The current economics is oriented toward profit maximization. Profit maximization environments are noncooperative settings that communicate uncertainty and instability, and thus encourage and normalize a positive feedback loop of short-term reactive behaviors, most of which generate negative long-term consequences for people, as well as the communities and ecosystems they inhabit.
Economic exchange in the United States requires United States currency, which should logically serve as a neutral unit of account in economic transactions, yet currently, all U.S. currency is created by private banks, during the loan origination process.
An obvious first question arises: how can economic currency be a neutral source of exchange when it is only produced by private banks that also operate under a profit maximization paradigm, and thus are equally vulnerable to short-sighted, short-term decision making? Shouldn’t some money, at least, be allocated toward public facing, long-term goals?
Public Orientation is long term orientation; profit maximization must navigate in a short-term environment to achieve the desired result. A National Public Bank would benefit society by adopting the long-term orientation that is missing in America’s current economic paradigm. National Public Banks are oriented toward the public, and can be used to a) enact public policy, b) economically stimulate distressed communities, c) convert America to green and clean infrastructure, including energy, transportation, manufacturing and agriculture, d) keep inflation down in essential areas such as housing, food, transportation, and healthcare, e) provide a safety net—as well as debt relief—for students, home owners, and small businesses, and f) generate universal retirement dividends to supplement individual savings.
A National Development Bank (NDB) is a government-initiated non-commercial financial institution that provides capital for development of economic infrastructure; they typically fund projects that facilitate a country’s means of economic connection to other countries (international) and to one another (domestic). Germany instituted a National Development Bank directly after WWII to rebuild itself. The China Development Bank is another successful development bank.
Arguably, the very first National Development Bank was established by Alexander Hamilton in 1791; his first Bank of the United States helped turn thirteen disparate colonies into a nation unified by a single currency.
Early U.S. slaveowners did not want the oversight of Hamilton’s large government bank, however, so once his bank had stabilized the economy, its twenty-year charter was allowed to lapse. A pattern ensued, where private bank short-term orientation slowly destabilized the economy, which triggered reinstatement of a national public bank to regain financial equilibrium (for historical examples of public bank reinstatements, see the Second Bank of the U.S., the HomeOwner’s Loan Corporation, and the Reconstruction Finance Corporation). This pattern continued up until the 2007-2008 Financial Crisis, where government chose to write the private sector a $495 billion taxpayer check and let them sort it out amongst themselves; Americans consequently lost $9.8 trillion in wealth from home and retirement account values alone.
When slaveowner Andrew Jackson got control of the United States in 1829, he dismantled the Second Bank of the United States, opening the door for the era of private “wildcat” banking, which funded the expansion of slavery but failed to create economic stability for anyone else. This instability was a major catalyst for The Civil War.
After the war, a renewed attempt was made to unite America around a single national currency. To do this, Congress ultimately placed a 10% tax on the use of all other private or state bank notes. While this eradicated all other forms of money, the number of state banks—which dwindled significantly at first—rebounded by the turn of the century due to the growing popularity of “checkbook money.”
Geert Hofstede’s cultural dimensions theory was an attempt to connect a society’s culture to its values, and its values to its observed behavior. Because Hofstede based his theory on observations among employees at IBM, the model has been used mostly to A) describe business paradigms or B) tie human behavior patterns to a country’s underlying culture.
Hofstede identified six categories to describe a country’s business culture.
- The power distance index identifies how much a culture will tolerate inequality and hierarchal authority.
- The individualism vs. collectivism category places countries on a continuum from those who prioritize independence to those who prioritize interdependence.
- The uncertainty avoidance continuum identifies how some societies need strict structure and rules, with punitive forms of justice, while others are more inclusive and seek reparative forms of justice.
- Similarly, the masculinity femininity dimension either rewards gender roles and aggressive behaviors, or more inclusive, nurturing behaviors.
