In the first half of the second chapter of Making Money, this is the biggest, messiest disaster imaginable, and I feel like it still doesn’t properly describe this. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to read Discworld.
So, I made this point on video, but I wanted to open this with the same thought. In a few ways, this journey is paralleling some of what Moist went through in Going Postal. But I don’t mean that as a criticism that this is repetitive, because it’s not. Oh, no, this is perhaps an even more insidious disaster because, technically speaking, it works. The Post Office had been abandoned, the main building was left in ruins, and both Groat and Stanley were vestiges of its former glory. It barely functioned at all.
The Bank and the Mint do function, and they certainly have customers, though I’ll speak more on that at the end. So it’s not that the Mint doesn’t operate or that the building has fallen apart. Rather, through multiple “traditions” and countless strict policies, the Mint has not updated how it is run in hundreds of years. And its policies make a weird sense, or, as Pratchett puts it, there’s an “illogical logic” to them, but that doesn’t mean that this is how it should run in perpetuity. So, let’s talk about the Royal Mint, because holy shit, does Moist have his work cut out for him. I’m going to loop back around to the gold thing at the end for a reason, which means we gotta start with this:
Its main hall was three stories high, and picked up some gray daylight from the rows of barred windows. And, in terms of primary architecture, that was it. Everything else was sheds.
I’m gonna go out on a limb here and say that a random assortment of sheds is not a sound business plan? Or safety plan? Oh my gods, the whole time I was reading this, I kept thinking about how dangerous that room would be if it caught on fire??? One thing Pratchett does masterfully well here is convey how dank and sad this place is. It is the idea of a rut writ large in a massive room. These people have done this job one way their whole lives (or for eighteen generations, in the case of Mr. Shady the Eighteenth), and there’s never been a single attempt to ever try anything different. That includes wages, and that includes the absolutely UNNECESSARY way in which money is made. Look, I did find something cool in Mr. Bent’s assertion that coins were valuable in part because they could be reused so many times. (That also made me want to apply hand sanitizer, but whatever.) I get why they existed and continue to exist… sort of. I’m interested in how coins or the existence of them benefit the poor, too, so I don’t know if there were any studies done possible side affects of Canada’s decision to stop minting the one-cent coin. (It wasn’t all coins, as I had said on video.)
However, once Shady detailed all the coins they made and how many of them cost more to produce than they were ever worth, this was… absurd!!! Why??? are you even making them like that? And then Moist finds out that there are families around the city who also make coins—they’re called outworkers—and that the only security around this process is the threat of execution by hanging. THAT’S IT. Which is both grossly excessive and NOT NEARLY ENOUGH. Apparently, both Bent and Shady believe that these families are loyal enough that they aren’t stealing, but… y’all, this is a bad, bad idea. Couldn’t someone easily take advantage of anyone who had the knowledge of how to produce coins? Let’s assume I’m wrong and that, in this case, Bent is correct. That means he utilizes a system of terror in order to run security. Any possible misdeed is met with a hanging, right? Or does the worker who is on the security shift actually do anything? (Something tells me that truncheon hasn’t ever been used, except for maybe swatting at flies.)
But here’s my other major worry. Yes, the Royal Mint is not a well-oiled machine, but it is a machine nonetheless. What of the other people working it? There is no glamour in making money, and Pratchett paints a portrait of misery here. These workers don’t seem happy, they don’t seem to have experienced any financial success, and Bent seems perfectly fine with this arrangement. So let’s focus on his words about gold for a moment:
“It is the one true metal, pure and unsullied,” said Bent. His left eye twitched. “It is the metal that never fell from grace.”
Bent fascinates me. For a man so obsessed with perfection, why is he okay with the haphazard and imperfect state of the Mint itself? Or does this speak to Bent’s view of people? Because I can’t forget that Vetinari warned that the Bank was flawed due to trappings of wealth and class, and I wonder if Bent’s bizarre worship of gold is meant as commentary on this sort of thing. Does he believe the world is ordered and perfect when everyone is in their right place? Did he come from a world that was, to his eyes, imperfect? This feels like something more than just a financier’s obsession with the gold standard, you know?
I am… very hesitant to meet the current chairman. Oh, no.
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