Hacker News new | past | comments | ask | show | jobs | submit login
The Portuguese Bank Note Crisis of 1925 (wikipedia.org)
200 points by MrBuddyCasino 48 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 74 comments

This is a tremendous story; I was first told of it many years ago and it's informed my thinking about authenticity ever since. I recently managed to find a copy of "The Man Who Stole Portugal" to read the whole definitive account with all its absurd details. The total obliviousness of the British printers was key to the whole thing; once they'd been convinced they were dealing with the Right Sort of Chap, who simply confirmed their prejudices that Portugal was corrupt and disorganised enough to have banknotes collected in person.

Exactly. The whole scheme relied on everybody, even his accomplices, truly thinking that they were dealing with an official.

Like the Madoff case, the fact that the people around him benefited from the scheme in the short run (including the printers, who made a profit on printing) surely didn't hurt.

Here is what’s amazing to me:

The monopoly right to issue money by a state bank.

Using the credit and trust in the banknotes enabled great economic progress especially in areas in Angola that could swiftly benefit from the resources.

A run on the bank just contracted the money supply and caused hardship “out of principle” that only the sanctioned bank could print these banknotes.

On a societal level it says a lot, that official signatures and documents have the weight of arbitrary amounts of money, and that increasing the money supply could lead to a lot of good investment and prosperity but is restricted by banks and governments.

I wonder what dynamics a UBI would unleash.

Unleashing a lot of money is like a big dose of sugar for the economy. It causes a boom and then a bust.

A UBI is just a constant redirection of resources from investment/production/research to consumption.

There is no magic you can do with the money supply. It's like the law of conservation of energy.

Maybe in the best case you can smooth out the natural business cycle by contracting the money supply when the economy is growing and expanding it when the economy is shrinking. That is what modern central banks try to do. But good luck making it work right. At this point particular point in history there is no more room to expand the money supply, yet the economy is heading towards recession.

Although that may be standard thinking in some circles, in reality there are clearly areas where more money would lead to far more goods and services, making everyone in the area richer.

Building up a community like Angola is one example. Any area where people are unemployed and could use their time more productively is another example. Even John Maynard Keynes famously said this. The trick is to find out where to invest for the next high-growth thing, and the government can make a big difference. Past examples included:

Interstate Highway System

Microwave Research + Silicon Valley

GPS and Moonshots

ARPAnet and other DARPA projects

Now it's going to be solar, battery, seaweed for cows and other sustainable energy practices. Printing money and using it to build up infrastructure isn't necessarily bad. Another approach to looking at this is MMT, though I disagree with some of their conclusions.

> Although that may be standard thinking in some circles, in reality there are clearly areas where more money would lead to far more goods and services, making everyone in the area richer.

Finance exists to do this. If it's a good investment, compared to the alternatives, money will be routed to it (and away from alternatives).

Your government spending examples are examples where the government made "good" decisions, but it's equivalent to cherry-picking. For example, the U.S. government spends more on healthcare per capita than any other country, yet our healthcare is worse than most countries, AND patients still get bankrupted. The U.S. government indirectly financed the higher education bubble that has allowed college administrators to make out like bandits, AND students are still in massive debt. Government spending is an inherently vicious process because it overrides individuals' own economic judgement about how to deploy their resources and replaces it with authoritarian central "planning."

Also, most of your examples (maybe all) are defense projects. I think defense is a legitimate part of the government and the DoD can make pretty good judgement calls when they have a reasonable and limited amount of funding. But should they have gotten trillions to punish Iraq and Afghanistan for something done by the Saudis? No. We can see government spending in the U.S. becoming increasingly more catastrophic and wasteful over time because that is the nature of an inherently vicious process.

Your own examples are just arguments in favor of government spending.

Take for example your claim “the US government spends more on healthcare per capita hhan any other country, yet our heathcare is worse than most countries”

The data is clear - single payer systems achieve lower prices thanks to having MONOPSONY POWER over the market. Providers compete, regular consumers don’t, for basic services. Instead resources are prioritized by urgent need. Almost All the systems ahead of US in quality and outcomes in the Commonwealth Fund list are single payer systems. If the US government had a single payer system, it would do well. All around the world we have seen that governments can cover EVERYONE and do it CHEAPER if they have a single payer system, thanks to their massive MONOPSONY power.

As for education: I am not talking about government run schools, but if we had vouchers (a single payer system) then private schools would compete for those dollars and once again it would pop up in areas where they are needed (eg next to a failing school).

