viernes, 6 de mayo de 2011

David Graeber: historia de la deuda

Al principio fue el crédito (no el pago al contado con moneda). Las transacciones que se realizaban en el mercado (no en los templos y palacios) eran a crédito y mediante un sistema de anotaciones. La cuenta se liquidaba en la época de la cosecha mediante la entrega de cebada. Pero se asignaba un valor a lo entregado.
(En Mesopotamia) “most actual acts of everyday buying and selling, particularly those that were not carried out between absolute strangers, appear to have been made on credit. "Ale women", or local innkeepers, served beer, for example, and often rented rooms; customers ran up a tab; normally, the full sum was dispatched at harvest time. Market vendors presumably acted as they do in small−scale markets in Africa, or Central Asia, today, building up lists of trustworthy clients to whom they could extend credit. The habit of money at interest also originates in Sumer −− it remained unknown, for example, in Egypt. Interest rates, fixed at 20 percent, remained stable for 2,000 years”. 
Y liberarse era verse libre de deudas (“pérdonanos nuestras deudas”)
“This, however, led to some serious social problems. In years with bad harvests especially, peasants would start becoming hopelessly indebted to the rich, and would have to surrender their farms and, ultimately, family members, in debt bondage. Gradually, this condition seems to have come to a social crisis −− not so much leading to popular uprisings, but to common people abandoning the cities and settled territory entirely and becoming semi−nomadic "bandits" and raiders. It soon became traditional for each new ruler to wipe the slate clean, cancel all debts, and declare a general amnesty or "freedom", so that all bonded labourers could return to their families. (It is significant here that the first word for "freedom" known in any human language, the Sumerian amarga, literally means "return to mother".) Biblical prophets instituted a similar custom, the Jubilee, whereby after seven years all debts were similarly cancelled. This is the direct ancestor of the New Testament notion of "redemption". As economist Michael Hudson has pointed out, it seems one of the misfortunes of world history that the institution of lending money at interest disseminated out of Mesopotamia without, for the most part, being accompanied by its original checks and balances”
Claro que, si había “redemption”, no es extraño que los intereses fueran tan altos. Los acreedores descontarían la posibilidad de una “redemption” y, en el caso de los judíos, no existiría crédito a largo plazo (ni a corto en el año en que tocaba el jubileo). Por otra parte, garantizar un “fresh start” a los deudores-personas físicas no es una medida disparatada incluso para los modernos Derechos concursales.
Sigue diciendo que la moneda no se creó para facilitar el comercio
“Coinage, certainly, was not invented to facilitate trade (the Phoenicians, consummate traders of the ancient world, were among the last to adopt it). It appears to have been first invented to pay soldiers, probably first of all by rulers of Lydia in Asia Minor to pay their Greek mercenaries. Carthage, another great trading nation, only started minting coins very late, and then explicitly to pay its foreign soldiers”.
La verdad es que no importa mucho. Lo importante es que facilitó el comercio. Y que el que acabó con el sistema de liberación fue Alejandro Magno
“The credit systems of the Near East did not crumble under commercial competition; they were destroyed by Alexander's armies −− armies that required half a ton of silver bullion per day in wages. The mines where the bullion was produced were generally worked by slaves”.
Y, lo que es directamente grandioso
“the creation of new media of exchange −− coinage appeared almost simultaneously in Greece, India, and China −−appears to have had profound intellectual effects. ... The most remarkable pattern, though, is the emergence, in almost the exact times and places where one also sees the early spread of coinage, of what were to become modern world religions: prophetic Judaism, Christianity, Buddhism, Jainism, Confucianism, Taoism, and eventually, Islam. While the precise links are yet to be fully explored, in certain ways, these religions appear to have arisen in direct reaction to the logic of the market. To put the matter somewhat crudely: if one relegates a certain social space simply to the selfish acquisition of material things, it is almost inevitable that soon someone else will come to set aside another domain in which to preach that, from the perspective of ultimate values, material things are unimportant, and selfishness −− or even the self −− illusory”
En la Edad Media, se vuelve al crédito
“One common expedient, for example, was the use of tally−sticks, notched pieces of wood that were broken in two as records of debt, with half being kept by the creditor, half by the debtor”
y Europa se queda atrás
“Western Europe was, as in so many things, a relative late−comer in this regard: most of the financial innovations that reached Italy and France in the 11th and 12th centuries had been in common use in Egypt or Iraq since the 8th or 9th centuries. The word "cheque", for example, derives from the Arab sakk, and appeared in English only around 1220 AD”.
Llega la Edad Moderna. Los españoles matan a millones de americanos para sacar plata de Potosí (male-female ratio was 22% lower in mita districts; individuals migrated disproportionately from mita to non-mita districts) que no acababa enterrada en Génova, como decía Quevedo, sino en China. Los efectos de aquello siguen notándose hoy
Sus conclusiones
Historically, ages of virtual, credit money have also involved creating some sort of overarching institutions −− Mesopotamian sacred kingship, Mosaic jubilees, Sharia or Canon Law −− that place some sort of controls on the potentially catastrophic social consequences of debt… Almost invariably, they involve institutions … to protect debtors.

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