With Mark and Tamara in close confinement, the Star-cruiser sped through the dark recesses of hyper-space until it emerged into sub-light speed a short distance from the Corrugate system.
The planet of Corrugate, lying as it did at the geographical heart of the galaxy, had long been recognised as the galaxy's political centre, even before the Empire formalised its position and renamed it Imperial Capital.
It was the sort of name that only an unimaginative bureaucrat could dream up, and only then after a long series of committee meetings and consultation papers. It was well suited for the capital of the Empire.
Here every major corporation had its working heart, the departments of Imperial Government had their headquarters, the planets of the Empire had their trade and public relations missions. Universities and research facilities, both public and private, had their sprawling campuses here, and the Emperor ruled all from his vast palace.
Nothing was manufactured in the Imperial Capital. Nothing was grown, or mined, or generated. Everything had to be shipped in, sucked in indeed, by the fleets of freighters that supplied the planet and its people with all their material needs.
There was only one thing over which the Imperial Capital concerned itself and that one thing was information. At every level, from the smallest software creator to the Emperor himself, every one in the Imperial Capital was devoted to finding, storing, analysing, managing, enabling and generally dealing with information, whether it was academic, business, administrative or political. Information gave those who had it power over those who did not.
The Star-cruiser moved into geo-stationary orbit around the planet. It was tethered to a mooring satellite that moved around the planet a thousand kilometres from its surface. Under the close personal guard of Lord Bader and his hand-picked squad of Stormtroopers and diplomatic staff, Mark and Tamara found themselves ensconced in a small capsule that shot down the space-elevator tube at Mach 3.
Within the hour, they were inside the Emperor's private quarters. Red-cloaked guards of the Imperial Bodyguard stood around gazing at the newcomers with eyes hidden by all-enveloping helmets and masks. Presently a door opened and the brother and sister were led inside.
The figure whom they had seen before, covered with his loose black cloak, sat on the high-backed leather-cushioned swivel chair that stood upon the small dais. Lord Bader strode forward and went down on one knee.
"I bring you the Queen Tamara and the Prince Marco of Aldershott, My Master."
"You have done well, Lord Bader."
Bader stayed kneeling.
"I said you have done well, Lord Bader. You may rise."
"Thank you, My Master, but my legs are stuck. I think the ankle joints need oiling."
The Emperor summoned a couple of guards to rise the Lord Bader to his full magnificent height. Then the Master of the Galaxy turned his attention on his prisoners. He beckoned them forward with a gnarled finger.
"We meet again," he rasped. "What have you to say?"
"Hello," said Mark.
"Hello," said Tamara.
"Hmm. You have caused me much trouble in seeking you out."
"Then why not just leave us alone?"
"Alone? I am the Emperor. I cannot have my subjects going about the Empire creating money out of thin air. It will cause no end of trouble."
"But you did not remove the legal-tender status of Aldershott shillings."
"No. I cannot... People are sentimental fools. The name of Aldershott provokes emotions that I cannot... need not arouse. Better let it fade away without too much fuss."
"But you do not prevent the Credit Masters from creating money, billions of Credits worth."
"Credit Masters?! The Credit Masters are long gone!"
"No, not gone! They turned to the dark side and set up the banks and finance houses of the Empire."
"Did they? Like your father?"
"Yes, like my father. Every time they lend money, to the Imperial government, to planetary governments, to businesses or to individuals, they do not lend actual money. They create the money, out of thin air. They create a credit. They lend their borrowers a credit, who spend it with someone else who pays it into their own bank. No money exists, it is just numbers in computers, being passed around."
"But the financiers lend me money to pay for the Imperial battle-fleet. They pay to keep the Empire in being," said the Emperor. "Your father most particularly."
"They do not pay. The people who pay are the ordinary people who have to work hard to pay the taxes that pay for these credits, to pay the interest on them, an interest that keeps growing as ever more of this spurious money is borrowed. And the people do not like high taxes, not when they are also heavily in debt themselves. Some planets are so heavily in debt that rebellion is their only serious option... was their only serious option. Now they look to us with a new hope."
"Rebellion will be crushed, and I will be glorious in victory."
"Rebellion, once it starts, will involve the whole galaxy. You will be left with nothing to fight it with!"
"You are insolent!"
"I am honest!"
"You are trying to wrest this Empire from my control. Yes, I see it all now. Yes, you plan to buy up this Empire with your wretched shillings!"
