MONEY CAN GNAW THE HUMAN SOUL TO THE BONE
by the late Professor Wergerif in HOlland.
When we do what is wrong and get away with it, the tendency is to
do it again and again, till we are consumed by the wrong, with no
more than a passing wish to put it right.
With regard to money, the wrong is not in money's usefulness as a store
of value and its consequent purchasing power. The wrong is in the way
that people with calculating minds are able to take from people with
less calculating minds --their land, their homes, their businesses and
the honour attached to these properties, for the sake of debts that can
not be repaid - mainly because of a money system that has the
inevitability of an ever-increasing number of bankruptcies written into it.
The wrong began in Mesopotamia over 4,000 years ago.
The Bronze Age rulers curbed this wrong with regular edicts
to cancel debts and redistribute property, but by the end of classical
antiquity, at around 600 BC, the land owning aristocracies had grown
strong enough to put a stop to the clean slate policy. (See PS)
And now the wrong of debt oppression is completely out of hand.
Just how out of hand is well reported in the article below - The
Terrorism of Debt, by Wanda Fish.
It is going to take mighty acts of collective repentance and right
governance to bring debt oppression to an end.
Read a booklet, 'The Lost Tradition of Biblical Debt Cancellations' by
Professor Michael Hudson, of The Institute for the Study of Long-term
Economic Trends, ISLET.
GOOGLE more articles by Michael Hudson on the History of Debt Oppression soon.
THE TERRORISM OF DEBT
By Wanda Fish
Posted at http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/article4368.htm
Imagine two scenes in different parts of the world.
In our first scenario, three hooded gunmen raid an embassy. After
a bloody gun battle, the terrorists take the Ambassador and other
survivors as hostages. They demand the release of certain prisoners,
or they will destroy the embassy and kill their hostages.
In our second scenario, three grey-suited executives raid a country.
The collapsing economy has left the government powerless to
administer essential services. Failed crops, internal corruption, and
natural disasters have taken their toll. People are desperate and dying.
The IMF and World Bank executives outline the terms and conditions
of the $50 billion loan.
The terrorists in the first scene are eventually captured and executed
for terrorist crimes. The bankers in the second scene are rewarded for
their successful hijacking of the country's economy. Their corporations
will be paid many times the loan over the next decade. The debt trap
will cripple and imprison the country's future earning capacity. The
executives receive bonuses and promotions that take their collective
salary to a sum greater than the salaries of all the lowest paid workers
in the country they had signed up to the debt trap.
Over the past fifty years, the IMF and the World Bank have forced
economic 'development' that benefits the wealthy lenders and
multinational corporations in the industrialized north and enslaves
the world's poor majority in developing and third world countries.
These international loan sharks have hijacked the economies of more
than 60 countries. Loans, international assistance, and debt relief are
given only when countries agree to conditions set by the Bank and
Fund. Free trade, market liberalization, and privatisation of essential
resources and services are demanded if 'financial stability' is to be
achieved. While crippling interest payments force cuts in health care,
education and other social services for millions of people around
the globe; the banks and corporations that 'rescued' those countries
report record profits. Humanitarian crises, like wars, have become
lucrative business for those who have money to lend.
Ten years ago, economist J. W. Smith warned, "The size of the debt
trap can be controlled to claim all surplus production of a society, but
if allowed to continue to grow the magic of compound interest dictates
it is unsustainable. The third world debt has been compounding at over
20 percent per year between 1973 and 1993, from $100 billion to $1.5
trillion [only $400 billion of the $1.5 trillion was actually borrowed
money. The rest was runaway compound interest]. If Third World
debt continues to compound at 20 percent per year, the $117 trillion
debt will be reached in eighteen years and the $13.78 quadrillion debt
in thirty-four years."
More shocking than the magnitude of the figures (how does one fathom
a quadrillion dollars?) is the chilling fact that the debt trap robs all the
surplus production of an entire society. Debt does much more than
forcing a country to work for nothing. This form of terrorism punishes
the children, abandons the sick, and enslaves the adults.
