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Could/Should Jubilee Debt Cancellations Be Reintroduced Today?

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Could/Should Jubilee Debt Cancellations Be Reintroduced Today?

Economics E-Journal,

5 min read
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3 take-aways
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What's inside?

Variations on “jubilee debt cancellations” could address the needs of 21st-century economies.


Editorial Rating

9

Qualities

  • Controversial
  • Overview
  • Background

Recommendation

Long ago, Assyrian kings proclaimed  “debt jubilees,” canceling all financial obligations, to ensure civil stability and rebalance gross economic inequalities. So would a debt jubilee today help address the growing concentration of wealth that threatens economic growth? Economists Michael Hudson and Charles Goodhart explore the possibilities in this contemplative essay that offers a fascinating history of debt annulment, as well as proposals for modern-day alternatives.

Summary

In the ancient world, “jubilee debt cancellations” promoted social stability.

Debt jubilees, or a wholesale forgiveness of loans and financial obligations, were common in ancient Near East civilizations. Debt jubilees would occur when a new king came to power, at the end of a war, or for a temple construction or renovation. The jubilee annulled farm-debt obligations to the ruler, such as for back taxes; freed “bondservants,” who were debtors’ family members promised in repayment; and returned land pledged as collateral. Jubilees represented a recognition by rulers that citizens could not repay sizable debts. The idea...

About the Authors

Michael Hudson and Charles Goodhart are professors of economics at the University of Missouri and the London School of Economics, respectively.


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