Michael Hudson: Debt and the Collapse of Antiquity – Part 2

Yves here. This is a fun discussion, with Hudson covering the finer points of the fall of the Roman Empire, vandals as progressives, the origins of the Inquisition, and how Christianity became creditor friendly.

By Colin Bruce Anthes. Originally published at theAnalysis.news

Colin Bruce Anthes

Welcome back to theAnalysis for part two of our conversation with Dr. Michael Hudson on The Collapse of Antiquity.

Michael Hudson

I think the character of early Christianity is what is in the Lord’s Prayer. “Forgive them their debts as we forgive the debtors.” Christianity, especially Roman Christianity, made a travesty of this. They used the word sins. “Forgive us our sins as we forget the sins of the debtors.” What they meant was every kind of sin except economic.

Colin Bruce Anthes

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I want to do a little bit of name-dropping here. It’s a surprisingly fun book to read because of how culturally rich it is and how many of these references to philosophers, playwrights, and reformers get thrown in there. People who are familiar with the plays of William Shakespeare might know Coriolanus, but there’s a very different take on him here as someone who was being protested by the poor indebted and basically joined the enemies of Rome, the Volscians, and attacked Rome because of his class alliance. It was not to his people; it was a class alliance.

Michael Hudson

The same thing happened in Greece under Alcibiades, who ended up as an opponent of Athens.

Colin Bruce Anthes

Then we get to Julius Caesar. Julius Caesar, you’ve mentioned already, was a mild reformer. I think there was a concern that he was, at the risk of drawing too many contemporary comparisons, a bit like maybe an FDR [Franklin D. Roosevelt] figure who started out as a mildly reformist elite and became more of a reformer as time went on. There was that kind of fear about Julius Caesar as someone who was really alleviating things for the wealthy but that he might become more sympathetic to the plight of the masses. Something I didn’t know that was in this book was that Brutus was a money lender charging 48% interest.

Michael Hudson

Yes. Let me talk about Caesar first. He was very brilliant as a political manoeuvrer as well as as a General. He borrowed a lot of money to run for office and paid the money. He was able to play the political game as a very, very intelligent manoeuvrer. What people were really frightened about with Caesar was that he was independent, and they didn’t want independent people. Just like in American democracy, the last thing you want is a president who’s independent and who’s a leader. You want a president who’s working for his campaign contributors.

Well, that’s what most of the heads of Rome usually were. They were leaders of the oligarchy, and that was the job of the Senate. But here was Caesar being independent and trying to retain solvency for the economy as a whole. They didn’t want an independent head of Rome any more than you would have modern democracies wanting an independent president.

Caesar was accused of kingship. What did the kings do? The kings cancelled the debts and redistributed the land; that was the invective that was used against Caesar. For Brutus, that brings us back to Cicero. Cicero was appointed the local head of Sicilia, which controlled Cyprus at the time. One day, people came to him from Rome and said, “Since you’re the ruler here, we’ve lent some money. The local Sicilians have borrowed money at 42%.” Cicero said, “But the legal rate of interest is only 12%. I’m supposed to be the governor here, and I’m supposed to represent the rule of law. That’s what all my rhetoric is all about.” They said, “Well, here’s the document. What are you going to do?” Then Cicero found out that the so-called debt collectors were really working for Brutus, and it was Brutus who had made the loan at 42%. When his collectors asked for armed guards to go and kill everybody who wouldn’t pay the debt, grab all their land, and enslave their families, Cicero said, “he felt very bad about that. ” He wrote to his friends, “But what else could I do?” So, so much for Cicero.

Colin Bruce Anthes

So much for Cicero. You write that this was maybe the last chance for there to have actually been reform that could have gotten Rome back on the right course. The assassination of Julius Caesar was nothing particularly new. In fact, these assassinations had accelerated since Tiberius in 133 BC. Correct?

