Source: Debt - the first 5000 years, David Graeber on Kernel

Related: money

Human Exchange

On the basis of human exchange: we only have a relationship with the other (as equals) when the exchange is incomplete, i.e. when there is debt.

Someone will give you something and the expectation is that you will give them something in return, though not something of exactly the same value as that would indicate you no longer wish to relate with them

By this definition then, a community is one where everybody is a little bit in debt to everyone else which gives us an excuse to continue seeing each other.

Money then, appears to be a way to have quantified and transferable promises. (An aside, why do we even feel the need to quantify promises??)

However, the philosophy of debt as something which cannot be forgiven only ever crops up in situations of structural coercion and extreme inequality.

Against the Econ 101 argument

Barter → money → credit is not only wrong, it’s backwards.

We have never found any evidence for an entirely barter-based society. In places without money, there are usually rough credit systems instead: “a cow is roughly like a canoe is roughly like a good necklace”. Of course, people can shirk this but your reputation is then tarnished and that can be social suicide in small communities.

Markets and Government

Traditionally, free markets and governments have been seen as opposing principles.

Historically, in fact, markets tend to be created by governments as a side-effect of military operations and to fund armies.