Selected Prose 1909-1965, by Ezra Pound. New Directions, New York, 1973. 475 pages. $4.75.
Ezra Pound, probably the greatest poet of the 20th Century, was obsessed with the injustices of modern banking which he characterized as a false-system of book-keeping which prevents the producers of wealth from buying back their own product. He wrote about this in essays which grew increasingly angry and "fanatical" in tone as the decades passed, because he found that, despite his recognized literary stature, he could not get anything on this subject printed in any of the major media but only in "little magazines" of limited circulations. Eventually he began to suspect that the major publishers were in collusion with the major bankers, and his writings grew even more angry and "fanatical." Contemporary literary opinion generally regards this whole aspect of Pound's life work as a mania or obsession, but those who think for themselves might form a more favorable impression from this volume which contains nearly half a century of serious research and documentation.
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Among the solutions discussed by Pound are C.H. Douglas's National Dividend (currently revived, or diluted, in Friedman's Negative Income Tax plan), the stamp-script of Silvio Gesell (money which creates negative interest, i.e. favors the spender rather than the lender), shortening the working day (now inevitable as cybernetics advances) and reorganizing the Congress, guild-style, so that we would be represented by our labor unions or professional organizations rather than by politicians. He does not insist that any one of these would produce Utopia, and often discusses combinations or permutations among them. To my delight, he also admits, several times, that the ultimate escape from the tyranny of the present banking system must be "local control of local purchasing power," but he is uncharacteristically vague about how this might be managed, evidently never having discovered the People's Banks and alternative currency schemes of libertarians such as Lysander Spooner and Benjamin Tucker.
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And I stood upon the sand of the sea, and saw a beast rise up out of the sea, having seven heads and ten horns, and upon his horns ten crowns, and upon his heads the name of blasphemy...
...And they worshipped the dragon which gave power unto the beast: and they worshipped the beast, saying, Who is like unto the beast? who is able to make war with him?...
And when ye shall hear of wars and rumours of wars, be ye not troubled: for such things must needs be; but the end shall not be yet. For nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom: and there shall be earthquakes in divers places, and there shall be famines and troubles: these are the beginnings of sorrows.