I am not in favor of FREE COLLEGE being funded by government but I am massively in favor of FREE EDUCATION which can mean MOOCs, coding schools, apprenticeships acting workshops and much much more. The idea that an inherently wasteful “four year cruise” should be subsidized by money meant for EDUCATION, or that we need to lock up great teachers in lecture halls to only reach 300 people while another 30 are reached by crappy teachers is ridiculous. I am not saying government should dictate what FORM the education would take, just provide people with vouchers or UBI to make their own decisions.

But my original point was that the FEDERAL government being the only one who can issue currency is actually pretty limiting. Look at how well the PIIGS countries did in the south of europe after joining the Euro and giving up the power of running their own monetary policy. When Greece had the Drachma they did way better.

Similarly Detroit wouldn’t have gone bankrupt if it could issue its own currency like Bristol and Brighton in England.

There are tons of examples. Venezuela is a great example of government mismanaging the currency and people needing an alternative. And in fact, during the Weimar republic’s hyperinflation, there were pockets of private currencies the did very well and HELPED PEOPLE until they were OUTLAWED by the stupid principle of enforcing sanctions by the French after the treaty of Versailles. Who knows that alone could have averted WW2 and the Nazis rise to power in an impoverished Germany.

And then of course in peacetime this is THE DEFAULT. In the free banking era before the greenback, most everyday money was banknotes circulating issued by various individual banks not the “official sanctioned by the Federal Government banks”

And now we have cryptocurrencies AND social networks payment systems increasingly competing with banks. Also, I don’t just talk, I put my $ where my mouth is and build what I believe:


I should have said this in my other comment: I agree with you that if the government is going to spend money, it's better to just give people the money and let them make their own decisions about how to spend it. But I think it's better that the government not spend the money in the first place. It's still robbing Peter to pay Paul, which is wrong even if Paul is poorer, and it's still going to lead to a suboptimal economic outcome. In a free market Peter would be happy to offer Paul a student loan if Paul is a good credit risk (i.e., a virtuous person deserving of someone else's trust and resources).

What would you be ok with the government spending money on and why?

If you are ok with police or courts or schools or firefighters then why not other things?

Rational people should seek to reduce or eliminate physical force, or the threat of physical force, used against them or their trading partners. This is the only controversial thing I have to say in this comment (and I don't expect you to believe it just because I say it, but there it is nonetheless). Everything else in this comment follows directly and non-controversially from that.

Government is the institution that bans the use of force by exercising a monopoly on the use of force (which requires force). In other words, government is what takes us out of an anarchic, Hobbesian state of nature.

So the government should hold a monopoly on force but should only use it to prevent anyone else from using force against individual citizens.

Thus, police and courts are legitimate functions of government, to maintain the internal ban on force and punish those who use it (e.g. criminals). To protect citizens from external threats, a defensive military is a legitimate function of government. So just those three institutions: police, courts, and military.

Schools and firefighting should be left to the private sector (so either for-profit businesses or local co-ops).

Thank you for posting a detailed comment.

> The data is clear - single payer systems achieve lower prices thanks to having MONOPSONY POWER over the market

The data is clear that a free market for healthcare would do even better than a single payer system. I seriously believe that. But this is the problem with "the data is clear"-based arguments. I won't convince you by saying that "the data is clear" because it's much more complicated, and that's why you also won't convince me by saying that.

Now I get that in a narrow sense your data is clearer than mine: we have the U.S. system and we have single-payer systems, and we can see that the latter are better. But we don't have a comparison point for a free market in healthcare. Although I think there is enough data to conclude that it would be far superior, by the criterion you are using---simply comparing the systems we have in the world today directly to one another---there is a gap missing; we don't have data on a free market in health care. So technically, you don't know that single payer is better than a free market in healthcare.

If you have a free market for MOOCs, coding schools, etc., people will exercise their economic judgement such that good schools win and bad schools die out. If you have the government pay for it, it will be an inherently vicious process that will reward the schools that are best able to solicit funding and it will end up in the same place the 4-year colleges did.

Greece probably didn't do better on the Drachma, it probably just hadn't had the pendulum swing back the other way again (i.e. come down from the sugar high). I mean, that's my guess, based on my economic views. This goes back to the "the data is clear" issue... causation is really complicated to understand.

I'm sorry but I don't believe in local currencies. If there is an honest and sound money, people will always prefer it. I think that is what we should work towards. But props to you for making something. I think people should be free to choose any currency they like, including a local currency.

In a free market both sides compete. In a single payer system only providers compete. Basic macroeconomic models predict that prices would be lower, and in fact the data shows this. Now you can say that a free market doesn’t exist, but then what is the use of your theories? You don’t adjust them by encountering any data. If I am wrong, tell me what data you have ever encountered to make you change your theories about the free market and government?

BTW I believe free markets do exist, and have always existed - at the highest levels of human organization. Today this is international markets. There is no monopoly of force. And I would like to see data that these markets are more efficient and less susceptible to, say, cornering (eg the Bank of England by George Soros, or international prices of bread/metals/etc. by Goldman Sachs) than managed markets like the US Public Stock Markets.

