Tuesday, 1 May 2018


Naked Capitalism features an engrossing and thought-provoking interview with economist and professor Michael Hudson on what ancient civilisations can teach us about how we frame debt, poverty and opportunity. As the tradition of burying a ruler with their material wealth was tool of social justice as much as the belief such grave goods were useful for the afterlife, debt-forgiveness was a common institution in Western Antiquity—although money or labour in abeyance was generally to the ruler himself or a cadre of wealthy aristocrats who could absorb sunk costs readily and could dispense a bit of kindness by writing debt off.

Peer-to-peer exchanges were enforced but the ruling class was interested (it’s conjectured) with keeping their labour and defensive forces free of crippling obligations or indentured to some intermediary. With the rise of the merchant class and the decentralisation of economies, there were more and more in the game that could not afford not to be paid and Rome became the first major civilisation not to continue in the tradition. In hoc to creditors over the Republic’s rapid expansion and broad network of trade, a century of civil war (the crisis of the Republic that resulted in Imperium) followed from this decision, punctuated over the decades by the systematic assassination of advocates for a return to practise of debt-forgiveness, Christianity being one of the chief proponents until the Empire realised it could not suppress the message directly, co-opted the Church’s organisation and hierarchy.