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Should the usurers be driven out of the temple?

Enter here to explore ethical issues and discuss the meaning and source of morality.
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pantodragon
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Should the usurers be driven out of the temple?

#1 Post by pantodragon » December 28th, 2013, 4:17 pm

The Medici family of Renaissance Florence are greatly admired today for their patronage of the arts……

………and for founding one of the first recognizably modern banks. In other words, the Medicis were money lenders. In fact, they were Usurers --- they loaned money for which interest was charged, and thus made their fortune.

Usury has been condemned by many cultures/religions, including the Romans, the Greeks, Christianity and Buddhism. Modern Islam still considers this practice to be sinful. In the modern world this situation has been turned upside down: far from being considered reprehensible, far from its practitioners being ostracized or outlawed, they have come to be the most respected and valued members of our society. Bankers rank extremely highly and wield inordinate amounts of power. They influence governments.

How is it that our moral values can have been turned upside down in this way? Were the Ancients so wrong? I think not. I think that, as in so many ways, those in power have managed to pull a fast one, have managed to white-wash their base practices to the extent that, far from being seen as the base practices that they are, they are now seen as benign and morally pure practices that support and maintain the function of our society.

Why the Ancients abhorred usury I do not know, but I suspect that they intuitively sensed and understood that usury did not enhance life and that it did not improve society but on the contrary that it degraded life and caused social problems. The difference today is that philosophy has been invented, and the Enlightenment has happened. Intuition has become a bad word. Reason is all. And reason cannot prove that usury is wrong. In fact, many such as Adam Smith have found themselves able to reason that usury is most beneficial to society. Of course, there was also Karl Marx who was able to find that usury IS an abomination.

The trouble is that something else the Ancients knew intuitively is that reason will get you nowhere. Reason can argue both sides of the case. In complex situations reason is the very Devil and should be consigned to Hell --- the place to which people who rely overmuch upon reason consign themselves.

So, when one is trying to decide upon the moral value of usury then one must take recourse to one’s senses, one’s experience and rely upon intuition……..

……….if you do that the situation is crystal clear and all doubt is removed: usury is an abomination.

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animist
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Re: Should the usurers be driven out of the temple?

#2 Post by animist » December 29th, 2013, 4:25 pm

presumably then you do not think people should be able to get mortgages in order to buy their own homes

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pantodragon
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Re: Should the usurers be driven out of the temple?

#3 Post by pantodragon » December 30th, 2013, 3:39 pm

animist wrote:presumably then you do not think people should be able to get mortgages in order to buy their own homes
No. I think that house prices should be realistic. Ask yourself why house prices are so high. Ask yourself what people did for housing before usury became endemic.

People should not NEED to get mortgages. The system is corrupt.

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animist
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Re: Should the usurers be driven out of the temple?

#4 Post by animist » December 30th, 2013, 5:43 pm

pantodragon wrote:
animist wrote:presumably then you do not think people should be able to get mortgages in order to buy their own homes

No. I think that house prices should be realistic. Ask yourself why house prices are so high. Ask yourself what people did for housing before usury became endemic.

People should not NEED to get mortgages. The system is corrupt.
well, suggest a better alternative. Before "we" bought houses maybe we built our own (my great-grandfather did so apparently) but not all of us are builders, and maybe not all of us can even afford the materials needed :wink:

Nick
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Re: Should the usurers be driven out of the temple?

#5 Post by Nick » January 17th, 2014, 4:38 pm

pantodragon wrote:I think that house prices should be realistic.
They are realistic. What you meant to say was "cheap".
Ask yourself why house prices are so high.
Because of supply and demand. And supply is restricted because of planning rules and regs.
Ask yourself what people did for housing before usury became endemic.
Lived as serfs or vagrants.
People should not NEED to get mortgages. The system is corrupt.
I'm sure we'd like to hear your solutions... :wink:

thundril
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Re: Should the usurers be driven out of the temple?

#6 Post by thundril » January 17th, 2014, 7:12 pm

pantodragon wrote:The Medici family of Renaissance Florence are greatly admired today for their patronage of the arts……

………and for founding one of the first recognizably modern banks. In other words, the Medicis were money lenders. In fact, they were Usurers --- they loaned money for which interest was charged, and thus made their fortune.

