Tag Archives: Occupy Wall Street

Finance Smurf – A Post-2008 look at a Classic Graphic Novel

8/22/2014 Portland, Oregon – Pop in your mints…

In November of 1992 Pierre Culliford, a renowned author and illustrator published a graphic novel of tremendous gravity and startling economic insight.  The novel would be his last, as on December 24, 1992, Culliford suffered a heart attack at his home in Brussels and passed away the same day.

Culliford is known by his nickname, Peyo, and he was the creator of the Schtroumpfs, who are better known by their English name, the Smurfs.

Peyo’s final novel, Finance Smurf, at long last has an English translation which became available on July 1, 2014.

Seen through the lens of post 2008 skepticism with regards to the financial system that continues to hold the world in shackles, the novel seems especially timely, and the marketing copy on the back cover, which reads:

“99% of the Smurfs have left the Smurfs Village!  No one but the Finance Smurf wants to occupy the Smurfs Village!”

appears to be nothing more than an attempt to carry on the rallying cry of the Occupy Wall Street movement of 2011.  However, as one opens the cover and peers into the world of Peyo’s Smurfs, it is clear that the author intended to call into question everything the reader thought they understood about money, and in large part, he succeeded.

Occupy Wall Street Poster
“Wall-Street-1” by http://26.media.tumblr.com/tumblr_lsd8ucoCX91qbrgmdo1_500.jpg. Licensed under Fair use of copyrighted material in the context of Occupy Wall Street via Wikipedia – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Wall-Street-1.jpg#mediaviewer/File:Wall-Street-1.jpg

While the Smurfs are, well, the Smurfs, and as such will invariably be forever adorable and highly entertaining in the eyes of most of humanity, here at The Mint we will look past the novel’s obvious merits of providing page after page of blue colored cuteness and highlight our observations of the merits of the economic arguments and questions that it raises as well as the metaphors employed via the roles played by long-standing characters in the following review.  Enjoy!

Finance Smurf

The novel Finance Smurf is set in Smurfs Village.  It begins with the incapacitation of Papa Smurf, the Smurf who keeps Smurf Village safe and orderly, who is laid up by a laboratory accident.  In this sense, Papa Smurf may be seen as a metaphor for a benevolent dictator or embodiment of a divine being for the Smurfs.  This is important, as it is the absence of the ongoing intervention of Papa Smurf in daily life that gives room for the mischief in the novel to occur (Smurf fans will quickly recognize this plot device employed by Peyo).

It then falls to Finance Smurf to seek an antidote, which takes him to the world of humans.  It is there that he learns the concept of money and becomes fascinated by it.  It is interesting that he does not appear to immediately recognize the creation of money as a means to enrich himself.

Indeed a hallmark of the Smurfs is the communist (or socialist) structure of their life in the Village.  Here at The Mint, we do not find this odd, as we have explored in-depth here at The Mint the fact that socialism is the norm in self-supporting economic systems the size of Smurfs’ Village who have a Papa Smurf, so to speak, as a universally respected authority figure.  What drives people to Capitalism is the need to tacitly make economic decisions in the absence of a universally respected authority figure, hence Peyo’s need to sideline Papa Smurf at the outset for the narrative to play out.

Finance Smurf returns to Smurfs’ Village with the antidote, as well as a burning desire to introduce money and the human system of trade to the Smurfs.  First, he reasons that he needs gold coins with Papa Smurfs likeness on them to use as monetary units.  He goes to Painter Smurf for the artistic rendering, Sculptor Smurf for the mold for the coins, Miner Smurf for the gold (Miner Smurf, ironically, has a pile of gold sitting there which he has no use for, as he is diligently extracting flint with his pick axe). Handy Smurf then melts the gold and makes the coins using the mold.

Here we interject another observation.  The day-to-day activities of the Smurfs are dependent upon their profession (or lack thereof).  In the absence of money the Smurfs simply do what they do.  There are rarely specific value judgments made with regards to what the Smurfs do, though all of their actions appear to be motivated by the needs of their fellow Smurfs and throwing the occasional party.  This system, while idyllic, assumes that everyone wants to maintain the status quo.  The maintenance of the status quo is at once the pillar of strength and the Achilles heel of Socialism.