“If there is an honest and sound money, people will always prefer it”.

Actually Gresham’s law says the opposite. If the exchange rate is set by law them BAD MONEY will drive out the good. That’s because money is a means of exchange, more than it is a store of value. The means of exchange is always the thing you want to get rid of and others will take. The store of value is what you want to hoard. Even Aristophanes realized this thousands of years ago:


I'm saying a free market doesn't exist in healthcare. It exists in lots of other areas. We can see that free markets always perform better, and non-free markets are always dysfunctional directly in proportion to the degree of government intervention. There is an overwhelming amount of "data" supporting this. The data is all around us and goes back through history clearly to the Industrial Revolution. But the data also goes even further back; it explains why the Industrial Revolution happened only in certain places and why certain countries are are extremely far ahead of others. But understanding all this requires looking carefully at causation. It's not something you can capture in a study. That's why I put "data" in quotes the first time.

> I believe free markets do exist, and have always existed - at the highest levels of human organization.

A free market exists when force is barred. The U.S. came close to a free market at the time of its founding and has become progressively more unfree since. Western European countries (particularly England and France, sometimes Germany) have a similar but less pronounced trajectory over the same span of time. International politics is not a free market; it's a collection of armed "gangs" (effectively) that all can use force against one another. Tariffs are also a serious use of force and violation of a free market.

A free market literally just means "no force is allowed." If you don't like the term "free market" being used that way, just replace every instance in my comment with "no force is allowed." I'm not interested in arguing about the names of concepts and principles; only about concepts and principles.

Gresham's Law is designed to account for a legal tender situation where there are forms of money with the same nominal value under the law but different real value. I will quote a section from Wikipedia which I agree with:

"Those examples show that in the absence of effective legal tender laws, Gresham's Law works in reverse. If given the choice of what money to accept, people will transact with money they believe to be of highest long-term value. However, if not given the choice and required to accept all money, good and bad, they will tend to keep the money of greater perceived value in their possession and to pass on the bad money to someone else." [1]

I mean, we don't need to trust Wikipedia to see this. People prefer to use the most liquid token of exchange for all transactions, though it also needs to be durable, fungible, etc. The most liquid "token" (and it could even be a commodity) then becomes the best store of value because it is used in transactions. There will never be a place where one money doesn't drive out the other (good drives out the less-good) because one will be more liquid than the other. The whole point of money is just to be something you can trade for anything because everyone will trade it for anything. It solves the "coincidence of wants" problem in a barter economy---the fact that if you are a fisherman and I am an apple grower, I can't buy fish unless you want apples and vice versa. Pardon me for being pedantic; at this point I've gotten into territory that you've very likely encountered before.

People would prefer a sound and honest money if there were one. Bitcoin was designed to meet these criteria if it were to become liquid enough; maybe some day it will be, or maybe not. Gold was a sound and honest money, but world governments got us to slowly get off gold, one step at a time. So now it doesn't have enough liquidity and is anyway on shaky ground legally.

[1]: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gresham%27s_law

"A free market exists when force is barred. The U.S. came close to a free market at the time of its founding and has become progressively more unfree since"

A large part of the population was forced to enage in hard labor for nothing under a terroristic regime - creating an enormous amount of value (by 1860, the "mortgage" value of US slaves was greater than the value of the entire industrial plant). Women had no property rights. There was an ongoing genocide of native americans and wholesale siezure of their property.

That's a valid disclaimer, but you have completely failed to interact with what I'm saying.

It's like you've found a typo in a mathematical treatise that doesn't really effect the correctness of the treatise, and gleefully declared the entire thing to be incorrect.

365,000 Americans on the Union side died to end slavery in America, and that conflict was inexorably set in motion by our founding documents that stated that all men are created equal---a revolutionary idea at the time. Today's American government is the same government that eradicated slavery (i.e., the Union).

Regarding Native Americans: The U.S. was the first country in history to declare outright butchery of other ethnic groups barbaric, yet gets the most blame for doing it. The Europeans were still doing it long after the U.S. (e.g. Germany, Russia). You are just trying to find ways to rhetorically "bring down" what was historically the country that actually set the precedent for not brutalizing people. What the U.S. did, and then immediately declared barbaric, the rest of the world had been doing for all of time (and much of it continued, and now continues in China).

edit: Also, the Native Americans didn't have property. They just all used the land around them. Property is something you get when you have organized property rights. If the Native Americans had had that, they would have been set up like a European nation. And if the colonists had slaughtered and taken over something like that (an organized nation), nobody would complain, because that's what European nations had always done, were doing, and continued to do afterwards. It was always survival of the fittest in Europe. It's only when people want to America-bash that Americans are held to a higher standard than everyone else.

