You can't write about this till I'm gone," he said, "but that won't be long."
I hadn't been to Jay's Bar since the events I recorded in The Rise of The Superfluous Class, and I hadn't intended on returning any time soon, as much as I love the place. But I was invited by my old friend Martin, whom I mentioned in those articles. He was a basically nice guy who ended up working for an elite group.
I ran into Martin at my old gym, as I stopped one day to visit. He wasn't looking well. I knew he had a fairly serious condition and was getting on in years, but he had been holding it at bay the last time I saw him. This time he was clearly close to his end, and had come to the gym to say his goodbyes. And so, when he invited me to meet him at Jay's ("the same place I saw you last time"), I had to go.
We sat in a quiet spot, and I listened as he told me how close he was to death. That was two weeks ago as I write this. I saw his obituary this morning but will skip the funeral for reasons that may shortly become clear.
The Confession Begins
Martin ordered a triple scotch. I had never seen him drink before, except a bit of white wine. But I followed his pattern, ordering a double scotch on the rocks.
"I have things that I need to tell you," he began. "You know most of it fairly well, but you've never had confirmation before, and that makes a difference."
"I've read two of your books and half a dozen issues of your newsletter, you know."
"No, I didn't," I replied, "but thank you."
He smiled, raised his glass slightly, and took a big drink.
He seemed like he was trying to relax, but his body was limited in its ability to feel comfort. It was an odd and troubling thing to notice.
"Let's start with the industrial revolution, shall we?"
"That'll be fine."
"As iron and steam power moved across the continent they brought an economic revolution, and political revolutions followed. Through the middle 1800s nearly every monarchy was disrupted and brought down in one way or another. The aristocracy was pulled off the stage. Such people, however, don't just accept displacement, and they fought to retain lordship in some form. I haven't read it yet, but you wrote on this, didn't you?"
"Yeah, in the subscription letter. I said that these people seem to have demonetized silver and moved into central banking."
"Well, it wasn't 'seemed to.' They very definitely did."
"Thank you," I said. And he was right, getting confirmation helped me in some internal way.
He went on.
"Land was no longer the store of value it had been since the beginning, and currency was taking over. And so the aristocrats plunged into banking. This put the British royals at the top of the hill, since they retained their positions and had a central bank that used debt as currency.
"So the displaced aristocrats opened one central bank after another, on the model of the Bank of England. And since they had connections to Queen Victoria, they could be authorized by the major power of the day, the owner of the most important currency. Central banks became new duchies, keeping their owners in elevated positions."
Then he stopped and took another long pull from his scotch. He was clearly using it as a painkiller. I took a sip of mine.
"You realize that this isn't going to change anything," he said.
I said nothing and waited.
"I'm telling you these things because I care about you. You're an honest man, and you shouldn't be stuck in uncertainty. But telling this to the world won't change anything. They'll just tune you out. They already tune you out, don't they?"
"Yeah, Martin, lots of them do. And I can't tell you how many people have read my stuff, got excited, then wandered away."
"Exactly. It deprives them of illusions. They can't live without them."
"Well, I'm not sure it's just illusions. A lot of them are so battered by daily events that the outside voice soon fades away."
"I think you're being kind to them, Paul. I have studies saying that they live in a 'society' bubble and can't listen anything outside it."
He had a point, of course, but I quickly responded with, "Not all of them, though."
"What do you mean?"
"I have people who've subscribed to my newsletter for years. Not a huge number, but not a trivial number either. They pay to hear things that go past the illusions… or at least as well as I can get past them."
"You do plenty well," he said, to which I responded with a non-verbal thank you. "And these people stay with you over some significant period?"
"Ten years or more for some of them."
"Well, then perhaps there is some hope… but we're still talking about a tiny fraction."
"True enough," I admitted.
The Thorn In Their Side
Our conversation paused for a few minutes, while the afternoon bartender came around, asking if we wanted anything else. (We didn't.) We each had a few of the nuts he left on our table, and we sipped more of our drinks.
"America was a thorn in everyone's side," he said. "Even after they had a central bank. These people believed they were given their rights by God… and it made no end of trouble."
"How do you mean, Martin?"
"Oil was the big one. None of the rulers saw the internal combustion engine coming, and once it did oil and refining become huge… but Americans owned the mineral rights to whatever land they held. That meant that the greatest new source of wealth was firmly in the hands of plebs… of common people. That was a problem."
"Yes," I injected," I heard an old oil man talking about that once. In Europe mineral rights remained with the rulers, not the land-owner."
"Right, which is why American oil production led the way, and why American oil companies weren't state-owned, like in Europe. Huge power fell into the wrong hands…"
"As your old bosses saw it, at least," I quickly added.
"Yes, of course," he said. "I'm giving you their point of view. But," he went on, " that only mattered until the industry was developed. After that, our groups could just hire American engineers. Then they could do things as well as the Americans, and our groups gathered the oil everywhere else."
We'll run part two of this confession next Tuesday, and return to the podcast the week after.
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A book that generates comments like these, from actual readers, might be worth your time:
I just finished reading The Breaking Dawn and found it to be one of the most thought-provoking, amazing books I have ever read… It will be hard to read another book now that I've read this book… I want everyone to read it.
Such a tour de force, so many ideas. And I am amazed at the courage to write such a book, that challenges so many people's conceptions.
There were so many points where it was hard to read, I was so choked up.
Holy moly! I was familiar with most of the themes presented in A Lodging of Wayfaring Men, but I am still trying to wrap my head around the concepts you presented at the end of this one.
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