

We’re still complacent, but that is slowly beginning to change. Maybe we need an event that is a spark for the powder keg. Maybe when a cop kills the first protester it will all explode.

I don’t know as much about Europe.

I think the ME will continue for awhile to conform to the recent pattern: they seem to take turns, one country at a time revolting and overthrowing their leaders.

I think Syria will be next.

“Between the status quo, and meltdown, I’ll take the meltdown.”
Would you? Would you really? I wouldn’t.
Meltdown = human suffering on a scale we haven’t yet come close to seeing.
Do any of you really want this?

@Hank@Giulio - Dare I point out that anger and empathy are not actually opposites? Sure it’s easier to empathise with someone you’re not angry with (that’s why in lovingkindness meditations you do them last), but it’s not impossible.

One thing about anger is it’s self justifying. When you’re angry you invent all sorts of reasons why you *should* be angry. But please, don’t take those thoughts so seriously. Accept your anger, and channel it. I’m not saying “Don’t be angry”, or “You’re wrong to be angry”. I’m just saying channel it.

On prediction, I agree with iPan Syria seems likely to be the next one to fall. But do I really need to point out the difference between liberal democracies, however flawed they me be, and dictators that use terror to govern. People in my social circle who grew up under dictatorships know the difference. They understand the dangers. (So do the relatives of the recently murdered Copts.)

In Europe the main short-term danger is financial collapse caused by the (unlikely but possible) failure of politicians to agree on measures needed to prevent it. Governments are likely to fall (I don’t see Papandreou hanging on much longer) but that’s business as usual in a democracy. If there is abrupt regime change in Europe it will look more like the ones that took place in the 1930s. That’s another alternative that might be considered worse than the status quo.

Don’t get me wrong: I love the Occupy/Indignante movements, and the anger *is* justified. I hope it leads to wonderful, positive change. But it could also lead us into the abyss. Be careful what you wish for.

@iPan I don’t think we’re quite in snowball-in-he’ll territory, either in US or Europe. I would say we’re more in “could go either way” territory. Like you say,  life is still mostly comfortable for the majority of people, relatively speaking, they’re not right at the bottom of the Maslow pyramid just yet. And a cop killing a protester won’t do it. What might is some confluence of unrelated events: an environmental catastrophe here, a violent uprising put down brutally there, a sovereign debt default over there. Oh and maybe an Icelandic volcano can erupt just for fun. Then the whole house of cards really could come tumbling down.

And by the way we haven’t even talked about China. Force for stability (ample cash to bail out Western governments and banks) or another accident waiting to happen?

@Peter Wicks

The status quo is the worst possible scenario from my point of view.


I can agree with most of what you say. Europe will most likely see increased austerity measures and social unrest, and whilst there is greater trades union activism here in UK, (more Public sector planned strike action scheduled for Nov 30th with at very least 2 million due to show solidarity against pension attacks), the Occupy movement is very small, yet still persistent, (folks just don’t get it here yet, as media attention is being restrictive).

Yet we must all be careful what we wish for? Revolution or evolution? Perhaps misdirection of minds is being orchestrated even as we speak? Social unrest may be used to advantage and as excuse to enforce knee jerk reactionary laws, curfews and arrests.

For the present, demonstrations and violence has not been widespread.

As I said earlier, if we use our intelligence, then suffering may be minimised?

The goal must be to influence policy changes and the regulation of all banks by their nation states and the G20.

@ Peter - I agree the the Arab Spring differs from the Western discontent because they are revolting against corrupt dictatorships and we are not - however, what I see as a similarity is that…
... because we’re all in the internet age now, that seems to accelerate and reinforce an urge for improved democracy.

I hear you, but at this point I’ve already begun to look at it as something to endure, not something I can change.

All of the gears are in motion.

In other words, it’s interesting reflecting upon these things here at IEET, but all the pieces are in motion out there, so it’s only a matter of deciding how to respond and react to it.

It very well may not matter one bit what the bright people here think “ought” to be done.

We’ll find out come Nov. 5th.

If enough people transfer their money, it will send ripples, and big ones, throughout our entire economic system.

I can’t say what will happen specifically, because my knowledge of economics is not that advanced. All I can say is that it will obviously have massive, widespread repercussions.

The meme has spread virally. I see at least a dozen posts calling for a run on the banks on Nov. 5th every day, and I follow less than 100 people. I repost these to my stream, and have around 300 people who follow me.

