The 2008 financial meltdown was caused in large part by the bundling together of toxic mortgages which were then sold and re-sold all over the world. It was Monopoly money—there was nothing of value to back the securitized mortgages up. The inevitable crash was a result of the rapid shift of capital from actual production of things to making money from money. While this phenomenon was greatly accelerated by the development of computerized technology, its roots go back much further.
In The American Slave Coast, Ned and Constance Sublette write:
“Louisiana, the commercial giant of the South, created a new way of financing plantation agriculture: the property bank. After the Louisiana legislature chartered a bank called the Consolidated Association of the Planters of Louisiana in 1827….that bank began to bundle mortgages—largely collateralized, as were most Southern mortgages, by slaves. Shored up by a guarantee from the state of Louisiana, the bank began to sell bonds in the financial capitals of the North, and in England and Europe. Edward E. Baptist writes that ‘a British bank could now sell a completely commodified slave: not a particular individual who could die or run away, but a bond that was the right to a one-slave-sized slice of a pie made from the income of thousands of slaves.’ Florida, Alabama, and Mississippi followed suit.”
This form of profiteering eventually took root on Wall Street, where the 21st century bundling of mortgages was begun by J.P. Morgan. In 2011, J.P. Morgan donated $4.6 million of the money they made to the New York City Police Department, an entity which harasses, beats, and frequently kills the descendants of slaves who once upon a time were the unwitting pioneers of bundled financial instruments.