- The category of indulgence versus restraint defines whether societies are self-indulgent or choose a more practical, modest lifestyle.2
The sixth category—Long-Term Orientation versus Short-Term Orientation—differentiates between societies that take a pragmatic, forward-looking view, or root their perspective in historic or traditional ideas. To be accurate, there is no evidence that long or short-term orientation is detached from humanity’s historic roots; long-term orientation tends to order society by hierarchal status, which is a perspective rooted in oppression, while short-term orientation willingly embraces tradition, which also remains rooted in oppression. Biological economic theories of communication assert that we are organic communication devices built on generations of feedback loops, and thus our values and behaviors are most certainly the product of whatever communication has been established or reinforced prior to the arrival of current generations.
Short-term oriented financial models are based on quick successes and instant gratification; these profit-maximizing societies typically create financial institutions that buy back their own stocks, offer bonuses, commissions, and dividends, make speculative bets, “day trade,” and establish no long-term commitments based on strong values or beliefs.
Much study has gone into the short-term thinking generated when extrinsic monetary rewards are the incentive, especially after the 2008 Financial crisis demonstrated the un-sustainability of this paradigm. Importantly, our current profit-driven economic paradigm is based almost entirely on extrinsic motivation, which studies have proven is less effective than intrinsic motivation for maximizing human potential. Examples abound of the negative externalities generated when making monetary profit the target, such as pollution, resource wars, environmental racism, inflation, redlining, food and banking deserts, the creation of antibiotic resistant bacteria through industrial meat processing strategies, or the indiscriminate dumping of toxic waste products.
The attempt to meet financial targets in no way guarantees product quality, or whether the product serves an important societal need. Besides bonuses for short-term targets, there is evidence that the cash carrot affects employee turnover rates and discourages long-term projects where cash-flow is inconsistent within profit-maximizing contracts; in many cases, shareholder / investors tend to offer managerial contracts that reward short-sighted decision-making, or choose short-term goals that can be rewarded cheaply and involve less managerial supervision, to increase profits at the top. This is the same mindset that causes investors and firms to divert financial resources toward speculative gambling like day-trading or stock buybacks, rather than an investment that yields something of value.
Profit-maximizing economies naturally conduct business around garnering short-term profits at the expense of long-term value, and bonuses are excellent vehicles for ensuring both.8 Bonuses incentivize risk and short-sightedness to garner quick financial yields; profit maximizing economies are built to crash. Everyone is focused on the carrot in front of their face, and no one has their eyes on the road except (of course) those who actually make money when the economy crashes.
No long-term value is being built using short-term thinking. Quality, by its very nature, is more difficult to achieve, and thus requires intrinsic motivation— to create the best version of something, not the most profitable one. Extrinsic motivation places workers on a punishment / reward continuum, where soon anything short of the maximum reward will feel like a punishment. Addiction is the end result of extrinsic rewards, where more and more is required to maintain that initial buzz.
Short term orientation is analogous to a race with no real finish line. When no one is looking ahead, but simply attempting to pass whoever is in front of them, we risk following each other off a cliff. Biological economics—the economics of the planet—is what created all the resources we currently enjoy, and unless we align human-made economics with biological economics, we will soon reach that metaphorical cliff, which likely represents the collapse of the planet’s ecosystem.
Low Lending Where Lending is Needed Most
The profit-maximizing culture of large private banks casts money down into the areas of society much like a fishing line, where the lakes and ponds are already heavily stocked, and profits can be easily caught and reeled up to the surface. No one wants to drop a line into an empty pond, thus distressed communities with lower population densities are not getting any capital.
Privately created money is debt, meant to extract the value out of a community; Capital is not meant to empower anyone; it is meant to feed off those areas of the economy that have the most ready-made potential for success.
Farmland naturally requires a low-density population; profiting from this land-intensive process requires either a low-paid workforce (labor-intensive), or automation (capital-intensive), which then requires farms to be extremely large in size, to cover the cost of machinery. Investment risks include low annual crop yields, which is why investors purchase ‘weather derivatives’ to hedge against weather-related agricultural losses. Because the essentiality of the underlying value is not a factor in profit maximizing models, negative externalities will occur from industrializing this process; soil degradation, drinking water contamination, or the creation of antibiotic-resistant bacteria are just a few.