Usury has been condemned by many cultures/religions, including the Romans, the Greeks, Christianity and Buddhism. Modern Islam still considers this practice to be sinful. In the modern world this situation has been turned upside down: far from being considered reprehensible, far from its practitioners being ostracized or outlawed, they have come to be the most respected and valued members of our society. Bankers rank extremely highly and wield inordinate amounts of power. They influence governments.

How is it that our moral values can have been turned upside down in this way?
Morality has little to do with, I think. Any system of production that allows at least some members of society to get beyond hand-to-mouth subsistence requires advance organisation of workers, tools, materials, etc. So the means of enabling this advance work has to be found somehow. One way to get this advance capital is to borrow it from someone. People who lend out money sometimes don't get it back. Very often price inflation means that when you do get your money back, it has less buying power than it had when you lent it.. And there are other administrative costs involved. So it is perfectly reasonable for lenders to charge something on top, to cover these expenses and risks, and to make a living themselves.
What has happened in the UK, (and to some extent in the US too) is that since the early 1980s, the political power of the manufacturing capitalists has been usurped by the finance capitalists. The increasing fraction of GDP that is generated in the financial services sector shows this clearly. The result is that the bankers, from being a sector that provided some essential services, have turned themselves into an overblown, overpowerful, self-enriching clique. And when, a few years ago, their patently fairytale practices fucked up the economies of half the planet, the British and US governments just threw buckets of theoretical money at them.
This is why I say morality had very little to do with it. At least originally. But it became obscenely and deliberately immoral under the changes of the early 1980s.

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pantodragon
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Re: Should the usurers be driven out of the temple?

#7 Post by pantodragon » January 20th, 2014, 4:05 pm

animist wrote: well, suggest a better alternative. Before "we" bought houses maybe we built our own (my great-grandfather did so apparently) but not all of us are builders, and maybe not all of us can even afford the materials needed :wink:

Have you seen the film Witness? There are still places in the world where house building is a community activity. There's even an advert for mars bars where a community gets together to build a clubhouse for a local football team. So why are communities so very rare today? They rob the profiteers of their profit.

But in any case, you can recognise that a problem exists without immediately being able to offer a solution. Indeed, in the spirit of community, one may divide up the labour such that while some people are good at spotting problems, others are good at solving them. Thus each is supported by the other: those that love looking for problems can be given free rein and the more problems they come up with, the happier the problem solvers are!

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Re: Should the usurers be driven out of the temple?

#8 Post by pantodragon » January 20th, 2014, 4:13 pm

Nick wrote:
They are realistic. What you meant to say was "cheap".
Oh don't be so silly! EVERYBODY KNOWS that house prices have gone OTT. It is usually said that this has happened since houses became an investment rather than long term homes.

As to hearing my solutions, read my response to animist.

And PS: brush up your history! There have been uncountable different ways of living other than serf or vagrant. Even today there are other societies in the world where things are done differently. So don't challenge me to come up with a solution in that laddish manner --- expand your knowledge of the world and you'll find that solutions are there a-plenty.

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Re: Should the usurers be driven out of the temple?

#9 Post by Nick » January 20th, 2014, 4:19 pm

pantodragon wrote:Have you seen the film Witness?
Yes, one of my favourite films, especially the scene where they build the new house!
There are still places in the world where house building is a community activity.
With very rare exceptions, such as the Amish, directly correlated with standards of living.
There's even an advert for mars bars where a community gets together to build a clubhouse for a local football team. So why are communities so very rare today? They rob the profiteers of their profit.
Nope. It's comparative advantage. You wouldn't want me wiring your house, trust me!
But in any case, you can recognise that a problem exists without immediately being able to offer a solution.
Alternatively, you might be identifying the wrong problem....
Indeed, in the spirit of community, one may divide up the labour such that while some people are good at spotting problems, others are good at solving them. Thus each is supported by the other: those that love looking for problems can be given free rein and the more problems they come up with, the happier the problem solvers are!
So already we have comparative advantage. "Community" didn't last long, did it? :wink: And sadly, it would seem that neither is your long suit.... :wink:

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pantodragon
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Re: Should the usurers be driven out of the temple?

