Occupy Wall Street protests span four continents now and it’s not just average folks frustrated with the global financial system and leadership – it’s economists too. Dr. Steve Keen, professor and economist, spoke at Occupy Sydney saying that the protests all over the world show economic models have failed. It’s time to forgive the debt, time for a jubilee.
As President Obama prepares to outline a deficit-reduction plan that includes tax increases, as well as cuts to programs such as Medicare and Medicaid, anthropologist David Graeber proposes a radical solution: cancel the debt of the nation’s poor. Amy Goodman interviews David Graeber on Democracy Now.
Here is an excerpt from the transcript:
AMY GOODMAN: David Graeber, talk about debt cancellation.
DAVID GRAEBER: Well, one of the things that I discovered in researching my book is that the kind of debt crisis we’re experiencing now, being a real debt crisis, which is a debt crisis that affects ordinary people, debts between the very wealthy or between governments can always be renegotiated and always have been throughout world history. They’re not anything set in stone. It’s, generally speaking, when you have debts owed by the poor to the rich that suddenly debts become a sacred obligation, more important than anything else. The idea of renegotiating them becomes unthinkable. In the past, though, there have been mechanisms, when things get to a point of real social crisis, that have always existed. And they vary by the period of history. In the ancient Middle East, often new kings would simply declare a clean slate and cancel all debts, or all consumer debts, commercial debts, between merchants were often left alone. The Jubilee was a way of institutionalizing that. In the Middle Ages, there were bans on interest taking entirely. There have been many mechanisms.
Interview with Dr. David Graeber, professor of anthropology at Goldsmiths College, University of London on his book – Debt: The First 5000 years. How the concepts of debt and credit have defined human history and what this means for our current credit crisis…
Every economics textbook says the same thing: Money was invented to replace onerous and complicated barter systems—to relieve ancient people from having to haul their goods to market. The problem with this version of history? There’s not a shred of evidence to support it.
Here anthropologist David Graeber presents a stunning reversal of conventional wisdom. He shows that for more than 5,000 years, since the beginnings of the first agrarian empires, humans have used elaborate credit systems to buy and sell goods—that is, long before the invention of coins or cash. It is in this era, Graeber argues, that we also first encounter a society divided into debtors and creditors.
Graeber shows that arguments about debt and debt forgiveness have been at the center of political debates from Italy to China, as well as sparking innumerable insurrections. He also brilliantly demonstrates that the language of the ancient works of law and religion (words like “guilt,” “sin,” and “redemption”) derive in large part from ancient debates about debt, and shape even our most basic ideas of right and wrong. We are still fighting these battles today without knowing it.
Debt: The First 5,000 Years is a fascinating chronicle of this little known history—as well as how it has defined human history, and what it means for the credit crisis of the present day and the future of our economy.
The world economy is doomed to spiral downwards until we do 2 things: outlaw government borrowing; 2. outlaw fractional reserve lending. Banks should only be allowed to lend out money they actually have and nations do not have to run up a “National Debt”. Remember: It’s not what backs the money, it’s who controls its quantity.