Money Is Infertile

On Usury. By Tom Hodgkinson

BOTH on an individual and a national scale, debt imprisons. By taking out a loan, I am committing myself to years of interest repayments, and therefore to years of wage slavery. And the UK has been borrowing like crazy since 1694 when the Bank of England was invented. This means that we are locked into high taxation to pay for three hundred years of wars and other costly and generally disastrous State enterprises.

This state of affairs, though, is not inevitable and did not exist in the Middle Ages. Before the Reformation, charging interest on loans—usury— was considered sinful by the church. There are repeated injunctions against it in the Bible. The philosopher of choice was Aristotle, who had also written against usury. For Aristotle, money, unlike, say, an apple tree, was infertile, and could not produce more of itself. Therefore usury sets up an imbalance: someone's got to pay, and it is generally the poor. The Latin phrase which echoed around in people's heads was: fenus pecuniae, funus est animae, meaning: "usurious profit from money is the death of the soul."

Everything changed in the Reformation when Calvin, a friend of the Fuggers banking family, lifted the ban on usury, thus opening up a new way for the rich to steal from the poor. Today, we see the popular suspicion of usury returning with our renewed hatred of the bankers. And in a new scam, usury has been half banned: the banks no longer pay out interest on our savings with them, but they still charge 12.9% when they lend to us! This is monstrously unjust and this is why I call for a simple boycott on the banks: it's time to investigate new systems.

Tom Hodgkinson is editor of the Idler, www.idler.co.uk

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