Michael Hudson

Then in the whole 80s, you had the wealthiest Roman Generals opposed to a very popular military General who had the troop support. Each General began to put up lists of all the followers of their opponents who had to be assassinated. If you assassinated them, you got to grab all their property, or at least you got a portion of the property that they had after you’d killed them. So basically, if people wanted property, you would go and add the name of somebody whose property you wanted to the list of supporting the opponent of the General. You had a vicious civil war between Marius, who was the popular General at the time, and Crassus and others who were supporting the opposite end.

Colin Bruce Anthes

Right. I guess this starts to move us into, and you’ve mentioned it already, Jesus and Jesus’s references to the Jubilee year. Can you talk a little bit about what this movement was and what the practices of early Christianity were, including their practices regarding usury?

Michael Hudson

Well, when Jesus gave his first big sermon reported in Luke, he unrolled the scroll of Isaiah to the point where Isaiah was calling for the year of the Lord, meaning the Jubilee year. Jesus said that was what his destiny was, what he had come to proclaim. There was apparently wide support among the Jewish population advocating the restoration of the Jubilee year against the Rabbinical school that opposed it and represented it. Luke said that the Pharisees loved money, and their leading Rabbis had their debtors sign documents. They would borrow money and waive their rights under the Jubilee year. That’s what Jesus wanted to change. So after Jesus gave his sermon, a lot of the population got very upset because they didn’t think it was fair to cancel the debts. The leading Jewish leaders went to the Roman pro-consul and said, “Well, we can’t put him to death, but you can because he’s seeking kingship.” They knew the magic word of invective that the Romans didn’t like– kingship. It was the Romans who agreed to put Jesus to death. The movement was way beyond Christianity. It was beyond Jesus. We know from the scrolls, the Dead Sea Scrolls that I’ve described in the preceding volume of the trilogy I’m working on– On the History of Debt. I cite the scrolls that were sort of [inaudible 00:08:23] of all of the debt cancellation advocacy of the Bible.

Well, what developed by about the fourth century was something that occurred not only in Rome but all the way to Persia. Throughout the whole ancient world, there was a revulsion at the decadence of extreme wealth in the face of extreme poverty and bondage that had developed. This decadence, especially the women who were the wives of the leading aristocrats, became Christians. Finally, you had Constantine, who made Christianity the official religion of the Roman Empire.

Well, there’s obviously one problem. What do you do if you’re making Christianity the official religion? The origins of Christianity were centered on the Jubilee. You cancel the debts, you liberate the debt bondage, you restore the lands to them, redistribute the land, make people independent, and you protect the poor instead of enslaving them. Well, you had to change the whole character of this. I think the character of early Christianity is what is in the Lord’s Prayer. “Forgive them their debts as we forgive the debtors.” Christianity, especially Roman Christianity, made a travesty of this. They used the word sins. “Forgive us our sins as we forget the sins of the debtors.” What they meant was every kind of sin except economic sin, except the sin of creditors.

Under St. Augustine, it was largely sexual. All of a sudden, the focus of Augustinian Christianity became sexual egotism, not the wealth addiction of the creditors. After all, if the leaders of the Christian Church, the archbishops and the bishops, were all going to be taken from the wealthy families, you’d hardly have them criticize their own wealth. You stripped away from Roman Christianity the economic and social context that had guided early Christianity. The great aim of Christianity was its anti-Semitism. The last thing it wanted was Jewish Christians because they knew the original Christianity and because that evolved out of Judaism as a whole. You had the first great excuse for expelling not only the Jews but reformers, which was done by probably the most evil saint in Christianity– although it’s hard to say who’s the most– Cyril of Alexandria. Alexandria had a very large Jewish population, and Cyril organized big pogroms to kill the Jews and, in fact, anybody who could read the book. The one thing that the Roman Christians hated was people who could read. If you could read, you’d read the Bible. If you read the Bible, you’d know that there was a clash. So I think the most famous person that Cyril killed was Hypatia, a woman who was a mathematician.

Colin Bruce Anthes

One of the philosophers at the time, right?

