“A million here, a million there; pretty soon you’re talking about real money.” – Leveret Dirksen (quoted from memory)

Last time, we spoke of Pluto’s gender and his/her relationship to the underworld, which he rules, and to perception. We spoke of Pluto’s dual nature, suggested astronomically by the fact that Pluto participates in a binary planetary-system, with two bodies rotating around a common center of gravity that doesn’t lie inside either planet.

 We didn’t speak much about Pluto’s connection with money, or about Pluto’s present transit through the United States’ 2nd house (the house of money, among other matters), or about the United States’ natal Pluto in the 2nd house. That’s a lot of money, we might say, and small wonder that a country with a 2nd house Pluto would find itself under the thumb of plutocrats.

Clearly Pluto’s transit through the United States’ 2nd house presages major changes in the financial system. On the darker side – darkness seeming appropriate for the ruler of the underworld! – it could mean that plutocrats take over the financial system more than they already have – and not surprisingly, as any country with Pluto in the house of money should expect that plutocrats will loom large. Still, a considerable amount of evidence suggests that present plutocrats continue to make advances, with Citizens United standing as the most ready example, and the pervasive effect of lobbying as another.

 Many astrologers associate Pluto with “transformation,” with death-and-rebirth processes of all sorts, suggesting that Pluto’s transit through the U.S. 2nd could bring a complete transformation of the financial system. Some will claim that this must bring benefit; perhaps they reason that things can’t possibly get worse. Though I agree that Pluto’s transit will transform the financial system and that the effect of plutocrats often seems as bad as it could get, I also know that Pluto, ruler of the underworld, has to do with all sorts of unpleasant goings-on. After all, the unconscious contains what the conscious mind has rejected (and much else besides, according to Jung), and Pluto generally brings material up from that realm. Though some uprisings bring benefit – the Occupy Movements, occurring as Pluto came to the cusp of the U.S. 2nd, provides a ready example and perhaps represents a new trend – not all of them do. Certainly many contemporary developments suggest that the power of corporations will augment, not reduce.

 To get some perspective, though, let’s trace back to Pluto’s previous transit through the United States 2nd house. Admittedly, some of that transit took place before the U.S. cohered as a nation. It nevertheless has relevance here, as some prenatal transits point to developments in the environment in the years or decades (for a nation) or months (for a person) before birth, those developments setting the tone for the birth itself. Pluto entered the U.S. 2nd around 1766. In 1764, with Pluto on the cusp of that house, England forbade the issue of paper money in any of the colonies (having done so for New England in 1751). In 1766, Benjamin Franklin went to England to protest, for he had for a long time advocated the issue of paper money, his views perhaps not unaffected by the fact that he got much business from the printing of the stuff. (In Money (67), John Kenneth Galbraith notes that Franklin advocated “the use of the printing press for anything except the diffusion of knowledge.”)

The laws from England truly brought economic transformation to the colonies, for paper money had, then as now, found use in the expansion of business enterprises not limited to those related to war. Price inflation reduced dramatically with the reduction of domestic paper, and economic life returned to an even keel – often the case on those occasions when nations stopped using paper currency, seeing that the stuff has a tendency to inflate prices and thus depreciate the value of money. (When paper money reigned in the colonies, creditors would hide from debtors, not wanting to get repaid in a constantly depreciating currency.) Once the colonies declared themselves independent, England’s laws no longer held sway; paper money returned. Without it, the colonists could never have fought the revolution. Of the shift, John Kenneth Galbraith writes (Money, p. 71):

With independence, the ban by Parliament on paper money became, in a notable modern phrase, inoperative. And however the colonies might have been moving toward more reliable money, there was now no alternative to government paper…The Congress was without direct powers of taxation; one of its first acts was to authorize a note issue. More states now authorized more notes. It was by these notes that the American Revolution was financed. Between June 1775 and November 1779, there were forty-two currency issues by the Continental Congress with a total face value of $241,600,000.

