Sunday, June 21, 2009

Swiss Miss

This just in! "Swiss Bank Will Open Files to U.S. Authorities." Thus, "the end of an era" -- you know, the era that began when Switzerland became a country and its banks became the capital preservation method of choice for the rich, and tyrants, first in Europe and then around the world. But pardon me if I wax somewhat skeptical about all this. What, to begin with, is compelling these banks to come clean and reveal all to a bunch of green-eyeshaded IRS nerds? Oh yeah -- court cases, and the EU, and all that. But lest we forget, the Swiss banks are, and have been for generations, the treasure house for The Regime -- not just our own (given that it has some autonomy, which is debatable) but that of Europe and, by extension, of the Near East, Africa, and who knows where else. Think of them as the Scrooge McDuck money bin of the world's elite -- the controllers, the exploiters, those who inhabit the rarefied atmosphere far above the grubby details of nations, governments, wars, and so on. For generations, Swiss bank accounts have been marvels of egalitarianism -- they are avaible to capitalists, socialists, fascists, Nazis, oil sheiks, African dictators, communists, military commanders, intelligence agencies, spies, drug barons, bootleggers, art collectors, arms dealers, white slavers... anyone who has a few hundred million can gain entry, no questions asked. And this towering monolith of ill-gotten gains is going to crumble because the IRS is getting anal about the whole thing? I don't think so. What is far more likely is that, as in many other cases, a few token bank employees, clients, and accounts are going to be hung out to dry in order to please the tax guys, and everyone else is going to stay safe, secure, and -- most important of all -- anonymous... and it will be business as usual once again. When we wonder, for example, why Africa, with all of its rich natural resources, remains mired in poverty from one generation to the next, we need seek no further than the Swiss banks, where all the wealth that should have trickled down to the common people has been confiscated by dictators and squirrelled away. And when we wonder "where all the money went" that was recently lifted from the shoulders of American investors... again, seek no further. Every totalitarian government of the 20th Century had, as its main mission, the skimming or outright confiscation of wealth from its citizens, and there is no sign of this changing in the 21st. This wealth wound up in the hands of the "leaders" of said countries, and where do you suppose it went from there? Hint: It was not buried under a mountain or submerged in some Bavarian lake -- at least not typically. It went to the only impregnable fortress on earth when it comes to wealth -- namely Swiss banks. It may have been in the form of literal gold, or in the form of some highly-stable currency (Swiss, most likely), but that's where it wound up. And that wealth, in turn, provides the engine for all of the major political and economic, and many of the social, events that have made up the history of at least half the world... which, in turn, are designed, first and foremost, with the goal of increasing the concentration of wealth even more... and where does that concentration wind up? You guessed it. So these banks are a vital part of the life cycle of the world; they are the loyal and steadfast servants of the ruling elite -- and the notion of them all of a sudden opening their doors, and account books, and letting the sun shine in is wildly delusional. And of course, the system could only survive as long as Switzerland maintained its legendary political and diplomatic neutrality, which is despised by some but admired and envied by many more. And again I ask, what tax agency, or government, is powerful enough to put a crack in the monolith? The fact is that if you "follow the money" that flows through any significant enterprise on earth, you eventually wind up staring at a very large, very locked door in Zurich.

Now, the bank in question when it comes to the current story is UBS -- but count on it, there are many more and, I daresay, many that are so private that even their very existence is open to debate. Peel off one layer of this onion and you'll only find many more underneath -- and you'll never get to the center, or anywhere near it. So yes, some organizations and individuals will be offered up as scapegoats to satisfy the restless masses -- the way the CIA throws people under the bus from time to time -- but the core will remain. How could it be otherwise? Again using the CIA analogy, how does one "investigate" an organization that has greater secret-keeping skills than any other? Clueless legislators and officials "demand answers" -- but those answers have to come from the people being investigated; direct evidence is virtually impossible to come by. So the paradoxical -- and absurd -- result is that the people who everyone feels can't be trusted have to be trusted to provide evidence of their untrustworthiness. Now how easy is that to get around? We already know that outfits like the CIA can run rings around dullards like Nancy Pelosi... and we know that even the most degenerate African dictators have enough primitive, animal cunning to put away ridiculous amounts of cash for their old age (assuming they even get to that point). We know that every time a tyrant of any stripe dies, it turns out that -- surprise! -- they had a few dozen Swiss bank accounts, and gosh, we always wondered what happened to all that yellowcake uranium money, or whatever it was. No, it really is an impossible task, as it was meant to be -- and you can be sure that if any "investigators" ever start getting close to pay dirt, they will be mysteriously diverted from their mission and put to work doing something less meddlesome.

The only thing even remotely new about this situation is that the issue has even come up – and that the powers that be have felt it necessary to put on a show of cooperation. Up until now they have been able to hang tough, and no one has had the courage to object. The Swiss banks do, after all, represent the people who really are in charge... and even the most hard-core populist has to regard this fact with a certain degree of awe and wonder. We always know – or suspect – that there are powers upon the earth that transcend presidents, kings, dictators, political systems, and victors or losers in war... and in an odd kind of way it provides a sort of consolation – there really is someone in charge, and things really are under control... the world is not as chaotic as it appears to be. Of course, to the everyday schmuck caught up in the winds of economic, social, and political strife – or victimized by war and persecution – this is small consolation, if any. The most that can be said is that we all subscribe to a kind of secular deism – that someone out there knows what is going on even if we don't. And in a sense this lets us off the hook when it comes to things like voting – not to mention “patriotism” -- because we realize, or suspect, that those are just scams cooked up to keep the serfs of this world (which includes me, you, and nearly everybody you know or have ever heard of) in line. And it is not to question the ways or motives of the Great and Powerful Wizards of Oz – their ways are not our ways, and, as the saying goes, it's their world and we just live in it. The ultimate consolation, perhaps, is that they, too, are mortal (as far as we know) and they will, sooner or later, have to answer for all of their misdeeds and predations... but, by the same token, they will be replaced by more of their kind and the system will roll on with nary a shudder. And the truth is, most of us live out our entire lives "below radar" as far as the Regime is concerned; they don't know us, and they don't care. And even on those rare occasions where a tiny bit of light is shone on their machinations, it matters little -- might as well catch a powerful politician cruising for hookers in a red light distict. Like the guy says in "Guys and Dolls" -- "So sue me, sue me, what can ya do me?" This, I submit, is the situation when it comes to UBS and the Swiss banks in general. The exertions of outfits like the IRS are just so many gnats in an otherwise cloudless sky -- a minor squall which is very easily weathered by the ultimate ship of state.

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