The point of those numbers is to point out that I exist within a relatively small node, the majority of which are intellectuals and scientists, and despite this, I still see at least a dozen posters for this idea every day.

Whatever happens, “business as usual” will be over. And that, I can accept, even if things are worse for me personally.

The 5th.


@Hank@all Happy to go with “because we’re all in the Internet age now, that seems to accelerate and reinforce an urge for improved democracy.” That’s certainly what I *want* #ows#5Nov to be about.

@iPan I *will not* believe we are unable to make a difference.

I’m advising all my family members to close their accounts at Wells Fargo, BoA, and Chase.

In a time of such radical change, will it make a difference? I don’t know, but if the credit unions and local banks survive the crash of the big one’s (I’m alluding to the fact that it’s all an interconnected system - so even small banks - indeed our currency itself - may be in danger as well) then it would seem to be a good idea to hedge your bet by switching anyway.

If currency becomes useless - or we descend into martial law and chaos - then it doesn’t matter, and you’ve lost nothing by making the switch.

If the big banks fail, but the small one’s survive anyway, and the economy finds some way to limp along - then it was a good choice.

Or, maybe the run on the banks won’t happen at all. In that case, you’re money is still safe, and you are no longer supporting corruption.

I see no downside to switching.

@ iPan—I don’t have the link handy, but I have read repeatedly that those three banks you advise your family to leave - also score very low in customer service.  Let your family know that.

I think a small bank in North Dakota is probably the safest place to have one’s money—that state has a thriving economy!

for the curious, there were very large demonstrations with street fighting last weekend in Athens. The number of participants was between 70,000 and 200,000.

Also, I read a poll recently that said that 37% of Americans support OccupyWallStreet.

Hello Hank,

thanks for your reply.

I had a deadline yesterday, that prevented me from engaging in the conversation before. Indeed there was a big rally in Rome, but I could not participate. Why? Because as many “brains” I had to go abroad to make any meaningful research.

Speaking about the conversation we had. I find the idea of an open bank on the one side really really good. There are of course a number of details that needs to be ironed. For example banks are based upon “banking secret”. How can bank decision be crowdsourced when crowdsourcing is generally based upon transparency? Still there is a number of crowdfounding systems out there. So maybe this detail could be solved.

A more important problem has to do with debt, and how much money can banks lend. You see, when I wrote:

(a) money is created by banks in the process of lending more money that they have. (b) because banks -any bank, also ethical banks- charge an interest there is always more debt that money available. (c) To pay this debt the economy needs to run faster and faster, thus debt grows in an exponential way. While the world resources end in an ever exponential rate.

There is no solution unless we change how the monetary system works. And then we still need to redistribute.

I was not speaking about the situation in Italy, but in the whole world. We think of debt as something that comes from borrowing. I borrow you 100, you owe me 100. If you give me back those 100 we are ok, right? But when a bank lends money you need to give back more than the money it gave you. Where will you take this extra money? Imagine a world where all the money is only the money owned by the bank will make it easier to understand. You lend some money. Then you give it back. But now you are still in debt. So you lend some extra money (at an interest) and so on. There is a theory that because of this process the total amount of debt that is in the whole world is higher than the total amount of money in the whole world. Not just higher, but that it increases of a small percentage every year. And as you know things that increase of a percentage every year, become exponential, and soon they increase of a lot.

Why am I telling you all this? Because if an open bank lends money at any interest it would just keep on this process. So I think this solution is not yet the right one. But we are in the right direction.

On another topic, is there any way in which I could contact you directly? I think there is something still missing in the transhumanist world. And I would like you to write an article about it.


@ Pietro - thank you for your comments about the banking situation in the world—
I am intrigued by what you want me to write an article about—
you can contact me directly via
Facebook or at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

Fractional reserve and fiat money.

While switching to local banks is a good idea, it doesn’t get to the root of the problem, which is the Federal Reserve.

Yes, I’m an end the Fed nut. Or maybe, in light of recent events, we aren’t such “nuts” anymore. What do you think?

Ending the Fed, however, is going to take a revolution.

It get’s even better :cheese:

Can’t make this stuff up.

The Vatican called on Monday for the establishment of a “global public authority” and a “central world bank” to rule over financial institutions that have become outdated and often ineffective in dealing fairly with crises.