Michael Hudson

Yes. He sent his thugs, Peter the Hammer, down to the seashore, where they grabbed her, grabbed seashells and scraped all of the skin off her body so there’d be no memory. That was the Christian way of killing.

First, Cyril had a consul at Ephesus calling on the Roman military to kill all of his opponents. You had Christianity hijacked by Cyril. The wealthiest part of the Roman Empire by this time, the fourth and fifth centuries, was North Africa– Egypt and Hippo. The old Carthaginian area was the breadbasket of the Roman Empire; that’s where the grain was made. The Christians there opposed the creditors. They opposed the Romans. They said, “No, what the Romans are doing is not Christianity.” Rome wanted them to turn over all of their sacred books so that they could be destroyed. You can’t have Christianity, as the medieval Christians realized, if people can read the Bible. If they read the Bible, they see that Christianity, under Roman Christianity, fights against everything that the Bible is all about. The North African Christians, many of them refused to turn over the sacred books, and they were killed.

Finally, Augustine came to power, and he sponsored the pro-Romans. There was a civil war that went on decade after decade, preventing the local Roman landowners from indebting the population, from enserfing them. Augustine called on the Romans to take away their churches and to give him their churches. So essentially, Augustine expropriated the Christian churches and made them his own deviant Christianity– I hate to even call it Christianity, it’s really Augustinianism– in a wave of violence.

Peter Brown, who’s the main writer and historian of this period, rightly states that Augustine is the true founder of the Inquisition ever since the Roman Church became the Church of the Inquisition. That’s what I talk about in the third volume of my trilogy, where I pick up matters with the Crusades. So what Rome bequeathed to the West was not only creditor-oriented law but a creditor-oriented Christianity. This is what you have in American Evangelism today. King Jesus will make you rich. Essentially, that became Christianity as it evolved in the West.

Finally, in the 11th century Roman Christianity, there were five churches that survived the decline of the Roman Empire: Antioch, Jerusalem, and Byzantium became the key. What survived the Roman Empire was the Byzantine Empire and its church, which was Orthodox Christianity. Orthodox Christianity maintained many of the qualities of original Christianity, including debt cancellations when there was a crop failure through freezing or a frost that killed the crops and caused a loss of land and indebtedness. You had Constantinople as the main bishopric, with Antioch and Jerusalem. Rome became a backwater until you had the Norman Invasion of Europe Rome made deals with William the Conqueror in England and, before that, the Norman Conqueror of Sicily. If you conquer the land, we will bless you if you agree that you are the feudal serf of the Pope. The kings of England, the kings of Sicily and southern Italy pledged fealty to the Pope, who organized armies to have new crusades with new inquisitions under the Dominicans against Christians who didn’t agree with Roman leadership, whether it was the French Cathars or ultimately the Crusades that looted Constantinople and destroyed its ability to resist what became the Ottoman takeover at the time.

So essentially, you had this split at the time, and most people look at Western civilization as the continuity of Rome without realizing how the Empire itself, under Augustine, made yet another break from the Near East that continued to be the wealthy, solvent part of the Empire in Constantinople and the Near East.

Colin Bruce Anthes

You say that by the time we get into the fourth century or fifth century AD, we get the vandals coming in and taking Hippo. You say that by that time, the economic devolution that had happened was such that there was practically no resistance. The fact that they had wiped out their opponents and instituted such a rentier state meant–

Michael Hudson

It’s not simply that there was no resistance, that people went over to the side of the vandals. You had a lot of churchmen saying, “Why is it that the Roman Christians are going over to the side of the vandals?” It’s because they have more freedom. They’re the Democrats. They’re overthrowing feudalism; that’s why they’re going over to them. There was an admiration of the vandals coming in the Germanic tribes because they were the progressives, and of course, the people went over to their side. You couldn’t have had just a few vandals taking over the vast armies of North Africa and the rest of Europe if the people weren’t supporting them.

