Clean Slate Amnesty – Write Down the Debt – We Are Moving Towards a”Bleak Neo-Feudal Barbarism”
Everything You Thought You Knew About Western Civilization Is Wrong
By Michael Hudson • November 16, 2018
A Review of Michael Hudson’s new book…. and Forgive Them Their Debts
As published on Naked Capitalism
by John Siman
To say that Michael Hudson’s new book And Forgive Them Their Debts: Lending, Foreclosure, and Redemption from Bronze Age Finance to the Jubilee Year (ISLET 2018) is profound is an understatement on the order of saying that the Mariana Trench is deep. To grasp his central argument is so alien to our modern way of thinking about civilization and barbarism that Hudson quite matter-of-factly agreed with me that the book is, to the extent that it will be understood, “earth-shattering” in both intent and effect. Over the past three decades, gleaned (under the auspices of Harvard’s Peabody Museum) and then synthesized the scholarship of American and British and French and German and Soviet assyriologists (spelled with a lower-case a to denote collectively all who study the various civilizations of ancient Mesopotamia, which include Sumer, the Akkadian Empire, Ebla, Babylonia, et al., as well as Assyria with a capital A). Hudson demonstrates that we, twenty-first century globalists, have been morally blinded by a dark legacy of some twenty-eight centuries of decontextualized history. This has left us, for all practical purposes, utterly ignorant of the corrective civilizational model that is needed to save ourselves from tottering into bleak neo-feudal barbarism.
This corrective model actually existed and flourished in the economic functioning of Mesopotamian societies during the third and second millennia B.C. It can be termed Clean Slate amnesty, a term Hudson uses to embrace the essential function of what was called amargi and níg-si-sá in Sumerian, andurārum and mīšarum in Akkadian (the language of Babylonia), šudūtu and kirenzi in Hurrian, para tarnumar in Hittite, and deror (דְּרוֹר) in Hebrew: It is the necessary and periodic erasure of the debts of small farmers — necessary because such farmers are, in any society in which interest on loans is calculated, inevitably subject to being impoverished, then stripped of their property, and finally reduced to servitude (including the sexual servitude of daughters and wives) by their creditors, creditors. The latter inevitably seek to effect the terminal polarization of society into an oligarchy of predatory creditors cannibalizing a sinking underclass mired in irreversible debt peonage. Hudson writes: “That is what creditors really wanted: Not merely the interest as such, but the collateral — whatever economic assets debtors possessed, from their labor to their property, ending up with their lives” (p. 50).
And such polarization is, by Hudson’s definition, barbarism. For what is the most basic condition of civilization, Hudson asks, other than societal organization that effects lasting “balance” by keeping “everybody above the break-even level”?
“Mesopotamian societies were not interested in equality,” he told me, “but they were civilized. And they possessed the financial sophistication to understand that, since interest on loans increases exponentially, while economic growth at best follows an S-curve. This means that debtors will, if not protected by a central authority, end up becoming permanent bondservants to their creditors. So Mesopotamian kings regularly rescued debtors who were getting crushed by their debts. They knew that they needed to do this. Again and again, century after century, they proclaimed Clean Slate Amnesties.”
Hudson also writes:
“By liberating distressed individuals who had fallen into debt bondage, and returning to cultivators the lands they had forfeited for debt or sold under economic duress, these royal acts maintained a free peasantry willing to fight for its land and work on public building projects and canals…. By clearing away the buildup of personal debts, rulers saved society from the social chaos that would have resulted from personal insolvency, debt bondage, and military defection” (p. 3).
Marx and Engels never made such an argument (nor did Adam Smith for that matter). Hudson points out that they knew nothing of these ancient Mesopotamian societies. No one did back then. Almost all of the various kinds of assyriologists completed their archaeological excavations and philological analyses during the twentieth century. In other words, this book could not have been written until someone digested the relevant parts of the vast body of this recent scholarship. And this someone is Michael Hudson.
So let us reconsider Hudson’s fundamental insight in more vivid terms. In ancient Mesopotamian societies it was understood that freedom was preserved by protecting debtors. In what we call Western Civilization, that is, in the plethora of societies that have followed the flowering of the Greek poleis beginning in the eighth century B.C., just the opposite, with only one major exception (Hudson describes the tenth-century A.D. Byzantine Empire of Romanos Lecapenus), has been the case: For us freedom has been understood to sanction the ability of creditors to demand payment from debtors without restraint or oversight. This is the freedom to cannibalize society. This is the freedom to enslave. This is, in the end, the freedom proclaimed by the Chicago School and the mainstream of American economists. And so Hudson emphasizes that our Western notion of freedom has been, for some twenty-eight centuries now, Orwellian in the most literal sense of the word: War is Peace • Freedom is Slavery • Ignorance is Strength. He writes:
“A constant dynamic of history has been the drive by financial elites to centralize control in their own hands and manage the economy in predatory, extractive ways. Their ostensible freedom is at the expense of the governing authority and the economy at large. As such, it is the opposite of liberty as conceived in Sumerian times” (p. 266).
