Here is the transcript of my appearance on SBS Television's 'Insight' programme with Jenny Brockie*. The topic of the evening was 'Mortgages in a recession - How will families be affected?'. The panel was composed of various representatives of banking, real estate, politics, as well as home-owner's associations.
Jenny Brockie - We'll go to another question from the audience. Perhaps the tall fellow at the back who's been very quiet. Yes, hello. What was your question?
nobody - Thanks, Jennie. I don't know that I have a question as such. Certainly not one that anyone on the panel would care to address I expect. Rather I'd like to wonder at the rightness of an economic system run on interest and interest rates.
Banker on Panel - There's no other system. If you don't like interest you should take it somewhere else.
n - Well I understand that you like interest. It's money for nothing. But this is not your show mate. You haven't bought it yet. This is a show that seeks a variety of views, yes? And here we have the views of the lending industry, and the views of those who must borrow from them and pay them interest, yes? Well here's another somewhat more holistic angle - why not question the whole arrangement? It seems to me that it's flawed at a fundamental level and that if we were really interested in alternative views, (which is the point of the programme as I understand it), we'd step outside this model and look at how we might come to some other arrangement. [interjections from panel and audience].
No, listen, if we were discussing medicine here, as you've done in the past, it would be inconceivable to do so without including the views of practitioners of alternative medicine. And yet this discussion here is like that, except that the only people on the panel are the practitioners of conventional medicine, along with the representatives of the hospitals that employ them, the drug companies that supply them, the insurer middle men who make out in both directions, and of course the patients, happy and otherwise, of this conventional medicine. There is no alternative here. Well, now there is. And it already seems [indicates the panel] I'm making the members of the AMA here unhappy. [laughter]
JB - What is this alternative?
n - We ban interest. [uproar] Gee whiz, the bankers don't like that do they?
JB - You can't ban interest!
n - Why not? Interest used to be called usury. It used to be a sin. Christians used not to practice it. Muslims still don't. Believe it or not, economies can function without it. In fact they'd function far better. Muslim economies right now, the ones that aren't being bombed that is, are coping with the current 'economic shake-out' better than we are.
JB - But every aspect of our economy is controlled by interest.
n - It's crazy isn't it? Interest rate changes are inevitably the biggest story on any given day. They control our lives. And yet the Reserve Bank is 'independent'. Why is that? Why is the single most powerful body in this country not answerable to: the people; our representatives; anyone at all? Kevin Rudd in his election campaign declared his fealty to the independence of the Reserve Bank. Why did he do that? It's a head-scratcher for voters. So who was he talking to? That question aside, we subsequently have politicians flapping their arms about, pleading with the banks not to raise interest. Why do we, the people of Australia have no say in this? You'd almost think we were talking about the weather and other acts of God. Aren't we grown-ups? Can't we walk and chew gum at the same time? Why do we act as if there's no alternative? [yelling from panel and audience]
JB - Well what are you suggesting? That we all become Muslims?
n - Hardly. Eating fish on a Friday doesn't make you a Catholic. And eating falafel doesn't make me a Muslim. [confused laughter]
JB - So...
n - So, how about this - the means of exchange, which is all money is, is the single most crucial thing in any country. Believe it or not, it's more crucial than any other thing that we seem to think should be publicly owned and controlled by the people of this democracy. Even defence, believe it or not. And no one here would care to have our defence force as an 'independent' body answerable to no one, would they?
Audience Member - Like Blackwater! [isolated laughter]
n- Exactly, thank you. Okay then. We keep it simple. We have a single publicly owned bank. It charges no interest and nor does it pay any. It is merely a safe place to put your money. And for those small depositors thinking they'll miss out the interest they'd otherwise earn - seriously, do you earn any? Last time I did my tax and had to declare interest, in spite of having over ten thousand dollars in the bank all year, my interest was a few tens of dollars. What a waste of time! There's nothing in it for you, or me
To hell with it, scrap the whole thing. Interest only serves the bankers. We ban making money from money. The only way to make money should be from labour, ie. making goods or providing services. Charging money for money is not a service. It's a disservice. An economy is not served by paying yet more money to those who already have heaping great piles of it. It stands to reason.
Banker - This is bullshit! Why do we have to listen to this? It's economic lunacy...
n - Bullshit yourself! You want lunacy? Lunacy is global debt that exceeds the GDP of the whole world. That's lunacy! Figure the logic of this - to repay the bankers to whom we are indebted we'd have to hand them every piece of land, every building, everything we own, from our cars to our shoes, and we'd still owe them! How does that work? It makes no sense at all. The bankers, who didn't make anything, but merely ran some expensive printing presses, effectively own everything. To hell with them! To hell with the whole system! [At this point, the microphone is taken away and I am dragged from the studio].
n - [Voice diminishing down the corridor] No alternative permitted folks! You're going to pay interest whether it makes sense or not! All money flows to the bankers...
*Not really. I just made it all up.