Colin Bruce Anthes

Right. I want to bring this into the contemporary moment, and we’ve already been, of course, connecting the dots throughout this conversation. You say there is a disturbing trend among contemporary classicists to sidestep the history that we have been going through today and that they’re really following the lead of neoclassical economists. Do you want to comment on that?

Michael Hudson

Well, here’s the problem. Most historians don’t study economics. What they do study is the kind of economics that you’re taught in universities, and that’s neoliberal economics. Neoliberal economics doesn’t study history because if it studied history, it would know that societies polarize as a result of debt. They’d know what I describe in The Collapse of Antiquity. They’d realize that instead of there being automatic stabilizers that don’t require kingship, automatic stabilizers mean the free market, the market of wealthy individuals and that the market will always provide an optimum solution. You don’t need any regulator of the market. Any regulation of the market is bad.

Well, in all earlier civilizations, from the first time we could pick up written records in the Bronze Age, there was always a public override to the market. The role of kings, churches, and the whole ideology that people were taught in their religion and their politics was you have to shape the market in a way that would promote overall economic growth. The primary way in which you have to shape the market is to prevent the debt overhead from leading to a transfer of labor and property from debtors to creditors. You have to keep the economy free enough so that citizens can serve in the army and perform public work. You don’t let a creditor class evolve.

Today that’s called socialism. Biden will call it autocracy. Well, it’s not autocracy. That’s the irony. Greece, Rome, and medieval Europe have not done a good job in preventing oligarchy from developing as a financial oligarchy and as a land lordship oligarchy, with the financiers turning public utilities into private monopolies to get monopoly rent along with interest and land rent. Well, that’s the dynamic that occurs. Not only has economic history been taken out of the curriculum, but most classical historians begin the history of civilization with Greece and Rome as if it began without this mixed economy, without the 3,000 years of the Bronze Age and late Neolithic takeoff that I describe in the first volume– And Forgive Them Their Debts.

Colin Bruce Anthes

Is it safe to say that we have adopted the model of a failed state, a failed state model, as our economic model?

Michael Hudson

Yes, you’ve put it quite succinctly.

Colin Bruce Anthes

When we look at the practices of debt forgiveness and when we look at how people had understood these principles before and applied them very productively, is there any reason other than sheer political power and campaign contributions? Is there any reason we couldn’t take up that subject successfully today and reinstate citizenship, equality, a greater sense of equality, at least, and a productive economy again today?

Michael Hudson

Well, in order to do that, you’d have to have a definition of what is the alternative. Neoclassical economics says there is no alternative. Margaret Thatcher and Ayn Rand are the economic models of today. If you believe there’s no alternative, then you’re not going to take steps to create a more balanced economy. In that sense, you could say that the fight between North America and the NATO countries against the remaining 85% of the world’s population is a fight between an oligarchic society and a mixed economy wanting to use governments to shape markets in order to promote general prosperity and liberty for the population as a whole.

Colin Bruce Anthes

You use the term in your book, you call that democratic liberty as opposed to oligarchic liberty.

Michael Hudson

That’s right. Except, the meaning of democracy seems to only be successful when you have a state strong enough to prevent a financial oligarchy from destroying democratic principles.

Colin Bruce Anthes

Well, you’ve certainly given us a lot to think about in this conversation. I also really encourage people to pick up this book and read it. As I say, it is an authoritative account, but it also is a great joy to read because it is so culturally rich. People who have an interest in history, who have an interest in drama or an interest in philosophy are all going to find that this is a really invigorating book to read. So, Michael Hudson, thank you so much for being here. This was a pleasure. Thank you.

Michael Hudson

Well, thank you for reading the book and understanding it so well and bringing it out in this discussion.

Colin Bruce Anthes

If you enjoyed that content, consider going to our website and hitting the donate button so we can produce more like it. Thank you so much for watching. Take care.

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  1. Henry Moon Pie

    Thank you, Dr. Hudson, for another informative interview. Your efforts to spread the good news about the Jubilee and its many social and economic benefits are important if we are to ever open the eyes of our elites to the damage they’re doing.

