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Debt: The first five thousand years - David Graeber

Throughout its 5000 year history, debt has always involved institutions – whether Mesopotamian sacred kingship, Mosaic jubilees, Sharia or Canon Law – that place controls on debt's potentially catastrophic social consequences. It is only in the current era, writes anthropologist David Graeber, that we have begun to see the creation of the first effective planetary administrative system largely in order to protect the interests of creditors. What follows is a fragment of a much larger project of research on debt and debt money in human history. The first and overwhelming conclusion of this project is that in studying economic history, we tend to systematically ignore the role of violence, the absolutely central role of war and slavery in creating and shaping the basic institutions of what we now call "the economy". What's more, origins matter. Let me start with the institution of slavery, whose role, I think, is key. The reason I stress this is because this logic is still with us. I.

The History of Credit & Debt – Keeping Track « How to Get Out of Debt The Beginning The credit and debt system began before the written word. Approximately 9,000 years ago man invented counting tokens to keep track of trades and obligations. In fact, the art of writing was invented to record our financial dealings. Keeping Track While the early counting tokens may have been a form of money, we don’t know for sure how they were used. Before the days of the first recorded contracts and financial transactions, people used cattle, grain, silver or anything else they could agree on as currency to be used in a trade. Over 3,000 years ago in the city of Uruk, people kept tabs on who owed what to whom on clay tablets like the one shown. Uruk was situated south of Baghdad, on an ancient branch of the Euphrates River, in Iraq (known in the Bible as Erech). These early writings appear to be contracts and fiscal records. Map of the Mesopotomia region Map of Modern Iraq

The coming first world debt crisis Jubilee Research at the New Economics Foundation (NEF), the team that spearheaded global awareness of a third world debt crisis released provocative new research in September 2003 which argues that the “first world” is approaching a major debt crisis. These findings appear in the first of NEF’s annual reports on the global economy, Real World Economic Outlook – which shadows the IMF’s annual World Economic Outlook. The report predicts that a giant credit bubble, created by central bankers and finance ministers (the engineers of decades of “easy money”) has now reached a “tipping point”. This point – at which the “bubble” of financial assets exceeds GDP by nine times – has triggered financial crisis elsewhere. Another “tipping point” would be a rise in interest rates – not unlikely for economies like the US and UK which have massive foreign deficits. The financial system: unbalanced, unfair, unsustainable Winston Churchill’s storm warning A cycle of illusions How did we get into this mess?