Why was Usury So Unpopular in the Ancient World?

OK, here is an open question to the readers. Why was the practice of making loans with interest rates so unpopular in antiquity. Most of you might think that usury was about excessive interest rates, however historical evidence suggests that usury was about charging any interest on loans. But why?

Some of the earliest known condemnations of usury come from the Vedic texts of India. Similar condemnations are found in religious texts from Buddhism, Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. At times many nations from ancient China to ancient Greece to ancient Rome have outlawed loans with any interest. Though the Roman Empire eventually allowed loans with carefully restricted interest rates, in medieval Europe, the Christian church banned the charging of interest at any rate (as well as charging a fee for the use of money, such as at a bureau de change).

How can the idea of charging interest on loans simultaneously offend religions as diverse as Hinduism, Buddhism, Christianity and Islam. What makes usury so repulsive that even “god-less” pagans such as the Romans and Chinese had to often explicitly ban it?

What do you think? Comments?

  1. August 16, 2012 at 5:35 pm

    Why does any irrational superstition or taboo arise?

    The more interesting and remarkable fact is that, sometimes, we shed them. Though usually not completely.

  2. August 16, 2012 at 7:07 pm

    Because the ancients did not get as far as the 15 Century Spanish monks who first theorized time-preference. The ancients thought usury was charging money for nothing; where with time-preference we understand that the usury covers the cost of giving up the ability to enjoy a given amount of wealth for the time of the loan. . . O, wait, Vedic text. . . strike that first bit, because Indra got taken by a loan shark a thousand lives ago among the chaos of creation. . .

  3. August 16, 2012 at 9:07 pm

    Joos did it!

    There were no Joos in China or India for centuries.

  4. jackal
    August 17, 2012 at 8:20 am

    Interest became repulsive after the masses began to see how a person with gold could make a living without having to actually work. Today, the average family willingly gives up to 50 percent of its income to investors, in the form of a mortgage, car, credit card, school, and payday loans. Consumers have become so addicted to bending over, they’ve even fought very hard to earn the right to bend over, as though a birthright. And in the same breadth they whine about rich people, too stupid to actually know that the vice of borrowing is what has created the banking elite. Get rid of your debt and you eventually get rid of the One Percenters. Of course, this may mean waiting until payday before you binge at restaurants. Or renting a room until you’ve saved enough to buy a car or home (the way it used to be at one time, before easy credit drove fueled excessive demand and, by extension, inflation).

  5. Zed
    August 17, 2012 at 11:34 am

    Contrary to modern economic wisdom, loans have always been about “creating money from thin air”. So, a banker would give you X dollars, but over the life of the loan, you have to pay back X + Y dollars. So where does the extra money (Y) come from?

    Prior to modern fiat currency, it came from plunder, conquest, very difficult dilution of existing coinage (this is the real reason gold was chosen – you can adjust the percentage of goal in a given coin very easily), or if all else failed, a debt jubilee.

    It was universally unpopular because if Jackal’s reason, and the overall struggle that ensues when the money supply fails to grow at a sufficient level as existing debts. This is in fact what is happening right now in the West, with their outrageous calls for “austerity”.

    Today, people in America devote twice as much of their household income to debt service as they did just a decade ago. Not good.

    Money and debt is a tool of social control – it compels the creative to work and innovate, the masses to accept near slavery, and automatically excludes low-IQ groups from the economy.

    It must be wielded by virtuous authority, or society will collapse.

  6. GBush
    August 17, 2012 at 11:54 am

    Power plain and simple. In the long run leverage leaves the banker with everything.

  7. August 18, 2012 at 1:34 am

    In an expanding economy you can repay debt and interest. In a steady state economy there is no way to repay debt, so debt =theft.

    • hans
      August 18, 2012 at 5:40 am

      You just gave the definition for a pyramid scheme.

      Which is what usury(banking) is, plain and simple. The ancients new this VERY well.
      And when I found my moon colony every bankster/usurer daring to step foot on it will get the airlock.