    The difference between “debt” and “sin” goes all the way back to the text of the Greek bible. The Lord’s Prayer appears twice:

    1) Matthew 6:9-13 where the Greek word ὀφειλήματα (opheilēma) is translated as “debt;”

    2) Luke 11:2-4 where the Greek word αμαρτία (amartia) is translated as “sin” or “trespass.”

    How did this difference come about since Matthew and Luke, along with Mark, are the synoptic Gospels, named so because of their similarities and common point of view? That requires taking a look at how scholars think these three gospels, substantially similar but with important differences, developed historically.

    Augustine proposed that these gospels were written in the following order: Matthew; Mark; Luke. This is the same order that you will find in a modern English bible version, attesting to the long shadow of Augustine. But beginning in the 19th century, scholars began to question that order. Mark, the shortest of the three gospels by far, was the consensus choice as the oldest gospel, with the theory being that the longer Matthew and Luke took Mark as a foundation and added to it. It remained to be explained why the additions found in Matthew and Luke, mostly sayings and parables of Jesus (the red font material) were so similar but not identical. B. H. Streeter proposed a written collection of Jesus’s sayings in Koine Greek which he called “Q.” The theory was that the people who put Matthew and Luke together had combined Mark and a selection of Jesus’s saying from Q to create those gospels.

    Since then, there have been further refinements of the theory. Some sayings collections in addition to Q have been proposed, and there have been arguments over whether Q was written in Greek or Aramaic, a Semitic language that was the language of the common people in Jesus’s time and is presumed to be the language used by Jesus, a carpenter without much formal education it is thought. While Greek is still the majority position in the scholarly community, the difference in the Lord’s Prayer may argue for Aramaic, at least for this passage. The Aramaic word חובָא (ħubɑ) can mean both “sin” and “debt.” Perhaps the composers of Matthew, using an Aramaic version of Q, decided to pick opheilēma (debt) as they translated Aramaic to Greek while Luke just as justifiably used armartia (sin)? That would explain our dual tradition and also render the difference one without much substance.

    1. Michael Hudson

      The link is intrinsic in all the Indo-European languages, and also the Semitic ones. When one committed an injury to another person (a “sin”), the wergild payment was a reparations debt. So debt was the CONSEQUENCE of sin/offense/injury.

      1. Amfortas the hippie

        a month or two after we got home from wife’s initial month in hospital, we started getting bills.
        opened 2 from hospital itself, in random order.
        1st said we owed like a half million or something,lol…so we put it aside.
        next one “forgave” us that debt…as if we’d committed a transgression.
        that language immediately stuck in my mind and craw, even as i very much welcomed being so let off the hook.

      2. Ellery O'Farrell

        Just want to say that I definitely and wholeheartedly agree with your description of modern neoliberal economics and the (neofeudalist) view and goals of the US and, in the Athenian view, its allies (cf. Melos).
        But I have some questions. (And thank you, Henry Moon Pie, for bringing up the Aramaic word for both sin and debt!) If sin and debt were conflated, as you say and I’ve understood from my admittedly superficial studies, I don’t understand why you say the Lord’s Prayer was a travesty. (Also, the version in Luke 11 clearly identifies sin–trespass, anyway–with debt, the latter as a metaphor of the former.) Haven’t tried to count the times when Jesus said we had to forgive others in order to be forgiven, but there were many.
        On the other hand, the passage in Isaiah that you refer to goes much further than proclaiming a year of Jubilee: “The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor” (Luke 4:18-19, quoting Isaiah 61:1-2 in the Septuagint version). Then he sits down and says this has been fulfilled “in their hearing”; the natural interpretation isn’t that he’s come to restore the Jubilee (the “year of the Lord’s favor”) that hasn’t been being observed but that he’s claiming to be the anointed one (Moshiach). I also don’t remember him saying elsewhere that he came to proclaim a year of Jubilee.
        In general, from my understanding of the Gospels, Paul, etc., I’ve always thought that Jesus viewed himself as proclaiming the Kingdom of God rather than a social revolution.
        I’m not a scholar, only a student. Can you explain your views to me?
        And thank you for tirelessly and fearlessly arguing for your views.

