Friday, March 2, 2012

Debt by David Graeber

David Graeber, as an anthropologist understood why and how our ancestors stop free riders. As a socialist, he wants more of it today. In what world is a family collecting welfare into the 4th generation is not a free rider? Can we really afford that all these people never contribute to our society? (And ironically now, if you are temporarily destitute now, you get to live on the streets. What sort of progress is this?)

He talks about how we think that virtual money is new. (Virtual money is when you do not pay for things with physical cash, like paying with credit or debit cards.) But this has very long history and was really the original way people dealt with each other in a market place. We had credit systems, kept tabs, even expense accounts before we had cash.

We seem to assume that billion is money, but this idea come and gone through history. History really has switched between periods when money was billion and when money was virtual or an abstraction.. He talks about the vast majority of Mesopotamia’s cuneiform documents were financial in nature. Things were priced in silver, but apparently silver was not in circulation.

Credit goes back a long way. And money is basically an IOU. Money is a measure of trust in other human beings rather than a measure of value.

Another thing he talks about is how markets sprang up around ancient armies. The rise of states and the rise of markets go together. Rather an interesting connection.

Graeber can also go off on tangents. He says that Cortes was murderous because he owed money to banks, and therefore we should blame his actions on capitalism. However, Jinkis Khan was also a murderous bastard with the same sort of followers Cortes had, but it did not do what he did, conquer, rape and pillage because he owed money to banks.

This is rather a long book, but there are all sorts of interesting things Graeber says about early history and anthropology. It is well worth the time to read.

There is a video of David Graeber being interviewed by Charlie Rose. There is also a later one on David Graeber being interviewed because of this book, debt. See Conversations with Great Minds David Graeber on Debt, The 1st 5000 years.

On my website is how to find this book on Amazon if you care to purchase it. See Graeber. Also, this book review and other books I have reviewed are on my website at Book Reviews.

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