Every hour, one Filipino child dies because of debt-related poverty.
The United Nations says 30,000 babies die daily in third world meaning
Millions of children die every year in the Third World because they are
too poor to buy food or medicines. Their families work extraordinary
hours to earn less than $2 a day. Filthy slums with inhumane living
conditions are prolific in most countries in the world, and are no
longer exclusive to the third world.
An estimated 100 million children live and work on the streets in the
developing world, including 40 million in Latin America. Although
many of these street children have some family links, they spend most
of their lives on the streets begging, selling trinkets, shining shoes or
washing cars to supplement their families' income. These children
rarely go beyond a fourth-grade education. The 25 million children
without families live in the streets with other street children. They
sleep in abandoned buildings, under bridges, in doorways, or in public
These young victims of debt resort to petty theft and prostitution to
survive. Many are addicted to inhalants which offer them an escape
from reality and hunger pains -- in exchange for a host of physical and
psychological problems, including hallucinations, pulmonary edema,
kidney failure, and irreversible brain damage. These children are
abused, even murdered, by the people who are supposed to protect them.
"His name was Nahamán, a 13 year old in Guatemala. One night, while
walking on the streets, he was kicked to death by four policemen who
found him and decided to punish him. His crime? He was a street kid ...
a subhuman without pedigree, a vexing reminder of Guatemala's
malignant inclinations, the mortifying embodiment of a fallen society,
a scapegoat. And, in death, a martyr. When we buried Nahamán on
March 14th, 1990, his gravestone read: 'I only wanted to be a child,
but they wouldn't let me'."
While indebted countries struggle to pay mounting interest on debt
loans, their hospitals, schools, water supply, electricity, and public
transport deteriorate rapidly with reduced budgets. Disease, destitution
and general lack of sanitation characterise many Third World cities.
The children who do survive are unable to read and write as government
budgets for health and education are cut to the bone as a result of debt
service. In Niger, one of the poorest countries in the world, the
government spends three times more on debt repayment than on health
Sub-Saharan Africa pays $10 billion every year in debt service. The
countries of Sub-Saharan Africa are experiencing a pandemic with
terrible consequences. In South Africa one in five people has
HIV-AIDS, and in Zimbabwe one in four. One in seven Kenyans
has the virus. In Botswana, the country with the highest rate of
infection in the world, more than one-third of all adults are HIV
positive. Twenty million people, or the entire population of
Australia, have died in Sub-Saharan Africa since the pandemic began.
If current trends continue, there will be than 40 million AIDS
orphans in Africa by the end of this decade.
Despite their extreme health crisis, 23 African countries spend more
money on debt repayment than they spend on healthcare, which attracts
only $2.5 billion, or a quarter of their debt service. This does not
concern the banks that loaned the money. Their only objective is to
make their rich clients even richer. The Kenyan widow dying of aids
and leaving five orphans is not entered into the ledger books. However,
the GM food that the starving widow and her children are forced to eat
is entered into the ledger books. The humanitarian crisis has created a
market for modified food that the rest of the world didn't want. After
all, beggars can't be choosey.
By contrast, the wealthiest individuals in the world can choose or buy
anything they want. At the top of the list is Bill Gates whose net worth
in 2003 is forty billion dollars, or four times the annual debt service of
sub-Saharan Africa and sixteen times the annual expenditure on health
and education in those countries. The world's 497 billionaires in 2001
registered a combined wealth of $1.54 trillion, well over the combined
gross national products of all the nations of sub-Saharan Africa ($929.3
billion) or those of the oil-rich regions of the Middle East and North
Africa ($1.34 trillion). These five hundred people also possess greater
wealth than the combined incomes of the poorest half of humanity.