        1. Henry Moon Pie

          i would agree with your point about the kingdom of God being the focus of Jesus’s preaching as its found in the synoptics. On the other hand, Crossan makes an argument based on the non-canonical Gospel of Thomas for a Jesus-as-revolutionary.

        2. Lex

          I agree with Henry above me and his Crossan reference. I’d add that it may be difficult to disentangle religious and social (or political) “revolution” in the historical context. We can’t be sure that the ancients recognized the division. Nor should we assume that a religious revolution wouldn’t bleed into political and social issues.

          Henry’s earlier comment about translation issues plays a role here too. What we see of Jesus and Christianity has a solid 1,700 years of use as a state instrument. Or picture of what Jesus (or early Christians) meant is profoundly colored by this.

      3. ZenTulipan

        Actually, Nietzsche as a classical philologist in his On Genealogy of Morality offers an interesting reflection of the relationship between the concept of guilt and the concept of debt; mostly critiquing the culture of “bad conscience” in which one is tought to feel guilty as a debtor, criminal or a sinner, harming the “good” of the community (the creditors).

        One reason for Nietzsche’s beef with Christianity can thus be understood as the moralisation of the creditor and debtor relationship: the debtor is taught to have a “bad conscience” for having commited a “sin,” and thus learns to accept the punishment of the community as “just.”

  2. lyman alpha blob

    Great interview – thanks for posting. I look forward to reading the whole book which I just ordered from my local bookstore yesterday.

  3. Watt4Bob

    So the all the hoo hah concerning sex as a diversionary political tactic isn’t something new?

    Hudson continues to not disappoint.

    Thanks so much!

  4. The Rev Kev

    This is a real great interview this. Real Da Vinci Code stuff when talking about what was happening with Rome. It sounds like that we are the ones that live in a bizarro world and going by what was discussed, I wonder what a true history of the world would look like. Not surprised about Cicero though. When they stabbed Caesar to death, they may have been saying that it was for Freedum but it sounds like it was really about Money. Nothing really changes, does it? Think that I will have to read this interview again over a hot cup of coffee. There is too much to absorb in one reading.

  5. JonnyJames

    Thank you for posting this, I was not familiar with Colin or the Analysis, but I am now.

    Looking at all the books by Michael Hudson that I have on the shelf, but now I have to order another one! I am grateful I will not have to go into debt, or commit a sin to do so ;-)

    I guess folks will have to call me a adherent of “Hudsonian” economics.

    I have read Gibbon, Beard and others on the history of Rome, but this new book sounds fascinating – a must-read for anyone interested in classical antiquity or economic history.

  6. KD

    Under St. Augustine, it was largely sexual. All of a sudden, the focus of Augustinian Christianity became sexual egotism, not the wealth addiction of the creditors.

    This strikes me as a trope in the “progressive evangelical” trick bag–Augustine’s focus on sexual morality is not inconsistent with the same focus found in the letters of Paul, and is not inconsistent with the focus of the Fathers of the Church between Paul and Augustine, nor is it inconsistent with the focus of Bishops and commentators after him.

    I say evangelical, because the Protestant narrative is that there was a “good church” sometime between the historical Jesus and 4th and 5th century, and then “bad church” happened as Christianity got wrapped up in Empire and political influences, and Protestants were “reformers” seeking to return to the “good church” against the “bad church”. I say “progressive” because there is this idea that the early Christians were some kind of revolutionary socialists and did not care about sexual morality. Its fine if people want to find some justification for revolutionary socialism in the early Christian movement–it was certainly an influence of the development on revolutionary socialism–but sexual morality was important to Christians because it created a distinct social identity which distinguished them from Pagans, and it probably had to be sex, because Pauline Christianity rejected Jewish dietary laws and circumcision (and distinguished them from Jews). Further, social movements with a heavy emphasis on maximizing the reproduction of their followers have a way, over the generations, of becoming global social movements: the Catholic Church and its traditional Augustinian and Pauline emphasis on sexual morality (sex for reproduction in monogamous marriages) is probably in part why the Catholic Church is everywhere, and any kind of “freelove” revolutionary socialist Christians (which is not much better than the Shakers on tfr) died out in the second century because they weren’t cranking out enough babies.

