compassion, collaboration & cooperation iN transistion
We’ve been to the moon; were on the verge of artificially creating life, yet we have made almost no progress on a question which most societies considered a great danger – a destroyer of nations - the question of usury.
What should civilized society’s attitude be toward usury?
“Before the introduction of coined money the peasant farmer borrowed
commodities and repaid the loan in kind, and … was probably able to
meet the obligation without great difficulty; but after the introduction of
coined money the situation became decidedly more difficult…he must
take a loan of money to purchase his necessary supplies at a time when
money was cheap and commodities dear. When a year of plenty came
and he undertook to repay the loan, commodities were cheap and money
was dear.” - Professor Clahoun
Unable to get out of debt, eventually bad weather or a poor harvest would
bring foreclosure on their land and even bind them into slavery. This
enslavement grew to crisis proportions, when Solon came to Athens
rescue with his “Seisachtheia” or “shaking off” of burdens. Personal slavery
was no longer allowed as security for debts. He canceled such existing debt
contracts; and gave back land which had been seized. Farmers who had
been sold into slavery abroad by those to whom they owed money were
“bought” back and returned to Athens.
Several Hundred Years Later Aristotle (384-322 Bc) Formulated The Classical View Against Usury. Aristotle understood that money is sterile; it doesn’t beget more money the way cows beget more cows.
He knew that “Money exists not by nature but by law”
SO WE RETURN TO OUR INITIAL QUESTION: How should civilized society view usury?
First I think we have to admit that we don’t have the full answer. But we do know parts
of it. We can see from Whipple’s example the impossibility of long term usury. Lets
reconsider some ideas from past wisdom on the matter. Don’t allow the interest to
ever exceed the principle. Ban compound interest. Require that the interest taker
be undertaking some real risk.
As far as a complete ban on usury, I’m not sure that is the answer either. I expect that
loans will continue to be made and interest will continue to be charged. But the
cannibalism as exists in the present system must stop. Perhaps we should remember
Solon’s great admonition in viewing this question:
Nothing too much – all things in moderation
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