We Have Forgotten What the Ancient Sumerians and Babylonians, the Early Jews and Christians, the Founding Fathers and Even Napoleon Bonaparte Knew About Money


Mike “Mish” Shedlock has repeatedly pointed out that we have reached “peak credit” – and there will not in our lifetimes be as much credit as we saw from 2000-2008.

I noted last year:

Michael Hudson is a highly-regarded economist. He is a Distinguished Research Professor at the University of Missouri, Kansas City, who has advised the U.S., Canadian, Mexican and Latvian governments as well as the United Nations Institute for Training and Research. He is a former Wall Street economist at Chase Manhattan Bank who also helped establish the world’s first sovereign debt fund.

Hudson says that – in every country and throughout history – debt always grows exponentially, while the economy always grows as an S-curve.

Moreover, Hudson says that the ancient Sumerians and Babylonians knew that debts had to be periodically forgiven, because the amount of debts will always surpass the size of the real economy.

For example, Hudson noted in 2004:

Mesopotamian economic thought c. 2000 BC rested on a more realistic mathematical foundation than does today’s orthodoxy. At least the Babylonians appear to have recognized that over time the debt overhead became more and more intrusive as it tended to exceed the ability to pay, culminating in a concentration of property ownership in the hands of creditors.


Babylonians recognized that while debts grew exponentially, the rest of the economy (what today is called the “real” economy) grows less rapidly. Today’s economists have not come to terms with this problem with such clarity. Instead of a conceptual view that calls for a strong ruler or state to maintain equity and to restore economic balance when it is disturbed, today’s general equilibrium models reflect the play of supply and demand in debt-free economies that do not tend to polarize or to generate other structural problems.

And Hudson wrote last year:

Every economist who has looked at the mathematics of compound interest has pointed out that in the end, debts cannot be paid. Every rate of interest can be viewed in terms of the time that it takes for a debt to double. At 5%, a debt doubles in 14½ years; at 7 percent, in 10 years; at 10 percent, in 7 years. As early as 2000 BC in Babylonia, scribal accountants were trained to calculate how loans principal doubled in five years at the then-current equivalent of 20% annually (1/60th per month for 60 months). “How long does it take a debt to multiply 64 times?” a student exercise asked. The answer is, 30 years – 6 doubling times.

No economy ever has been able to keep on doubling on a steady basis. Debts grow by purely mathematical principles, but “real” economies taper off in S-curves. This too was known in Babylonia, whose economic models calculated the growth of herds, which normally taper off. A major reason why national economic growth slows in today’s economies is that more and more income must be paid to carry the debt burden that mounts up. By leaving less revenue available for direct investment in capital formation and to fuel rising living standards, interest payments end up plunging economies into recession. For the past century or so, it usually has taken 18 years for the typical real estate cycle to run its course.

Hudson calls for a debt jubilee, and points out that periodic debt jubilees were a normal part of the Sumerian, Babylonian and ancient Jewish [and Christian] cultures. Economist Steve Keen and economic writer Ambrose Evans-Pritchard also call for a debt jubilee.

If a debt jubilee is not voluntarily granted, people may very well repudiate their debts.

And as I have previously pointed out, our modern fractional reserve banking system is really a debt-creation system, which is guaranteed to create more and more debts. As then-Chairman of the Federal Reserve (Mariner S. Eccles) told the House Committee on Banking and Currency on September 30, 1941:

That is what our money system is. If there were no debts in our money system, there wouldn’t be any money.

The modern banking system is therefore really a debt-creation system. See this for details.

One thing is for sure. The exponential growth of debt is a structural problem which – unless directly addressed – will swallow all economies which try to ignore it.

I also pointed out:

As everyone from Paul Krugman to Simon Johnson has noted, the banks are so big and politically powerful that they have bought the politicians and captured the regulators (and see this).

But it’s not just a question of regulatory capture and corruption. It’s actually a loss of sovereignty.

As Damon Vrabel wrote in July:

It seems ridiculous to point this out, but sovereign debt implies sovereignty. Right? Well, if countries are sovereign, then how could they be required to be in debt to private banking institutions? How could they be so easily attacked by the likes of George Soros, JP Morgan Chase, and Goldman Sachs? Why would they be subjugated to the whims of auctions and traders?