We may find ourselves in a civil war or violent revolution before any of this matters

(I hope not though)

@ iPan—thanks for the link.  That is hysterical.  I seem to be agreeing with the Pope on this.  Quite surprising that we see eye-to-eye on anything - congrats to Benedict on thinking this through and speaking out

Are you kidding Hank? :cheese:

Don’t you get the point about privately owned centralized banks?

Do you think the Pope really has the world’s best interests in mind?

What do you think this thread is about? Moving your money away from centralization perhaps to a more local, decentralized bank?

This World Bank the Pope proposes is BoA, Wells Fargo, Citibank, Chase, and the Federal Reserve all wrapped into one on a global scale.

You are a man of strange contradictions, maybe that’s what I like about you.  :cheese:

Watch this:

It might appear simplistic and on the “conspiratorial” side - but it explains the basic problem with private centralized banks.

You see Hank, the very root of our problem is about centralization.

“You see Hank, the very root of our problem is about centralization.”

As you can perhaps guess, I don’t agree with this statement, but it’s provoked some interesting (to me at any rate!) thoughts.

As it happens I was discussing with colleagues earlier today what we mean by the term “problem”, and the definition I came up with was “a situation about which you are frustrated”. Perhaps a better one, however, is simply “people suffering”, in which case your statement translates to something like, “The underlying reason why people suffer is centralisation”.

The reason I disagree is as follows. People have been suffering ever since we evolved. Even in the Stone Age we suffered (perhaps especially then - do you think life was all rosy and idyllic?). It’s certainly true that centralisation has exacerbated the problem in many ways, but to describe it as the “very root of the problem” is hopelessly superficial. Even if it is playing a role, there is an underlying cause for it, and it may be better to address that rather than just going for decentralisation. The reason why centralisation has occurred since we invented agriculture is that those with more resources tend to use those resources to get more resources for themselves, generally at the expense of the less fortunate. This is basic human nature, which is the result of natural selection. So natural selection certainly lies closer to the “very root” of the problem than centralisation. Decentralisation and anarchism are old ideas, and they always tend to fall prey to the above instability, which Marx so correctly observed in relation to capitalism (but also failed to comprehend that it was a much more fundamental consequence of human nature). In the mean time centralisation has advantages as well as disadvantages.

Earlier in this thread we discussed the issue about whether we can make a difference. I believe we can. If I didn’t I wouldn’t bother to comment. But it’s fairly clear that the impact of the exchanges we have here are generally going to be indirect rather than direct, and I think the way we can add the most value is by trying to be precise and accurate in the way we discuss the issues that are raised here.

Well, maybe we don’t need to divest from big banks in order to bring about Armageddon. Papandreou seems to be doing a good job of it single-handedly.

On a more positive note, I love what Occupy London are saying about the City of London Corporation.

In the mean time it appears I’m not the only one drawing parallels between the current situation in Europe and 1914:

How the St Paul’s protesters seek to democratise London

“Until today, the reclamation of the public space around St Paul’s by protesters has been confused. A successful political action requires a constructive alternative, and there was none on offer. Between bemused disgruntlement and fantastical projects, the protest had no settled perspective through which it could grow and make friends. It was better theatre than politics and that was frustrating, because the backdrop, props and themes were superb.

With the protesters now focusing their criticism on the City of London Corporation, all that has changed.

The City of London Corporation is a commune with its own police force and courts. It is the inheritor of great wealth and assets but does not have to declare them because, as an ancient city that has never been in debt, it is under no obligation to do so. It has an established lobbyist in parliament, the remembrancer, who sits opposite the Speaker. Every year the prime minister goes to the Guildhall, the ancient city parliament, to speak on foreign policy, and the chancellor goes to the Guildhall and assures them of their place in the realm.

The City of London Corporation is both a territorial authority and a lobbyist for the financial sector. The oldest continuous democracy in the world is entirely in the service of money. It claims all tradition and authority for itself, but discards all other ancient traditions that recognise labour as having status, such as that of the Billingsgate porters.”

St Paul’s Cathedral list of financial supporters

@Peter and others re Greece - let’s see who guesses how I would vote if I were a Greek (and how I will vote if a referendum comes near me).

@CygnusXI Thanks for pasting the articles. Great, isn’t it? Could this he a first step towards abolishing the monarchy and other anachronisms?

