Assyrian relief. Photo by Klaus Wagensonner courtesy Truthdig.
In a recent Truthdig article, PBI Chair Ellen Brown examines the functional, sophisticated, egalitarian credit system of ancient Mesopotamia that endured for two millennia and recommends we apply it today. The key to its success: regularly write off debts.
“Sumerian kings solved the problem of ‘peak debt’ by periodically declaring ‘clean slates,’ in which agrarian debts were forgiven and debtors were released from servitude to work as tenants on their own plots of land. The land belonged to the gods under the stewardship of the temple and the palace and could not be sold, but farmers and their families maintained leaseholds to it in perpetuity by providing a share of their crops, service in the military and labor in building communal infrastructure. In this way, their homes and livelihoods were preserved, an arrangement that was mutually beneficial, since the kings needed their service.”
“[A] more productive and sustainable approach [than a trade war with China] might be for the U.S. to engage in periodic debt jubilees itself. The problem with that solution today is that most debts in Western economies are owed not to the government but to private creditors, who will insist on their contractual rights to payment. We need to find a way to pay the creditors while relieving the borrowers of their debt burden.”