Think about that fact for just a minute. Five hundred obnoxiously
wealthy people have too much while nearly three billion people have
nothing. Allow the full meaning to play out in your mind. While five
hundred people have enough money to buy several countries, half of
humanity struggles on less than $2 a day and can barely buy enough
food to stay alive. It gets worse. Anything extra our third-world
worker can earn will go into debt service payments. The banks profit,
and the shareholders increase their wealth. The five hundred at the top
of the tree have just made a profit out of poverty.
After the G8 summit in Okinawa in 2000, President Obasanjo of
Nigeria made this comment on Nigeria's debt: "All that we had
borrowed up to 1985 or 1986 was around $5 billion and we have paid
about $16 billion yet we are still being told that we owe about $28
billion. That $28 billion came about because of the injustice in the
foreign creditors' interest rates. If you ask me what is the worst thing
in the world, I will say it is compound interest."
When President Obasanjo spoke out, the developing world was
spending $13 on debt repayment for every one dollar it received in
While most people would be aware of the debt burden of the third
world, they would be surprised to learn that the United States is also a
heavily indebted country. The accumulated debt of the world's 'richest'
country, the USA, is more than two trillion dollars. The exact amount
owed by the whole of the developing world, including India, China
and Brazil, is $2.5 trillion. This means that three hundred million
Americans owe as much to the rest of the world as do five billion
people in all the developing countries.
The inequity doesn't stop there. While developing country economies
struggle with debt service repayments totaling more than $300 billion
per year, the US must only pay $20 billion to service an almost
equivalent amount of debt. Jubilee, an international movement working
to remove the third world debt, classifies the United States as a
'heavily indebted prosperous country'.
If the money is not coming from the United States, where is it coming
from? Who actually owns the money that was loaned in the first place?
Some of it comes from illegal activities and is recognised as 'dirty
money'. US and European banks launder between $500 billion and
$1 trillion of dirty money each year, half of which enters the coffers
of American banks. According to Catherine Austin Fitts, a contributing
editor to 'From the Wilderness', and formerly Assistant Secretary of
Housing under George Bush, the four largest states for the importation
of drugs are New York, Florida, Texas and California. She points out
that the top four money-laundering states in the U.S. (good for between
100 and 260 billion per year in 1999) were New York, Florida, Texas
and California. The connection goes on. Eighty per cent of all
Presidential campaign funds also come from New York, Florida, Texas
While the World Bank and IMF are the main targets of activists
working to remove third world debt, these two international banking
institutions are influenced by various national banks, financial
consultancies, and former politicians who manage the wealth of the
world for their wealthy clients. The 'Group of Thirty' established
in 1978 is a private, nonprofit, international body composed of very
senior representatives of the financial private, public and academic
sectors. This select group of controllers aims "to deepen understanding
of international economic and financial issues and to examine the
choices available to market practitioners and policymakers". The
most powerful decision-makers and influencers in the financial world
are members of this magic circle, which includes major national banks,
universities, former politicians, and global consultancies.
Despite the impressive collection of financial wizardry and power, The
Group of Thirty and annual Economic Summits have failed to neutralise
the terrorism of third world debt. Those who manage the global economic
system are focused on the shareholder value of banks and corporations.
The system is 'successful' as long as it returns more wealth to the
wealthy. Yet these financial experts are myopic about the future. The
current level of debt worldwide is unsustainable and must eventually
lead to the total collapse of a global economy that expects increased
productivity from the poorest and unhealthiest workers on the planet.
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, adopted by the United
Nations General Assembly in 1948, is built on the principle that human
rights come from the 'inherent dignity' of every person. The Declaration
states, "Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the
health and well-being of himself and of his family, including food,
clothing, housing and medical care and necessary social services, and
the right to security in the event of unemployment, sickness, disability,
widowhood, old age or other lack of livelihood in circumstances
beyond his control."