It is clear that for Painter Smurf, Sculptor Smurf, and Handy Smurf, the requests of Finance Smurf are outside of the status quo.  However, being good Smurfs, they go along with it and hope for the best.

With the coins made, Finance Smurf calls a meeting of all Smurfs, introduces the concept of money, and hands out an equal share of the coins to each Smurf.  The Smurfs initially do not know how to operate in the new system, so Finance Smurf helps them by doing some back of the napkin costing analysis of their activities.  It is worth noting here that this activity is also the hallmark of Socialist systems, the central planning of prices.

As the Smurfs begin to trade, the predictable begins to happen.  The productive elements of society, Farmer Smurf, Handy Smurf, Baker Smurf, and so on, soon have more coins than they know what to do with.  They take them to Finance Smurf, who is now acting as the bank, to be invested.  On the other side, artists such as Harmony Smurf and Poet Smurf find themselves short of money and then mortgage their houses to Finance Smurf.  Lazy Smurf is hardest hit.

If it was not obvious to readers to this point, Finance Smurf begins to embody Central Banks and Wall Street.  At one point, Baker Smurf calls out Finance Smurf for lending at 10% but only giving him a 6% return.  In a nod to the foreclosure crisis, Finance Smurf becomes owner of all of the real estate in Smurfs’ Village.  There is a reference to privatization of public works, as when the bridge goes out, the Smurfs look to Finance Smurf to pay for the replacement, which he does in exchange for the right to collect a toll.  Even corruption is broached as there is some price-fixing for lumber on the bridge project orchestrated by Finance Smurf.

In short, Finance Smurf comes to embody everything that everybody hates about today’s financial system.  The rest of the Smurfs, fed up with the swift disaster that the Money system introduced by Finance Smurf has brought upon them, leave to build another village.  In this action, they take the only logical step in the face of monetary tyranny.  It is a wonder that more of us do not venture out and do the same today.

In terms of economic lessons to be taken from Finance Smurfs, there is little more to be gleaned.

The remaining Social/Political lessons are taught via the intervention of Gargamel, the Smurfs’ arch nemesis.  Gargamel counterfeits coins, echoing a form of economic sabotage employed by nations at war, and lures the Smurfs to them, relying on their newfound greed to be their downfall.  Fortunately, Papa Smurf returns and wisely guides the Smurfs away from the trap.

In another odd twist, Papa Smurf, once he becomes aware of the new Money system that has been introduced during his time of incapacitation, does not act to stop it, instead, he bumbles along with it as many a powerful emeritus would do, until the Smurfs ultimately leave to build another village, safely away from the scourge of money.

Conclusions

As an adult reading Finance Smurf in the post 2008 socio-economic landscape, one gets an eerie sense that Peyo was on to something back in 1992, and cleverly communicated it to the world.  While the ongoing economic analogies presented in the novel are quite clear, Peyo proves stunningly accurate in his depiction of Finance Smurf inventing money and introducing it to the populace, along with a monopoly on usury, for in this way Central Banks unwittingly enslave the world by promulgating the debt based money supply.

The Peyo’s final triumph is his clairvoyant depiction of the Smurfs’ unanimous decision to simply leave the village that was their happy home before it became the illegitimate property of Finance Smurf, and build another village just a stone’s throw away, yet with one marked difference; the absence of money and its creator.

True to form, the Smurfs reconcile with Finance Smurf who repents of his ways.  For Smurfdom, and indeed our world, was never meant to live under the tyranny of perpetual debts.  The Smurfs in Smurfs’ Village, who had a small-scale debt problem which quickly got out of hand, simply left and went elsewhere.  Jewish law called for a Jubilee, recognizing both the necessity of money and finance for large-scale commerce and the necessity of liberation from the snares that they created amongst what would otherwise be a brotherhood of man.  What, then, is the solution for an entire world living under the scourge of a 100-year-old debt based monetary system?

Following the Smurfs may not be a bad idea after all.

Stay tuned and Trust Jesus.

Stay Fresh!