Also, American women had property rights; don't know what that's about. I imagine there are nuances we could argue about but let's not.

The whole thing is incorrect. You claim "The U.S. came close to a free market at the time of its founding and has become progressively more unfree since" even though "at the time of its founding" the US economy significantly depended on slave labor and wholesale theft of land from Native American tribes. What kind of free market operating without force do you have when millions of human beings are under the lash? As for your excuse for the theft of Native American land, the inability of the native Americans to defend their property or to organize property law as Europeans did in no way makes the violent theft of their land some operation of free markets without coercion. As for women, look up "coverture" (https://ap.gilderlehrman.org/essay/legal-status-women-1776%C... ) Your whole story is a fantasy.

> What kind of free market operating without force do you have when millions of human beings are under the lash?

Ironically, a far freer market than we have today, as long as you were white.

I don't think the economy of the North depended much or at all on the South. The South was in the business of exporting cotton to Europe. Also, the South was basically an economic backwater that was falling increasingly far behind. In terms of population, the North had 18.5 million and the South had 5.5 million free people and 3.5 million slaves.

> in no way makes the violent theft of their land some operation of free markets without coercion

I didn't understand before that your point about Native Americans was supposed to be a counterexample to free markets. I don't see it that way. A free market is about what happens within the borders of a country. Conquering more land is about expanding the borders of a country.

> As for women, look up "coverture"

I think you are making too much of this. According to your source, non-married women seem to have had the same rights as men. Families acted as a unit with the husband nominally in charge. I think that was reasonable for the level of development at the time and not as different from today as people think. Joint control of a family between husband and wife, as we have now, is only practicable when there is the release valve of divorce. Divorce would not have been very realistic in the 18th century because once a man has children with a woman you couldn't just take back your responsibility to her. There are a lot of factors that play into this like the lack of birth control, the need to produce many children to work on the farm, the need for there to be someone to raise children, etc. Modern technology is what has enabled women to be raised to the equal of men in practice, not just a change in the culture's view of women. Anyway, I don't think this issue is very relevant to the question of whether or not there was a free market.

>a far freer market than we have today, as long as you were white

Except for the iceberg, the Titanic sailed safely. You don't know anything about the economics of US slavery - which was enormously big business and affected the entire development of the US economy.

Your theory about stealing native american land is ridiculous. There is no free market if your economy depends on piracy. You're trying to use some legalistic card trick to pretend that something is not what it is.

Married women had no property rights: therefore they could not be participants in a free market.

You have a narrative totally at variance with actual history, but it fits some ideological point you want to make. You would be better off trying to understand why your ideology is so incompatible with empirical reality. The end.

Look, the point I made that started this conversation is that there is a lot of evidence in U.S. history that free markets work extremely well. You are not dealing with that at all. There are two issues with your arguments.

a) Most of your arguments are about freedom as such, not the economics of a free market. Slavery, women's rights, and native american land appropriation fall under this.

b) It's not a black and white issue. If it's 80% a free market, finding examples in the 20% does not invalidate my point.

> You don't know anything about the economics of US slavery

I know a lot about the economics of US slavery. It's fine to disagree with something in particular, but what you have said here is not a valid part of an honest discussion.

Plus, if you are so hung up on slavery, we could have just shifted the conversation to post-1865 and I would make the same point: free markets work well and that is borne out by history.

> Your theory about stealing native american land is ridiculous. There is no free market if your economy depends on piracy. You're trying to use some legalistic card trick to pretend that something is not what it is.

I don't have a "theory." The colonizers took the land. I don't think that affects my thesis. As to the rest of what you say here, see point (b).

> Married women had no property rights: therefore they could not be participants in a free market.

That does not follow at all. When a married woman goes to the market to buy produce, she's participating in the free market.

> You have a narrative totally at variance with actual history, but it fits some ideological point you want to make. You would be better off trying to understand why your ideology is so incompatible with empirical reality. The end.

This is not a valid thing to say in an honest discussion. I believe that you honestly think I'm being dishonest, but I'm not. Nothing else can be said.

We have let this discussion get the best of us---we should have stopped it several comments back. I know this is not appropriate for HN. I'm not going to respond further. I would go back and delete the whole conversation if I could but I think that would be even worse.

> Most of your arguments are about freedom as such, not the economics of a free market. Slavery, women's rights, and native american land appropriation fall under this.

There is no free market in labor under the rule of "do this work or I will whip you to death or worse." There is no free market in real-estate under the "we are going to murder your entire community and take the land". You have a misleading story about economics/government which only works if you discount the brutal grotesque treatment of captive labor as if the human beings caught up in the machinery of slavery don't matter. That's not just bad history, it is morally repellent.