Low-density parts of the country are best suited to small businesses; to larger banks, small business loans make small profits. Short-term thinkers naturally charge higher interest rates for smaller-scale customers or lower-priced housing, hoping to profit more for this inconvenience, which naturally increases the risk of this investment, which further drives the justification to maintain increased interest rates. By planning for failure, banks merely secure it; once no capital is flowing into small communities, the positive feedback loop of economic disconnection comes full circle.
The phenomenon of asset bubbles is also self-fulfilling, as people again will leap over each other to possess something they fervently believe will grow in value, even though the underlying asset itself remains unchanged. When value becomes the measure of our shared beliefs, history has shown that our values can be manipulated. Those who possess excess wealth can manipulate markets through their investments, create the illusion of value, and fuel asset bubbles. When all this excess cash is pooled into one sector of the economy, it can create afinancial wave big enough to drown the real economy. Those who create these initial swells will cleverly cash out and peel off the wave before it crashes. Once the wave bottoms out, they will buy up the real assets again, and begin the next boom-bust cycle. Because money is not attached to anything tangible, there are a multitude of ways to extract money from consumers without creating any tangible value in the process.
Evidence is clear that growth within America’s financial system has a negative effect on growth in American productivity; in other words, Wall Street financial success reduces growth in the real economy.9 Further analysis confirms that when financial institutions expand their lending capabilities (known as a “credit boom”), it does not go to the true drivers of growth—innovation, or the research and development required to bring it about.9
The evolution of Wall Street within a profit maximization environment shows the dysfunction of this model. The stock market began as a way for people with excess money to invest in new ventures to grow the economy; to not let this money sit too long in idle hands. Profit maximization led shareholders to instead seek a controlling interest in businesses, to steer them toward their short-term benefit—the business’s extrinsic value—instead of maximizing the long-term benefit of the business—its intrinsic value to society. Now investors have grabbed onto the underlying assets themselves, where maximizing profit becomes the main driver for inflation; the more essential the asset, the more price inflation can be applied. The inelastic demand for housing, healthcare, food, energy, and communication, for example, guarantees inflation will be a sustainable Return on Investment, when in reality, the inflation itself is not sustainable. This is the dysfunctional thinking we have normalized by creating an artificial economic model, rather than building our economics upon the biological economic foundation that built us.
Financial Crises Risks
It makes economic sense that credit losses (for example, from loan defaults) would increase during times of recession. Data shows a cyclical pattern where loan origination naturally rises during times of economic expansion, which naturally raises the probability of defaults. Defaults typically occur approximately three to four years after an economic expansion begins, and because of the expansion, the consequent number of losses would proportionally be larger as well, triggering a cyclical decline in economic activity, which further increases losses, thus precipitating an overall economic downturn.3 Profits will also move up and down within this cycle, where capital is accumulated in boom periods, followed by credit buffers, to retain the garnered profits, when the inevitable downturns occur.4 Missing in the analysis is how the extraction of profits during the boom period creates the trough that ultimately leads to the wave crashing down.
Application of multicellular economic communication theories would link pro-cyclical tendencies—that magnify the direction of an economic fluctuation—to the positive feedback loops generated in human cellular communications (countercyclical tendencies would generate negative feedback loops); this process is designed to maintain homeostatic balance within even the most simple cellular organism. Within biological economic models, cells seek connection, to combine their labor and produce shared value; this process is only halted when uncertainty triggers cells to disconnect—to fight or flee—which Hofstede observed (at the social / relational level of biological economics10) as our human tendency toward uncertainty avoidance.
All this is to say that financial tides rise and fall on waves of certainty and uncertainty, and that those who own the wave pool, that is filled with privately created debt money, can kickstart certainty simply by the expansion of activity within any sector of the economy. The so-called dot.com bubble (1995-2002), for example, or housing bubble (2003-2011), were artificially inflated with excess debt-based money, and in both cases, those who drove the wave of certainty peeled off the wave before it crashed, but not before snatching up the profit and leaving others to hold the debt.
When the wave crashed and millions of American homes were swept away, 1) the federal government cut a $495 billion check to Wall Street, 2) the Fed—who had fueled the mass foreclosure of homes by raising interest rates—subsequently lowered them to a record 0%, followed by 3) Wall Street investors snatching up millions of these devalued foreclosures, many of them purchased directly from the federal government. Now Wall Street owns the physical asset, rather than the debt on it, meaning they now own the inflation lever, and when they ratchet it up, the so-called profits will flow directly into their pockets.
