Unleashing Usury: How Finance Opened the Door to Capitalism Then Swallowed It Whole

Unleashing Usury: How Finance Opened the Door to Capitalism Then Swallowed It Whole

Unleashing Usury: How Finance Opened the Door to Capitalism Then Swallowed It Whole

Unleashing Usury: How Finance Opened the Door to Capitalism Then Swallowed It Whole

Synopsis

Richard Westra argues that changes across the capitalist world at the turn of the 21st century put into play a global financial system which operates as a reincarnation of ancient usury. The book reexamines the historical record to show how activities of antediluvian money lending brought Western civilization to the brink of collapse. Usury corrupted princes and kings by indulging their conspicuous consumption. It forced them to bleed their populations to fuel their possessive lust. And it fomented vicious cycles of indebtedness in the wars it compelled. Money lending to merchants spread the commercial economy that intervened between producers and consumers driving populations into debt and dispossessing them of their land. What saved Western civilization was the rise of capitalism. Capitalism tamed the activities of money lending, and endowed them with socially redeeming value. The cost of borrowing was rationally set in money markets. Bank credit was offered in anticipation of incomes generated by its determinate use. All in all, capitalism tethered finance to expanding production of material goods and increased social wealth.But, as the 20th century drew to a close, with capital no longer scarce as exemplified by the aimless bloating of varying categories of funds, finance again turned to its dark side. With the disarticulating of production through globalization, there existed no possibility for bloating funds to ever be converted into real capital with determinate, socially redeeming use. Instead, systemic rule changes empowered big banks, big investment firms and finance wings of giant corporations to unleash vast oceans of funds in a global orgy of money games. However, the global financial system of casino play can only operate akin to ancient usury. Wealth for the few is expanded by expropriation and Himalayan levels of debt befalling the many! Like usurers of old the new Merchants of Venice are indifferent to how lent funds are used. And loan repayment is set arbitrarily, often exacting such a high cost that the borrower is ruined or forced to strive for the ruin of others. Big government becomes the handmaiden sweeping as much debt under the public rug as it can. Yet there is only so much in pounds of flesh left on the bones of humanity. Greece is really just the hors d'oeuvre.

Excerpt

To make the case that changes across the capitalist world at the turn of the 21st century put into play a global financial system which operates as a reincarnation of ancient usury requires several key steps.

Chapter One, using broad brush strokes, introduces the problem.

Chapter Two takes the reader on a fascinating journey back into West European history to see antediluvian “loan capital” or usury in action as it helped to bring then civilization to the brink of collapse.

Chapter Three shows how capitalism chained Shylock as it reset finance and trade with socially redeeming purposes tied to the nexus of capitalist profit making and the social prosperity capitalism initially spreads.

Chapter Four follows the trail capitalism blazes as it increasingly forsakes its market operating principles for a welter of extraeconomic, extra-capitalist supports to survive in the 20th century. Yet, notwithstanding these supports, what remains of capitalist substance drives advanced economies into crises.

Chapter Five exposes the big lie of the neoliberal era. It shows clearly why there is no longer any capitalism in the 21st century. Production centered economies are largely disintegrated with the activities which had acted as their engines of growth now disarticulated across the globe. What currently exists is a global network of casino economies with financial systems which operate not like capitalist markets, but likbeen reading and writing and thinking about women and World War II for most of four decades. It began when I was very young and joined NOW, the National Organization for Women. At a meeting of our chapter on Massachusetts’ South Shore, two women who were appreciably older than the rest of us got into a rather heated argument about whether the WAC or the WAVES was the superior women’s military corps. Neither I nor anyone else my age had a clue about this.

Our NOW chapter is no longer extant (and I’ve lived in Florida for three decades), but we built a child care center that still is extant. This happened partly because of another older woman, who told us that the child care centers were routine at coastal shipyards during World War II. Again, that was news to us: no one ever told us that this particular wheel, so important to employed women, already had been invented—and almost literally in our own backyard. I resolved that when I finished my first book, Foreign and Female: Immigrant Women in America, 1840–1930, I would explore World War II.

I learned some things, and in 1995, the Council on America’s Military Past invited me to speak at their annual convention. The several hundred people who attended were overwhelmingly male, and most were high-ranking officers who had added graduate degrees in history to their credentials. Frankly, I was nervous and feared they would accuse me of overstating the case for women. Dread swept over me when hands shot up as soon as I stopped talking. The president called on the highest-ranking man first, a two-star admiral. “You didn’t say enough about the Navy Nurse Corps,” he began; “my wife was in the Navy Nurse Corps, and they …” Not a negative word was said. Instead, every man was eager to point out more positive things about women, things that they had not thought about in a while. It was clear that this knowledge was in the backs of brains, and they just needed prompting to pull it out . . .

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