I have heard your arguments many times from people and understand them (after 10 years of discussion). At some point I espoused them myself.

I have the following points to make (consider them questions you can answer in detail if you want).

1. Who enforces “no force allowed”? For example in the international markets for labor, currency, and other goods, there is no world police or monopoly on force through a one world government. Sure, countries can have armies. And the same on the individual level - how do you prevent marauders from using force unless you join into an entity with even larger defensive force? That entity will enforce “no force allowed” with force of its own. So even on its own terms, your “free market” system requirement requires a monopoly of force.

2. What if the “sound money” tends to be very expensive to move? Then banks tend to issue representative money or debt denominated in the “sound money” and that is what’s traded every day. It also has the advantage of being reversible so you don’t, for example, have people kidnapped for Bitcoin ransoms. Our current monetary system is largely “seller beware”, instead of “buyer beware”. Presumably, sellers of consumer goods are far larger organizations than buyers, and engage in far more transactions in a given product, and thus can better absorb the cost and quality control to minimize chargebacks and disputes etc.

3. If something is going up in price over time, people want to hoard it not spend it. On the other hand if something is gradually decreasing in price, people want to spend it. These are two sides of the same coin (pun intended). A deflationary currency would NOT be the one that’s actually being spent day to day, but only to occasionally settle debts from everyday transactions. So it depends what you mean by “used” but in terms of frequency, the more “sound” the money is, the LESS FREQUENTLY it is used. For each person who is willing to accept it, there is a person who doesn’t want to give it. Because in practice, the buyer will choose from among all possible payment options the seller offers, and choose the “worst money” to get rid of first. And sellers will compete in a race for who will accept the widest forms of payment (credit cards, venmo, whatsapp or whatever) to get more business.

In Capitalism, sellers are always in a race to the bottom unless there is a monopoly. It’s great for consumers but they are also the ones who get to choose among payment options and thus the WORST MONEY will be more frequently in consumer transactions (for goods and services).

1. A free market requires that the government exercise a monopoly on force, using force. Only the government should be allowed to use force and it should be minimized. International politics will always be a state of nature but treaties and free trade agreements can be good.

2. If the sound money is very expensive to move, people will issue bank notes. I think you are right about that. However, if there are two equally good monies, except that one can be used directly instead of using an intermediary layer (like bank notes), the one that can be used directly will win out in the market and the other one will disappear from use. Because it's less risky when there is no intermediary layer. Then again, there may be use cases when you want reversibility, and then people would use an intermediary (like PayPal). Going through an intermediary some of the time doesn't really create a different currency. For instance, Tethers (which are nominally worth 1 US dollar each) aren't really a different currency (although that's not an ideal example since Tether is so shady; perhaps Gemini Dollars is better).

3. Imagine you have Greatcoin and Shitcoin and those are the two currencies. Merchants take Shitcoin but they immediately convert it to Greatcoin (which holds its value better, or perhaps is deflationary). Consumers don't want Shitcoin, so they also immediately convert it to Greatcoin. Everybody wants Greatcoin in their bank account/digital wallet; nobody wants Shitcoin. I think you can see where this is going. Next time I go to the merchant and try to pay with Shitcoin he's going to say "Come on man, I don't want that shit. Just keep all your money in Greatcoin, which you want to do anyway, and don't convert to Shitcoin before you pay me, and I won't have to convert your Shitcoin to Greatcoin." Then Shitcoin goes away.

1. OK so in your definition, a free market requires a monopoly on force, using force. In mine, a free market has NO monopoly on force, so international markets are an example. And I compare them with markets that have government intervening, like public stock markets. How are they better?

2 and 3. Well what if the seller says "Come on man, I don't want that shit" and the buyer says "Well your competitor will take my shitcoin, so I'm going to buy from them?"

You're only looking at possible trends in one direction, namely sellers "winning" the argument with buyers and phasing out acceptance of shitcoin. But why did they accept shitcoin in the first place? Why accept Visa, WeChat or a check when you have to trust a third party bank, rather than just cash? Because it's more convenient for the buyer. If sellers provide various options, the buyers will choose the ones they want to use. Do you think sellers LIKE to deal with VISA chargebacks disputes and other crap, when they can just take your cash and say kthanxbai? In Capitalism, the pressure is on the sellers to accomodate buyers, so what about the other way ... buyers want to get rid of shitcoins?

Not to mention that the government will want to do UBI or single payer programs like SNAP food stamps or medical insurance and guess what, most doctors will prefer to take that instead of ONLY accepting direct payments. And even when they accept direct payments they are OK with VISA and paying 3% transaction fee. Why? Because many buyers have trouble paying cash at the moment, but the government or a bank has supplied them with shitcoin money. And that's my point ... a lot of economic activity can get done that way, and both sellers and buyers prefer it. And sellers accommodate buyers because often the buyers don't have any other type of payment. They've paid into their insurance. Do you think doctors LIKE to negotiate with insurance companies? But they would rather get that, than lose a customer.

1. I'm not really sure what you are asking. If this helps, what I want (and what I call a free market) is a situation where people are free to make their own decisions because the use of non-preventative force is barred. The government uses preventative force to prevent other people from using force. This is a "domestic" issue. It doesn't really have anything to do with international relations.

2 and 3. If you go back to my example, customers don't want Shitcoin in the first place, so realistically, they would never seek to obtain it. So it isn't really the case that customers are trying to get merchants to take their Shitcoin. There just isn't any point in using it at all. The reason "bad money drives out the good" in Gresham's law is because the government puts the bad money into the economy. Absent something like that, bad money just isn't wanted and nobody keeps it. If they get it they immediately convert it to a good currency, so if it pops into existence somehow, it immediately goes out of existence. Visa and Paypal and whatnot are not different currencies. They are different payment mechanisms. I agree with you that customers and merchants would likely want to use multiple of these, and that merchants would be driven to accept all the common payment mechanisms.

This has been a worthwhile discussion and I'm sure we could keep going, but I really have to take a break from hacker news for a while. So let's call it a day. If you want to read about free markets, check out the book Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal by Ayn Rand if you haven't already.

By experience a lot of money all at once causes a boom and bust, but we can take a step back and think how much should we release at once, what combination of entities should be deciding to do the release, and while our system is currently girded against releasing too much, we may be actually suffering from systematically releasing too little money right now.

The most terrifying part:

>The final phase of Reis' scheme was to buy controlling interest in the Bank of Portugal, a step which would allow him to retroactively make his fiction about Bank approval true. With control of the bank, the entire counterfeiting could be swept under the rug, ensuring that there would never be any evidence of the fraud.

It's not an uncommon way to get rich. Eastern European privatisation after the fall of the Iron Curtain often failed after management of corporations owned by many small shareholders borrowed company money to themselves, something that is obviously almost criminal negligence, certainly something that should get you removed from management ASAP. But before the shareholders managed to do anything, the money was used to buy controling stake in the company and weak protection of rights of minority shareholders took care of the rest.

Similar schemes had been very common in Russia in late 80s-90s. And they were a lot more successful and had much larger scale than Reis - many of those carrying out such schemes later seized highest political offices of the country (and continue to remain in power).

To me the terrifying part is it nearly worked:

"Eventually they controlled 10,000 of the 45,000 shares needed for controlling interest in the bank, but publicity led Bandeira to ease off the purchases even as he sent Reis ever more inflated false reports of the number of shares they had acquired."

What's amazing is the speed of execution. He got released from prison in Aug 1924, and in Feb 1925 he had fully executed his plan.

I recommend reading up on how FED got created.

Is this something specific I'll find in https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_the_Federal_Reserve..., or do I have to add "lizard people" to the search terms?

Wikipedia article is fine. All the facts are there, if you prefer more narration I like this one: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mQUhJTxK5mA

Could you clarify a couple specific facts you're looking to point out, instead of asking us to watch a 21 minute video from some random YouTuber?

I do recommend reading about it or watching, but what I was aiming at, is that if Reis would have succeeded, it wouldn't really be much different from the system that we have in the US today and how it got created. It was done with perhaps a bit more finesse but it's basically the same thing.

edit: I can't reply below, but the text is not that long and it's about how money works which is likely relevant to you regardless of your wealth. I suppose short abstract would be that somebody with [power/money] decided to create more money out of a thin air and succeeded. FED is not responsible before congress, the president or pretty much anybody. I'm not interested in conspiracy theories. The facts are wild enough.

> FED is not responsible before congress, the president or pretty much anybody.

This is just silly.

The Fed reports to Congress twice annually. The Chair and Board of Governors are nominated by the President and confirmed by the Senate. Their authority stems from an act of Congress, which Congress can revise/repeal, and permits the removal of the Chair or Governors by the President for cause.

For an example of Congress's authority over them: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Federal_Reserve_Reform_Act_of_...

Hell, they're even subject to FOIA. https://www.federalreserve.gov/foia/about_foia.htm

Plus Congress makes the laws, which basically allows them to change the status of the FED to whatever they want.

Just check any of those hearings. Quick googles:



You can easily find more. They can just flatly refuse to provide any info and AFAIK there's still no law that would stop them. And as far as I understand there won't be any, because money is power and they create money.

Notice that I'm not saying those are some associated evil doers (or that they are not). Societies, economy, politics, it's all very complex. But I still stand by what I wrote earlier.

> They can just flatly refuse to provide any info and AFAIK there's still no law that would stop them.

So, taking your second clip as an example, Congress wrote a requirement to disclose that information into Dodd-Frank about a year after that clip was posted. It's actually a perfect example of Congress regulating the Fed, which you falsely allege is impossible.


> In accordance with the provisions of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act (Pub. L. No. 111-203), the Federal Reserve has changed its practices with respect to disclosure of discount window lending information. Effective for discount window loans (primary, secondary, and seasonal credit) extended on or after July 21, 2010, the Federal Reserve will publicly disclose the following information, generally about two years after a discount window loan is extended to a depository institution.

> The name and identifying details of the depository institution;

> The amount borrowed by the depository institution;

> The interest rate paid by the depository institution; and

> Information identifying the types and amounts of collateral pledged in connection with any discount window loan. This disclosure requirement does not apply to collateral pledged by depository institutions that do not borrow.

> And as far as I understand there won't be any, because money is power and they create money.

They create money because Congress chooses to have them create money. That's not a power they holdmover Congress, which can simply reclaim the power (which is Congress’s under the Constitution) at a whim.

Which specific items in the Wikipedia article support the idea that the two are similar?

I suppose evasiveness is its own answer, and I'm probably gonna skip the YouTube video whose comments are full of "it's the Rothschilds and Lincoln was assassinated over this!"

> Which specific items in the Wikipedia article support the idea that the two are similar?

Which items contraindicate the claim?

> Which items contraindicate the claim?

The fact that the Federal Reserve was deliberately created by an act of Congress, and the Portugal crisis was triggered a fraudster forging contracts and counterfeiting currency?

In general, when person X makes claim Y, and cites Z as evidence, if Z doesn't actually support Y, then X is presumed to not have a valid basis for claiming Y. "Z does not disprove Y" is not needed. "Z does not support Y" is enough.

What do you mean by “FED”? Do you mean “the Fed”, the Federal Reserve System?

In ancap utopia:

Step 1: Form a gang of marauders

Step 2: Rent all the courts in a village

Step 3: Rob everyone, or pollute their river or extract their resources

Step 4: Have your privately owned courts render a verdict of innocent

Step 5: Profit (because of arbitrage)

Having governments doesn’t eliminate this. Similar things are done all the time by elites in a country, or OPENLY by state capitalists extracting resources from other countries like UFC in Guatemala or BP in Iran. Except they are done systematically and no one can challenge it. Read Smedley Butler from the same time frame. Erdogan even tried to go one further and fire the entire supreme court because they may have convicted his son

Privately owned courts do not have the institutional force of the state, their decision is as strong as their reputation.

In an ancap utopia you mean? Point is that if you control the courts and police then whatever you do can be declared legal. And you can make money not necessarily lose money buying a controlling stake in all the courts and even renting them AirBNB style to your rich buddies. There are no other institutions left, that have any teeth, you bought all the major ones. If they come after you, your police will just rebuff them.

The point is people band together to create larger and more powerful organizations. But it still doesn’t solve all instances just pushes the corruption to a higher level.

The way he escalated faked credentials (the forged contract) into better credentials is great and a topic of great interest for computer security today. Using current political climate as a driver for operational security is genius.

The plan to gain control of the central bank in order to clean traces of the fraud was amazing too. How many other similar plans succeded ? Should we start looking into changes of control of similar institutions in other countries ?

I like to point that Mario Draghi, the head of the European Central Bank, with the notable task to deal with Greece's debt problem, used to be at the head of Goldman Sach's division responsible of the loans toward countries exactly at the time when Greece was cooking its books.

Also worth pointing out Mario Draghis son was also a European Sovereign Credit/Interest Rates trader at Morgan Stanley before he left to join a hedge fund a few years back. No such thing as inside information outside of equity markets! https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2017-02-08/giacomo-d...

> Should we start looking into changes of control of similar institutions in other countries ?

Where can you think of where the President elected in an extremely close election with a questionably secure voting system tried to fire the senior law enforcement officials who were investigating him?

The logical steps between this and Yanukovych and current scenarios in certain countries are very small, even if it seems like a big stretch.

This is, interestingly, not very well known in Portugal. The whole story is fascinating and the fact that he almost got away with it is very impressive.

Most people interested in national history know that the Estado Novo dictatorship was brought to power due to the increasing distrust in the first republic, but most don't know of this event, nor of the potentially very large role it had in eroding that trust.

Not very well known? It was even the subject of a TV series some years ago!


I'm portuguese and had never heard of it. That TV show is from 2001, so already a bit old. Otherwise it's not a very talked-about story.

