wars float financial
"When new money
is printed, its effect is not felt instantaneously across all market
The effect moves from one individual to another individual and
thus from one market to another market.
Monetary pumping generates
bubble activities across all markets as time goes by.
the bank tightens its monetary
stance, i.e. reduces monetary pumping, this undermines various bubble
The bubble bursts.
Since monetary pumping generates
bubble activities across all markets, obviously the eventual bursting of the
bubbles will permeate all markets." - Frank Shostak
"A Satire of Tulip Mania" by Jan Brueghel the
Younger (ca. 1640)
depicts speculators as brainless monkeys in contemporary
tulip mania bubble Tulip mania or tulipomania (Dutch names include tulpenmanie,
tulpomanie, tulpenwoede, tulpengekte, and bollengekte) was a period in the
Dutch Golden Age during which contract prices for bulbs of the recently
introduced tulip reached extraordinarily high levels and then suddenly
At the peak of tulip mania in February 1637, tulip contracts
sold for more than 10 times the annual income of a skilled
The mosaic virus spreads only through buds, not seeds, and so
cultivating the most appealing varieties takes years.
greatly slowed down by the virus.
Tulips bloom in April and May for
only about a week, and the secondary buds appear shortly thereafter.
Bulbs can be uprooted and moved about from June to September, and thus
actual purchases (in the spot market) occurred during these months.
During the rest of the year, traders signed
futures contracts before
a notary to purchase tulips at the end of the season.
futures contract promises to
guarantee delivery of
specificied assets, in this case tulip bulbs, on a specific date for an
agreed upon fixed price.
Short selling is banned by
an edict of 1610, which is reiterated or strengthened in 1621 and 1630, and
again in 1636.
Short sellers were not
prosecuted under these edicts, but their contracts are deemed unenforceable.
1636 Dutch create a
type of formal futures market
where contracts to buy bulbs at the end of the season are bought and sold.
Traders met in "colleges" at taverns and buyers were required to pay a
2.5% "wine money" fee, up to a maximum of three florins, per trade.
Neither party paid an initial margin nor a
mark-to-market margin, and all
contracts were with the individual counterparties rather than with the
No deliveries were ever made to fulfill these contracts because
of the market collapse in February 1637.
On February 24, 1637, the
self-regulating guild of
Dutch florists, in a decision that
was later ratified by the Dutch Parliament, announced that all
futures contracts written after
November 30, 1636 and before the re-opening of the cash market in the early
Spring, were to be interpreted as
contracts, or options to
purchase in the future.
This change of law was
done at the behest of major Dutch tulip investors who were trying to recoup
lost money because of a German setback in the
Thirty Years' War.
They simply relieved the futures
purchaser of the requirment to purchase if they paid a small fixed percentage
of the contract price as a default on the failure to purchase.
contract purchases the right to buy an asset at a date in the future at an
agreed upon price.
This trade was centered in Haarlem during the height
of a bubonic plague epidemic, which
may have contributed to a culture of fatalistic risk taking.
the Mississippi bubble
"Imagine the following: a collection of debts owed
by a highly leveraged borrower with
a bad credit record is magically transformed into
marketable securities with triple-A
How is this miracle performed?
It is through the power
of financial innovation and free capital markets!
It could be the story
of subprime mortgages in the US; but it is not.
It is the story of
government debt in France in the early 18th century.
a financial whirlwind
swept through France.
Shares in the Compagnie d'Occident, or the
Mississippi Company, rose 1,000 per cent and then fell by 90 per cent in less
than two years.
The story illuminates current events." - James
Macdonald, Financial Times (London) March 6, 2008 HOW THE FRENCH INVENTED
SUBPRIME IN 1719
By the end of the War of
Spanish Succession in 1714 public debt had risen to over 100 per cent of
national income and was subjected to forced reductions of interest and
Government bonds sold for
discounts of up to 75 per cent.
Louis XIV, the "Sun King," had
consolidated French power in Europe but the Nine Year War and the War of
Spanish Succession had effectively bankrupt France by 1715 the year of Louis
France defaulted on its debt, high taxes burdened the
country and the value of gold and silver currency fluctuated wildly.
Louis XV turned to the Duke of Orleans who hired John Law, a Scottish
adventurer, economic theorist, and financial wizard/engineer.
charismatic John Law
lived by his wits at the gambling table
and had never held any post related to public finance.
would issue a new series of bonds, paying only 3 per cent in exchange for its
old debts which paid 4-5 per cent, in exchange for shares in the Mississippi
Trading Company, which held monopoly trading rights to the French colonies.