A true sovereign is in debt to nobody and is not traded in the public markets. For example, how would George Soros attack, say, the British royal family? [Vrabel is presumably referring to Soros’ currency speculation against the British pound and other currencies.] It’s not possible. They are sovereign. Their stock isn’t traded on the NYSE. He can’t orchestrate a naked short sell strategy to destroy their credit and force them to restructure their assets. But he can do that to most of the other 6.7 billion people of the world by designing attack strategies against the companies they work for and the governments they depend on.

The fact is that most countries are not sovereign (the few that are are being attacked by [the big Western intelligence services] or the military). Instead they are administrative districts or customers of the global banking establishment whose power has grown steadily over time based on the math of the bond market, currently ruled by the US dollar, and the expansionary nature of fractional lending. Their cult of economists from places like Harvard, Chicago, and the London School have steadily eroded national sovereignty by forcing debt-based … currencies on countries.

We long ago lost the free market envisioned by Adam Smith in the “Wealth of Nations” [the book widely considered to be the foundation of modern economic theory]. Such a world would require sovereign currencies…. Only then could there be a “wealth of nations.” But now we have nothing but the “debt of nations.” The exponential math of debt by definition meant that countries would only lose their wealth over time and become increasingly indebted to the global central banking network.

An obvious example of a nation which has lost it’s sovereignty and gone from the “wealth of nations” to the “debt of nations” is Ireland.


Similarly, Americans – without their knowledge or consent – are bailing out banks all over the world . See this, this and this [and updates here, here and here].

Of course, there is no bright line between private and central banks, since big banks own the Fed, and the world’s central banks – in turn – own the BIS.

Central bankers are not elected by – or accountable to – the people of the nations in which they sit, nor are the IMF or World Bank. The IMF often loans money to countries and then imposes draconian austerity packages.

Sure, Irish and American politicians were irresponsible and corrupt, and both peoples were spendthrifts.

But – as I’ve repeatedly pointed out – the game has also been rigged in favor of the banks and against the sovereign nations.

[Debt grows exponentially while the economy only grows in an s-curve, so] the amount of debts will always surpass the size of the real economy. If private banks have the power to create debt, then the biggest banks will always eventually win out over the sovereign nations, especially when the amount of credit which can be created (i.e. the size of the monetary base) is not limited by real assets, but is simply based on a system of fiat currency.

As I wrote in October, in a post entitled “The Founding Fathers’ Vision of Prosperity Has Been Destroyed”:

The ability for America and the 50 states to create its own credit has largely been lost to private bankers. The lion’s share of new credit creation is done by private banks, so – instead of being able to itself create money without owing interest – the government owes unfathomable trillions in interest to private banks.

America may have won the Revolutionary War, but it has since lost one of the main things it fought for: the freedom to create its own credit instead of having to beg for credit from private banks at a usurious cost.

And see this.

But – whatever one thinks about public banking or paper currencies – one thing should be clear to everyone: the giant banks are rapidly chipping away at the sovereignty of virtually all of the world’s nations.

Indeed, they are waging warfare against national sovereignty worldwide.

Wisdom of the Ages

We have forgotten what money is, how money is created and how private bankers will always destroy the wealth of nations unless kept in check. As shown by the following historical quotes, we can only escape the web of debt into which we have fallen if we learn the true nature of money and banks.

“Neoclassical economists do not understand how money is created by the private banking system—despite decades of empirical research to the contrary, they continue to cling to the textbook vision of banks as mere intermediaries between savers and borrowers.

This is bizarre, since as long as 4 decades ago, the actual situation was put very simply by the then Senior Vice President, Federal Reserve Bank of New York, Alan Holmes. Holmes explained why the then faddish Monetarist policy of controlling inflation by controlling the growth of Base Money had failed, saying that it suffered from “a naive assumption” that:

The banking system only expands loans after the [Federal Reserve] System (or market factors) have put reserves in the banking system. In the real world, banks extend credit, creating deposits in the process, and look for the reserves later. The question then becomes one of whether and how the Federal Reserve will accommodate the demand for reserves. In the very short run, the Federal Reserve has little or no choice about accommodating that demand; over time, its influence can obviously be felt. (Alan R. Holmes, 1969, p. 73; emphasis added)”

