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Jubilee: A Debt Reset


Blake Lovewell 
21st Century Wire

Have we forgotten the true meaning of jubilee – a settling of debts?

The United Kingdom is currently subject to a reigning monarch: Elizabeth. We enter her 70th year on the throne this weekend. She has, unlike her forebears, managed to avoid the dagger of the usurper, dodged disease, and has not yet been dissolved by the people. As such, she has become the longest reigning monarch in Britain, and is not far off the world record.

This is known as a platinum jubilee. Any British person will know about this anniversary, even with one’s head firmly buried in Camber Sands. Garlands of Union Jack bunting are dusted off from village hall store cupboards to bedeck villages and hamlets across Britain. Naturally, corporations have jumped on board with their opportunist squawking: ‘Buy discounted wine this jubilee’ remarks Stephen Fry on the radio, followed by BP the oil giant, proudly declaring its support for the Queen on her triumphant day. Whilst in the supermarket, you can buy Royal Jubilee branded Thai Sweet Chilli crisps.

However, with all of this hubbub it seems that we have lost sight of what jubilee actually means. The word Jubilee comes from the ancient Hebrew: ‘joh-bel’ meaning a ram’s horn. However, the Septuagint, the oldest known translation of the ancient Hebrew Old Testament puts it as “A trumpet blast of liberty”. A jubilee was a triumphal celebration because it entailed the cancellation of all debts and often a release of indentured slaves. It was codified in the Old Testament by Hebrew lawmakers.

We find it in Leviticus 25:

“You shall make the fiftieth year holy, and proclaim liberty throughout the land to all its inhabitants. It shall be a jubilee to you; and each of you shall return to his own property, and each of you shall return to his family.”

Every 50 years all debts were to be settled and cancelled. People who had lost their land to debtors could return to their land. In fact, this was an incredibly vital aspect of feudal society. Peasants would often have a smallholding for them to farm. They could grow vegetables and food for their family, as well as to sell at the market. If there was a bad crop, some would take out loans against the land, or even give up the land. They could then fall into a debt loop with no ability to grow crops, and get back their land. Ancient monarchs would often declare a jubilee when there was a threat of a peasants revolt, or when they took the throne to curry favour with their subjects. Rather than be at the whim of a monarch, the Hebrew lawmakers codified the jubilee, the debt cancellation, to be every 50 years. This would be a Sabbath year, where even the land was not to be farmed – think of it as a Jewish Sabbath day but for an entire year. It is decried by some Hebrew scholars that Nebuchadnezzer’s destruction of Jerusalem and subsequent 70 year imprisonment of the Israelites was handed down by God for failing to keep this Jubilee.

The concept of a ‘jubilee’ though goes back into prehistory. It seems that the Bible only formalised an ancient practice. Michael Hudson PhD has dug into the concept in his work, ‘The Lost Tradition of Biblical Debt Cancellations’. He traces debt cancellation as far back as 2400BC when king Enmetena of Sumer “proclaims amargi upon winning region wide suzerainty”. He became king and as a gesture of goodwill perhaps, he declared a jubilee and cancelled the debt as well as declaring “freedom” for many slaves in the nation. This type of act is commonly referred to as a ‘clean slate’ act as it gives something of a new beginning for people of the society. It would especially be of benefit to the widows, children and poorest amongst society where a small debt could make life difficult and there is no other clear way to escape the debt cycle. Let us consider this in modern day terms.

Taking figures for the UK, which mirror those of many Western nations, we see that the average personal debt is over £33,000 (US $41,000) per person. That is to say that the average citizen in the UK owes more than an average annual salary to various creditors, and will accrue interest fees on such debts. Not only that but over 10% of that debt, £3,700, is held as unsecured debt – the payday loans and credit cards who ask for no advance deposit and in return charge exorbitant interest rates. We can see from this a picture where the average Brit is actually waist deep in a miasma of debts.

Yes, some can tend these debts with their wages but for many it is too much to handle. NHS statistics show us that over 100,000 people attempt suicide in the UK each year giving debt as a main reason for doing so. Morbid reading I know, but it illustrates the bleeding edge of what may seem like a numbers game to economists on high. It takes only seconds for a debt to be created on a bank’s computer. They don’t have to source gold or an asset to back up the debt, not since the 1970’s. Through modern financial systems the central bank will create a corresponding ‘reserve’. These are generated within central bank computers to the tune of trillions every year. In fact, the system would collapse if they did not continue to do so. But whilst the proverbial fat cat presses enter on a keyboard, the cold statistics of inflation, costs and interest rates belie the human costs to happiness, liberty and of life itself. For most, there is simply no clear route out of these debts. Could a debt jubilee be an answer to their prayers?

Notice I have taken personal debt as our topic of discussion. Personal debt is more parallel to those debts of yore which the ancients forgave. In ancient Israel, during a Jubilee year, the state would not forgive debts to foreigners, nor would it renege on state debt obligations. This could be applied to the level of modern international finance.

WEF spiritual leader and master of ceremonies, Klaus Schwab.

WEF spiritual leader and master of ceremonies, Klaus Schwab.

