Sunday, September 28, 2008

Cross of Gold

Our brows are being well and truly pressed!

I have mentioned three time very recently to some supposedly educated folks the famous “Cross of Gold” speech. I thought everyone knew about it.

As usual, I was wrong.

I am indebted to Andrew Sullivan, writing in the Sunday Times for reminding the rest of the illiterati about this most famous expression of the Populist movement in early 20th century America.

From the Sunday Times:

The result has been one of the most emphatic populist reactions in recent history. Not since the 1890s tub-thumper William Jennings Bryan have the “little people” expressed themselves so forcefully against what Bryan derided as “the few financial magnates who, in a back room, corner the money of the world”. In e-mails, faxes and phone calls, they too have told their congressmen: “You shall not press down upon the brow of labour this crown of thorns; you shall not crucify mankind upon a cross of gold.”

It is worthwhile quoting Bryan more fully:

There are two ideas of government. There are those who believe that if you just legislate to make the well-to-do prosperous, that their prosperity will leak through on those below. The Democratic idea has been that if you legislate to make the masses prosperous their prosperity will find its way up and through every class that rests upon it.

You come to us and tell us that the great cities are in favor of the gold standard. I tell you that the great cities rest upon these broad and fertile prairies. Burn down your cities and leave our farms, and your cities will spring up again as if by magic. But destroy our farms and the grass will grow in the streets of every city in the country.

My friends, we shall declare that this nation is able to legislate for its own people on every question without waiting for the aid or consent of any other nation on earth, and upon that issue we expect to carry every single state in the Union.

I shall not slander the fair state of Massachusetts nor the state of New York by saying that when citizens are confronted with the proposition, “Is this nation able to attend to its own business?”—I will not slander either one by saying that the people of those states will declare our helpless impotency as a nation to attend to our own business. It is the issue of 1776 over again. Our ancestors, when but 3 million, had the courage to declare their political independence of every other nation upon earth. Shall we, their descendants, when we have grown to 70 million, declare that we are less independent than our forefathers? No, my friends, it will never be the judgment of this people. Therefore, we care not upon what lines the battle is fought. If they say bimetallism is good but we cannot have it till some nation helps us, we reply that, instead of having a gold standard because England has, we shall restore bimetallism, and then let England have bimetallism because the United States have.

If they dare to come out in the open field and defend the gold standard as a good thing, we shall fight them to the uttermost, having behind us the producing masses of the nation and the world. Having behind us the commercial interests and the laboring interests and all the toiling masses, we shall answer their demands for a gold standard by saying to them, you shall not press down upon the brow of labor this crown of thorns. You shall not crucify mankind upon a cross of gold.

Gosh, thanks – I never knew that. I'm just so glad you told me. Honest, I can hear you, dear reader, eulogising as you sip your pint.

What's this got to do with us?

Pretty much everything.

What Bryan was moaning about a hundred years ago is pretty much what the credit crunch is all about today. A bunch of merchant bankers ( and you may substitute the rhyming slang if you feel so inclined ) have stupidly, immorally, greedily and selfishly hijacked the banking system, got themselves in so deep they are having to suck air through straws and are desperate for the government, any government, to bail them out; and, preferably, in such a way so as they can keep their immoral earnings and their yachts

Now you understand the credit crunch, at least as well as most of the bankers do anyway.

Where this analysis falls down is in believing that it could be any other way. Bankers, like the rest of us, are greedy and amoral. To expect them to act like virtuous public servants in the face of massive bonus promises is like expecting St Joan to prostitute herself to hordes of English soldiers in the market place at Rouen. It just ain't going to happen and never was.

What is most refreshing is to hear the common folk of the USA berating their government for even considering a bail-out. Let them rot, or let them eat cake seems to be the vox populi.

Contrast this neatly with the spineless surrender of Gordo in dealing with the Bradford and Bingley fiasco and you have neatly added a codicil to Shaw's “two peoples divided by a common language” paradigm. My monies on the USA.

Unfortunately, the populists never win. Bryan was a serial candidate for President, but he never won and was reduced to pleading for a rejection of Evolution in the famous Scopes trial.

Likely the credit crunch will see Ol Dubbya slink off to his Presidential library having bankrupted the nation both in war and peace. Quite an achievement.

Blogged with Flock

No comments: