America’s First Bond Market Was Backed By Enslaved Human Beings


That might have been a helpful thing to understand when I started my journalism career as a news assistant on the Reuters bond markets workplace back in 2001.

A bit by Princeton sociologist Matthew Desmond draws a direct and profoundly compelling connection between today’s enormous global marketplace for bonds backed by everything from mortgages to lottery tickets to the U.S. market ‘s slavery-founded beginnings.

The level of mortal elegance within this callous system was a testament to its premeditated and coordinated character. This was already a globalized, in case all-too-primitive, monetary system.

Global financial markets got in on the action, Desmond says.

When Thomas Jefferson mortgaged his enslaved employees, it was a Dutch firm that put up the collateral. Most of the credit powering the American slave economy came in the London money market. Now, why would any of the mind-blowing history been useful when I was reporting on financial markets in the early 2000s? For starters, it might have made me a better human being.

More importantly, as Desmond notes, some of the very same mechanics were at work then as underpinned the slave-based economy. Contemplate a Wall Street tool as modern sounding as collateralized debt obligations CDOs, those ticking time bombs backed by inflated home prices in the 2000s. The similarity doesn’t end there: Each product created massive fortunes for the few before blowing the market.

Every dealer ought to be aware of that. So should every single student of fund.


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