    Global religions are about two things: i.) indoctrinating children in the cultural traditions of the specific religion, and ii.) maximizing the number of children. If they do a good job of that, they win the demographic war. Revolutionary socialism is focused on distribution in the short term, especially when you are talking about a demographic long game played over millennia, is not a religion, even if it incorporates religious elements such as dogma and (revolutionary) mythology intended to incite (violent) action. It is a strike of lightning that ignites a forest fire, whereas religion is the water that eats away at the rocks over centuries.

    1. Late Introvert

      It’s a shame though, don’t you think? The early Christians even had no problem with the Mysteries.

      Can you please explain “(which is not much better than the Shakers on tfr”)?

      1. KD

        Let’s be frank: there probably weren’t any significant freelove revolutionary socialist Christian sects in the 2nd century, but there may have been some (the Pauline epistles are attempt at addressing similar misunderstandings arising in communities). But if you look at American history, you have groups like the Oneida Community:


        They start as a freelove cult and end as a joint stock company.

        You can contrast it with the history of the Mormons (although they started out polygamous and then switched to monogamy). Still a growing global religion.

        If you look at intentional communities, the only ones that last are the ones that are religious, because they have the two priorities of indoctrinating the youth into the group paradigm, and cranking out children. Amish, Hutterites, etc.

        Its interesting that the Marxist-Leninist tradition doesn’t have much of an understanding of what the function of religion really is, which is fertility. If you have two groups and one has a differential fertility advantage to the other, if you wait long enough, provided there is not some genocide, the group with the higher fertility will displace the other group.

        Urbanization is terrible for fertility, as is extreme income inequality. As Complex Societies emerge and grow in power and influence, there is increased urbanization, and increased inequality, and populations decline (which has become worse in the modern period). The collective needs to essentially find a way of conscripting individuals into producing children, the same way they need to conscript people into becoming cannon fodder on behalf of the collective. The Gods of Life, and the Gods of War and Death. I think the socialist movements have historically appreciated the Gods of War, but have neglected the need for the Gods of Life. In contrast, Emperor Constantine had a greater appreciation of the need for a remedy to check the demographic headwinds faced by Complex Societies.

  7. Mikel

    “Is it safe to say that we have adopted the model of a failed state, a failed state model, as our economic model?”

    But, if techno-feudalism is the goal, it’s not a failure.

    1. Dave Hansell

      Anything at any level and in any context that does not work systemically is by definition a abject failure.

  8. Milton

    God I love this subject and can’t wait for the latest volume to be available in digital format. Not related to this post…
    … I’m intrigued with the possibility that the first money men invented linear time {as opposed to cycles) to further the concept of interest debt and a means to carry it further than what was possible in the era. Dr Hudson, I believe, touches on this in “Forgive them…” but I haven’t been able to gather more information on this epoch-changing invention. A web search only brings up some cursory info about linear time being “a gift from the Jews.” If indeed, time, as we know of it today, was invented by Bronze Age oligarchies in support of interest debt, then I feel any reversal of today’s prevailing economic thought will have as much chance as being replaced as finding a replacement for the air we breath. It is just too much engrained. Western people’s can not imagine another method.

  9. Kouros

    Excellent interview.

    One small quibble. The main opponent of Marius was Cornelius Sulla.

    Also, Caesar, beside fornicating with Brutus’s mother, also cancelled the marriage of his daughter with Brutus, so, beside all this financial reasons, the family and personal “injuries” broke the camel’s back for Brutus…

    1. JonnyJames

      Yeah, It seems it WAS personal with Brutus. Some historians had even speculated that Brutus was Julius’ illegitimate son, but the chronology makes that highly improbable.