To understand how many layers of leverage existed, one on top of the other, to cause the collapse of the western economic world, economists have separated financial leverage—the loan itself, the bond created by it, the repurchase agreements and other securities financing transactions (SFTs)8 —from synthetic leverage—the non-bank financial intermediation (NBFI) sector that includes hedge funds, broker-dealers, finance companies, holding companies and securitization vehicles. These NBFIs also take on further leverage that is not included on the balance sheet of firms, like foreign exchange swaps or forward contracts.8
Hidden leverage means unregulated debt instruments, of which there is little available data. Because firms do not divulge the amount of synthetic leverage they produce, they also do not know how much Is being created by their peers; thus, everyone was over-leveraging themselves, often using the same underlying asset; a single home loan of dubious origin.
How could hidden, unregulated, synthetic leverage not collapse? The foundational asset is smaller that the multitude of synthetic leverage resting on top of it. Large hedge funds naturally diversify their funding sources to spread out this high risk, meanwhile there are only a few prime brokers making these deals. It was the interconnected nature of these synthetic leverage products that allowed every institution to feel the financial shock, when the Fed carelessly raised the interest rates on millions of adjustable-rate home loans just as their balloon payment were coming due; this is another predictable result, given that the machinations of the privately-run Central Bank of the United States is also hidden and unregulated.
When a Central Bank is under private control, Congress only has the power to make rules that Wall Street’s corporate lawyers can easily skirt. It could authorize more data collection from firms, which they are under no obligation to provide. It could authorize another round of legal hand-slapping that firms can easily afford. All of this has been tried, with no visible results. With low interest rates becoming the new ‘normal,’ a perpetual cycle of accelerated debt will continue to occur, represented by currency that is systematically drained from the pockets of laborers and taxpayers as economic rent, inflation, and other consumer price gouging grifts.
The 2007-2008 Financial Crisis was a confluence of opaque unregulated derivatives, volatile housing valuation, inadequate risk management (such as AIG insurance leveraging derivatives with no reserve requirements) and hidden synthetic leverage from non-bank financial intermediaries (NBFIs), who created debt out of debt, then backed it by leveraging more debt. Ultimately, Wall Street gamblers have their “ace in the hole”—the taxpayer—whose initial home loan serves as the foundation for layers of unregulated financial leverage on the front end, as well as a financial backstop of income tax bailout money waiting on the back end.
Instead of continuing to give taxpayer money to private interests that are under no obligation to promote the general welfare of the public, It is time for Americans to let go of this fantasy and only attempt to control the things they can control, which is their government. A National Public Bank is already pre-approved by the Constitution, Congress, and the Supreme Court, all of whom gave this bank the power to tax and spend toward the general welfare, something no other current bank could do.
A National Public Bank would do the job that Wall Street cannot do, given the environment in which it operates: it will remove excess money from the economy and reinvest it in businesses small and large that promote the general welfare and deliver potential value to society. All successes will be shared because everyone is an investor and equal shareholder. Conversely, all failures will be absorbed. Because the pool of money is so large, potential waves will dissipate into ripples; through connection, negative feedback loops can dissipate shocks more easily within the greater economy, minimizing damage to any one sector or community.
National Public Banks Focus on Economic Well-Being
National Public Banks—utilizing the language of Cultural Dimensions Theory created by Hofstede—are long-term oriented; they foster sustainable growth through persistence and endurance, to accumulate present achievements into positive future outcomes for everyone. They decentralize decision-making responsibility by distributing power to every community. When monetary rewards are tied to the economic well-being of the entire group, they will nudge us into a mindset driven by unity, cooperation, and intrinsic motivation, which nature has proven is more productive than division, competition, and extrinsic motivation.
This will facilitate a shift to quality over quantity, and from a drive toward self-indulgence—and the negative liberty that consumes the planet—to one of self-discipline—and the positive liberty that will inspire us to eat away at our own ignorance, until we destroy it instead.