      • jackal
        August 18, 2012 at 6:41 am

        So, I loan you my front-end loader, so you can excavate a new moon home, which you just lost to a meteor strike, and you think I should loan my loader to you, so you can wear it out — for free? For chrissakes, I already have a neighbor just like you, always borrowing my stuff, while he has nothing to loan in return.

    • jackal
      August 18, 2012 at 6:23 am

      If the borrower does not repay debt, leaving the investor holding an empty bag, who is the real thief? Too many argue it’s the banker, deadbeats trying to weasel out of a home they paid too much for, They might as well try to argue that a bank robber is innocent.

  8. whatever
    August 18, 2012 at 7:53 pm

    jackal :
    So, I loan you my front-end loader, so you can excavate a new moon home, which you just lost to a meteor strike, and you think I should loan my loader to you, so you can wear it out — for free? For chrissakes, I already have a neighbor just like you, always borrowing my stuff, while he has nothing to loan in return.

    That’s right. You are a lazy pig that takes no risks. That’s for LITTLE people. But you do want all the profit. Cause you is so special. No Risks=All Reward.

    And for some reason other people don’t like that.

    • jackal
      August 19, 2012 at 7:39 am

      My example is a knock-out punch, and all you can do is come back and mouth off? Do that in the ring, and see if I won’t put you down again! A smarter person would get up from the mat and stay in the fight. But using logic is something you’re a long way from mastering. A long, long, long way, explaining why you always find yourself face-down in mud! Three’s a reason you dislike having to pay to borrow my loader. You pissed away you own money, which you could’ve used, instead, to buy your own loader, making it possible to set the stage to transform yourself from just a mere hireling to an independent, self-sufficient human, the way nature had intended and the way all people lived before the Industrial Revolution. But you’re just like every other over-socialized consumer who is addicted to Madison Avenue and Hollywood, content to piss away your money on interest, booze, drugs, restaurants, lottery tickets — everything, rather than parlaying your income into anything that would put you above the fray. It’s probably never occurred to you that, without run-away consumer addiction for bending over on pay days, there wouldn’t be evil bankers and corporations to rip us all off. Instead, excessive demand, which is fueled by the likes of you, drives up prices and taxes not just for yourself but for all the rest of us, too. I mean, have you ever made yourself a cup of coffee or have you always bent over for Starbucks? The cup I had this a.m. cost me a mere nickel. The money I’ve saved over time has amounted to a hell of a lot more than one mere loader. So, if you’re unwilling to get out of the mud on your own power, just shut up!!!

      • Victor Montoya
        August 19, 2012 at 11:32 am

        Jackal, your example is not a knock out punch because your front end loader is a finite thing, i.e. there is only the one front end loader that you can loan. Debt does not work that way.

        Say a depositor puts $1 dollar into a savings account. The banker takes it and puts it into a safe. Okay even you would agree with that part. Then someone else comes along to borrow $1 dollar. The bank goes back to the safe and pulls that $1 dollar out of the safe to lend it to the borrower right. And he collects interest because there’s a chance maybe that the borrower won’t be able to pay it back. Just like your front loader, if they don’t bring it back you are out of a valuable piece of equipment.

        THE THING IS THIS IS %100 WRONG! Debt is not a real thing like your front loader. When the borrower comes to borrow $1 the bank writes a receipt SAYING the borrower has $1 dollar. Merchants accept this because banks control the currency and currency is why we can have an economy.

        Jackal you seriously have a zero-sum mentality. Something this blog has been railing on since it started. I don’t believe you are in the 1% percent because they way you talk is just like how the writer describes how people have this child like belief in insitutions.

        You’re probably Republican and you ignore or accept all of the human suffering our current banking system causes because you believe one day you’ll join the ranks of the %1. I’m here to tell you Jackal that will NEVER HAPPEN LMAO!. Beside that %1 is a misnomer. The top %1 make like $400,000 a year, the top .1% make more like $100 million a year. You’re like a dog jumping up and down begging for scraps at the 1% table. You slavishly beg for their acceptance but they don’t want you, they want all the power not to share it with you LMAO.

