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      I’ve been reading UltraSociety, by Peter Turchin. Turchin’s a biologist turned to mathematical models of human society, and he’s done interesting work, not all of which I agree with (or agree is quite as radical as he claims.) But one of the points he makes in UltraSociety, which has been made by many archeologists and […]
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Before there was email…

Robert Clive sells the Indians some mortgage backed securities

Atrios had a post yesterday about an article in The Atlantic about the lying bastards mortgage executives at Bear Stearns.  As early as 2005, they knew that the mortgage backed securities they were selling were worthless, going so far as to call one of them “a sack of shit” in an email.

Surely, SURELY, this kind of careless, ruthless, greedy, fraudulent behavior is not unique to the 20th century.  But it’s hard to find a smoking email that demonstrates the crass opportunism and outright theft, resulting in a bonanza for the money makers and shit sandwiches for the little guy.

Oddly enough, at least one such piece of correspondence does exist.  Brooke brought it to my attention because the archaic language and formalities were driving her to distraction and she asked me to help her figure out what it meant.  Such innocence.  Even teenagers don’t know graft, corruption, bigotry and exploitation when they read it.

The document in question was a letter from Robert Clive (1725-1774), representative of the British East India Company.  to William Pitt, Representative of the British government.  Clive was a military guy in service to the Company who had just whupped the ass of one of the last Moghul emperors of India at the Battle of Plassey (my high school history is sketchy.  I missed this in the three high schools I went to.  Go figure.  The long and the short of it is that the Moghul emperors had gotten soft and let their viziers run things.  Although the Brits were ridiculously outnumbered, they made some local allies and overthrew the emperor.  Then, Clive started kicking the tires on the country he just won, after being confined for a century in a little corner.  He was writing to Pitt about a business opportunity.  You can go read it yourself but I will attempt to translate it into modern Wall Street financier email speak:

To: William Pitt

From: Robert Clive

Subject: Private IPO on India

Hi Bill, howz it going?  Hot as hell down here.  I know you want to be kept in the loop and you won’t believe this shit here in India.  Dude, you know I don’t lie (well, not to you) and you will not believe the market here.  I checked it out myself.

I kicked ass and took names at Plassey.  Everyone knows my name these days.  The Company is in great shape but I’m looking to the future and there’s a fortune to be made here.  I’m not shitting you.  The Company is holding things together for the moment.  I had to get them to send more guys here. But I could use your help.  I don’t think there will be any trouble and from the looks of the idiots who live here, it won’t be long before we own the whole damn country.  The local we put in charge after Plassey is a slippery dude.  He’s dicking around with his own guys.  Zero loyalty.  His kid is a son of a bitch asshole.  No one likes him.  So, we won’t need the whole fucking army.  Just a couple thousand Blackwater guys should keep things under wraps.  Can you hook me up with Eric Prince?

I don’t think the natives will go native.  (That’s a joke, son)  The Moghul dude has let the place go to Haiti.  If your stuff isn’t tied down, someone’s going to run off with it and there’s nobody running the show.  Fuck, they can steal your fucking house and there’s nothing you can do about it.  The cops are are always at the tea shop.  It’s like the fucking Wild West.  What’s theirs is theirs and what’s yours is theirs.  If you visit, make sure you GPS your laptop.  Anyway, the COO says the head honcho will go away if we can collect the money the other governors are supposed to send.  But the COO and I have come to a little agreement that the Company will pay it instead and in return we’ll govern the stupid fuckers.   What does the Company know about governing?  Shit if I know.  But look what those American idiots did when they elected that Obama guy.  I mean, what did *he* know about running a country?  But it doesn’t really matter. After the Moghul dude, we look like fucking angels.  As long as we’re the new sheriff in town and enforcing the law, we’re golden.

But the Company can’t do this alone.  That’s why I’m emailing you with this opportunity.  Can you get a meeting with your home office?  If the government wants to move in and run this show, I guarantee the Moghul won’t care as long as we continue to keep him in the manner to which he has become accustomed. (Where did I read that?  Maybe it was Pride, Prejudice and Zombies)  The rest we can split for ourselves.  The natives are sitting on a silver mine and don’t even know it.  We just help ourselves. And if the Moghul is happy, we get an exclusive.  It’s like a private IPO on India, dude.  The whole fucking subcontinent and we can totally lock out France and Holland and the rest of Europe.

The Company is chasing the Frogs out of Deccan as I’m typing this.  This is the big one, Bill.  I’m getting hard just thinking about it.  So, let me know when you can jump in.

Yadayadayada,

Bob

PS.  Send me some raw steak.  All they eat is rabbit food down here.  I’m going to puke if I have to eat another samosa.

And the rest, as they say, is history.

Which periodically repeats itself.  The secret email we should be looking for was titled, “Private IPO for America” and was written some time in 2007.

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