#10 Post by pantodragon » January 20th, 2014, 4:24 pm

thundril wrote: Morality has little to do with, I think. Any system of production that allows at least some members of society to get beyond hand-to-mouth subsistence requires advance organisation of workers, tools, materials, etc. So the means of enabling this advance work has to be found somehow. One way to get this advance capital is to borrow it from someone.

Once again, ever heard of "community"? I advised someone above, Cap'n Pugwash/Nick, to expand his knowledge of the world. It seems you need this advise too. But it is not just the real world --- there are plenty of imagined, fictional world which propose highly organised living which does not involve some people exploiting or making a profit from others. Star Trek has gone beyond money and consider it a more sophisticated world. However, I don't think that one was probably very well worked out. How about Dinotopia, where there is no money and it is time which is important i.e. things, services etc are valued according to how much time they take to accomplish.

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Cam
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Re: Should the usurers be driven out of the temple?

#11 Post by Cam » February 20th, 2014, 10:00 am

I think the core of the argument here is that capitalism is immoral. But if we break that down further: capitalism favours exploitation and it is exploitation that is immoral, then I think we are getting somewhere.

Why do some people exploit others? Greed. They want more for themselves and have little/no empathy for other human beings. So if you don't want the capitalist way of exploitation then you have to fight against that very core human nature of greed.

I have yet to figure out how to do this. The only solution so far was pantodragon's method of behaving in the way that you would like others to behave, which I agree with in principle, but if the other folk have no empathy for you they will simply take advantage and you are back to square one. They are advantaged and you are disadvantaged.

incidentally, just for the record, I'm not a communist/fascist either as those doctrines are not democratic.

I must admit that after seeing Star Trek (I think it was the film First Contact), where the enterprise crew went back in time and Picard had to explain to a lady about how they lived in the future, it really struck a note with me as to how she could not understand how we could live without money and Picard explained it beautifully. Basically if you NEED something, you can have it and we work for the good of humanity. We are FAR away from that system, but I would like to think it's something we can aspire to in the future.

Also, thinking about it, when I was at university studying engineering, it was held in high regard and some of the engineers used to laugh at the people who went into sales/marketing, because that's what you did if you could not do science/engineering. Now, years later on, I work for a company as the head of engineering and I am regarded lower and earn less than most of the sales people. Mostly because they are on commission and I am not and the company is massively money oriented. Just goes to show how things have flipped over. The top sales guy earns (gross) TEN times that of a warehouse worker. Does he work ten times harder? no. Is that fair? no. .

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Re: Should the usurers be driven out of the temple?

#12 Post by Dave B » February 20th, 2014, 10:31 am

Don't talk to me about bloody sales and marketing people!! They are a necessary evil and are all too often considered as near gods.

The marketing manager in my old company estimated that we would sell, maybe, 10 units of a new line in a year. Our senior technologist looked after the promotion, on the quiet with his personal contacts, and we sold 150 in the first month and over 1000 in the first year. Mr Marketing also sold many "specials" that cost more to manufacture than they were sold for because he also gave the customers discounts.

He was lauded as the best thing since sliced bread but actually cost the company more than he made on my bosses estimation. Same went for the top salesman in the year I left. He sold more units than any other salesman but only because he negotiated large discounts and back breaking delivery dates. He also lost the company money.

But who got the commissions?

Those of us who actually designed the new products did not get a real time pay rise for three years. Even an electrician in maintenance earned more than me as a senior tech.

As I have said, making be redundant was the best promotion they could give me!
"Look forward; yesterday was a lesson, if you did not learn from it you wasted it."
Me, 2015

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Alan H
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Re: Should the usurers be driven out of the temple?

#13 Post by Alan H » February 20th, 2014, 11:17 am

Cam wrote:I must admit that after seeing Star Trek (I think it was the film First Contact), where the enterprise crew went back in time and Picard had to explain to a lady about how they lived in the future, it really struck a note with me as to how she could not understand how we could live without money and Picard explained it beautifully. Basically if you NEED something, you can have it and we work for the good of humanity. We are FAR away from that system, but I would like to think it's something we can aspire to in the future.
I think I've quoted that here before, but...
How much does this thing cost?