When the United Nations wrote that declaration 55 years ago, mankind
was recovering from the trauma of a world war and the horrifying
genocide of millions of innocent civilians. At that time it was necessary
for mankind to ratify basic human rights and the principle of human
The genocide happening in the third world today is even more
horrifying than the death camps in Nazi Germany. This time the
objective is not to 'cleanse the master race', but to make the masters
The banks, in pursuit of more wealth and power, terrorise the third
world. Those of us who live comfortable lives in developed countries
are part of the crime. Our lifestyle, and our expectation that our savings
will grow, feed the terrorism of debt. We might save a few dollars with
the cheap imported clothes we wear, the coffee we drink, and the oil
we put into the car; but those savings have made slaves of children and
started wars. Our humanity has been hijacked by the dollar and the
pursuit of wealth has become more important than human lives.
How then do we wage war on the 'terrorism of debt'? The Global
Exchange website suggests ten actions that will democratize the
global economy. These are not easy or quick fixes, and each action
will require dedication and persistence. The following summary is
a starting point.
1. The WTO (World Trade Organisation) must be replaced by a body
that is fully democratic, transparent, and accountable to citizens of the
entire world instead of to corporations. We must build support for
trade policies that protect workers, human rights, and the environment.
2. Mandate corporate responsibility so that corporations have to prove
their worth to society or be dismantled. Now many corporations
advocate weakening of labor and environmental laws and their pursuit
of free trade has delivered a global economy of sweatshops and
environmental devastation. Corporations must be accountable to
public needs, be open to public scrutiny, provide living wage jobs,
abide by all environmental and labor regulations, and be subject
to all laws governing them. Shareholder activism is an excellent tool
for challenging corporate behavior.
3. Restructure the Global Financial Architecture. Currency speculation
earns short term profits for wealthy investors but does nothing for long
term development. A tax of .1% to .25% on currency transactions
would be a disincentive for speculation, would not affect real capital
investment, and could create a huge fund for building schools and
medical clinics throughout the world.
4. Support the Jubilee action to cancel all third world debt, end
structural adjustment, and defend a country's right to make economic
decisions that will benefit the welfare of its people, not multinational
5. Prioritise human rights in trade agreements. Trade rules must
comply with higher laws on human rights as well as economic and
labor rights included in the United Nations Declaration of Human
Rights. We should promote alternative trade agreements that include
fair trade, debt cancellation, micro-credit, and local control over
6. Promote sustainable development, not consumption, as the key to
the progress. International development should not be export-driven,
but rather should prioritize food security, sustainability, and
7. Integrate women's needs in economic structuring. Family survival
around the world depends on the economic independence of women.
Economic policies need to take into account women's important role in
nutrition, education, and development.
8. Build free and strong labor unions internationally and domestically.
The union movement needs to be reborn. As corporations increase
their multinational strength, unions are struggling to build bridges
across borders and organize globally. Activists can support their efforts
and ensure that free labor is an essential component of any 'free trade'
9. Develop community control over capital and promote socially
responsible investment. Communities should be able to develop
investment and development programs that suit local needs including
passing anti-sweatshop purchasing restrictions, promoting local credit
unions and local barter currency, and implementing investment policies
for their city, church, and union that reflect social responsibility
10. Promote fair trade instead of free trade. We need to build networks
of support and education for grassroots trade and trade in
environmentally sustainable goods. We can promote labeling of goods
such as Fair Trade Certified, organic, and sustainably harvested.
It is time to reclaim our humanity and to 'equalize' the economy so
that we can fairly run, not unfairly ruin, our world. Economic theory will
not feed, clothe or shelter us when we have used up the last poor worker.
The current system is doomed to fail and will cost more millions of lives.
If we start now, our grandchildren will be able to enjoy a world where
human dignity is the most valued currency.
Let's start to fix it today.
Wanda Fish is a freelance journalist who now dedicates her writing to
the pursuit of a fair world, without wars and with equality. This article is
offered freely for distribution and publication. Wanda can be contacted
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
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