Malak Markers

           In order to transcend a thing you must first understand it. Everyone today worries about “money” but few people understand what it really is or where it originally came from. Money is, and always has been, nothing more than the placeholder of a debt. The very first paper currency that ever existed was nothing but a simple receipt, a certificate of deposit of something that was valuable, primarily gold, that had been placed into the coffers of a bank. People traded these receipts around as if they were the actual thing of value on the understanding that they could take it back to the bank it came from, at any time, and have it redeemed, on the spot, in real gold.

           However it wasn't very long before these new banks realized that they could increase the amount of gold receipts that they circulated, independent of the amount of actual gold that they held in reserve to back them all up, since very few people ever asked to have these debts honored in actual gold anyway. People everywhere quickly came to see that these pieces of papers were a far more convenient and effective means of barter, quite a bit more convenient then carrying around the equivalent amounts of gold that these were once based on. That's why today we don’t even have to pretend that anyone is even theoretically going to give us anything for these place holding receipts; the people’s trust in this now familiar medium, and the goodwill it customarily sets loose, is now sufficient. It may seem hard to believe, but that's where money comes from.

           In theory, this game still hinges on the involvement of players with unimaginably large resources and power, and such players are currently the forces behind the infamously mysterious Federal Reserve Bank, yet there is one other place where far smaller outfits than the Fed have successfully issued their own markers of debt, and this place is the criminal underworld. On the margins of polite society, grave people with reputations to uphold boosted their local economies by flooding their streets with their own personal markers, i.o.u.s that could, “in theory,” be redeemed at anytime simply by bringing these back to their rather imposing source for a final collection on the debt it stood for.

           In practice however, these were rarely formally redeemed, simply passed around as an alternative form of payment by all of the lackeys, friends, families, and businesses who had willing, or even unwilling, connections to these underworld figures. All of these people simply had to continue to trust in the generosity, not to mention the enormous wealth and power, of whatever local criminal organization decided to get into this alternative currencies market. It also helped if they were afraid to insult the issuers of these markers by refusing to respect them as a viable form of payment.

           Fear, or at least respect, was crucial to the operation of these economies for lots of reasons. Almost any extended economy is unable to survive what's known as "a run on the bank," yet criminal organizations had special ways of dealing with such things, ways that were designed to preserve the integrity of their economies, and their own reputations as well. Anyone brave enough to actually bring these markers back to its issuer were usually expertly assisted by the organization in ways that were not easy to come by elsewhere, but, if the request was so enormous as to be found contrary to the interests of the greater community, a reasonable degree of assistance would be provided, often at an enormous discount, along with a sobering lesson in the realities of debt economics. The rule was that no one left unsatisfied.

           Obviously an economy that looses the trust of its participants is doomed to fail, so smart gangsters took great pride in, and were often very vocal about, the unfailing services that they rendered to anyone bearing the various markers that bore their names. However, their criminal menace was also a key point to their economies' long term success, since something had to motivate people to repeatedly pass these markers around them without immediately running back to its issuers for redemption. This was a very fine art indeed, to find the perfect balance between consistently creative solutions, solutions that normal money just couldn't buy, and a generally menacing demeanor, both of which were essential elements to help keep the costs of maintaining their alternative economies low, while discouraging overzealous or unreasonable degrees of debt collection.

           Of course, as long as they always had more money in reserve then they had debts floating around in their community, such men had nothing to fear, and much to gain, as well as much gain to share with those around them, by minting their reputations in private lines of credit such as these. Small empires were once built on such independent economic principles, and I predict that new ones will soon be rising up on them once again.

           To learn more about one such modern economy, visit the Malakim Agency at Good Luck and Namaste.

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