Debt: The First 5000 YearsSubmitted by Crabacado on Tue, 10/15/2013 - 07:35
Debt: The First 5000 Years
by David Graeber
I stumbled across this book while I was reading something online.
With 145 reviews on Amazon and over 4 stars, obviously, it's a pretty good read.
I haven't read it yet, but it's now on my 'must read' list.
Here's some very interesting excerpts from Wiki:
-Graeber analyzes the function of debt in human history. He traces the history of debt from ancient civilizations to our modern-day economic crises, arguing that debt has often driven revolutions and social and political changes.
-Graeber lays out the historical development of the idea of debt, starting from the first recorded debt systems that existed in the Sumer civilization around 3500 BC. In this early form of borrowing and lending, farmers would often become so mired in debt that their children would be forced into debt peonage.
-One feature first observed in this period, though – that of popular indebtedness leading to unrest, insurrections, and revolts – will accompany the narrative of the whole book as it deals with the origins of the state, money, interest, taxation, and slavery.
-The author postulates the growth of a "military-coinage-slave complex" around this time, through which mercenary armies looted cities and human beings were cut from their social context to work as slaves in Greece, Rome, and elsewhere in the Eurasian continent.
-The extreme violence of the period marked by the rise of great empires in China, India, and the Mediterranean was, in this way, connected with the advent of large-scale slavery and the use of coins to pay soldiers, together with the obligation enforced by the State for its subjects to pay its taxes in currency. This was also the same time that the great religions spread out and the general questions of philosophical enquiry emerged on world history.
-When the great empires in Rome and India collapsed, the resulting creation of a checkerboard of small kingdoms and republics saw the gradual decline in standing armies and cities, as well as the settlement of the lower classes through various hierarchical caste systems, the retreat of gold and silver to the temples and the abolition of slavery.
-According to Graeber, it was the Islamic "western" tradition of free market and commerce outside of governmental intervention that inspired the original formulation of Adam Smith, whose writing seems to repeat ipsis litteris the words of Persian scholars like Al-Tusi and Al-Ghazali.
-It took the emergence of the Atlantic slave trade and the massive amounts of gold and silver extracted from the Americas - most of which ended up in the far East, especially China - to see the reemergence of the bullion economy and large-scale military violence. All of these developments, according to Graeber, directly intertwined with the earlier expansion of the Italian mercantile city-states as centers of finance that defied the church ban on usury and led to the age of the great capitalist empires that endured and prospered for the next 500 years.
-This age would have come to an end with the abandonment of the gold standard by the U.S. government in 1971 and a return to credit money, opening up uncertainties and possibilities yet unclear as the dollar stands as the world currency largely based in its capacity to multiply itself through debts and deficits as long as the United States maintains its status as the world's only military power and client states are eager to pay seignorage for its government bonds.