Bronze Age Redux

A GATHERING OF THE TRIBES BRONZE AGE REDUX: On Debt, Clean Slates And What The Ancients Have To Teach Us The Michael Hudson Interview by Harold Crooks for A Gathering of The Tribes Magazine.         One of the most compelling sequences in the Oscar-winning Inside Job, Charles Ferguson’s indictment of Wall Street’s role in the 2008 global financial meltdown, involved not the banker culprits but their supporting cast. These were the Ivy League accomplices. Ferguson mightily skewered these economists for the cover they gave the sub-prime Hamptons dwelling wise guys whose rescue turned out to be a pretext for one of the largest reverse-Robin Hood wealth transfers in history. Though for the foreseeable future they enjoy their tenured posts, control prestigious academic journals and continue to prey on the ...

Jesus: the economic activist

Debt Jubilee, April 26, 2018 THE HUDSON REPORT: The history of debt cancellation and Jesus's economic justice activism   Here is the direct download link. Left Out, a podcast produced by Paul Sliker, Michael Palmieri, and Dante Dallavalle, creates in-depth conversations with the most interesting political thinkers, heterodox economists, and organizers on the Left.   The Hudson Report is a new weekly series produced by Left Out with the legendary economist Michael Hudson. Every episode we cover an economic or political issue that is either being ignored—or hotly debated—that week in the press. In this episode we discuss the ancient history of debt cancellation, the untold life of Jesus as an economic justice activist, and more largely Professor Hudson's forthcoming book, "...and forgive them their debts," out in summer 2018. Michael Palmieri: Professor Michael Hudson welcome back to another episode of ...

Palatial Credit: Origins of Money and Interest

Origins of Money and Interest: Palatial Credit, not Barter Neolithic and Bronze Age economies operated mainly on credit. Because of the time gap between planting and harvesting, few payments were made at the time of purchase. When Babylonians went to the local alehouse, they did not pay by carrying grain around in their pockets. They ran up a tab to be settled at harvest time on the threshing floor. The ale women who ran these “pubs” would then pay most of this grain to the palace for consignments advanced to them during the crop year. These payments were financial in character, not on-the-spot barter-type exchange. As a means of payment, the early use of monetized grain and silver was mainly to settle such debts. This monetization was not physical; it was administrative ...

Could/Should Jubilee Debt Cancellations be Reintroduced Today?

By M. Hudson (University of Missouri) and C. Goodhart (LSE) As published by the Center for Economic Policy Research. Abstract In this paper we recall the history of Jubilee debt cancellations, emphasizing what their social purpose was at that time. We note that it would not be possible to copy that procedure exactly nowadays, primarily because most debt/credit relationships are intermediated via financial institutions, such as banks, insurance companies, etc., rather than by governments or wealthy families directly. But we argue that the underlying social purpose of such Jubilees – to keep debt within the reasonable ability to be paid without social and economic polarisation – could be recreated via alternative mechanisms, and we discuss the politico-economic arguments for, and against, doing so. Keywords: Inequality; Debt-Canceling Jubilees; Babylonian and Byzantine Empires; Equity Participation; Student ...

Socrates: debt and the cyclical rise and fall of societies

Last week I attended a wonderful conference in the university town of Tübingen, Germany, on “Debt: The First 3500 Years,” to bring ancient historians together to discuss David Graeber’s book Debt: The First 5000 Years. I was enlightened by two papers in particular. Doctoral fellow Moritz Hinsch from Berlin collected what Socrates (470-399 BC) and other Athenians wrote about debt, and the conference’s organizer, Prof. John Weisweiler, presented the new view of late imperial Rome as being still a long way from outright serfdom. The 99 Percent were squeezed, but “the economy” grew – in a way that concentrated growth in the hands of the One Percent. ...

Democracy and Debt

Has the Link been Broken? *This article appeared in the Frankfurter Algemeine Zeitung on December 5, 2011. Book V of Aristotle’s Politics describes the eternal transition of oligarchies making themselves into hereditary aristocracies – which end up being overthrown by tyrants or develop internal rivalries as some families decide to “take the multitude into their camp” and usher in democracy, within which an oligarchy emerges once again, followed by aristocracy, democracy, and so on throughout history. Debt has been the main dynamic driving these shifts – always with new twists and turns. It polarizes wealth to create a creditor class, whose oligarchic rule is ended as new leaders (“tyrants” to Aristotle) win popular support by cancelling the debts and redistributing property or taking its usufruct for the state. Since the Renaissance, however, bankers have ...

After the Ice Age

After the Ice Age: How Calendar-keeping shaped Early Social Structuring Michael Hudson (UMKC) in Paul G. Bahn, ed., An Enquiring Mind: Studies in Honor of Alexander Marshack (American school of prehistoric research monograph series, Oxford and Oakville: Oxbow Books, 2009):149-53. I first met Alex Marshack in 1982 at a lecture he gave in New York City, where we both lived. That evening he described the Paleolithic “time-factored” notational systems and monuments that traced the rhythms of the moon and sun, and how Neolithic calendars governed the rhythms of planting and harvesting, as well as the rites of passage and social integration via festivals that were occasions for gift exchange and intermarriage. After the talk I introduced myself to him, and more than twenty years of friendship followed. I was writing a history of ...

From Sacred Enclave to Temple to City

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On the origins of cities as offshore banking centers - chapter 3 from my Urbanization volume, Urbanization and Land Ownership in the Ancient Near East (ed. with Baruch Levine) Cambridge, Mass.: Peabody Museum, Harvard University, 1999 The social sciences have long viewed the earliest cities as playing much the same role as they do in modern times: to serve as centers of government, and to undertake commerce and industry, reflecting the economies of scale resulting from their population growth. Such speculations assume an almost automatic and inevitable urbanization stemming from material causes, a combination of increasing population density and new technologies ("the agricultural revolution"). To the extent that political and military dynamics are recognized, they are of a character are more familiar in classical antiquity than in Neolithic Asia Minor and Early ...