A working definition of usury is
“the practice of charging financial interest in excess of the principle amount of a loan,” or “interest above the legal or socially acceptable rate.”
The New Oxford Dictionary defines it as “the illegal action or practice of lending money at unreasonably high rates of interest.” As Mooney put it, usury revolves around “gain to the usurer for which he did not labor, and is that for which the borrower did labor, but does not enjoy the benefit.”
In its etymological root, usury entails the practice of “violent seizure of property by pirates.” Gregory Nazianzen of the fourth century put it this way:
“A man defiles the earth with usury and interest, gathering where he did not sow and reaping where he did not plant—reaping his gain not from the earth but from the need of the poor.”
As we shall see in the next two articles, whenever this practice is followed in a society, sophisticated ways of cheating become the norm, and the rich and the powerful cheat the oppressed, the poor, and the needy.
In the Roman Empire, after the death of Augustus, the rich started employing usury to increase their wealth.In the process, they largely “controlled any financial movements in the economy.”
Eventually, during the decline of the Roman Empire, “the tenant-farmers were reduced to serfdom by their creditors.”
By 325 A.D., usury was banned by the Council of Nicea as an immoral and sinful act. Jerome (340-420) declared that all forms of usury were immoral and therefore forbidden, and that the usury teaching in Deuteronomy 23:19-20 that was allowed with respect to foreigners could no longer be applied in light of Christ’s teachings.
Jerome’s argument was persuasive precisely because usury, at its eventual root, is counterproductive in the New Testament, where Christ teaches His followers to “lend freely, hoping nothing again; and your reward shall be great, and ye shall be the children of the Highest” (Luke 6:35).
In the 400s, Pope Leo the Great again declared that the prohibition against usury was to be upheld. By 800, usury was universally condemned, and for 300 years church and state were in one accord.
By the twelfth and thirteenth centuries, the Catholic Church had fostered a long line of apologists who condemned the practice, although “the evil survived.”
Usury was gradually adopted by some Catholics, which led some scholars to write that they only paid the prohibition lip service. It could also be demonstrated that during the eleventh, twelfth, and thirteenth centuries, lending at interest was practiced by some bishops. But the same scholars could never bring themselves to the fact that those bishops were contradicting the Church’s teachings on usury.
Usury was eventually condemned by all religious institutions, including Islam, Hinduism, and Buddhism,because it was viewed as a practice that oppressed the poor and needy and had the potential to bring about the collapse of economic progress. In Islam, for example, trade or fee is permitted, but usury is not.
Philosophers such as Plato, Aristotle, Cicero, Seneca, and Plutarch also condemned usury as unnatural (contra natura) and immoral. This discussion became so important in Plato’s Law that he ultimately not only advises that “no money should be lent at interest” but that “the borrower should be under no obligation to repay either capital or interest.”
Usury was indeed a huge problem in ancient Greece at the time—Plato says in The Republic that the oligarchs gather their wealth through usury and by ruining the life of others, namely the poor. Aristotle called usury “the most hated” form of “getting wealth.”
Marcus Porcius Cato, a Roman statesman who lived between 234 and 149 B.C., indirectly equates usury with murder. The usurious activity of the ancient Greek oligarchs had an intermission when Solon came to power—he persuaded rich and poor to come to a mutual agreement—a time Durant calls “the Solonian Revolution.” Solon noticed,
“Many undeserving men are rich, while their betters are poor. But we will not exchange what we are for what they have, since the one gift abides while the other passes from man to man.”
Solon, a successful and honest merchant, observed that “the wealthy reduced the masses to a desperate penury.”
By 594 B.C., Solon was called to represent the poor and the middle class. As soon as he got to power, Aristotle stated that he removed “all existing debts, whether owing to private persons or to the state.” In the process,
“all persons enslaved or attached for debt were released; those sold into servitude abroad were reclaimed and freed; and such enslavement was forbidden in the future.”
Though many assumed personal motives, the truth was that Solon lost much in the process. The rich and powerful of course went mad, saying that Solon had confiscated Greece’s property, “but within a decade opinion became almost unanimous that the act had saved Attica from revolution.”
In order to maintain a balanced economic life, Solon divided the people of Attica into four categories: thepentacosiomedimmi, the hippes, the zeugitai, and the thetes. The first category included “five-hundred-bushel men, whose annual income reached five hundred measures of produce, or the equivalent thereof.”
The second category consisted of men “whose income was between three and five hundred measures.” Men in the third category men were due “between three and five hundred measures.” The last category included “all other freemen.” Durant writes:
“Honors and taxes were determined by the same rating, and the one could not be enjoyed without paying the other; furthermore, the first class was taxed on twelve times, the second class on ten times, the third class on only five times, the amount of its annual income; the property tax was in effect a gradual income tax. The fourth class was exempt from direct taxation.
“Only the first class was eligible to the archonship or to military commands; the second class was eligible to lower offices and to the cavalry; the third class was privileged to join the heavy-armed infantry; the fourth was expected to provide the common soldiers of the state.
“This peculiar classification weakened the kinship organization upon which the oligarchy had rested its power, and established the new principle of “timocracy”—government by honor or prestige as frankly determined by taxable wealth.
“A similar ‘plutocracy’ prevailed, throughout the sixth and part of the seventh century, in most of the Greek colonies.”
Although Solon, as do many rulers, made some bad decisions (such as legalizing and taxing prostitution), it was obvious that something had to be done with respect to usury.
The view that usury was wrong was so widespread that in the fourteenth century Dante put usury and sodomy on equal footing in hell, making the point that both activities are contrary to nature.
