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Quantitative easing

He [Jesus of Nazareth, AD 33] said to them, “Why put me to the test? Bring me a denarius [a Roman silver coin worth about £50] and let me look at it.” And they brought one. And he said to them, “Whose likeness and inscription is this?” They said to him, “Caesar’s” Jesus said to them, “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.”          Mark 12: 15-17


Back in AD 33 in Jerusalem, the denarius was Caesar’s money – it bore his image and name. The Jersey £50 note – the AD 2009 equivalent of a denarius - carries the portrait of the Queen and a picture of Government House in St Saviour’s Hill, the residence of Her Majesty’s Lieutenant Governor for Jersey.


So, according to Jesus, Jerusalem folk must render, must return (Greek apodidomi; apo=back; didomi=give) to Caesar what is his. Does the Jersey £50 note (with no intrinsic value) “belong” to the Queen?


The question appears difficult because Jersey notes carry the signed promise of the States Treasurer to pay to the “bearer” (the person who carries the note) the amount stated. The States of Jersey is not the same as the Queen. Maybe this is just as well, given that the Queen, through her Ministers, has begun to debase the £ by putting into circulation fictitious £s that are only, as it were, “book entries” and not “real”. These £s are being used in bank balances, indistinguishable from “real” ones.


In fact, the relationship between the Jersey £ and the £ sterling is best understood by seeing the process by which Jersey £ notes arrive in our wallets. The States Treasurer has bank accounts at every bank in Jersey that provides cash to customers. When a bank needs Jersey £ notes for its customers it asks the States Treasury for them. The Treasurer brings a bundle of printed paper (£ notes) and pays these notes into his account  at that bank. If the bank has too many Jersey £ notes it asks the States Treasurer to buy them back and the Treasurer pays the bank for them by writing a cheque.


What happens to the Treasurer’s bank balances that arise at all of these banks in Jersey? The Treasurer invests this money (about £75,000,000 at present) in £ sterling investments.   


Two truths emerge: first, a Jersey £ will never buy more that a £ sterling will buy; second, the value of a Jersey £ and a £ sterling is under the authority of the UK government. How strong that authority is remains debatable.


But here’s another question: will the £ buy as much after UK quantitative easing as before?


Jersey history has an answer to that. In the 1600s the future Charles II visited Jersey at the start of the Civil War. He was desperately short of money, having been ousted from England. His father, King Charles I, before being beheaded by Parliament, had given permission to a Colonel Smyth to establish a mint in Truro and the young Charles authorised him to do that in Jersey instead. This he did – in a property in La Rue Guerdain, Trinity. But Colonel Smyth wanted to enrich himself - as well as help young Charles. So he minted some base metal look-alike coins and kept the proceeds for himself. He was found out, serious problems beset Charles over it, the mint was closed and Smyth was banished. What will happen to the Bank of England directors and the Chancellor when the £ is seen to have been devalued?


Come back to Jesus AD 33 above. The denarius was a silver coin – valuable enough to pay for one day’s labour from an unskilled worker. To pay taxes to Caesar with a debased coin would defraud Caesar. Actually, it would defraud him using his own name and image to deceive him. What is due to Caesar must be given back to Caesar in full, not debased, without having enriched self at Caesar’s expense – and without deceit.


But Jesus of Nazareth added, “and [give back] to God the things that God’s”. Return to God the things that bear his name and image? In full? Not debased? Not after covertly enriching self? Without deceit?


That’s the standard. No wonder the religious people delivered Jesus to death.

‘When money speaks, truth is silent.’ (Anon.)
‘And Jesus, looking at him, loved him, and said to him, “You lack one thing: go, sell all that you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.”’(Jesus Christ, around AD 32)
Richard Syvret

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