      • jackal
        August 19, 2012 at 3:46 pm

        You do agree that if you put $1 into the bank, you are loaning the bank your dollar? IOW, you’d be an investor. In return you get either interest or safekeeping or both. Do you think I should be compensated if I loan my loader to someone, or do you think I should bend over for free, for every free-loader who walks upright? I do not belong to any political party, am not a one-percenter, hate all institutions and corporations, and despise templated thinking. I only subscribe to individual sovereignty, having tremendous respect for anyone who regards himself or herself, likewise. You may as well be a domesticated animal, if you insist on pissing away your sovereignty.

      • whatever
        August 19, 2012 at 8:30 pm

        So dumb. The “banker takes a risk”. What risk? The borrower is required to insure any loan with almost everything he has. And then bankers begin stealing from random people involved in business with that person to make their “risk” even lower. And should they somehow cock-up enough to actually lose even then, the government bails them out.

        There is no “risk”. There is only a screeching animal demanding a return. And OTHER PEOPLE to take risk.

  9. August 19, 2012 at 8:01 am

    Some of these responses helpfully illustrate my point in #1 that irrational superstitions/taboos never completely die. Thanks,

  10. jackal
    August 21, 2012 at 10:06 am

    I’m no longer surprised how the bias of so many people today gets in the way of comprehending a subject matter that is so elementary, not even school kids have trouble figuring out. I dislike banks as much as the next person, because they’re headed up by psychopaths — hogs — devoid of ethics and empathy that would otherwise compel a normally aspirated person to act fairly. But I don’t let my dislike of banks get in the way of the larger picture.

    For example, say it’s the height of the real-estate bubble back in 2005, and you’ve just inherited a home from your grandmother, the one whom you had sucked up to because she always bailed you out whenever you were broke, which was a lot. The house is worth, say, $400,000, and now it’s yours — all free and clear. You can do whatever you want with it, including selling it. But you decide to keep it, live in it because, well, you’re behind on your apartment rent again and eviction proceedings are already underway because, well, your grandmother is no longer alive to help again. As with everything in nature, new life attains from death. Your grandmother’s death provides a new lease on life for you. But it isn’t long before you’re behind on utility bills and needed maintenance, not to mention your beater wheels needs a new transmission, so you borrow $350,000 on your new home, without any qualification whatsoever. It’s more cash than you’ve every imagined, surely enough to last a lifetime, you think. You’re so psyched, more than ever before in your life, so much so that you quit your job, buy a new SUV, a new boat (which you believe will lead to a new and better girlfriend, one that will respect you more, maybe pork more, too), hang out in strip and night clubs, etc. You’ve never exactly been a poster boy for frugality, having pissed away every dollar you’d ever stumbled across. Why should I change now, you think. Basically, you’re living high on the hog — until two things eventually happen: 1. The real-estate bubble bursts; your home is now worth only $200,000, but you still owe $350,000. 2. You’ve become so broke again, after having pissed away every dime that you had borrowed, you’re now behind on mortgage payments. You tell yourself, why should I repay $350,000 when my home is worth only $200,000. You decide to default, let the bank hold an empty bag. Eventually, the bank has the sheriff throw your ass out of your own home, and now you’re no better off than if your grandmother were still be alive. In fact, you’d be better off if she was, because you could still suck up and freeload off her again.