Captain Jean-Luc Picard: The economics of the future are somewhat different. You see, money doesn’t exist in the 24th Century.

No money? You mean you don’t get paid?

Picard: The acquisition of wealth is no longer the driving force in our lives. We work to better ourselves and the rest of Humanity.
I agree with your sentiments about salesmen (and women) and about exploitation.
Alan Henness

There are three fundamental questions for anyone advocating Brexit:

1. What, precisely, are the significant and tangible benefits of leaving the EU?
2. What damage to the UK and its citizens is an acceptable price to pay for those benefits?
3. Which ruling of the ECJ is most persuasive of the need to leave its jurisdiction?

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Re: Should the usurers be driven out of the temple?

#14 Post by Cam » February 20th, 2014, 12:16 pm

Dave B,
I feel your pain. I have not had a pay rise in almost 5 years. But the office/sales staff have!

Alan H,
Thanks for putting that quote up. Much appreciated! I am going to have to watch that film again sometime as it's a good one. :D

Damn good quote that: The acquisition of wealth is no longer the driving force in our lives. We work to better ourselves and the rest of Humanity

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Re: Should the usurers be driven out of the temple?

#15 Post by Alan H » February 20th, 2014, 12:26 pm

Cam wrote:Alan H,
Thanks for putting that quote up. Much appreciated! I am going to have to watch that film again sometime as it's a good one. :D

Damn good quote that: The acquisition of wealth is no longer the driving force in our lives. We work to better ourselves and the rest of Humanity
Agreed. That's why I transcribed it. In those two sentences is summarised a far better future for mankind; one of cooperation, not competition; one where humans thrive to better all of humanity, not exploit it. IMO, a truly Humanist view.
Alan Henness

There are three fundamental questions for anyone advocating Brexit:

1. What, precisely, are the significant and tangible benefits of leaving the EU?
2. What damage to the UK and its citizens is an acceptable price to pay for those benefits?
3. Which ruling of the ECJ is most persuasive of the need to leave its jurisdiction?

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Re: Should the usurers be driven out of the temple?

#16 Post by Cam » February 20th, 2014, 12:32 pm

You are certainly on the ball today Alan. Another gem:
Alan H wrote:a far better future for mankind; one of cooperation, not competition; one where humans thrive to better all of humanity, not exploit it.

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Alan H
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Re: Should the usurers be driven out of the temple?

#17 Post by Alan H » February 20th, 2014, 1:28 pm

:D
Alan Henness

There are three fundamental questions for anyone advocating Brexit:

1. What, precisely, are the significant and tangible benefits of leaving the EU?
2. What damage to the UK and its citizens is an acceptable price to pay for those benefits?
3. Which ruling of the ECJ is most persuasive of the need to leave its jurisdiction?

Fia
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Re: Should the usurers be driven out of the temple?

#18 Post by Fia » February 20th, 2014, 2:32 pm

Alan H wrote:In those two sentences is summarised a far better future for mankind; one of cooperation, not competition; one where humans thrive to better all of humanity, not exploit it. IMO, a truly Humanist view.
Oh, very well said Alan :clap:

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Re: Should the usurers be driven out of the temple?

#19 Post by Nick » February 20th, 2014, 4:52 pm

This might be of interest, especially the point about the market economy relying on co-operation.

If you want further reading, have a look at Coase's work. Nobel prizewinner and all that.... :wink:

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Cam
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Re: Should the usurers be driven out of the temple?

#20 Post by Cam » February 20th, 2014, 5:27 pm

Nick wrote:This might be of interest, especially the point about the market economy relying on co-operation.

If you want further reading, have a look at Coase's work. Nobel prizewinner and all that.... :wink:
Hi Nick, thanks for the link. Interesting reading. I see no-one has mentioned exploitation? In fact one chap stated:
I still can’t see what’s wrong with greed. What’s wrong with wanting more and better for yourself and those you care about?
Well, nothing as long as no-one gets exploited or disadvantaged, which we all know happens all the time and is at the very core of the capitalist system.

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