"We are trying to stop war!"
"By paying money to rebellious planets?"
"Not yet rebellious. None have yet rebelled, have they?. We offer them hope. Why don't you?"
"Why do you not assume the right and responsibility of issuing the galaxy's money? The privilege of creating and issuing money is not only the supreme prerogative of government, but it is the government's greatest creative opportunity. By the adoption of these principles, the taxpayers will be saved immense sums of interest."
"Who said that?"
"I just did. Whoever creates and controls the money supply has the ultimate power, for today that is the ultimate Source of power. You are the Emperor. That power should be yours."
The Emperor shifted uneasily.
"It should, yes, but... we never did economics at my school..."
"That's it, is it?" asked an astonished Mark. "You abandon your rights and responsibilities on matters economic because you think that it is a difficult subject?"
"Yes, " admitted the Emperor.
Mark threw up his hands, clasped his head and sighed aloud. The Emperor watched him, and realised that he was quite embarrassed.
"There is no need to get all dramatic," the Master of the Galaxy chided the boy in front of him, trying to re-assert himself.
Mark tried not to laugh. Then he tried to think of how to begin a suitable explanation. He glanced at his sister.
"Do you have anywhere we could sit down and discuss this, My Master. Maybe over a drink or something?" Tamara asked.
"You acknowledge me as your Emperor?" gasped the Emperor.
"Sure, why not? And a guy like you is bound to have a drinks cabinet somewhere handy."
The Emperor, as Mark and Tamara discovered, liked to eat black olives with his cocktails. They also discovered that like very many able and ambitious people, he was not very good with numbers, but was scared stiff to admit the fact. So over the years he had been putty in the hands of the bankers and financiers who had flocked around him, with their complicated formulas, their obscure jargon, their graphs and statistics, their grave and serious countenances and their offers of credit for the Empire.
Sitting around the Emperor's coffee table, with Lord Bader ensconced in a wheelchair whilst his dodgy legs were fixed, they sipped their cocktails and picked at their olives. Mark and Tamara briefly ran through all that a galactic leader needed to know about money to run a successful economy.
They explained how it was that money was a purely artificial creation. That it had to be deliberately created and fed into an economy to make the economy work. That just the right amount was needed. Too much would result in inflation, too little in stagnation, but that money was not created by economic activity per se.
They explained how any source of money creation, other than that created for the benefit of the public purse, would effectively mean that a section of the economy would end up being subsidised by the rest, creating a shortage of the brightest personnel in more important industries and services.
They talked about how, if money was created as a debt, that debt could never be repaid, as the amount of money needed to repay the debt would always be greater than the amount created. So the debt would grow and be inherited by future generations.
They showed how, if the money supply was only influenced by changing base lending rates, the net result would be a wobbly economy, forever lurching between boom and bust.
They further explained that, when banks and financiers created money out of nothing when they extended credit to borrowers, they were apt to be very cavalier, lending money to those who could barely afford to repay the money and whose use for the money was not soundly based.
They explained how inflation was caused by too much money chasing too few goods and services, and that debt-based money was inherently inflationary as more and more had to be created just to pay the growing interest charges, even above and beyond the natural growth in economic activity.
They concluded by explaining how fiat money did not need to consist of notes and coins, but could be created as computer-records or ledger-book entries. It was money created by the state for the benefit of the people, and it would mean that taxes could be kept low both for the present and in the future. A population that enjoyed low taxes, full employment, good public services, would have little cause for rebellion, so spending on security could be kept to a minimum as well.
Furthermore, provided that it was limited to being a means of paying for new capital projects or to pay off existing debts, it would have no inflationary effect.
The Emperor tried to absorb as much of this as he could, and he had his aides taking notes. Yet it was not easy to understand it all in one go and he was thankful when Mark and Tamara finally finished.
"So if we put these ideas into action, you say that there won't be any need for huge battle-fleets of Star-cruisers, squadrons of Bow-fighters, or battalions of Stormtroopers with their walking, elephant-like transports?" asked the Emperor at length.
"No, My Master."
"Not even a Debt Star?"
"It's not very glorious, is it?" grumbled the Emperor.
"But it will be good for the Health Service," Lord Bader reminded him, considering his own inadequate prosthetic legs. "And with this government-created money reducing costs elsewhere, it will enable a good pension to be paid to wounded war heroes."