David Mint

Key Indicators for August 22, 2014

Copper Price per Lb: $3.20
Oil Price per Barrel (WTI):  $93.50

Corn Price per Bushel:  $3.65
10 Yr US Treasury Bond:  2.40%
Bitcoin price in US:  $518.00
FED Target Rate:  0.09%
Gold Price Per Ounce:  $1,280

MINT Perceived Target Rate*:  0.25%
Unemployment Rate:  6.2%
Inflation Rate (CPI):   0.1%
Dow Jones Industrial Average:  17,001
M1 Monetary Base:  $2,694,800,000,000

M2 Monetary Base:  $11,393,400,000,000

Why the morally corrupt are assured of promotion in and leadership of the Might Makes Right ideological system – Part I

11/22/2011 Portland, Oregon – Pop in your mints…

After a brief break in our faithful correspondence, we are compelled to pick up the proverbial pen to complete an incomplete thought in a vain attempt to eat Thanksgiving dinner in peace.  If you are a new reader of The Mint, we will simply relate that the Mint is the product of a deep felt agitation by its author.  It is what could be referred to as therapy.  The thoughts, once on paper, leave us in peace.  Until then, they stir, deep in our spirit, waiting to escape via these words.

How very fortunate and long suffering you are, fellow taxpayer.

Before we continue our mantra of Anarchy, True Capitalism, Natural Law, and Might Makes Right, we will share a few important observations.

First, the MF Global implosion is now reported to have left a $1.7 Billion hole in the capital base of a highly leveraged commodity and derivatives market.  MF Global was a primary dealer, one that had the unconditional trust of the exchange and other secondary commodity dealers.  It was a silent pillar of these markets.  The aftermath of their implosion, both in loss of capital and confidence, has only begun to unfold.  Commodity markets are no longer “safe” by normal standards.  This situation is best watched by your money at a distance.

Second, while Europe implodes, the US has been spending most of its time firming its position in Asia.  There has been speculation that the US is moving to aggressively devalue the dollar vis-à-vis the Yuan.  Will it be the 10:1 reverse split that we have speculated about here?  No one knows, but it would appear that the US Dollar will not serve as a reliable store of wealth in the short term.  Silver and Gold come to mind as viable substitutes as this drama plays out.

Occupiers take note of a Bolivian tactic of blocking major thoroughfares

Finally, It appears that the Occupy protesters are now wising up and using tactics which we call the Bolivian tactic, that of blocking major thoroughfares.  It is much more effective, not to mention exciting, than urban camping.  As a practical matter, if your livelihood in any way relies on a major thoroughfare being open in an area where the protests are growing, we suggest that short term contingency plans be considered.

These events and any pain they cause should be short term, maybe three to four months of adjustments, if they are allowed to simply run their course.  If the Government continues to intervene, they will plague us indefinitely.  We pray for the former and prepare for the later.

With that off our chest, we continue pondering life as we know it.  Our question today is:  Why does it seem that the worst morals seem to come out on top?  First, a glance at Isaiah:

And I will make boys their princes, and infants shall rule over them.  And the people will oppress one another, every one his fellow and every one his neighbor; the youth will be insolent to the elder, and the despised to the honorable,”  Isaiah 3:4-5

Have you ever complained about a politician?  The government?  How about your boss?  The current state of society?  If you haven’t, you are indeed a rarity in this day in age, for there is much complaining, and seemingly much to complain about.

How did we arrive at this, fellow taxpayer?  If democracy is supposed to deliver the cream of the crop in terms of leadership in the government, why does it seem that most politicians are the epitome of immoral liars?

This question was thrust upon us as we were reading the “Is there no shame” rant at zerohedge.com and came across the words “Hayek’s theory that the worst always rise to the top.”  We then perused Hayek’s theory in an excerpt from the “Road to Serfdom.”

In the section entitled “Why the Worst Get to the Top,” Hayek states that:

“There are strong reasons for believing that the worst features of the totalitarian systems are phenomena which totalitarianism is certain sooner or later to produce.