    This borrowing scenario has played out tens of millions of times across the US. In California there were hundreds of thousands of people who had borrowed upwards of a million dollars — on homes they’d paid only $20,000 in the 70s — most of whom defaulted, opting for the victimization option, in the process bankrupting a lot of financial institutions along the way. It was the borrowers that fleeced the money — not the banks — yet public opinion is on the side of the deadbeat freeloaders. Why so few of us see the larger picture, reflects on the culture of victimization that has swamped public opinion. You, yourself, even believe you’re a victim, when in fact it’s the bank that is the victim. You have their $350,000 while they only have collateral worth $200,000. Victimization has become so acculturated today, you place it on an altar so you can genuflect daily, as constant reminder to maintain the myth that you are not a deadbeat but a victim. Not even that 401k of yours, the one that holds mutual funds of banks, helps to sway you towards the larger truth, which is that widespread borrowing had caused the inflationary spiral of the real-estate bubble; and epidemic default and victimization has crashed the bubble. The end game is a cesspool for an economy, thanks to deadbeats using debt to swamp us all.

    I don’t borrow because I do not want to shift one penny of my income to banks. For the same reason, I don’t hold funds on Wall Street, where performance hinges on the global behavior of the masses, all borrowing to high heaven, no differently than the federal government, itself. Had you managed your affairs more prudently, you’d still have your grandmother’s home, the same as she still would, had she not died. Bubble or no bubble, a free-and-clear home is still, well, free and clear. Even if you’d lost your job, to keep your home you could’ve taken in roommates for income, certainly enough to pay your living expenses. But no-o-o-o-o-o, you had to borrow, just so you cold massage your ailing ego, elevate yourself to the very level of those whom you despise so much now. That you pissed it all away, will neither get any sympathy from me nor from anyone else whose immune system remains functional to keep denial in check. There are plenty of freeloaders, though, ready to give you all the sympathy you want. Try to live off it though! People who embrace debt are disgusting, all too eager to bend over for the One Percenters every payday, so they can willingly give away half of their paychecks, even fight to do so. That’s one side. The other side is debtors like you hate those of us who have no rent to pay, no mortgage payment to make, no car payment, no credit card interest, etc, etc. We’re sovereign individuals while you’re not just a slave but one too dumb to know you’re a slave. Go drown yourself in the pigsty you’ve created for yourself, and stop blaming us for the loon-shit choices you’ve made.

  11. whatever
    August 21, 2012 at 10:25 am

    jackal said:

    For example, say it’s the height of the real-estate bubble back in 2005, and you’ve just inherited a home from your grandmother, the one whom you had sucked up to because she always bailed you out whenever you were broke, which was a lot. The house is worth, say, $400,000, and now it’s yours — all free and clear. You can do whatever you want with it, including selling it. But you decide to keep it, live in it because, well, you’re behind on your apartment rent again and eviction proceedings are already underway because, well, your grandmother is no longer alive to help again. As with everything in nature, new life attains from death. Your grandmother’s death provides a new lease on life for you. But it isn’t long before you’re behind on utility bills and needed maintenance, not to mention your beater wheels needs a new transmission, so you borrow $350,000 on your new home, without any qualification whatsoever. It’s more cash than you’ve every imagined, surely enough to last a lifetime, you think. You’re so psyched, more than ever before in your life, so much so that you quit your job, buy a new SUV, a new boat (which you believe will lead to a new and better girlfriend, one that will respect you more, maybe pork more, too), hang out in strip and night clubs, etc. You’ve never exactly been a poster boy for frugality, having pissed away every dollar you’d ever stumbled across. Why should I change now, you think. Basically, you’re living high on the hog — until two things eventually happen: 1. The real-estate bubble bursts; your home is now worth only $200,000, but you still owe $350,000. 2. You’ve become so broke again, after having pissed away every dime that you had borrowed, you’re now behind on mortgage payments. You tell yourself, why should I repay $350,000 when my home is worth only $200,000. You decide to default, let the bank hold an empty bag. Eventually, the bank has the sheriff throw your ass out of your own home, and now you’re no better off than if your grandmother were still be alive. In fact, you’d be better off if she was, because you could still suck up and freeload off her again.

    Thanks for telling me I’m a piece of shit that deserves everything bad that ever happened to me and how it I just hadn’t been “stupid” everything would have been fine.