And our Orwellian, our neoliberal notion of unrestricted freedom for the creditor dooms us at the very outset of any quest we undertake for a just economic order. Any and every revolution that we wage, no matter how righteous in its conception, is destined to fail.
Please go to Michael Hudson to read the entire essay.
Ed. note: Mr. Trump seems to have been instrumental in a strategy to dismember U.S. dollar hegemony. We could only hope right? Except that with this recent news Trump is pushing for “deep cuts in federal spending to reduce debt” is only a temporary fix to a far more serious threat. What we are calling for is to write down the debt, or as Michael Hudson refers to it: “a Clean Slate amnesty”. This must take place or we will as Michael Hudson suggests “be tottering into bleak neo-feudal barbarism” imposed on us by parasitical financial oligarchs. Trump’s job is to protect the 5% financial oligarch class and evidence appears almost daily. Economic terminology being taught is all Orwellian speak. “Free market” means theft (neo-liberalism) like with what we are seeing happen before our very eyes with Ricardo Hausmann running the Random Guy™ Juan in Venezuela.
Trump’s “ransom money” to salvage the dollar and the US’s global financial hegemony. It’s a criminal syndicate and this is protection money with the Italians probably deciding they aren’t going to cooperate with the US.
Listen to Alan Greenspan using Orwellian speak to describe the economy. He uses euphemisms to essentially bullshit people on what the real economy is doing that benefits only the 5% of the financial oligarchy at the top. The economic Orwellian vocabulary Greenspan uses has been turned around to mean just the opposite of what his words mean. He falsifies his economic terminology to make it appear that these financial elite taking money out of this system are “productive” without working or providing any service to the economy. Goldman Sachs is a job destroyer (“Junk Economics“) and not a job creator. As you listen to Greenspan blabber his sophist bullshit, remember that Michael Hudson fired him (more likely Greenspan was asked to leave) from the same policy team they were on when they were on Wall Street together. Greenspan was hired as part of a study Michael Hudson was doing on the balance of payments on the oil industry.
Michael Hudson discuses what QE (quantitative easing) has done to the American economy which Zero Hedge covers in this article put up yesterday. QE has been beneficial only to the oligarch class now running the financial system for their own benefit as this article points out. Michael Hudson also discusses why Americans are being pushed further and further into socialism. The debt these two articles linked below discuss can never under any future economic circumstances be repaid. Readers can be assured that Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D, N.Y., has absolutely no idea whatsoever of the adverse historical consequences of perpetual debt and how it destroys culture and civilizations.
The parasitic financial oligarchs running the American empire through their private financial investment houses require war to maintain their hegemony over wealth. Unlike other countries, when the US spends money abroad on its military other countries pay for this expense. The reason why is because these different countries the US has its military in hold treasury bonds to finance the American budget deficit that is mainly a military financial deficit. The US balance of payment spending with all these US bases all over the world (current estimates indicate there are 800 military bases in more than 70 countries and territories abroad) pump dollars into the global central banking system that recycle these dollars to fund the deficit. The US has set up the circumstances where other countries pay for America’s war spending.
The US military “defense” budget is approaching almost $1 trillion dollars under Trump. The international monetary system is a dollar system of US war spending. Trump has no plans whatsoever to end debt or war; under the present financial parasitic tyranny no president does. To pay for the Vietnam war, Nixon took the US off the gold standard in 1971 with the Pentagon basically controlling organized crime, the drug trade and money laundering.
“This Treasury-bond standard of international finance has enabled the United States to obtain the largest free lunch ever achieved in history. America has turned the international financial system upside down. Whereas formerly it rested on gold, central bank reserves are now held in the form of U.S. Government IOUs that can be run up without limit. In effect, America has been buying up Europe, Asia and other regions with paper credit – U.S. Treasury IOUs that it has informed the world it has little intention of ever paying off. ”
The global business model of asset stripping:
And finally, here are just a few examples of what is coming in America with these parasitical financial elite consisting of about 5% of the population privately gaining for their own private interests over the entire economy. Americans will start cannibalizing each other under these financial conditions on debt that can never be repaid. Read these articles than think about the very real possibility of a “neo-fuedalistic barbarism” that is coming if it isn’t already now taking place.
The national security state, of surveillance capitalism is all related to debt.