In a free market, both sides of a transaction win.
Even though it doesn’t always seem that way.
The buyer gets a product or service they want at a price they’re prepared to pay.
And the seller offers a product or service at a price they’re prepared to receive.
Criminal activity is different.
Criminal activity is an involuntary transaction. One side wins. The other side loses.
And when governments are involved, it’s almost always a criminal rather than a market-based transaction…
The best way to describe it is legalised extortion.
Extortion is where you threaten to do something to someone unless they give you something in return — ‘Give me $1,000 or I’ll…’
It’s a neat trick used by organised crime. They call it protection money.
Of course, there is an argument to say that extortion can happen in a free market too. Providing the threat doesn’t result in physical harm.
But that’s by the by. The point is, if you tried to extort money from someone, your feet wouldn’t touch the ground as you’re whisked off to the clink.
But when the government extorts, well, it’s all fine and dandy. As this report from the Wall Street Journal shows:
‘Standard Chartered PLC agreed to pay $340 million to a New York regulator to settle allegations that the bank broke U.S. money-laundering laws in handling transactions for Iranian customers, after a weeklong, trans-Atlantic regulatory drama.’
As Helia Ebrahimi wrote in the UK Telegraph:
‘After last week’s political grandstanding, most people assumed Standard Chartered would be kicked out of New York, or at the least made to walk the courtroom plank.’
Given a choice between a courtroom battle and getting their mitts on 340 million smackers, the New York regulator went for the latter.
Based on the outcome, it’s obviously bad for Standard Chartered to directly profit from Iranian money-laundered money, but it’s OK for New York to indirectly profit from Standard Chartered’s Iranian money-laundered profits.
Profits from Money-Printing?
Of course, when it comes to government meddling, hypocrisy and unsound thought are second nature. Governments can get away with a lot things that would be illegal for you to even attempt, let along go through with.
Take the latest wacky idea in the UK Telegraph:
‘Michael Saunders, UK economist at Citi, said the Government could use the “accumulated profits from quantitative easing (QE) to finance a special temporary tax cut for a year or two”. According to official figures, the “potential profit” by February 2013 from QE to the Bank is £20.7bn – more than enough to knock 2.5p off income tax for a year.’
A profit from money-printing? Remind us, where does the profit come from? The article explains:
‘The Bank is sitting on QE profits because it bought gilts with money it has effectively printed. The gilts pay interest which is collected from the Government. Although the arrangement means the funds are effectively moved from one arm of government to another, it is still recorded as a normal payment.’
Hmmm. We’re not sure that really qualifies as a profit.
Even a grade four primary school student would have their doubts. The government pays interest on the bonds. And then gets the money back via the Bank of England. But that doesn’t mean it has made a profit.
In terms of the coupon payments and receipts, it’s a neutral transaction at best. In reality, once you deduct the costs of arranging the transaction and the devaluation of the currency, it’s actually a loss-maker.
But this is the new perverted world of finance: create money, sell a bond to yourself, pay yourself an income, and then call the income a profit. It’s bizarre…but it’s happening.
And despite the stupidity and the apparent harmless nature of this accounting fraud, it’s much more serious than you think.
Because the end result is a criminal transfer of wealth from the individual into the hands of governments and bankers.
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Written by Kris Sayce
Kris Sayce is Editor in Chief of Australia’s biggest circulation daily financial email — Money Morning. (You can subscribe to Money Morning for free here).
Kris is also editor of Australian Small-Cap Investigator, his small-cap stock research service, where he provides detailed analysis on some the brightest, smallest listed companies on the ASX.
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