@Giulio Don’t altogether blame you, but I still hope that we can steer our way through e current crisis and bring about positive change in a reasonably orderly way. I really don’t like the alternatives.

In any case, my earlier prediction that Papandreou wouldn’t last long is looking pretty good. 😊 Greek TV is currently speculating that he will resign within hours.

Thanks Hank, for these concrete but still inspiring ideas!

It’s great to read you again!

Very best wishes from Montreal with its own mini occupy movement

A footnote:
what is happening these days is not evidence but yet offers hope it is not, as stated by David Brin, a fact that circa 1957 (or the ‘70s, etc.) was a better time than today.

Things just might pick up—better than a pessimist might think—in the next few decades.

(5th and last comment for today):

Don’t remember if anyone mentioned it here, but rather than freezing bank accounts, the ‘bank holidays’ of eight decades ago may possibly be reinstituted; banks are simply closed until turmoil subsides somewhat.

FDR was past master of it. it’s different, today we have ATMs- which didn’t exist 80 years ago. Since there is a cap on withdrawals by way of ATMs, a latter-day bank holiday wouldn’t mean depositors couldn’t withdraw via ATMs.

Well, I’m curious what the numbers are from last Saturday.

I know that 650,000 people opened new accounts at credit unions or local banks last month, more than all of 2010 combined, but I have no idea if the 5th of Nov. had an impact or not.

I guess we’ll have to wait until next month to find out? Unless anyone else knows of a source for this kind of information?

I’ve seen a few articles on it, but not saying anything more than you said.  All in all - it was certainly a great boost for the credit unions, many people were unaware that they even existed, and now they’re much better known.

But no, the big banks didn’t come crashing down on Nov. 5th. However, they have all rescinded the $5 debit card fee!

“a latter-day bank holiday wouldn’t mean depositors couldn’t withdraw via ATMs.”

Whatever the case may be,
‘bank holiday’ has a far better ring to it than ‘panic run on banks’.

Somebody told me the other day that the big banks want us to divest anywaybecause they want to shed liabilities (our deposits with banks = their liabilities). Probably still a good thing to do (even more so perhaps), but if ths is true it would somewhat undermine the “revenge” motivation (which was always a bit silly anyway).

What I think we should be lobbying for is a much more radical loosening of monetary policy than has been tried so far, say an inflation target of 5% for the next couple of years. That would get the economy growing again pretty quick. Why get at the Chinese to revalue the renminbi when we can just devalue our own? (dollar, euro, sterling, all at once)

These times are deflated relative to the ‘70s.

“Somebody told me the other day that the big banks want us to divest anyway because they want to shed liabilities”

A wag wrote in a newspaper a week ago that banks are “awash” in money and many banks discourage new customers.

I think it’s partly that banks have been told they have to recapitalize, in order reduce their vulnerability in the future.

The essential problem with banks is that they are an oligopoly. In that I don’t think they’re significantly different from other powerful oligopolies. I honestly don’t believe that bankers are significantly worse than the rest of us. If we really want to find a scapegoat for the current crisis then the most convincing candidates for me are the rating agencies (they’re the ones that gave AAA ratings to unsound assets), but in any case history should teach us that looking for scapegoats, while comforting, is a bad idea.

Similarly, irrational exuberance around social media and hacktivism is equally dangerous. It will bite us on the bum eventually, just as surely as the irrational exuberance around cheap credit did. So again I’ll go with what you posted on an other thread: “curb your enthusiasm”. While adding, “don’t stop believing”. What I like about the “divest” idea is that it represents resistance to the centralisation of power.

@Hank - of course Nov. 5 was not enough to crash the big banks. But it was a good start. Now I hope in a gradual flow of customers from big banks to smaller and saner credit unions.

@Peter re “I honestly don’t believe that bankers are significantly worse than the rest of us.” Of course some bankers are nice persons, give to charities, and kind to others, love their children as pets as much as I do or more. The problem is in the system. If scams pay so much better than honest and useful work, of course many smart persons will become scammers instead of scientists or artists.

OOPS that was “love their children and pets”

Freudian schlip? :cheese:

BoA dropped it’s $5 debit card charge, and also lost a settlement to pay back overdraft charges.

Maybe it can’t be directly connected to recent events, but then again, maybe Occupation hurricanes are triggering Banker wings 😉

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