    As for Jackal’s whining about the “poor bankers”. If the scum are supposedly paid to “manage risk” and they fail miserably, then they need to be fired. I am quite sure I would be fired for 1/100 or, indeed, 1/1000 the fuck-up almost all of them performed. And the government wouldn’t bail my ass out either. Are they fired you fucking piece of shit?

    Let’s just say you are a worthless piece of shit no one should ever listen to, jackal. Let’s just say it because it is true.

    I want them FIRED. I want whatever licenses they have in the banking industry GONE. Gone forever. I want their corporations cut into little pieces and sold off. The shareholders need to lose EVERYTHING.

    Until then, you can FUCK OFF about “responsibility”.

    THERE IS NO FUCKING RESPONSIBILITY HERE YOU FUCKING PIECE OF SHIT.

  12. jackal
    August 21, 2012 at 10:48 am

    What I said about you must be true, otherwise it wouldn’t’ve hit you so hard. Conversely, it’s why, what you say about me, has no impact — because none of it’s true, you dumb-ass debt-tard! My reply was in response to your claim that banks don’t take risks. Even though I gave you an excellent example, one that has played out thousands of times, it has made no dent in the cement-hard noggin of yours. Is your hat size 15 or what? For chrissakes, you’re so dumb, you can’t see how dumb you are. My dogs are way smarter than you.

    Now, if you want to go off topic and discuss how deregulation has led to mismanagement of banks, well, that’s something else. And you have no argument there, from me.

    Try to stay on topic. But if you suffer from ADHD, you have no business showing up here, unless you don’t mind showing us all just how stupid you can be.

  13. whatever
    August 21, 2012 at 12:59 pm


    What I said about you must be true, otherwise it wouldn’t’ve hit you so hard. Conversely, it’s why, what you say about me, has no impact — because none of it’s true, you dumb-ass debt-tard! My reply was in response to your claim that banks don’t take risks. Even though I gave you an excellent example, one that has played out thousands of times, it has made no dent in the cement-hard noggin of yours.

    Yeah. Why don’t you go down to the local bar and walk up to the biggest guy and make up a bunch of stuff about what he likes to do to little boys. Then when he beats you up you can say “It must be true or it wouldn’t have hit you so hard.” Yes, jackal, you are a conservtard. Quick on the insults. Light on the facts.

    And “your example” is conservtard crap. It would be conservtard crap even if you had not tried to pin it on me. Almost everyone in the whole United States has NEVER acted like that. Or anywhere close.

    The bankers were bailed out. They are not bankrupt. Your example is therefore wrong. They are not the “victim” when they have paid no price. The American people, including me, are the ones that have paid the price. In an amazing turn of events, that makes us the victim.

    You are of course a conservtard who just spews shit till the other person goes away. Not happening, convertard.

  14. Victor Montoya
    August 21, 2012 at 1:16 pm

    Jackal what part of “Banks don’t absorb any risk” don’t you understand. The collection of interest was always justified by saying the lender is absorbing risk because the borrower may not pay back the debts. In ancient times the bank would just tell the depositor his money was gone if the borrower didn’t pay it back, or just close the bank.

    In modern times banks just borrow money from the Federal Reserve, or get bailouts. Also you obvious don’t understand the need to expand the capital in an economy, unfortunately currently the only way to do that is to borrow money. Your real estate example is WAAAAAYYY off. All those mortgages were backed by ABSOLUTELY NOTHING. The banks lent mortgages to anyone with a pulse so the banks could gamble on the derivatives market. The derivatives market was just a huge casino that reached 900 TRILLION, that T as in Tom Trillion before it collapsed and took the US economy with it.

  15. P Ray
    August 25, 2012 at 9:45 pm

    In some religions it’s not called usury or interest … it’s called “profit sharing”. Even religions have people who want stuff they haven’t worked for.
    And even when they have worked for stuff … inflation they see around them makes them feel they deserve more.

  1. August 18, 2012 at 6:54 pm

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: