US Empire of Debt Headed for Collapse
Prof. Michael Hudson’s new book, The Collapse of Antiquity: Greece and Rome as Civilization’s Oligarchic Turning Point” is a seminal event in this Year of Living Dangerously when, to paraphrase Gramsci, the old geopolitical and geoeconomic order is dying and the new one is being born at breakneck speed.
Prof. Hudson’s main thesis is absolutely devastating: he sets out to prove that economic/financial practices in Ancient Greece and Rome – the pillars of Western Civilization – set the stage for what is happening today right in front of our eyes: an empire reduced to a rentier economy, collapsing from within.
And that brings us to the common denominator in every single Western financial system: it’s all about debt, inevitably growing by compound interest.
Ay, there’s the rub: before Greece and Rome, we had nearly 3,000 years of civilizations across West Asia doing exactly the opposite.
These kingdoms all knew about the importance of canceling debts. Otherwise their subjects would fall into bondage; lose their land to a bunch of foreclosing creditors; and these would usually try to overthrow the ruling power.
Aristotle succinctly framed it: “Under democracy, creditors begin to make loans and the debtors can’t pay and the creditors get more and more money, and they end up turning a democracy into an oligarchy, and then the oligarchy makes itself hereditary, and you have an aristocracy.”
Prof. Hudson sharply explains what happens when creditors take over and “reduce all the rest of the economy to bondage”: it’s what’s called today “austerity” or “debt deflation”.
So “what’s happening in the banking crisis today is that debts grow faster than the economy can pay. And so when the interest rates finally began to be raised by the Federal Reserve, this caused a crisis for the banks.”
Prof. Hudson also proposes an expanded formulation: “The emergence of financial and landholding oligarchies made debt peonage and bondage permanent, supported by a pro-creditor legal and social philosophy that distinguishes Western civilization from what went before. Today it would be called neoliberalism.”
Then he sets out to explain, in excruciating detail, how this state of affairs was solidified in Antiquity in the course of over 5 centuries. One can hear the contemporary echoes of “violent suppression of popular revolts” and “targeted assassination of leaders” seeking to cancel debts and “redistribute land to smallholders who have lost it to large landowners”.
The verdict is merciless: “What impoverished the population of the Roman Empire” bequeathed a “creditor-based body of legal principles to the modern world”.
Predatory oligarchies and “Oriental Despotism”
Prof Hudson develops a devastating critique of the “social darwinist philosophy of economic determinism”: a “self-congratulatory perspective” has led to “today’s institutions of individualism and security of credit and property contracts (favoring creditor claims over debtors, and landlord rights over those of tenants) being traced back to classical antiquity as “positive evolutionary developments, moving civilization away from ‘Oriental Despotism’”.
All that is a myth. Reality was a completely differe
Article from LewRockwell