Dr. Faustus was about to die, and Mephistopheles stood ready to collect his soul, as they has agreed upon so many years ago. The doctor was shaking with fear at the thought of spending eternity in damnation just to pay for the wealth, privilege and secret wisdom that he had enjoyed, with the Devil’s help, while on Earth. So Faustus, using that superior intellect that God had given him, coupled with some of the evil knowledge that the demon has passed on to him, came up with a brilliant and devious plan to escape payment. Remembering the bank that he and Mephistopheles had earlier created on behalf of the emperor, which issued paper fiat currency, Faustus proposed a similar scheme so that he might roll over his metaphysical debt to the Devil in perpetuity, and thus delay his day of reckoning for as long as possible.
“Mephistopheles!” he said. “What say you allow me to postpone my payment for another generation? I’ll stay alive on Earth and work with you as a consultant, a liaison between you and the emperor, and then you can have me at the end of 100 years!”
“Why should I do this?”, the demon replied. “My master in Hades is owed his payment now. Why should he delay the enjoyment he will get from torturing your soul? By rights he has it for eternity. You are proposing he shorten his enjoyment by 100 years. Unless you can suggest some way to offset the opportunity cost for delaying this payment, and offer us a way to profit there from, I must insist that you pay immediately!”
“Oh but I do have a way to profit!” Faustus suggested. “Let us revive your idea of the paper money bank, but alter it slightly. Let us offer a new form of currency to the sovereigns of the world, all of whom are drowning in debt. We shall buy out all of their debt by letting them sell us bonds, in exchange for which you will give them securitized IOUs, worth 10 gold pieces each, or 160 silver pieces each, to be produced out of the alchemical fires of Hell, upon demand. They can then have our IOUs as a basis to print their own paper currencies, which they can use to provide liquidity within their own dominions. Just have them pay a portion, say 10% of the total value in gold or silver every month, as debt service to you. If they need more liquidity, or if they have trouble servicing their interest payments, they can just borrow more IOUs from us, and repackage their old debt along with this new debt. They’ll just need to collateralize the new debts with the souls of more people.”
“And exactly how will the sovereigns obtain the souls of more people to bargain with?” asked Mephistopheles.
“Why from their families of course,” said Dr. Faustus. “First they’ll offer titles and privileges to their younger brothers languishing away in the clergy. They’re all a greedy lot. They’ll jump at the chance to sell their souls to the Devil in exchange for the instant gratification of their earthly desires. They, in turn, will get others of the noble class involved in the scheme, until we have ensnared them all.”
And so it was that all of the kingdoms of Europe became hopelessly indebted to the Bank of Hades, through the use of what Dr. Faustus called the “Special Drawing Right”: a unit of currency based on the collateralized souls of men. As long as the kings were able to make the required interest payments in gold or silver, they could continue to roll the debts over by rebundling and repackaging them each year, so that they could pass them on to future generations. As long as they could continue to get more of their noble cousins to sign on, pledging their souls as collateral, they were able to borrow more and more money from the Devil.
But then the hour came, within just 100 years, at which many of the sovereigns could no longer make their interest payments in gold and silver, because they hadn’t any left. They had extracted all they could from their subjects through taxation, but now the interest payments on the Devil’s bonds were larger than the amount of gold and silver remaining on Earth.
“Surely, now is the time when we go a-reaping for a harvest of blue-blooded souls!”, said Mephistopheles.
“Not quite yet” Dr. Faustus replied. “You know I’ve studied law just as studiously as I have the art of alchemy. What say you negotiate a new deal with the sovereigns. With a slight alteration to how they go about the business of governing, we can arrange it so that, in a few more generations, you can harvest not just the souls of Europe’s noble classes, but those of every single man and woman on Earth!”
And so Dr. Faustus and Mephistopheles showed the kings of the world how to alter the legal system so that, merely by engaging in everyday activities, people were forced to sign legal documents they didn’t have time to read, obliging them to things they didn’t even understand. Thus, over the next few generations, every human being was opted into the system, securitizing his soul in exchange for the Devil’s money. Real money, such as gold and silver, had been extracted from the sovereigns over the generations through interest payments to the Devil, who now held all the world’s gold and silver in a secret vault in the center of the Earth. The right of a sovereign to create his own paper currency by royal declaration had been handed over unthinkingly to Mephistopheles as a monopoly power, because for whatever reason, he and Dr. Faustus had them convinced that only the Bank of Hades could issue a fiat to create money out of nothing. So now, instead of making their interest payments to the Devil with gold or silver, they paid him with their own paper currencies . While these notes were now more remote than ever from real money, they were also now more closely connected with their true fiduciary content: a special right granted to the Devil to draw upon the souls of men.
So it was that with the oversight of Mephistopheles and Dr. Faustus, the governments of the world united into a single monetary system, which consisted of paper and electronic currencies revolving like planets in a solar system dominated by the Special Drawing Right of Hell. Each human being was given a number upon birth, which was associated with the account holding that portion of the nation’s sovereign debt to the Bank of Hades which had been securitized in that person’s name upon his birth. This number entitled each person to utilize the monetary and financial systems, to buy and sell, to have a job. Use of the money system constituted acknowledgement of the validity of the debt that backed it, and the terms of the agreement that humanity had made with the Devil.
And when the kings of the Earth told the people that they now had to be fitted with a microchip in order to access their SDR-backed bank accounts, nobody was in any position to bargain or refuse. Nor could they refuse when the final day dawned, when the Devil came to collect his due, to exchange his Special Drawing Rights for that which he had the right to draw. At that point, not even Dr. Faustus himself could refuse.
(This piece was used in The Invisible Hand, Episode 10.)