For the government, the cost of servicing the debt would fall sharply
and the budget would look rosier.
The trading rights to the French
colonies were largely worthless, for there were no profits at the time and the
Mississippi Company had existed for a while without exciting public
The market for government debts was
John Law's aim was to make Mississippi shares as actively
traded as possible.
an incentive to
swap - to get a more liquid security and the prospect of speculative gains.
John Law repackaged a collection of "subprime" debts as marketable
securities under a different name and thereby increased their investor
Law claimed that Mississippi shares would be so actively traded
that they would constitute "a new form of money."
For this governmnet
debt reduction plan to succeed a new bank must be founded to provide a massive
monetary stimulus of easy money to get bond holding creditors to convert
government bonds into Mississippi trading company shares.
1716 John Law established the Banque
Générale, a bank with the authority to issue fiat bank notes.
In 1717 John Law established the Compagnie d'Occident ("Company of the
West") and obtained a 25-year monopoly to develop the vast French territories
in the Mississippi River valley of North America.
soon monopolized the French tobacco and African slave trades, and by 1719 the
Compagnie des Indes ("Company of the Indies"), as it had been renamed, held a
complete monopoly of France's colonial trade.
John Law took over the
collection of French taxes and the minting of money.
In effect, John Law
controlled both the country's foreign trade and its finances.
effective marketing scheme was developed describing the Compagnie des Indes as
a future profit generator due to its monopolistic controls of the exaggerated
wealth of Louisiana.
This marketing scheme sent the price for a share
from 500 to 10,000 livres , completely out of all proportion to earnings.
The debt was exchanged and became worth many times its previous value
as Mississippi shares continued their dizzying ascent.
recovered and everyone was happy -- even though the underlying reality was an
unsustainable credit-driven boom.
1719 John Law
had issued approximately 625,000 stock shares, and he soon afterward merged the
Banque Générale with the Compagnie des Indes.
Compagnie bought the right to collect all French indirect taxes, took over the
collection of direct taxes, purchased the right to mint new coinage.
The center piece of this financial plan was the retirement of Louis
Shares of the Compagnie des Indes were exchanged for
state-issued public securities, or billets d'état, which consequently
also rose sharply in value.
The French government debt, 1,000% of the
annual budget, became property of the Compagnie des Indes.
government takes advantage of this situation by printing increased amounts of
paper money, which was readily accepted by the state's creditors because it
could be used to buy more shares of the Compagnie.
assets of the Mississippi Company were still questionable royal debts that did
not provide enough income to pay its promised dividends.
Excessive issue of paper money stimulated
galloping inflation, and both the paper money and the billets d'état
began to lose their value.
Moreover, like many holders of
collateralized debt obligations, speculators in
Paris relied heavily on borrowed money.
The rise in Mississippi shares
Shareholders find themselves holding
1720 The value of the shares of the Compagnie plummeted,
causing a general stock market crash in France and other countries.
Financial engineer John Law is forced to flee France.
debts of his company and bank were consolidated and made good by the state
which raised taxes in order to retire the debt.
South Sea Company, a joint stock incorporation is granted a monopoly to trade
in the South American colonial possessions of Spain as part of a treaty during
the War of Spanish Succession.
The South Sea Company assumes the
bonded debt England
incurred during the war in return for the monoploy.
The primary trading
business of the South Sea Company was transporting slaves from Africa to
South Sea Company proposed a scheme by which it would assume
half the bonded debt of
Britain (£30,981,712) with new shares and contractually promises to the
government that the debt will be converted to a lower interest rate, 5% until
1727 and 4% per year thereafter.
The purpose of this is to allow
a conversion of high-interest bonded debt into low-interest marketable debt
as shares of the South Sea Company.
The South Sea Company market the
stock with "the most extravagant rumours" of the value of its potential trade
in the New World.
of wild speculation ensues leading to the South Sea Bubble.
1720 The share price rises from £128 in January to
£890 in early June even though trade with Spanish colonies is limited to
one ship carrying not more than 500 tons of cargo and the slave trade.
When the speculative adventure collapsed the estates of the directors
of the incorporation are confiscated and used to repay some creditors, and the
stock of the South Sea Company is divided between the major creditors - the
Bank of England and
British East India
In summation all three
of these speculative run-ups in the value of tulip bulbs or 'stock' was caused
directly by war.
Tulip investors were trying to recoup loses from
betting on Germany winning the Thirty Years War while both the South Sea and
Mississippi bubbles were designed to retire onerous government debt due
primarily to the expenses involved in the War of Spanish Succession.
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