A Free Nation Deep in Debt: The Financial Roots of Democracy by James Macdonald

By James Macdonald

These days, the concept that the way in which a rustic borrows its funds is hooked up to what sort of govt it has comes as a shock to most folks. yet within the eighteenth century it used to be ordinarily accredited that public debt and political liberty have been in detail comparable. In A loose country Deep in Debt, James Macdonald explores the relationship among public debt and democracy within the broadest attainable phrases. He starts off with a few basic questions: Why do governments borrow? How will we clarify the life of democratic associations within the historical global? Why did bond markets come into lifestyles, and why did this take place in Europe and never elsewhere?Macdonald reveals the solutions to those questions in a sweeping background that starts off in biblical instances, makes a speciality of the major interval of the eighteenth century, and maintains right down to the current. He levels the realm, from Mesopotamia to China to France to the us, and reveals proof for the wedding of democracy and public credits from its earliest glimmerings to its swan music within the bond drives of global struggle II. at the present time the 2 are, it kind of feels, divorced--but figuring out their hundreds and hundreds of years of cohabitation is important to appreciating the democracy that we now take without any consideration.

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The city of Clazomenae (also on the Ionian coast-the Ionians seem to have been the financial pioneers of the Greek world) requisitioned the olive oil reserves of its citizens and sold them abroad in exchange for wheat. The profits on the transaction were to suffice to pay interest on the value of the oil. Around the same time the mainland city of Mende, which was then at war with Olynthus, required its citizens to sell all their slaves except two, and to lend the proceeds to the city. Perhaps the most interesting of all the recorded forced loans of the fourth century is another example from Clazomenae, noted by Aristotle in his Economics.

Subscribers were given the choice of an outright gift of 500 drachmas or a 3,000-drachma interest-free loan. ) The most significant voluntary loan was another loan raised by the city "'The drachma was the most common currency of the Greek cities. 3 grams of silver. It was minted in various denominations, most frequently as a tetradrachm (4 drachmas). There were 6,000 drachmas in a talent. TRIBES AND EMPIRES 39 of Miletus in 205 B. c. 4 talents) was raised to repay accumulated obligations and debts.

To this the taxpayers cried out, "What portion have we in David? " In the resulting upheaval the unity of the kingdom was destroyed. This tale of tensions between the Hebrews and their kings continued in the northern successor kingdom of Israel. After the fateful day when they ignored Samuel's warning, the Israelites never really succeeded in creating stable constitutional arrangements. Other societies enjoyed greater success in limiting the powers of their rulers. From the evidence of the Mahabharata, it seems that the kingdoms set up by Aryan invaders of northern India had popular assemblies: the sabha, probably a council of elders, and the samiti, a general assembly.

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