UnLtdWorld is a new social networking site which aims to bring together people who want to "generate social impact" - in other words, change the world. I've met Alberto, who's running it, and I was impressed by his experience and the way he's approaching the project.
So this morning I sat down to create my profile on their Beta site, when I came to two questions which temporarily stumped me:
- What issue most concerns you in the world?
- What single issue would you change to make the world a better place?
They are entirely appropriate questions for the site, just not ones that I'm very good at answering.
In the end, I decided that what most concerns me is 'the loss of the sense of timeliness'. And the single change I would make would be to 'cancel first world debt'.
I didn't notice until afterwards, but these answers pinpoint two of the three things I would like to write about, at that distant period in my life when I finally have the time to write something more coherent than a blog. They are also connected: the effect of being in debt shapes your experience of and relationship to time. And, since the cultural and economic shifts of the 1960s, debt has become the primary mechanism of social control that keeps us bound to our untimely way of living. But that's a long story...
What prompted me to blog about this was that, having been thinking about the cancellation of debt, I stumbled across this article (via Ran):
Laws that periodically canceled debts, freed Israelite debt-servants, and returned lands to their traditional holders have confused Biblical students for centuries. They have long been virtually ignored by historians on the ground that, to modern eyes, they would seem to wreak economic havoc.
Recent discoveries of Bronze Age Near Eastern royal proclamations dating from 2400 to 1600 BCE leave no doubt that these edicts were implemented. During the Babylonian period they grew more elaborate and detailed, capped by Ammisaduqa’s Edict of 1646 BCE. Now that these edicts are understood, the Biblical laws no longer stand alone as utopian or other-worldly ideals; they take their place in a 2,000-year continuum of periodic and regular economic renewal based on freedom from debt-servitude and from the loss of access to self-support on the land...
Rome was the first society not to cancel its debts. And we all know what happened to it. Classical historians such as Plutarch, Livy, and Diodorus attributed Rome’s decline and fall to the fact that creditors got the entire economy in their debt, expropriated the land and public domain, and strangled the economy.
The author is Michael Hudson, an economist at the University of Missouri, and there's a lot more on his website. I'm very glad to have found it, because I've wondered for a long time whether the Jubilee laws of the Old Testament were more than wishful thinking, and - despite coming from a family of theologians - noone was able to tell me.