Seventy-Two Respects, To Be Precise

Posted on February 8, 2005 by Jenna

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Most banks are money banks. You go to the bank and withdraw money. Some banks are different. Blood banks, for example. They give you blood instead. You might wake up and say, “My coworkers think I’m too drab. I should get some blood splattered all over this outfit.” So you go to the blood bank on the way to work. You put your card in the ATM. You type some numbers. Then the slot in the ATM opens up. Blood sprays out. There’s a pause. More blood sprays out. There’s a pause. More blood sprays out. There’s a pause. Then some last blood dribbles on your shoes. That’s how arterial teller machines work. Afterwards, you take out your bank card and your receipt and you go to work. You will be the talk of the water cooler, and you might even get a special interview from someone in human resources! There are also milk banks. Milk banks are a great way to get milk when you don’t have any on you and there’s an emergency where you really need milk. That’s why they have them. Flower banks provide flowers. It’s okay to withdraw flowers from a flower bank if you have the right card. Sometimes the gardeners will shout when you take them but that’s all part of the flower bank service. The bank gives you flowers and gardener shouting and sometimes running exercise for you. That’s a flower bank. Finally, there are military banks.

Military banks are a recent innovation. You go to the bank and withdraw soldiers and military equipment. It is true that the soldiers and equipment are dressed in the uniform of the country where you withdraw them. It doesn’t really matter, though. With a military bank, soldiers and military technology are functionally just bits and numbers in the giant international military economy. It does not matter who they work for. You could almost call them mercenary except that that is a mean word to use about people you just withdrew from the bank.

Military banking is much superior to standing armies because it brings the innovations of finance to the military world. People who use military banks laugh at traditional armies. They say, “A standing army is like keeping your money in a jar under the bed!” It’s silly to have an army at home when you can invest your army in the international banking system and have all the banking conveniences. For example, if you have a military savings account, you can earn extra recruits through compound interest. The United States has very many soldiers, but even one soldier compounded annually for two hundred years could beat them all up. That’s a savings account. You could also have a checking account. If you have a military checking account, then you don’t need to bring your army to every war. You can sometimes just show up and write a check for your forces and the enemy looks at the check and gets very intimidated.

“Is this valid?” asks the enemy. “I mean, are you really good for 200,000 soldiers and a shock and awe invasion?”

“Yes,” you say, bluffly. You put your hands on your hips and bestride the world.

“I need to see some ID,” the enemy says. Sometimes there are many enemies and you will need to show your ID to all of them. In this scenario there is just one.

So you present your ID.

“Well,” says your enemy. “I guess we’re all dead. Unless we can fight you on some sort of installment plan.”

And that’s that!

If you have a checking account or a savings account, you can also usually withdraw soldiers at any time when you need them. They just shoot out of the slot on the ATM. It would probably be less ambiguous to say that they chute out from the slot because the other description might imply that they crouch in the machine firing at the street, and that is not a good way to have return customers.

There are other possibilities that have recently opened up because of military banking. For example, if you don’t care about force as a solution to problems, you can start buying interest in an army and then selling soldiers short. You can also buy soldiers on the margin if you think that there will be a war soon. You can profit on the exchange rates between soldiers of different countries, if you’re a sharp investor, because they are based on faith and credit and fear and not just quality and training.

Right now military banking is limited because many banks have forgotten that being nice to their customers is useful. It is bad and snotty enough when banks start giving you trouble for financial transactions but when each teller and each bank executive has a drawer filled with one hundred highly-trained killing machines they are less likely to extend courtesy.

In addition, the military is notoriously conservative, so they resist the update to modern military banking.

“If we switch to military banking,” declares General M, “then troops won’t be loyal to the country any more. How could they be? At any moment, they could be electronically transferred anywhere in the world, converted for a slight fee into the soldier of some other nation, and then used to fight for whoever has a good ATM card.”

This is not actually what would happen, because people and bits are not fungible in this manner, but he has a point. However, Generals like General M (and also Generals P-Z) care too much about loyal soldiers. Some psychologists think that even if soldiers had no loyalties they would still run around killing the enemy because when you’re at war it just seems like the thing to do. Others think that if soldiers had no loyalties they’d just chat and decide who’d win, much like people do in Internet debates, because that’s even easier than actually fighting and they don’t have to get out of their chairs. Either way, the countries who hire them get more or less the results they’d expect for the equivalent investment of force.

This is not to say that there are no problems with the military banking system. They are just modern problems. For example, one of the ATMs could break and start spitting out soldiers all over the street. Then people could run around drafting them and shouting, “I’m forceful! I’m forceful! I’m a new military power!” and become a street filled with competing warlords like in Somalia. That is one possible problem. There are other possible problems too. For example, banking executives are not entirely reliable. If a bank collapses due to military embezzlement, perhaps because someone constructed a junta to take over a small South American country and then defaulted on returning the soldiers, as bank executives are wont to do, then the government probably has to bail the system out. Since extra soldiers might not be available, the people would have to pay the price tag. The government would collect extra security guards and watchdogs and unlikely heroes from the private sector. It would look like this.

Joe Block, an unlikely hero, a man who has some military experience in his past but now mostly wants to sit around smoking salmon and shouting at kids from his porch, sits on his porch with his dog. Suddenly, government agents arrive. “I’m afraid,” say the government agents, “that we’re going to have to assess you a value of 72 soldiers, because that’s about how many you could kill in a typical gritty action movie before you finally kissed the girl.”

“Ruff!” barks the dog.

Joe just looks interested, ’cause this is the first time he’s heard about the girl.

“The dog is only worth 3 soldiers,” the agents assess, “two of whom would die due to a slapstick accident that leaves them helpless as it advances.”

“Ruff,” says the dog, disappointed. It is considered only 1/24 as deadly as the man it protects. That’s like trying to protect a whole day and hearing that you’re really only up for 2am—it’s very disappointing.

“So we’re going to take you to the vault,” the government agents say, “and use you to bail out Mr. Simons, who risked the stability of the military economy by engaging in fraudulent usury.”

“Not simony?” Joe asks, just to check, because the man’s name is Mr. Simons.

“No, sir. Usury.”

“Okay,” says Joe. He sets his jaw. It looks like a block. “Let’s go.”

So they would haul him away and haul the dog away and use them to bail out the system. Which sounds okay, but what if there’s a gritty action movie later and Joe Block just isn’t there? The explosions, deaths, and dialogue in the movie would be extremely inexplicable and possibly even surreal due to the absence of the protagonist.

“Oh my God,” an extra will say. “He’s still alive.”

There will be a shot.

The extra will fall down.

The camera will swivel to look at the gunman. But there’ll be nobody there. There’ll just be a wall and a sink and a print of a painting by Monet of some water lilies, and they will be, no matter how good the camera man is, somewhat fuzzy.

Also the scenes with the absent dog will make no sense.

Sometime you should try watching Die Hard and imagining that Bruce Willis and his immediate actions, but not their consequences, have been digitally edited out. It is a very different movie, in many respects.