Friday, November 1, 2013

Debt, Justice, Civilization

Justice, according to compensatory definition is:

1) balance between people,

2) guaranteeing that no person is mistreated and,

3) guaranteeing that the person who needs help the most, gets the most constructive help.

The above 3-part definition describes a condition that has never existed in all of recorded history!

Let that sink in.

Once the above condition is produced, logically, the very first civilization can and will begin.


I have completed a reading of Debt: The First 5,000 Years  by David Graeber and the above point, while not as explicitly stated, is readily apparent throughout the reading.

In my opinion he confirms that what is classically defined as "civilization" has been nothing more than a long game of "one-up-man-ship" throughout the ages.

Any claims to the existence of any civilization at anytime is pretense and fantasy.

"Civilization" suggests people acting in a"civil" manner toward others - at all times and in all places - however, no evidence suggests that this has ever been the case.

Throughout the book, which centers on debunking several myths regarding the nature(myth) of barter, "free" markets, debt, and the origins of money and credit, the author gives an interesting overview of the historical interactions of various peoples and cultures throughout the world - from ancient Sumer to the present.

And the fact is that the truth is not nearly as pretty as any group has ever painted it, and Debt...the mere existence and our current attitudes toward "debt" as we know it is absolute proof of this.

Of particular interest (to me at least) is the author's discussion of debt's direct and indirect role in what is now known as the "Tran-Atlantic Slave Trade". As Graeber describes it, "when human economies and commercial economies collide"...the consequences are devastating. There may be currently, no clearer example than the slave trade.

Also interesting is the author's discussion of what has historically occurred when a country has no natural resources for export and trade. In the absence of these resources, the chosen "commodity" for export is hardly ever discussed by economists or historians- because again, the truth of the matter isn't very flattering at all.

Dowry, the practice of wearing veils, bride-price, debt-pledges, peonage, blood-money, aristocracy, slavery, war..again, "civilization" has never existed and has yet to be produced.

So where to from here?

With respect to all of the accumulated history and accomplishments of mankind up to this very moment, Justice, as defined above in 3-parts, begs to be produced...it simply begs to be realized.

Then, and only then, can civilization even begin.

Also of note is that all of the grand philosophies, concepts, and ideas that many champion and take for granted, e.g. "capitalism" began simply as unrealistic, utopian ideas (p. 354). These ideas were generated within the minds of people. The point being that just as certain ideas have set the world on a cycle of war, conquest, and slavery(p 385) new ideas are needed to counter this very cycle and change the current trajectory for the better.

What better new (utopian?) idea than that of world wherein there is balance between people, guaranteeing that no person is mistreated, and guaranteeing that the person who needs help the most, gets the most constructive help?

Eric Spann (copyright 2014) 

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