Published 2021-03-19

'Debt' is about the origins of money and debt. I found it fascinating, but I'm not sure where to trust it, especially given the clear agenda around tying debt to violence.

Barter economies have never been seen (see Caroline Humphrey for more detail)

A communalist setting is one in which people share by default

It requires something on this scale - an immediate threat to life and limb, terror-bombing of civilian populations - before people will ordinarily consider not giving a stranger accurate directions.

Most pre-axial economies were heroic economies.

In most pre-axial societies, honor (blood debt etc) followed money-like rules

In most pre-axial societies, goods were managed communistically (eg surplus stored in the village longhouse and distributed by chief)

The difference between owing someone a favor and owing someone a debt is that the amount of a debt can be precisely calculated

Debt preceded money

Prior to government money, commerce ran on networks of trust and credit

Early money systems were formed out of IOU notes / notes of assurance

Credit systems require either a personal connection or a trusted enforcer to function

Money allows strangers to trade

Coinage was invented during the Axial age

Bullion/coinage are popular in violent periods because they can be stolen

Soldiers are a credit risk because they are heavily armed itinerants

Because soldiers are a credit risk, they cannot rely on normal systems of credit

Governments fed large standing armies by paying them in government tokens (coins) and then demanding taxes in the same tokens

Debt slavery effectively makes it possible to use people as securities, even if the law forbids selling them

Slave trade was often legitimized/white-washed by the pretense of debt

Most peasant rebellions focus on erasing debt

The US spends more on military than every other nation put together

The US deficit produces a surplus on dollars, which can only really be used to buy US treasury bonds

US treasury bonds are supposed to be repaid, but are instead becoming a currency of their own, producing a free ride for the US