Sunday, June 28, 2009

Financial Reform A.D. 600

"Bankers shall not file coins,
nor make false ones
Nor put a slave . . . in charge of their business
. . . .
if they do not notify counterfeits that come in
and from whom
shall be flogged, shaved and exiled
And in this there can have been few innovations"

Pound, The Cantos of Ezra Pound, Canto XCVII (p. 687, New Directions Edition)

That being a rough translation (per Pound) of the Code of Justinian, coming after the rules for the notaries, goldsmiths and bakers and such.

It does tend to put the current rather modest proposals for financial reform in perspective. And the suggestion that there need be few innovations resonates of the observation that the only indisputably beneficial financial innovation of the last generation has been the ATM. But do not despair, ye serfs of finance, at least Justinian's Code did not proscribe branding, blinding or cropping (as in amputating the offending hand) for your transgressions.