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... and forgive them their debts

Michael Hudson


Subtitle: Lending, Foreclosure, and Redemption from Bronze Age Finance to the Jubilee Year. ISLET - Verlag, Dresden, 2018, 311 pgs., index, extensive bibliography, foot notes, illustrations, paper back


Reviewer's comment:
This is a very important book in which the author refutes many myths about the origin of money and banking. It is based on a detailed study over many years of the records still being translated about the economies of Mesopotamia and ancient Egypt. The author has published many books on this subject and organized many conferences in which he brings together specialist scholars on the many little known details being literally uncovered by archeology and translation of cuneiform documents. See for instance his essay in David Landes' ed. book - The Invention of Enterprise - listed below.
But, despite his refutation about the origin and use of 'money' he proceeds to misrepresent the origin and nature of 'loan' - (credit-debt) in early Mesopotamian society. Dr. Hudson is a severe critic of the exploitation of debt today, and the entire financial system. He provides a history of the ancient economies overlooked or ignored by most economists. But he only treats on means, not ends. He focuses on some things that happened, but does not consider why they happened, because he ignores religion as a motivation.
But his main motivation is to show that the fundamental conflict between debtors and creditors so prevalent today and during the historical times that modern economists study actually existed from the very beginning of settled societies. What he reveals is that during these really ancient eras such as Mesopotamia 3000 - 2000 BC it was the rulers (governments and temples) that instituted, for their own purposes, debt cancelation edicts (laws) to abolish private debt or prevent it. The rulers were opposed by private creditors (who actually were employed as collection agents) seeking to expand their personal wealth at the expense of the general public. But the basic debts were owed TO the temple-palace and were not loans from the temple but failures to deliver their standard quantity of grain TO the temple. The temple=farmer debt relationship was the opposite of the modern government (ruler) to privte individuals relationship. Today it is the rulers who owe TO the workers not the workers who owe to the rulers.
He considers that the same motivations are the basis for the modern conflict between debtors and creditors. For a summary of his thinking on this, read his Finance and Warfare, listed below.

In my opinion the problem that Marxist theoreticians such as Hudson and also Carl Wittfogel have is their total belief in human motivation based on economic activity. They simply cannot believe that individuals and whole societies base their activities, that result from decisions based on religious beliefs that provide them with their entire 'world view' and understanding of 'reality' and these activities are the historical evidence that the Marxist theoreticians (who do not simply ignore history) indicate results of 'economic' decisions. Dr. Hudson's comparison he seeks to support his political agenda is backwards. In ancient Mesopotamia it was the government that was the creditor and the peasants were the debtors. in debt due to their failure to meet their reqirement in supplying the grain they grew for the government. But today it is the government that is the debtor since it paid for (exchanged) goods and services with credit which generated an accounting debt. Moreover the redit-debt account on the temple books was not the market money supply, so when a debt was cancled its corresponding credit account also disappeared with no relation to the money supply. But government cancelation of its own debt now would reduce the credit based money supply. - Tht is called 'debt deflation'.

Thus this whole book describes results but ignores the beliefs which were the cause. The result is that the reality is backwards to Dr. Hudson's belief.


The Rise and Fall of Jubilee Debt Cancellations and Clean Slates


Archaic Economies versus Modern Preconceptions


The Major Themes of This Book


Part I Overview
1. A Babylonian Perspective on Liberty and Economic Order


2 - Jesus' First Sermon and the Tradition of Debt Amnesty


3 - Credit, Debt and Money: Their Social and Private Contexts


Part II: Social Origins of Debt
4. The Anthropology of Debt, from Gift Exchange to Wergild Fines


5. Creditors as Predators: The Anthropology of Usury


6. Origins of Commercial Interest in Sumer's Palaces and Temples


7. Rural Usury as a Lever to Privatize Land and Impose Bondage


Part III: The Bronze Age Invents Usury, But Counters Its Adverse Effects


8. War, Debt and amar-gi in Sumer: 2400 BC


9. Urukagina proclaims amar-gi: 2350 BC


10. Sargon's Akkadian Empire and its Collapse: 2300 - 2100 BC


11. Lagash Revives under Gudea and his Debt Cancellation: 2130 BC


12. Trade, Enterprise and Debt in Ur III: 2111 - 2004 BC


13. Isin Rulers replace Ur III and proclaim nig-si-sa: 2017 - 1861 BC


14. Diffusion of Trade via Assyrian Merchants: 1900 - 1825 BC


15. Privatizing Mesopotamia's Intermediate Period: 2000 - 1600 BC


16. Hammurabi's Laws and misarum Edicts: 1792 - 1750 BC


17. Freeing the Land and its Cultivators from Predatory Creditors


18. Samsuiluna's and Ammisadqa's milarum Edicts: 1749 - 1646 BC


19. Social Cosmology of Babylonia's Debt Cancellations


20. Usury and privatization in the Periphery: 1600 - 1200 BC


21. From the Dawn of the Iron Age to the Rosetta Stone: 1200 - 196 BC


Part IV: The Biblical Legacy


22. Judges, Kings and Usury: 8th and 7th Centuries BC


23. Biblical Prophets Call for Debt Cancellation


24. The Babylonian Impact on Judaic Debt Laws


25. From Religious Covenant to Hillel


26. Christianity Spiritualizes the Jubilee Year as the Day of Judgment


27. The Byzantine Echo


28. Zenith and Decline of Byzantium; 945 - 1204 AD



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Amanda Podany - Ancient Mesopotamia: Life in the Cradle of Civilization

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Amanda Podany - Brotherhood of Kings

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Amanda Podany, Weavers, Scribes, and Kings

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David Landes, Joel Mokyr & William Baumol, eds. - The Invention of Enterprise

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J. G. Manning and Jan Morris - The Ancient Economy: Evidence and Models

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Joan Aruz, ed. Beyond Babylon: Art, Trade, and Diplomacy in the Second Millennium B.C.

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Michael Hudson - Finance as Warfare

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Michael Hudson - The Bubble and Beyond

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Michael Hudson - Financial Capitalism v. Industrial Capitalism

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Michael Hudson - Privatization in the Ancient Near East and Classical World

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Michael Hudson - Destiny of Civilization

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Michael Hudson, ed., - Debt and Economic Renewal in the Ancient Near East

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Michael Hudson, Finance Capitalism and its Discontents

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Edward Chancellor - The Price of Time: The Real Story of Interest

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Sumerian religion

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Mesopotamian religion

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