Friday, September 14, 2007


It seems that every generation has its Shylock—a despised financier blamed for the economic problems of his day. A couple of decades ago it was Michael Milken and his “junk” bonds. Today it is the mortgage bankers who, over the past few years, lent billions of dollars to home buyers—hundreds of thousands of whom are now delinquent or in default on their loans. This “sub-prime mortgage crisis” is negatively affecting the broader financial markets and the economy as a whole. The villains, we are told, are not the borrowers—who took out loans they could not afford to pay back—but the moneylenders—who either deceived the borrowers or should have known better than to make the loans in the first place. And, we are told, the way to prevent such problems in the future is to clamp down on moneylenders and their industries; thus, investigations, criminal prosecutions, and heavier regulations on bankers are in order.

Of course, government policy for decades has been to encourage lenders to provide mortgage loans to lower-income families, and when mortgage brokers have refused to make such loans, they have been accused of “discrimination.” But now that many borrowers are in a bind, politicians are seeking to lash and leash the lenders.

This treatment of moneylenders is unjust but not new. For millennia they have been the primary scapegoats for practically every economic problem. They have been derided by philosophers and condemned to hell by religious authorities; their property has been confiscated to compensate their “victims”; they have been humiliated, framed, jailed, and butchered. From Jewish pogroms where the main purpose was to destroy the records of debt, to the vilification of the House of Rothschild, to the jailing of American financiers—moneylenders have been targets of philosophers, theologians, journalists, economists, playwrights, legislators, and the masses.

Major thinkers throughout history—Plato, Aristotle, Thomas Aquinas, Adam Smith, Karl Marx, and John Maynard Keynes, to name just a few—considered moneylending, at least under certain conditions, to be a major vice. Dante, Shakespeare, Dickens, Dostoyevsky, and modern and popular novelists depict moneylenders as villains.

Today, anti-globalization demonstrators carry signs that read “abolish usury” or “abolish interest.” Although these protestors are typically leftists—opponents of capitalism and anything associated with it—their contempt for moneylending is shared by others, including radical Christians and Muslims who regard charging interest on loans as a violation of God’s law and thus as immoral.

Moneylending has been and is condemned by practically everyone. But what exactly is being condemned here? What is moneylending or usury? And what are its consequences?

Although the term “usury” is widely taken to mean “excessive interest” (which is never defined) or illegal interest, the actual definition of the term is, as the Oxford English Dictionary specifies: “The fact or practice of lending money at interest.” This is the definition I ascribe to the term throughout this essay.

Usury is a financial transaction in which person A lends person B a sum of money for a fixed period of time with the agreement that it will be returned with interest. The practice enables people without money and people with money to mutually benefit from the wealth of the latter. The borrower is able to use money that he would otherwise not be able to use, in exchange for paying the lender an agreed-upon premium in addition to the principal amount of the loan. Not only do both interested parties benefit from such an exchange; countless people who are not involved in the trade often benefit too—by means of access to the goods and services made possible by the exchange.

Usury enables levels of life-serving commerce and industry that otherwise would be impossible. Consider a few historical examples. Moneylenders funded grain shipments in ancient Athens and the first trade between the Christians in Europe and the Saracens of the East. They backed the new merchants of Italy and, later, of Holland and England. They supported Spain’s exploration of the New World, and funded gold and silver mining operations. They made possible the successful colonization of America. They fueled the Industrial Revolution, supplying the necessary capital to the new entrepreneurs in England, the United States, and Europe. And, in the late 20th century, moneylenders provided billions of dollars to finance the computer, telecommunications, and biotechnology industries.

Read it all in a well-crafted article by Yaron Brook, writing for the Objective Standard.

Now here is another view from a religious blogger:

A long-existing and self-perpetuating tax-immune internationalist-transnationalist group uses fronts with inter-locking corporate and or fraternal group of individuals, whose membership is either secret or semi-secret, with undisclosed ownership shares, has usurped the sovereignty of borrowing national governments (who serve their lenders). It includes largely unrevealed yet reported campaign contributors who also control the media and press, all major political parties, and dictates presidential appointments. It abhors the direct issuance of money by elected officials and through the creation of a system of privately-owned and controlled central banks, holds all of the world's gold and all loan and mortgage paperwork.

Its business is conducted in secret meetings which determine the future of all national economies and the timing of expansion (through loans) or contraction (through no loans). It exercises an exclusive monopoly of the issuance of money created out of thin air and issued solely as debt, does not create money to repay the interest, and lives off perpetual national debts that consume future income and under international law cannot be repudiated even by an internal political revolution. At least for others, it tends to be pro-bureaucracy, pro-abortion/population control, pro-government education, anti-family, anti-nationalist, anti-inheritance, anti-private property and anti-Jesus Christ. This group can demand special privileges and even military force to collect "national" debts.

It plans to soon accomplish global disarmament (of both civilians and nations) and have a monopoly on force (including nuclear weapons). It has the privilege of a guaranteed untaxable income enforced by liens on all public and personal property and collected by the coercive force of the taxing structure of the various governments. The basis for its continued existence is continued usury and unforgiving collection of all debts resulting from committing the highest crime of usury.

Mostly these latter day types blame the Catholic Church or the EU, or some secret Illuminati. And forget about these firebrand mullahs for a moment. What about the Chinese? Aren't they hacking into US government computers, salivating for the time of their own ascendency? Verily, verily, I say to thee, it's a mad, mad, mad, mad, mad world we live in these days...

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