I'm in my early 40s and I remember when it was aired, but younger people were probably watching kids TV at the time.

There were some other similar stories that made it to the TV, like Dona Branca, Capitão Roby or Ballet Rose.

I can't recommend The Man Who Stole Portugal by Murray Teigh Bloom enough. I loved this book.

The most curious aspect about all this is that he seems to have had a positive influence on the Portuguese economy. It was a sort of QE. The subsequent regime locked the Portuguese economy back into its ossified ways.

Reading the story, it seems to me that had he succeed in controling the central bank, he would be a celebrated successful businessman and Portugal would have been much better off.

I also find it interesting that the people who caused his downfalls were acting legally but, in my view, were at least as morally corrupt as him. They were poweful, rich men using their power, political ties, their journals and journalist to vilify them and acting to protect their monopolies. It just reinforces the fact that law, right and wrong are not very well tied together. They're mostly there to keep the status quo for the elite.

I had the same thought about quantitative easing. Because he used the money to make so much investment, he was single-handedly modifying Portugal's monetary policy, which, had he succeeded, may have permanently stimulated the economy. When reading about what the authorities did in the wake of his discovery, I thought, "that's exactly the kind of action you'd take if you wanted to precipitate a recession." I wonder what would have happened if they'd confiscated his ill-gotten assets but still retroactively legitimized the injection of new money, and swept the whole thing under the rug?

Reminds me of the plot of one of the episodes of Firefly.

The crew discovers (via underground connections) that a food production facility has very lax security. In this universe, the vacuum-sealed nutrient packs require authenticity much like bars of gold.

Now, they could break in, steal a few pallets and sell it on the black market - but obviously, the theft would be noticed, and the serial numbers could be noted down as contraband etc..

What they actually do is convince the night shift that they are not needed, and convince the afternoon shift that the protagonists are actually the night crew. They then produce the nutrient packs themselves and simply walk out with them.

Since the night crew never showed up, there is no mismatch with their records, since they obviously didn't produce anything.

As someone who has watched Firefly quite a few times, I don't recall this episode. The only thing that comes close is "Ariel", where they steal medical supplies off a core world hospital, but that's straight up theft.

I don't recall all the details of the film Serenity, but the plot described does not ring a bell. Are you sure it was Firefly you were thinking of?

Note: I have not read the comics, if it is one of them the plot appears.

Oh my god, I remember now that this wasn't actually canon. I'm so sorry.

This was actually from a great crossover fanfiction, "Browncoat, Green Eyes" [0].

It was so vibrant in front of my mental eye, too.

[0] https://www.fanfiction.net/s/2857962/13/Browncoat-Green-Eyes

Ridiculous History covered this recently: https://player.fm/series/series-2148552/the-portuguese-bank-...

Crazy how much he got away with, for so long, effectively just on confidence and skill.

What amazes me is that at some point he didn't try and take his winnings off the table - convert to pounds or dollars - and head for the hills.

From tfa:

"Reis then proceeded to launder the bills into gold-backed foreign currencies and smaller denominations of Portuguese currency."

So sounds like he did launder the money successfully, but he stuck around for the final part of his plot: gain a controlling share in Banco de Portugal to retroactively make his fiction become true.

I think your parent was talking about the fact that he knew he was going to be arrested and instead of fleeing like Hennies decided to fight it.

Interestingly Reis may have made the right choice: Hennies ended up dying in poverty before Reis even finished his prison term.

The only one that seems to have come out relatively unscathed was Marang, everyone else finished badly (including the printer in London).

I wonder how convertible the Escudo was at the time?

Some of his co-conspirators did successfully flee. The book epilogue interviewed them decades later.

the article says, deep in a paragraph about how he got caught, that Forex was illegal but largely ignored.

> The Angola & Metropole illegally bought foreign exchange from him at a premium (money exchange was illegal in Portugal at the time, but in fact widespread and tolerated). The ledgers of these transactions were then torn out and destroyed. Although neither the teller nor the officials at the Porto branch of the Bank of Portugal could find any evidence that the bills from the Angola & Metropole were counterfeit, the circumstances were suspicious enough that the allegation was reported to Lisbon.

I think Reis would have done much better than Hennies if he had fled; after all, Reis was a mastermind and Hennies was duped twice. (I think it's fair to absolve someone of the claim of poor investments in the late 1920s.)

Does anyone else feel it is an interesting coincidence that his name was Reis? Until 1911 that was also the name for common currency in Portugal, then replaced by Escudos at a rate of 1000:1. Is/was this a common name in Portugal?

It's a decently common surname

You can buy one of these "fake" bills for about $1300.

Guidelines | FAQ | Support | API | Security | Lists | Bookmarklet | Legal | Apply to YC | Contact