The World Economic Forum (WEF), a talking shop for ne’erdowells, banksters and Malthusians alike, gives us the total for world debt as $303 trillion (that’s $303 with twelve zeroes after it). This debt is made up of international debt agreements from one arm of the global banking cartel, the International Monetary Fund, hand in hand with World Bank reserves; and completing the triumvirate of financial overlords is the Bank of International Settlements, sitting atop the debt pyramid. These trillions are largely comprised of sovereign debts, 10 year bonds, and bond buybacks – and they are the plaything of technocrats. None of these debts are for farmers buying cows, or planting harvests, or for mothers buying food for their children, nor even small business owners seeking to expand their shop. Personal debt makes up a minuscule slice of the ever expanding debt pie.

Now none of us really voted or consented to the creation of these debts, nor were the contracts ratified by swathes of the global population. They were simply drafted, signed and, we imagine, guffawed over whilst sipping brandy, behind closed doors. Who owes these trillions and to whom is unclear, but it does create a nebulous and murky background for personal debt to reside within. If we are talking about a jubilee there should be a clear definition between ‘real’ debt, those created and paid off by real people – from the imaginary debt which props up global institutions without true authority.

There have been calls for a modern jubilee, and it has not been from one particular ideology. Bernie Sanders, viewed as economically left-wing in the United States, made a central pillar of his presidential campaign the cancellation of student debts. It was a popular policy particularly amongst the young who are pincered by rising costs without the rising wages that their parents’ generation enjoyed. And on the proverbial right we have the UK publication, MoneyWeek, a financial publication from the belly of the beast in London. They published an article at the announcement of totalitarian lockdown of the citizenry in March 2020, advocating a debt jubilee in response to the impending economic damage. Though aspects of jubilee are brought up in the media, it is variously under-reported and misunderstood. And as much as it would be ideal to wave a magic wand to eradicate the debt burden, there are some critical counter-points to consider.

One is the so-called ‘moral hazard’ of deleting debt. It could be the case, and likely would be the case that there would be winners and losers in a jubilee. Take on the one hand, the hard-working family who have lived with a tight belt buckle, worked hard at multiple jobs and budgeted: forgoing the extra holidays and luxury purchases and have paid off their personal debts. They could be forgiven for seeing injustice if a jubilee paid off the debts accrued by a reckless spender who took out many loans, in full knowledge that they could not pay them back. Why should they be treated one and the same? And moreover, it would remove the incentive for anybody to pay back debts in the future – if one now knows they could be cancelled at a later date. It’s hard to imagine one jubilee without there being calls for Jubilee 2.0.

Furthermore, I question the ability of modern society to hold a jubilee, given that the levers of financial power are in the claws of provably malfeasant characters. Central banks who deliberately rob value from the poor through inflation, commercial banks who profit from bleeding out the savers and borrowers below them, and politicians who we know seek self-interest over the interests of their electorate. These all make up the class of people who would be in charge of a jubilee. And just as in the 2008-2009 financial crisis, it would be they who benefit. They took huge bailouts at the behest of the taxpayer to pay off their reckless and amoral policies. None of which have been repaid in any meaningful way. Over and over again financial institutions ransack poor countries, and leverage the assets of wealthy countries in their charade with nonetheless real world consequences. And if you think I am speaking too strongly on the financial class I welcome you to show me a high-calibre banker who does not serve their own interest above others, or show me a forward-thinking economist of influence who advocated the elite class losing out at the behest of the peasant.

Furthermore, if a Great Reset were perpetrated by these known criminals, I believe it would fall into the Central Bank Digital Currency (CBDC) schema. That being they could offer the option of debt cancellation, but only at the cost of moving into their purely digital currency model – you will have no cash outside of their control. Beware the banker’s jubilee.

Thus, as we roll into the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee weekend, estimated to cost over £1 billion, I invite you to bring up the true meaning of jubilee: freedom and forgiveness. I’m not asking for you to start an argument over your pint of Pimms. Nor to alienate that fair weather monarchist in the family who suddenly remembers their love for Queen Lizzie every few years when the newspaper tells them to. The intent is to introduce a potential slip road off the debt motorway to avoid speeding into that smouldering heap of destruction that is on the horizon. We know deep down that the current economic system is unsustainable, and would be cruel to continue. It is then time to explore heterodox theories to take the place of failed models.

Perhaps a jubilee of personal debt could help us avoid the alternative: violent revolution, only if we are brave and can shake free the shackles of orthodox, status-quo economics.

References: 

‘The Lost Tradition of Biblical Debt cancellations’
https://michael-hudson.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/03/HudsonLostTradition.pdf

UK Personal Debt Statistics rundown
https://moneynerd.co.uk/average-personal-debt-uk-2022/

UK Debt Suicide Statistics
https://www.moneysavingexpert.com/news/2018/11/more-than-100-000-people-in-problem-debt-attempt-suicide-each-ye/

WEF Global Debt
https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2022/05/what-is-global-debt-why-high/

UK Platinum Jubilee Spending
https://committees.parliament.uk/writtenevidence/35941/html/

Money Week article on Debt Jubilee : March 2020
https://moneyweek.com/economy/uk-economy/601055/debt-jubilee-will-our-debts-be-written-off

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