Just as the democratic statesman who sets out to plan economic life will soon be confronted with the alternative of either assuming dictatorial powers or abandoning his plans, so the totalitarian leader would soon have to choose between disregard of ordinary morals and failure. It is for this reason that the unscrupulous are likely to be more successful in a society tending toward totalitarianism. Who does not see this has not yet grasped the full width of the gulf which separates totalitarianism from the essentially individualist Western civilization.”

Suddenly, it all makes sense.  As man has generally chosen to pursue the Totalitarian, or what we call the Might Makes Right ideology, it would follow that those thrust into power should be among the most immoral, unscrupulous, human beings on the planet.

In summary, the Might Makes Right ideology unwittingly promotes the worst individuals to positions of power, as they are best suited to carry out the immoral and contradictory demands which are invariably made of the persons occupying positions of power in such a system.

Depressed?  Don’t be.  It doesn’t have to be this way.  More tomorrow.

Stay tuned and Trust Jesus.

Stay Fresh!

David Mint

Email: davidminteconomics@gmail.com

Key Indicators for November 22, 2011

Copper Price per Lb: $3.34
Oil Price per Barrel:  $98.01

Corn Price per Bushel:  $5.98  
10 Yr US Treasury Bond:  1.95%
FED Target Rate:  0.08%  ON AUTOPILOT, THE FED IS DEAD!

Gold Price Per Ounce:  $1,700 PERMANENT UNCERTAINTY

MINT Perceived Target Rate*:  2.00%
Unemployment Rate:  9.0%
Inflation Rate (CPI):  -0.1%
Dow Jones Industrial Average:  12,096  

M1 Monetary Base:  $2,121,700,000,000 RED ALERT!!!  THE ANIMALS ARE LEAVING THE ZOO!!!
M2 Monetary Base:  $9,644,200,000,000 YIKES UP $1 Trillion in one year!!!!!!!

Dexia Nationalized, Occupy Wall Street Appears to misinterpret the Monetary Roots of Widespread Discontent

10/11/2011 Portland, Oregon – Pop in your mints…

The big news over the weekend was the partial nationalization of the Belian Bank, Dexia.  What?  You’ve never heard of Dexia?  Most people this side of the pond hadn’t up until a few weeks ago.  This tiny $707 Billion hedge fund disguised as a bank, which just months ago passed the European bank stress tests with flying colors, has become the first official victim of the dearth of interbank funding in the Eurozone.

In a world full of potential butterfly effects, Dexia’s staggering juggernaut could have a knock-off effect for the US Municipal bond market.

Following a familiar script into unfamiliar territory, the Governments of France, Belgium, and Luxembourg jumped in and provided guaranties (ala Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, which ironically are currently regurgitating their guaranties back onto US Banks) to the tune of $122 Billion until things settle down.

Unfortunately for France, Belgium, and Luxembourg, things will not settle down in time for their governments to remain solvent.  Chalk another set of Eurozone governments up to the “effective loss of sovereignty club.”  Surrendering sovereignty to international banking interests seems to be working out well for Greece, Ireland, Portugal, and Italy, so why not join the fun?

Slovakia appears to be the only nation willing to stand up against the wave of bailouts and subsequent loss of sovereignty as the bailouts costs crush already strained government balance sheets.  It appears that they may hold out a couple more days, enough time to find a compliant government (the current one was voted out in a confidence vote tied to the EFSF earlier today).

The situation in Europe is giving the world a frightening message:  When push comes to shove, the governments can be counted on to work in the interests of the banks.  How long this untenable situation can last is anybody’s guess, but if the Occupy Wall Street movement continues to gain traction, it is clear that the situation, if properly understood, could change very quickly.

The Euro Prepares to Claim More Sovereignty

Observant fellow taxpayers will note that we have qualified our previous statement with the words “if properly understood” because, at the moment, the Occupy Wall Street movement appears to misunderstand the roots of their many and varied forms of discontent.

Protesters apparently see nothing wrong with the government selectively fleecing the productive class as long as they receive their “fair share.”  If we have correctly identified the Socialist tendencies of these protests (as last check they had not adopted a manifesto), then the logical outcome is simply the ouster of one form of parasite, the banking interests, for another.

