Debts Must Be Canceled From Time to Time

If We Don’t Solve The Problem Of Economic Polarization, We’re Going To Go Into Another Dark Age by Michael Hudson


cancel the debt

Image by Friends of the Earth International via Flickr

by Michael Hudson
Writer, Dandelion Salad
Michael Hudson
January 27, 2017

Speech to Kairos group, Union, Columbia
[Edited version for clarification, January 23, 2017]

The focus of my talk today will be Jesus’ first sermon and the long background behind it that helps explain what he was talking about and what he sought to bring about. I’ve been associated with Harvard University’s Peabody Museum for over thirty years in Babylonian economic archeology. And for more than twenty years I’ve headed a group out of Harvard, the International Scholars Conference on Ancient Near Eastern Economies (ISCANEE), writing a new economic history of the ancient Near East.

The five colloquia volumes that we’ve published began in 1994. We decided we have to re-write the history to free it from the modern ideological preconceptions that have distorted much popular understanding.

When I began to study Sumer and Babylonia in the 1980s, there wasn’t any economic history of the ancient Near East. There were histories of the ancient Near East, but I had to go through every volume with general history, look in the index, and sometimes I would find debt, but more often there wasn’t. 

I had to go through the whole literature, and I realized that assyriologists didn’t want anything to do with economists. There was a very good reason for that. Since the 1920s there was an idea of what was called “Babylonianism”: The idea that everything came from Babylon. In practice this meant that everybody would project their own belief about how civilization began in the ancient Near East and the Neolithic.

 It was like a Rorschach test. The Vatican, who had Sumerian translators, thought that it was a temple state and temples ruled everything. Socialists thought that it was all communal. The free enterprise boys – the Austrians and other liberals –just ignored the palaces and the temples, and thought that markets and individuals traded, and that was that.


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