  10. Hayek's Heelbiter

    Dr. Hudson’s inverse correlation between the tenure of civilizations and the rise of responsibility shunning, debt slavery oligarchies got me to thinking.
    Which cultures have endured the longest and what are their characteristics?
    Obviously hunter-gatherer societies, such as Aboriginal cultures of Australia – hard to beat 75,000 years as illustrated by genomic studies, or the San people of southern Africa. Interestingly enough, the name San originates from a more stratified affiliated linguistic group, the Khoikol, in whose society wealth is based on cattle. Their term for the San means “without cattle.”
    Great. Although if things proceed as they are, we all might be once and future hunter-gatherers.
    So are there any contemporary societies with historical longevity we can use as a template?
    None came to mind.
    Then the thought occurred to me, based on genomic studies, there DOES remain a population of the neolithic societies that once populated Europe. The Basques!
    Curious, I looked up Basque economic equality. Lo and behold!

    …we could learn something from an entrepreneurial nation of a little over two million people, where the ratio of high wage manufacturing to Gross Domestic Product is double that of the U.S., and 16 percent higher than Germany or Japan. It has the fifth highest life expectancy on the planet (at 83.5 almost five years longer than the U.S.) and exports sophisticated machine tools to Germany and high-tech components for interplanetary space probes to NASA.
    No, it’s not Denmark, but the autonomous Spanish Basque Country (Euskadi in Basque).
    Over several decades Euskadi has transformed itself into one of the most internationally competitive, socially inclusive, environmentally progressive economies in the world. It is a polity that welcomes economic globalization as an opportunity, while reaffirming local community and cultural identity. It has achieved a degree of income equality higher than Denmark or the Netherlands, and a per capital GDP on the same level as Sweden.
    We could learn something indeed.

    Ps. Euskadi also has one of the highest levels of gender equality on the planet.

  11. Lex

    Wonderfully fascinating. At this point the process of disentangling the original Christianity from its position as a state religion will always have more questions than answers, partially thanks to Christianity’s penchant for destroying its own history when that history might be problematic for its role as a state religion. But that’s the fundamental issue we always have to deal with when discussing Christian history. The process of making it a state religion is the primary driver of the known, early history. I would argue that it’s deep anti-semitism is a direct reflection of this.

    You can’t be the state religion of Rome and have Jesus function as an anti-Roman revolutionary (whether the revolution was religious, social or political). You must have Jesus advising to render unto Caesar. Which leaves the Jews, because someone has to take the blame for killing Jesus. I think it’s worth noting that any Protestant claim to be returning to a more pure Christianity falls flat since it never threw off the anti-semitism of the Roman church.

    Christian history cannot be understood without Roman history. Much appreciation for Dr. Hudson’s tying them together with an economic focus. This isn’t an issue that gets examined either in religious studies histories of the church or Roman history discussion of the Christianity’s rise.

  12. Devout Agnostic

    My grandfather (born 1893) was a non-observant Roman Catholic. My cousins on that side of the family are good, honest, hard-working people — but they don’t have a clue about the history of their church.
    Years ago I read the book Keepers of the Keys — A History of the Popes from St. Peter to John Paul II. It was written from a sympathetic point of view, but it was still hair-raising. The corruption and worldly intrigues and mayhem began centuries before the infamous Borgia popes. One event that sticks in my memory was when an early pope (400-600 AD?) died and his bitter rival succeeded him on the throne of St Peter. The rival had the body dug up, cut the papal ring off the cadaver, and then threw the body into the Tiber River. Yeesh! Servant of God??
    As Dr. Hudson shows, the Catholic Church has been a corrupt worldly institution from relatively soon after its founding. As for all the Protestant churches, which are all offshoots of the Catholic church, Jesus himself said

    a corrupt tree cannot bring forth good fruit.

    Ipso facto…..

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