All That You Can’t Leave Behind
The right of subsistence is mutually beneficial.
I’m still reading this book, “…And Forgive Them Their Debts”, by Michael Hudson. I’m reading about how the concept of debt came into being. I’m learning how the rulers of our early societies organized groups and solved problems. One of the problems that the early rulers solved was how to make sure everyone had what they needed to live.
The very first societies of human beings involved a leader and ruler who would organize armies to defend the clan, allocate land to each family, and draft labor to build walls, dig irrigation ditches and fight in the army to defend the settlement. In return for their service, every family received a plot of land for their subsistence. Every family gew their own food. Society was ordered in a mutually beneficial relationship such that you could never lose your land and your land was handed down through the generations so long as you occupied it.
But then some crafty and perhaps greedy individuals began to figure out that they could accumulate wealth by loaning commodities out to other people at 30 or 50% interest. That was before money was invented. These same individuals noticed that their debtors would fall into arrears and when that happened, the creditors would lay claim to wives, children, and oxen. Over time, the creditors would lay claim to the family land. Creditors always have their eyes on the land, the ultimate monopoly.
But the ancient rulers were keen on this. They noticed that as the creditors amassed wealth, that the creditors were competing for the labor in the settlement. They noticed that people would flee to escape the debt. The rulers noticed that the creditors were using their debtors as slaves for labor when the ruler needed someone to build the walls, dig the ditches, and fight in the army.
So the rulers started to issue decrees to annul the debts and return the people back to their families. The rulers annulled the debts to return the land to the original owners so that they could feed themselves. The rulers knew the evils of debt.
Hudson’s book is just one of a series dedicated to documenting the history of debt. In his books, he traces 5,000 years of debt and he tells us that knowledge of the ancient traditions of debt annulment and debt jubilees have been lost until recently. Apparently, the bankers were keen on hiding the past.
But what I find most interesting is how the financiers of the world are so brazen to attack what I think of as the right of subsistence. The bankers targeted the poor with low-quality loans with high-interest rates in ancient times, just as they did during the decade leading up to the collapse of the housing bubble. Bankers are always going after the right of subsistence to ensure their loans are repaid. Bankers invented foreclosure for that purpose. And the first bankers made “adoption” a part of the terms of the loan to ensure they would “inherit” the land in the event of non-payment of the debt.
Hudson makes a striking observation in the opening of chapter 25:
Where communism decrees, “None shall have property,” Leviticus decrees “None shall lose property”, but both are against latifundism.
“Latifundism”. Now there’s a mouthful. It’s not in the Merriam-Webster dictionary. Yikes! The bankers got to them, too! Well, they do have Latifundium. Whew. What is latifundism?
Agriculture dominated by large estates.
Hey, we have that. That’s what we call, “Agribusiness” with the continued consolidation of the farmland in America. The vast majority of private land in America is owned by the top 1%, and most of them own their land outright, just making the tax payments every year. We can rest assured that they’re not here to dig irrigation ditches, build border walls or fight in the wars they love to start. They are keen to leave that work to the rest of us.
In recent years, there has been a nascent movement for basic income. The idea is simple: basic income as a guaranteed right is something that you can never lose. Medicare for all is another example of a concept of something that we can never lose. Tuition free college is one more concept of something you can never lose.
Look at us now, fighting over whether or not we should have something we can never lose. Millions of people lost health care insurance as they lost their jobs in the pandemic. Millions more who had low speed or no access to the internet lost access to education as classes closed during the pandemic. And millions lost their jobs and income as a result of the pandemic.
The ancient rulers saw subsistence as a natural right. The bankers that came after the ancient rulers disagreed. The bankers sought to alter our history to remove land from economics, to remove debt jubilees from religion and to remove financial intelligence from public education. The bankers understand that 14% of the population has an IQ of 85 or less and that the median IQ is 95. Foreclosure and debt is their business model. The bankers are farming people for money. Their political influence is what keeps their business model alive.
The life we save today could be the life that saves ours tomorrow. When we acknowledge the right of subsistence, we acknowledge a mutually beneficial relationship. This is why I don’t mind the welfare state. This is why I don’t fret about people who try to game the system. The gamers are the bankers and the outliers. The rest really do need our help.