– Economics professor Steve Keen

“Under the old way any time we wish to add to the national wealth we are compelled to add to the national debt. Now, that is what Henry Ford wants to prevent. He thinks it is stupid, and so do I, that for the loan of $30,000,000 of their own money the people of the United States should be compelled to pay $66,000,000 — that is what it amounts to, with interest. People who will not turn a shovelful of dirt nor contribute a pound of material will collect more money from the United States than will the people who supply the material and do the work. That is the terrible thing about interest. In all our great bond issues the interest is always greater than the principal. All of the great public works cost more than twice the actual cost, on that account. Under the present system of doing business we simply add 120 to 150 per cent, to the stated cost.

But here is the point: If our nation can issue a dollar bond, it can issue a dollar bill. The element that makes the bond good makes the bill good. The difference between the bond and the bill is that the bond lets the money brokers collect twice the amount of the bond and an additional 20 per cent, whereas the currency pays nobody but those who directly contribute to Muscle Shoals in some useful way.

… if the Government issues currency, it provides itself with enough money to increase the national wealth at Muscles Shoals without disturbing the business of the rest of the country. And in doing this it increases its income without adding a penny to its debt.
It is absurd to say that our country can issue $30,000,000 in bonds and not $30,000,000 in currency. Both are promises to pay; but one promise fattens the usurer, and the other helps the people. If the currency issued by the Government were no good, then the bonds issued would be no good either. It is a terrible situation when the Government, to increase the national wealth, must go into debt and submit to ruinous interest charges ….

Look at it another way. If the Government issues bonds, the brokers will sell them. The bonds will be negotiable; they will be considered as gilt edged paper. Why? Because the government is behind them, but who is behind the Government? The people. Therefore it is the people who constitute the basis of Government credit. Why then cannot the people have the benefit of their own gilt-edged credit by receiving non-interest bearing currency on Muscle Shoals, instead of the bankers receiving the benefit of the people’s credit in interest-bearing bonds?

Certainly there is a complete set of misleading slogans kept on hand for just such outbreaks of common sense among the people. The people are so ignorant of what they think are the intricacies of the money system that they are easily impressed by big words. There would be new shrieks of ‘fiat money,’ and ‘paper money’ and ‘green-backism,’ and all the rest of it – the same old cries with which the people have been shouted down from the beginning.”

– Thomas Edison

“Banks have the power to create money. And decide how much that is worth.”
– Congresswoman Marcy Kaptur

“[Banks] do not really pay out loans from the money they receive as deposits. If they did this, no additional money would be created. What they do when they make loans is to accept promissory notes in exchange for credits to the borrowers’ transaction accounts.”
– 1960s Chicago Federal Reserve Bank booklet entitled “Modern Money Mechanics”

“The process by which banks create money is so simple that the mind is repelled.”
– Economist John Kenneth Galbraith

“[W]hen a bank makes a loan, it simply adds to the borrower’s deposit account in the bank by the amount of the loan. The money is not taken from anyone else’s deposit; it was not previously paid in to the bank by anyone. It’s new money, created by the bank for the use of the borrower.
– Robert B. Anderson, Secretary of the Treasury under Eisenhower, in an interview reported in the August 31, 1959 issue of U.S. News and World Report

“Do private banks issue money today? Yes. Although banks no longer have the right to issue bank notes, they can create money in the form of bank deposits when they lend money to businesses, or buy securities. . . . The important thing to remember is that when banks lend money they don’t necessarily take it from anyone else to lend. Thus they ‘create’ it.”
-Congressman Wright Patman, Money Facts (House Committee on Banking and Currency, 1964)

The modern banking system manufactures money out of nothing. The process is perhaps the most astounding piece of sleight of hand that was ever invented.”
– Sir Josiah Stamp, president of the Bank of England and the second richest man in Britain in the 1920s.

“Banks create money. That is what they are for. . . . The manufacturing process to make money consists of making an entry in a book. That is all. . . . Each and every time a Bank makes a loan . . . new Bank credit is created — brand new money.”
– Graham Towers, Governor of the Bank of Canada from 1935 to 1955.

