Money, Debt, and History

Here’s a Naked Capitalism interview with David Graeber, which impressed me a great deal, especially for its historical perspective.

Anyone reading about banking and finance over the last three years must have wondered: how can money and debt be so fluid, arbitrary and contingent for the powerful, and so rigid, immutable and unforgiving for ordinary people? The more you learn, the less clear the moral foundations become: most of the money you borrow from a bank is not some other person’s savings, but created ex nihilo by the bank, so defaulting on a loan is not going to impoverish some retired nun.

Graeber, currently Reader in Social Anthropology at Goldsmiths University London lays out one insight after another, but the substance lies in his overall point of view. I’ll offer just one quote, not central but merely a thought-provoking aside, to whet your appetite:

I might add, if Aristotle were around today,
I very much doubt he would think that the distinction
between renting yourself or members of your family out to work, and selling yourself or members of your family to work, was more than a legal nicety. He’d probably conclude that most Americans were, for all intents and purposes, slaves.

(line-breaks and commas added for clarity)

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