The problem, of course, lies in what we use as money.  Placing the power to create money in the hands of a Central Bank and then turning a blind eye as they shamelessly debauch the currency, giving an inordinate amount of purchasing power to those closest to the money printing operation (banks and government) and placing an inordinate amount of regulatory and tax burden to those farther away from the money printing operation (that would be you and I, fellow taxpayer), is perhaps the surest way to destroy man’s faith in the capitalistic system, and in the process lay the blame for every evil unleashed by the debauching of the currency on the capitalistic system.

Rothchild, Marx, and Keynes understood this.  They also understood that only one man in a million would be able to understand how debauching the currency serves to concentrate power in the hands of few at the expense of many.

Are you one of them?

Stay tuned and Trust Jesus.

Stay Fresh!

David Mint

Email: davidminteconomics@gmail.com

Key Indicators for October 11, 2011

Copper Price per Lb: $3.30
Oil Price per Barrel:  $85.81

Corn Price per Bushel:  $6.45  
10 Yr US Treasury Bond:  2.16%

FED Target Rate:  0.07%  ON AUTOPILOT, THE FED IS DEAD!

Gold Price Per Ounce:  $1,663 PERMANENT UNCERTAINTY

MINT Perceived Target Rate*:  2.00%
Unemployment Rate:  9.1%
Inflation Rate (CPI):  0.4%!!!   UP UP UP!!!
Dow Jones Industrial Average:  11,416  

M1 Monetary Base:  $2,144,500,000,000 RED ALERT!!!
M2 Monetary Base:  $9,473,100,000,000 YIKES!!!!!!!

Occupy Portland: Widespread Discontent meets Acceptance in Portland

On October 6th, Portland joined other US cities by kicking off its own version of the increasingly popular Occupy Wall Street protests with approximately 5,000 people amassing at Tom McCall Waterfront Park where SW Ankeny meets Naito Parkway.  While no specific manifesto has come forth, the group generally comes across as unified against corporate greed and corruption.

Approaching Occupy Portland’s ground zero, it became apparent that the perhaps the only thing that unified this loose coalition of protesters was a general feeling of discontent.  It was equally apparent that general discontent can be a powerful unifying force, and that as the marches and occupation got underway, the protesters found in one another the camaraderie that is inherent in common struggle and sacrifice.

Amongst the many and varied grievances that could be observed by reading the protesters’ signs, flags, and slogans, were:  support for the cause of the Palestinians, pleas to tax the rich, outrage against corporate greed, and long-suffering environmental concerns.   While these grievances have been longstanding for certain sectors of the population, what was most striking was the breadth of demographic and socio-economic makeup of those gathering to launch Occupy Portland.

Protesters of all Stripes Gathering to kick off Occupy Portland on Thursday, October 6th 2011

 

While students resembling John Lennon and Guy Fawkes masks tended to stand out in the crowd, the presence of veterans, college students, retirees, and stay at home mothers spoke to the wide ranging discontent that has gripped Americans who are increasingly identifying themselves as the “other 99%” in sharp contrast to the top 1%, the label that has come to represent the wealthy and corporate interests.

As the exuberance of the protesters grew and their numbers at Waterfront Park began to swell, a few blocks away, up Burnside and 5th, the mood was quite different.

Despite assurances by both the protesters and Portland Mayor Sam Adams that the protests would be peaceful, financial and governmental institutions, which imagined themselves in the path of the unannounced route of the march, were taking precautions.  Banks planned to lock their doors and the increased Police and private security presence in the neighborhood was conspicuous.

There were rumors of Anarchists from Eugene coming to cause trouble.  Adding to this perceived threat was the uncertainty of the effects on transportation in the downtown core.  Needless to say, on this autumn day, Portland did not feel like the relaxed City in which we dwell.

Thankfully, these fears were unfounded.  Both Protesters and Police are to be commended for tacitly working together to maintain the peace and dignity of the protest.  Mayor Adams went as far as to waive the City’s no camping ordinance so that protesters could pitch their tents and stay the night.

Whatever the outcome, it is refreshing to see that Occupy Portland is helping so many people to find their voice and the City of Portland, true to form, welcoming them with open arms.