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A jubilee year?

It’s HM The Queen’s diamond jubilee, but I wonder what would happen if we extended it to everyone…

Over the weekend I read a review of a couple new books about debt in the LRB. The review itself is definitely worth a read, as does Debt: The First 5000 Years by David Graeber. Now I disagree with Graeber on lots of things. I’m not an anarchist to begin with. And I think the Occupy movement would be much more useful to itself and to society if it had actual policy objectives rather than simply demonstrating fringe discontentment and the ability of horizontal structure to work in groups of limited size and complexity for limited period of times.

His book (and the review) did, however, echo a thought I’d had a couple of days previously: given that we all abandoned the gold standard four decades ago, what would happen if we declared a biblical-style jubilee: a forgiveness of all debts, with some protections for depositors in financial institutions. Considering that the total level of debt far exceeds the total amount of wealth in the world, resetting might not be a bad thing.

There was one particularly interesting quote in the review, which might actually be an awesome idea:

The response of Western officials to the economic crisis, with its proximate cause in unsustainable consumer debt, has been to ensure that banks suffer as few losses as possible, while relying on the same indebted consumers – in their role as taxpayers – to keep the bankers whole. The Fed and now the ECB have loaned banks money at virtually no cost, encouraging those same banks to purchase government bonds paying much higher rates of interest: a direct subsidy of finance by the public, while millions sink into unemployment and bankruptcy. A far simpler and more effective monetary policy would have been for the government to print a new batch of money, distribute an equal amount to everyone, then sit back and watch as stagnant economies were stirred to life by the spending and debts were paid down and eroded by temporarily higher inflation. The inconceivability of such a policy is a mark not of any impracticability, but of the capture of governments by a financial oligarchy.

Of course, you shouldn’t take me all too seriously: my other major (and definitely more practical) thought of the weekend was that we should make the kitchen in our new flat be entirely composed of an island. Awesome? Awesome.

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