The condemnation of usury continued to find supporters all the way to the twentieth century among people like Silvio Gesell and Margrit Kennedy, who said that interest “acts like cancer in our social structure.”
Other voices, such as C. H. Douglas, Irving Fisher, and Henry Calvert Simons, have all made it clear that usury is immoral.
We are just repeating history, and all we have to do is observe how compound interest is taking a huge toll on almost all the strata of the U.S. economy, especially among college students and home owners.
In early 2012, student loan debt reached $1 trillion, with the average graduate owing at least $25,000.During the same season, student debt rose by 8% and college tuition skyrocketed.
Fifty-one-year-old Doug Wallace, who graduated from Eastern Kentucky University with a debt of $89,000, declared, “It’s like you’re not of much worth in society.” Courts are now finding that “debt collectors misled borrowers” with regard to student loans.
Kelsey Griffith, a student from Ohio, graduated with a debt of $120,000. Chelsea Grove, a Bowling Green State University drop-out, is now paying off a $70,000 debt, even though she has no intention of going back to school. Christina Hagan will have to pay off a $65,000 debt when she graduates from Malone University (an evangelical school). Although she makes $60,000 a year as a state representative,
“she plans to begin waiting tables in the next few weeks…to help pay down her student loans and credit cards.”
Hagan has a message for the younger generation, “I need my generation to understand that nothing is free.”
These, and many other, students got their education, but will be in debt for the rest of their lives. In addition, many college graduates find it very hard to get a full-time job in this economic crisis, but the situation is worse for those who did not graduate at all.
This is not helping education at all, where America is lagging behind other powerful nations. The only ones benefitting from this situation are the usurers—and in the next two articles, we shall know who they are.
Thus, the introduction of capitalism provoked wide reactions from revolutionary movements such as Marxism and Socialism.
Karl Marx understood the labor theory of value, agreeing with Aristotle, Adam Smith, and David Ricardo that it is human labor that creates value. He wrote in The Poverty of Philosophy,
“Ricardo’s theory of values is the scientific interpretation of actual economic life…labor is the source of value. The measure of labor is time. The relative value of products is determined by the labor time required for their production.”
Yet both Smith and Marx ended up on different paths. While Smith favored interest (precisely because he was a Protestant Whig), Marx provided a critique against it.
But Marx, by implicitly putting an extreme emphasis on the labor theory of value, ended up ignoring both creation and the God who created it. Though Marx was partially right on the labor theory of value, he dishonestly used his sources to prove his preconceived point.
Like the typical biological determinist, Marx started with his conclusion and then proceeded to provide a hypothesis or “evidence” which confirmed his conclusion—an irrational and dishonest way of studying any subject.
And like the typical Darwinian evolutionist (Niles Eldredge comes to mind), who actually believed that lack of evidence proves that Darwinian evolution has happened (fancy term: punctuated equilibrium), Marx deliberately forged the evidence as he went on to develop his own theory.
Marx would cite some specific statistics and authorities, but when the same sources are checked, they declared the opposite of what Marx wanted to prove! Philo-Semitic historian Paul Johnson himself writes,
“Marx’s systematic misuse of sources attracted the attention of two Cambridge scholars in the 1880s. Using the revised French edition of Capital (1872-75), they produced a paper for the Cambridge Economic Club, ‘Comments on the use of the Blue Books by Karl Marx in Chapter XV of Le Capital’ (1885).
“They say they first checked Marx’s references ‘to derive fuller information on some points,’ but being struck by the ‘accumulating discrepancies’ they decided to examine ‘the scope and importance of the errors so plainly existing.’
“They discovered that the difference between the Blue Book texts and Marx’s quotations from them were not the result solely of inaccuracy but ‘showed signs of a distorting influence.’
“In one class of cases they found that quotations had often been ‘conveniently shortened by the omission of passages which would be likely to weigh against the conclusions which Marx was trying to establish.’
“Another category ‘consists in piecing together fictitious quotations out of isolated statements contained in different parts of a Report. These are then foisted upon the reader in inverted commas with all the authority of direct quotations from the Blue Books themselves…’
“[The scholars] concluded that their evidence might not be ‘sufficient to sustain a charge of deliberate falsification’ but certainly showed ‘an almost criminal recklessness in the use of authorities’ and warranted treating any ‘other parts of Marx’s work with suspicion.”
Since ideas have consequences, Marxism turned out to be another Jewish revolutionary movement which literally terrorized both the West and much of Asia in the twentieth century alone.
When Marxism was consistently applied in countries like the Soviet Union and China, it suppressed the very people it allegedly sought to help: the workers.
As we shall see later, Marx superficially declared that he wanted to help the workers, but ideologically his intention was to howl “gigantic curses” at all mankind.
Mao took the Marxist revolutionary idea to its logical conclusion and ended up starving and exterminating at least 40 million people in less than seven years.
Benjamin Disraeli was right in 1844 when he wrote that any significant revolutionary movement has to have a cadre of Jewish intellectuals, writers, and politicians.
Mao’s revolution would have been impossible without its Jewish figures. Laura Goldman of the Jewish Daily Forward admitted,
“85 to 90% of the foreigners helping the Chinese at the time of the Communist takeover were Jewish. This included the daughter of the founder of the brokerage firm Goldman Sachs, who left the comfort of her Park Avenue home to assist the Chinese.
“The Revolutionary” tells the story of Southern-born Sidney Rittenberg, the only American that has ever been admitted to the Chinese Communist Party.