1636 The Viennese Waltz – Snippet 18
Uriel nodded. “I agree. But that was then, and this is now. Now everyone knows that up-timers can create money and that money is good. I think as long as you didn’t increase the money supply too much, just Sarah Wendell von Up-time would be enough to provide credibility.”
“I hate that expression,” Sarah said, referring to the “von Up-time.” It was a tag that the Daily News had put on up-timers with an op-ed piece that claimed that they were the true nobility. And it was becoming fairly popular with some up-timers and a lot of down-timers. “And, like I said before, I am not looking for a job. Besides, even if the person you get to head your bank were an up-timer, even if it was Coleman Walker or my dad, it wouldn’t make any difference if everyone thought the king could order them to print more money.”
Uriel and Morris were both nodding. Uriel said, “It must be arranged so that the continued value of the money is given precedence over the short-term gain from just adding more.”
“And it must be seen that that is the case,” Sarah said. “Your Majesty, you need someone that people will trust and who will argue with you. Publicly.”
By now King Al was looking at Morris Roth. Don Morris shook his head. “I’m too closely associated with you, Your Majesty. I’m not sure people would accept my independence.”
“What about Dame Judith?” Uriel Abrabanel was grinning like a Cheshire cat.
“Fine. But you tell her!” Morris Roth snorted in return.
“Actually, that’s not a bad idea.” Karl looked Morris Roth in the eye. “She is both an up-timer and Jewish. And prejudice works for us here. Everyone knows that the up-timer money is better than silver and everyone knows that Jews are tight with money. If none of the money goes to her, and if the Abrabanels support her, the rest of the Jewish community will too. It could work quite well. Especially if Don Morris were to publicly complain about the appointment, because he doesn’t want to be caught in the middle when Your Majesty and his stubborn wife butt heads.”
“You’re crazy. I don’t know a thing about monetary policy and Judith knows even less. Well, not much more, anyway.”
“What she doesn’t know, she can learn,” Uriel said. He wasn’t laughing now. “And she will have excellent advisors. What we have learned about monetary theory from the up-timers’ books is valuable, but the truth is that no true economists came back in the Ring of Fire, with all due respect to Sarah here. By now members of my extended family know as much or more about how money works as any up-timer does. What we need is the belief in money, and that your wife can provide simply because she is an up-timer. Prince Karl is quite correct, and it has other advantages as well. A Jewish woman with a position of great authority will be another assurance that Your Majesty means it when you say that Jews will be treated equally in your kingdom. Both for the Jews and for the Gentiles, and it will set a valuable precedent for women in the Jewish community.”
Morris Roth was clearly looking for a good reason to squash the idea, but it was equally clear that he wasn’t finding one that would hold water. “Fine. You tell her,” he said again.
“I’ll tell her,” King Al said. “In the meantime, Prince, tell us about this Liechtenstein Industrialization Corporation of yours.”
Over the next few days they talked about what railroads, even wooden railroads, and other bits of advanced tech would do for the Liechtenstein lands in Bohemia, Moravia and Silesia. As Karl had expected, King Al didn’t really have a problem with what Karl wanted to do. What he wanted was a public swearing of fealty that included Gundaker von Liechtenstein’s domains of Kromau and Ostra. Which is sure to thrill Uncle Gundaker, Karl thought sardonically. “Why Ostra, Your Majesty?”
“If Ferdinand insists that he can grant Kromau in Moravia, I can grant Ostra in Hungary.” King Al gave Karl a cold little smile. “I imagine that when it’s finally settled, your uncle will end up with Ostra and you’ll keep Kromau.” As it worked out, the part about Ostra was mumbled a bit in the swearing and buried in the fine print in the documents, but that was at King Al’s insistence. “I don’t want to make a big thing of it. It’s just a negotiating ploy to let Ferdinand save a bit of face when he finally acknowledges that I rule Bohemia and Moravia.”
Roth House, Prague
“He wants me to do what?” Judith Roth looked stunned and Sarah tried not to smile. They were in the Roth’s huge salon. There were etchings on the walls and conversation nooks scattered around the walls.
“It wasn’t my idea.” Morris walked over to a down-time made recliner. “On the other hand, their reasoning was fairly sound.”
“I don’t know anything about running a federal reserve.”
“You probably don’t want a federal reserve system.” Sarah looked around trying to figure out where to sit. “We have a modified one in the USE, because we got it from the SoTF, which got it from the New US, which got it from the USA up-time. And the up-time Fed was a disorganized mess which was developed out of a compromise between a whole bunch of people with very strong opinions about monetary policy and not a lot of understanding of it. It’s a mare’s nest of conflicting regulations. You probably want something closer to a Bank of England system, with the government owning a lot of non-voting interest in the bank. Interest that can’t be sold or borrowed against, but just pays dividends when the bank makes a profit.”
“So why aren’t you . . . ?” Mrs. Roth waved Sarah to a couch.
“I don’t live here, Mrs. Roth,” Sarah said. “I can help you set it up while I’m here, but not do it for you.”
“I don’t even know what we should call our money.”
“Dollars or thalers is probably simplest. I wouldn’t call them Albrechts or Wallensteins,” Sarah said, then she grinned. “You could go all science fictiony and call them credits.”
Judith shuddered. “Not the way the Catholic church feels about usury. I think just ‘Bohemian dollars’ will be best.”
“So how many dollars to a HRE thaler?” Sarah asked.
“Shouldn’t we just let it float?” Judith Roth asked.
“Yes, certainly. But a big part of your job will be to help set the value by controlling how many Bohem–” Sarah grinned. “–‘boys’ are in circulation.”
Judith Roth wasn’t pleased to be appointed to head the Bohemian National Bank, but Bohemia did need money that people would have faith in.
As it turned out, Sarah had plenty of time to work with Judith Roth and Uriel Abrabanel on designing the structure of the new national bank of Bohemia. Enough time for King Albrecht von Wallenstein to yield his right to create money to the bank, in the interest of a stable and prosperous nation. She had the time, because it took a while for Karl to arrange the visit to his aunt in Cieszyn.