Galbraith also points to the connection between the United States and paper money:

If the history of commercial banking belongs to the Italians and of central banking to the British, that of paper money issued by a government belongs indubitably to the Americans. (55)
With the issuance of paper money came power, whether military, economic, or political. For the connection between military aggressions and money we needn’t look far: as Galbraith notes, the American Revolution provides a fine example, one no doubt taken from various kings and potentates issuing fiat money (a term I have borrowed from Edward Griffin’s The Creature from Jekyll Island; see below) to finance their various invasions, incursions, and insurrection-quashings. The economic power appears in the ways that paper money furthers economic progress, for projects demand payments for workers and materials, and paper money provides the wherewithal.

Of course, much depends on who does the issuing, for the issuer issues to those inclined to do the issuer’s bidding. Thus the political power of money, at least in part. The fiat money issued by the U.S. government, so much a part of United States history, gives even more power to the state and aligns it with the financial powers who get most of the benefit. When the United States government issues paper money, that government stipulates that citizens must regard that money as “legal tender” and that others may not issue their own paper money. The government’s money gets its backing from the state itself. A further power lies in the fact that when the government issues its fiat money, that issuance lowers the value of the money people already have, so the government has the power not only to further its own projects, but also to move the people toward poverty. And, of course, if one refuses to play the game, the state brings the law to bear. (Let us sidestep, at least for now, the ways that banks can, like mini-governments, increase the supply of money. Plutocrats apparently have at least as much power as bureaucrats!)

Appropriately enough for Pluto, the power to create money seems like a form of magic. When Marco Polo encountered the Khan’s mint, he saw it as “Alchemy in perfection,” and he noted the solemnity accorded its issuance: “the Kaan smears the seal entrusted to him with vermilion and impresses it on the paper, so that the form of the seal remains stamped upon it in red; the money is then authentic…And the Kaan causes every year to be made such a vast quantity of this money, which costs him nothing, that it must equal in amount all the treasures in the world.” Edward Griffin (my source for the preceding quotation), then adds,

One is tempted to marvel at the Kaan’s audacious power and the subservience of his subjects who endured such an outrage [for the Kaan would imprison any who refused to accept his paper money]; but our smugness rapidly vanishes when we consider the similarity to our own Federal Reserve Notes. They are adorned with signatures and seals; counterfeiters are severely punished; the government pays its expenses with them; the population is forced to accept them; they – and the “invisible” checkbook money into which they can be converted – are made in such vast quantities that it must equal in amount all the treasures of the world. And yet they cost nothing to make. In truth, our present monetary system is an almost exact replica of that which supported the warlords of seven centuries of the world. (156)

Small wonder, then, that a country with Pluto in its natal second has developed into the world’s warlord, complete with a largely-subservient population, a powerful military to which the government gives as much money as it requests, and both banks and businesses deemed “too big to fail.” Small wonder, too, that such a government can create as much money as needed to bail out banks or fight wars, even as it claims itself too poor to support programs that benefit the non-plutocratic majority. And, to link such ideas to matters-astrological: as Pluto moved through the U.S. 2nd from 1767-1786, the United States, in throwing off the co-called yoke of English rule, turned to paper money to support the yoke-throwing.

Pluto unleashes powerful forces from the unconscious. As any psychologist knows, to deal with these forces, one must maintain a secure tie to the relative truths of the world. Transferred to the economic world, that statement might read like this: to deal with the psychic forces that drive plutocracy, a nation should tie its currency to something rooted in the relative world; any nation that fails to do that will suffer grave consequences, as its finances will find themselves at the mercy of the little-understood powers of the unconscious. We can see, these days, that our country has failed to do the necessary tying; the crash of 2007-2008 resulted from financial dealings with no clear referents in the phenomenal world. In such a system, the forces of the unconscious run amok. Our present predicament serves as a case in point.

In such dark clouds, do we see a silver lining? Perhaps. Pluto, lord of transformation (of a particular type, as we will see in the next installment), brings about change partly by secreting the seeds of change into apparently obdurate patterns of behavior. Thus when the change comes, it seems at first like a kind of fate. More on all this next time (when, I hope, we finally get to Pluto’s opposition to the U.S. Sun).

Tim Lyons
March 26, 2014



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