In the years before 2008, some bankers made tremendous profits. Where did all that money come from?
One could say that it came from the future. The schemes used to make those profits where all, in a way, variations of credits. In a credit, you get a lot of money at one time and have to pay it back later. Of course, the money you get is no profit, but it appears as profit if you can manage to let somebody else pay it back. That is what is called investment banking. It is, in a certain sense, a kind of “time machine” by which money is sucked from the accounts of future people.
The problem was that in 2008, that future turned into the present, as is always the natural tendency of the future. The system crashed and a gap opened up. There is a myth that the collapse of the Lehman Brothers bank caused the trouble. But the real problem was what happened in the years before. What was invented then was another type of financial “time machine” called “bale out” by which a large part of the monetary gap that had suddenly opened up was sent further into the future, to some unfortunate future taxpayers who have never seen a single cent of the original “profit”.
Some of the gap was, however, shifted to people of the present, people like you and me. We were and we are experiencing here what I call “trans-temporal exploitation”. Like in other instances of exploitation, there is a group of exploiters and a group of exploited. The exploiters get advantages and the exploited get disadvantages. But unlike in other exploitative schemes, like, for example, slavery or colonialism, in trans-temporal exploitation, the exploiter lives at an earlier time than the exploited. The exploited have, therefore, absolutely no chance to fight their exploiters. In the case of the “financial crisis” some of the exploiters might have made the “mistake” – from their point of view – to suck the money away from too near a future, and some of them fell into the resulting gap themselves. However, in most instances of trans-temporal exploitation, there are decades, maybe even centuries separating both groups of people.
Here are some more examples of trans-temporal exploitation that we are currently involved in, not as exploited but as exploiters:
- We are destroying ecosystems and drive species to extinction. Future generations will not be able to use the resources of these ecosystems or enjoy their beauty.
- We are using up fossil fuels and we are pumping carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. According to what is scientifically understood about the atmosphere, this is going to change the world climate in mostly devastating ways.
- We are using up mineral resources, like metals. These are dispersed instead of being reused. Reclaiming them will be very expensive, in terms of money or energy.
- We are producing radioactive wastes that will be a danger to future generations for tens of thousands of years.
- We are piling up public debts.
Generally, our world economic system can be viewed as a system of exploiting future generations. There is increasing destruction of the resources of our planet. The economic system leads to the exploitation of these resources in a non-sustainable form.
Some people today find it strange why in the times of slavery, e.g. in ancient Rome, most people (at least the free ones who left written records) did not see that slavery was bad. Why did it not occur to them that what they were doing was wrong and morally absolutely unacceptable? In the same way you might ask, however, why most people today do not see that our present economic system is just as immoral and just as exploitative, exploiting and probably even killing people. Most people do not see it. Obviously, part of such exploitative systems is a systemic blindness to their cruelty.
When the cruelty became visible, it was shifted away, out of people’s eyes and out of people’s minds. While in antiquity, the slaveholders and the slaves lived together, in the 17th and 18th centuries, progress in transport technology where used to remove the slaves to overseas colonies. Slavery was then replaced by colonialism, then by (still existing) neo-colonialism. And increasingly, we started to exploit the people of the future. Many of our modern technologies can also be viewed as time machines that suck resourced away from the future. Specifically, everything that is not sustainable is exploitative.
The people of the future, our own grandchildren and great-grandchildren, are going to inherit a destroyed planet, depleted of most of its resources. They are today’s slaves.
(The picture is from http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Amazonie_deforestation.jpg. It is a satelite image showing logging in the Amazonian rainforest, leading to its destruction. The loggers start from a main street and then go left and right, creating a fishbone pattern. Eventually, the forest with its high bioderversity is destroyed. This activity can be viewed as exploitation of future people.)