People function best when they have boundaries, because without boundaries, cellular organisms would not exist. Evolution is a process created as cells maintain constant homeostatic balance relative to an often-fluctuating environment; unbending structure forces the organism to bend instead, to remain in the narrow sweet spot we experience as existence.
Simply put, we are—in every way—the product of our environment. Five thousand years ago, violent oppressors, no longer wishing to serve in the natural environment provided, chose instead to rule in an environment of their own creation, which featured them at the top of a semi-divine hierarchy. Through being forced to navigate this artificial environment generation after generation, to seek homeostatic balance within it, people have adapted to—and thus normalized—a modern version of hell on earth. Attempting to maintain homeostatic balance within this environment has taken a toll on human health (cancers, addiction, obesity, diabetes, heart and liver disease, anxiety, depression, suicide, homicide, etc.), and on the health of the planet (pollution, ecosystem collapse, ozone depletion, climate change, etc.)
People will navigate Wall Street to survive on Wall Street. People will navigate the inner city to survive in the inner city, or likewise in a rural setting. Law enforcement will not stop someone from making choices necessary to their survival within these dissimilar environments. If government wants people to act in a similar manner, it needs to facilitate the creation of a more homogeneous environment, which incidentally, would cover its mandate to promote the “general welfare.”
Within this more evolved mindset, any behavior deemed illegal or unethical should be seen as an indicator that some environment causation is at play; when these behaviors become statistically significant, governments should look for the environmental cause of these undesired behaviors, rather than punish individuals for what turns out to be logical choices within the environment we have forced them to navigate.
Stability Over Credit Cycle
As Wall Street economists came to describe it, “while bank lending tends to contract in major economic downturns, taxpayer bailouts are designed to smooth out and sustain lending through these inevitable economic cycles.” As Americans came to experience it, after the $495 billion bailout of the financial sector (along with several too-big-to-fail businesses), the “smooth” sustained lending from private banks shifted away from people and toward Wall Street Real Estate Investment Trusts. As low and middle-income Americans were unceremoniously foreclosed upon, evicted, and downgraded in credit status, the lowest Fed funds rates ever offered—o%—went to the newly taxpayer-capitalized financial sector, with enough money left over to reward private bank executives with $32.6 billion in taxpayer-funded bonuses.5
A National Public Bank is the permanent political and economic counterweight to the vagaries of privately created money, profit-driven cyclical lending patterns, and the short-term orientation of profit maximization. A National Public Bank will counter adversity with opportunity, to keep Americans on a positive upward trajectory independent of fluctuating credit cycles. This has been the mission of National Public Banks since they were created—by the first Federal Congress—over 220 years ago.
The Current Credit Cycle
Economic Expansion typically starts with low interest rates—initiated by the Fed—which generally spurs inflation, though no one notices or cares because the money is flowing unimpeded through the economy. When some unacceptable limit is reached, the Fed clamps down on the money supply, and the contraction period begins. Prices stagnate at this point, which simply means that profit-seekers are no longer allowed to opportunistically extract from the value of each consumer through various forms of economic rent—what we euphemistically term inflation, which isa crime which is seemingly made more tolerable because we are all accomplices in it and victims of it.7
In this paradigm of profit maximization, employees are subsequently let go, and thus can no longer afford the overpriced goods offered, forcing a downward pull on prices, leading to a positive feedback loop of further layoffs and belt-tightening. It is fair to say that we begin to anticipate this downturn in classic Pavlovian style, so when the interest rates go up, many dutifully follow the boom-bust cycle script as-written.
Monetarists believe that this cycle can be controlled if the money supply is controlled; the Fed’s less-than-subtle nudges to this effect have caused many more problems than they have ever solved. Keynesians believe that the downturn starts with unemployment, that leads to reduced spending, creating a positive feedback loop in the wrong direction. Biological Economics would point out that money, as well as the concept of property ownership, are fictitious or human-contrived conditions necessarily imposed to facilitate the creation of our current profit maximizing economics, but contrary to Polyani’s conclusions12, labor is not a fictitious commodity within this paradigm, but the one constant in any viable economic equation; once it is recognized as the only source of value creation, the answer to all economic riddles will be solved.