“If all the bank loans were paid, no one could have a bank deposit, and there would not be a dollar of coin or currency in circulation. This is a staggering thought. We are completely dependent on the commercial Banks. Someone has to borrow every dollar we have in circulation, cash or credit. If the Banks create ample synthetic money we are prosperous; if not, we starve. We are absolutely without a permanent money system. When one gets a complete grasp of the picture, the tragic absurdity of our hopeless position is almost incredible, but there it is. It is the most important subject intelligent persons can investigate and reflect upon. It is so important that our present civilization may collapse unless it becomes widely understood and the defects remedied very soon.
– Robert H. Hemphill, Credit Manager of the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta

“That is what our money system is. If there were no debts in our money system, there wouldn’t be any money.”
– Mariner S. Eccles, Chairman of the Federal Reserve from

“When a government is dependent upon bankers for money, they and not the leaders of the government control the situation, since the hand that gives is above the hand that takes… Money has no motherland; financiers are without patriotism and without decency; their sole object is gain.”
– Napoleon Bonaparte

“There are two ways to conquer and enslave a nation. One is by the sword. The other is by debt.”
– John Adams

“If the American people ever allow the banks to control issuance of their currency, first by inflation and then by deflation, the banks and corporations that grow up around them will deprive the people of all property until their children will wake up homeless on the continent their fathers occupied”.
— Thomas Jefferson

“I believe that banking institutions are more dangerous to our liberties than standing armies…The issuing power should be taken from the banks and restored to the Government, to whom it properly belongs.”
– Thomas Jefferson

“[It was] the poverty caused by the bad influence of the English bankers on the Parliament which has caused in the colonies hatred of the English and . . . the Revolutionary War.”
– Benjamin Franklin

“The Founding Fathers of this great land had no difficulty whatsoever understanding the agenda of bankers, and they frequently referred to them and their kind as, quote, ‘friends of paper money. They hated the Bank of England, in particular, and felt that even were we successful in winning our independence from England and King George, we could never truly be a nation of freemen, unless we had an honest money system. ”
-Peter Kershaw, author of the 1994 booklet “Economic Solutions”

“[T]he creation and circulation of bills of credit by revolutionary assemblies…coming as they did upon the heels of the strenuous efforts made by the Crown to suppress paper money in America [were] acts of defiance so contemptuous and insulting to the Crown that forgiveness was thereafter impossible . . . [T]here was but one course for the crown to pursue and that was to suppress and punish these acts of rebellion…Thus the Bills of Credit of this era, which ignorance and prejudice have attempted to belittle into the mere instruments of a reckless financial policy were really the standards of the Revolution. they were more than this: they were the Revolution itself!”
– Historian Alexander Del Mar

“The British Parliament took away from America its representative money, forbade any further issue of bills of credit, these bills ceasing to be legal tender, and ordered that all taxes should be paid in coins … Ruin took place in these once flourishing Colonies . . . discontent became desperation, and reached a point . . . when human nature rises up and asserts itself.”
– British historian John Twells

“The fraud and obfuscation now underway in Washington to protect the TBTF [i.e. giant or “too big to fail”] banks … totals into the trillions of dollars and rises to the level of treason.”
– Leading independent bank analyst Christopher Whalen

“The Wall Street banks are the new American oligarchy– a group that gains political power because of its economic power, and then uses that political power for its own benefit. Runaway profits and bonuses in the financial sector were transmuted into political power through campaign contributions and the attraction of the revolving door. But those profits and bonuses also bolstered the credibility and influence of Wall Street; in an era of free market capitalism triumphant, an industry that was making so much money had to be good, and people who were making so much money had to know what they were talking about. Money and ideology were mutually reinforcing. This is not the first time that a powerful economic elite has risen to political prominence. In the late nineteenth century, the giant industrial trusts — many of them financed by banker and industrialist J. P. Morgan — dominated the U.S. economy with the support of their allies in Washington, until President Theodore Roosevelt first used the antitrust laws to break them up.”

Make our largest banks small enough to fail. There is simply no other way to really end the problem of ‘too big to fail.'”
– Former chief IMF economist and MIT professor Simon Johnson

This entry was posted in General. Bookmark the permalink.