If money doesn’t grow from trees, where does it come from? | Blog Doc & Roll

Trailer of the documentary. Image: Dirk Lütter.

Like so many other citizens, the 2008 financial crisis generated in the director Carmen Losmann (Crailsheim, Germany, 43 years old) the feeling that something is not working in the economic system on which practically the entire planet depends. The opacity with which these large financial players, mainly the banks, operate has reinforced this situation of mistrust. Terms such as “bad bank” or “bank rescue”, which the European Union started in 2012 with Spanish financial institutions, confuses and even outrages a large part of the population. On the tape Economy, which is screened throughout April in theaters throughout Spain within the program The documentary of the month of DocsBarcelona, the German tries to find answers to a basic question: How is money born? In the process, he encounters even more complex and disturbing questions.

With the intention of peeling the onion from the spiral in which the world is and to expose the rules of capitalism, Economy approaches some of the workers of the great financial wheel. Look for the ways and values ​​behind the basic structures that sustain our daily lives to count. Specifically, that they explain to the viewer how a basic principle of their activity works. For there to be benefits, it is not worth the money to move from one hand to another, but there must be new money every year. Where does this new money come from? Mainly, from the debt generated by those who ask for a loan from the bank, some economists explain on the tape. “The scariest part of what I learned during this time was realizing that this banking system works by the same logic as the Nigerian card scam,” says Losmann.

The German director, after receiving many refusals from all kinds of banks and private entities, manages to enter some of those glass giants where the enormous invisible gear of the financial system is born. It does so before the coronavirus crisis leaves capitalism, and therefore the world, in even greater uncertainty. It is precisely the glass of those skyscrapers that is the only transparent thing that he gets in those interviews that he has so hard to achieve. What he often encounters is a sequence of babbling and tangents. Although they agree to speak on camera, avoiding the easy way of no comment, none of these representatives of the world economy gives a clear answer. Some claim not to know: they are one more link in a chain whose origin is already very far away. Others, like none other than the chief economist of the European Central Bank, Peter Praet, say they are not able to explain it in a way that is understood by the common population. And there are those who come to say that they prefer not to delve into an answer that, simply, they are not going to like, as is the case of Andrew Bosomworth, a senior official at the investment management entity PIMCO.

If money doesn't grow from trees, where does it come from?

Foreground left, Andrew Bosomworth, senior manager of investment management company PIMCO, at the bank’s Munich offices / Dirk Lütter

One of the few things that Losmann manages to make clear is the paradox with which our societies function and that it has a difficult alternative. The economy grows when finance capital does too. Therefore, you have to do it continuously. And for that to happen, benefits are only possible when there is debt. Those who are not rich have to owe money to the bank, and that their subsequent generations inherit that bill literally or metaphorically, so that those who are rich can increase their profits with new money that does not grow from trees. Can we maintain that cycle indefinitely? What other options would ensure a prosperous life? Does a system based on infinite growth therefore require infinite natural resources?

The analysis made by many of the interviewees of Economy seems to lead our societies to a clash before which it seems that no one prepares a plan b. The German rebels against that idea: “I don’t agree with the ‘no matter how hard you try to understand it, the world is not going to change.’ The world is changing. The question is to know in which direction it is doing it. The appropriation rules are currently designed to the detriment of the majority of the population. The important thing is that we are aware that it is a structure that can vary. It’s an idea that neoliberalism has tried to get out of our heads for decades, but I think it’s just propaganda to prevent us from resisting an unjust system. “

“One of the main intentions of Economy is to deliver a concise message. Yes, there are other inexpensive options. Others that cause less social and ecological damage. Never mind that Margaret Thatcher tried to convince us otherwise in the eighties with her legendary ‘There is no alternative’. So it is probable that my next projects will delve into these alternatives ”, he advances.

Necessary questions

Carmen Losmann, aware of the paradox in which the worker “has very little time and motivation to dig into the functioning of the economic system [al que pertenece], being too busy coping with his life in the current circumstances ”he wonders why the mass media, especially public entities, do not solve basic questions about our economy that should have come to light after the financial disaster 2008. “I keep hearing the argument that it is too complex a matter, that people are not interested in it. But it would be necessary to verify if that is true ”, affirms the person in charge of this documentary.

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