Besides sewing up many of the political, philosophical, cultural and scientific divisions within the United States, a National Public Bank could also reconcile Monetarists and Keynesians, when money expansion is directly tied to labor output, so that the fates of both are united; by absorbing the value of our labor into the bank, excess money can be taken out of idle hands and put to good use promoting the general welfare.
Allocation Targets Societal Priorities
Within profit-maximizing economics, the “general welfare” has been difficult to define; it is more easily understood through the lens of biological economics, where individual cells laboring within the human organism are afforded continual access to whatever essential needs they require. All 96 trillion native and resident cells within the human body benefit from Transportation, Communication, Energy, Water, Waste Management, and Food (agriculture), as well as Shelter (housing) and Defense Systems (healthcare). Further, all new-born stem cells must be adapted to various positions within the human body—to fill vacant jobs—suggesting that an open means of connection to educational training is another essential component of healthy economic systems.
A National Public Bank would fund America’s means of connection to all these essential needs, and meanwhile eliminate the ability for CEOs and profit-seeking intermediaries to charge for access to them; this would drop the price significantly on these items, turning minimum wage into a livable wage. Resources such as aggregate, wood, steel, and various minerals could also be extracted from federal lands, reducing construction costs even further. The bank would also be able to facilitate the elimination of greenhouse gases that emanate from our transportation, energy, manufacturing, and agriculture infrastructure, something a private bank would never be able to accomplish.
When prosperity is shared broadly, the general welfare is promoted; the inequality of narrowly concentrated wealth is the byproduct of the profit-maximization model and is not only corrosive to democracy and individual liberty, it is a form of wage theft only made legal because the crime is concealed in economic jargon that provides lots of reasons but very little reasoning.
Sustainable Growth Trajectory
Because a National Public Bank correctly targets and supports the infrastructural mean of connection crucial to long-term economic capacity, short-term shocks like pandemics or natural disasters cannot affect overall growth trajectory.
Within a profit-maximizing economic model, the measure of sustainable growth for a business is how much it can grow without having to borrow from outside sources. Within the National Public Bank model, businesses are contributing revenue to the bank already, through taxpayer investments, and therefore would have money in the bank they could borrow from themselves if necessary. Because the success of each person contributes to America’s overall success within an economic model based on connection, local public banks would also be tasked to advise businesses when necessary, to help protect everyone’s investment. Unity has its perks: the formula for business success in each community can become common practice in every community, as best practices are shared rather than hoarded.
A National Public Bank keeps us ecologically, economically, culturally, and mentally / emotionally sustainable for the long-term. Through its paradigm of empowerment—rather than control—public banks would tap previously unrealized human potential, and activate it toward problem-finding and solving agendas designed to reach forward-looking goals.
Summary: Benefits to Economy and Public
Violence is a short-term solution to a desperate situation; the violent naturally must think in the short term, and if we adopt the thinking of the violent, we, too, will seek a short-term existence of disconnected rational self-interest, filled with indulgence and other self-destructive behaviors.
Long-term thinking occurs when people are connected; together, they feel more certain, and are consequently more hopeful of a positive outcome. A National Public Bank promotes the biological economics of connection, and the behaviors of positive liberty, reparative justice, relational equality, and intrinsic motivation, all which emanate from economic connection.
Society prospers in the long term when we adopt an ethos of connection; it is a tribute to our biology that we remain as connected as we do within an environment designed to disconnect us in every way possible.
Efforts like businesses adopting a Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR)—to operate only in ways that benefit society—are admirable attempts to force a square peg into a round hole; help us to reshape our environment to empower the best version of ourselves, where social responsibility becomes as natural as breathing clean air. Simply to bring National Public Banks into the general conversation would be a great first step.
National Public Banks will
- Counterbalance our short-term financial thinking by building a long-term economic foundation beneath us,
- Reattach us to our own productivity through income investments whose successes are broadly shared,
- Provide macroeconomic stability through the increasingly unsettling credit cycles,
- Set long-term societal goals then reach for them, rather than bring out the taxpayer checkbook to always pay for damages to people, communities, or ecosystems after our short-sighted decision-making has already broken them.